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Make Me Laugh - Christopher Barnes

The Hype:
Be More Funny is a master class in building comedy magic routines from the ground up. In its 492 pages, Christopher W. Barnes (internationally known as Christopher T. Magician) lays out twenty-nine classic comedy magic tropes you've no doubt encountered in some of the most famous routines in magic. Pair any trope with an effect of your choice, and the result will be your own, original routine, guaranteed to leave audiences in hysterics.

In addition to the twenty-nine tropes, Be More Funny includes twenty-nine fully-scripted and hilarious routines, each one honed in comedy clubs, festivals, variety shows, conventions, and other performance venues for years.

Routine highlights include:
"Lemon Party." The magician attempts to make a vanished bill reappear inside a lemon, but the results are completely unexpected and hilarious. Magicians who've seen it have called this the best Bill in Lemon ever.

"A Cheesy Trick." Worth the price of the book! Hand a package of American cheese slices to an onstage volunteer and receive an automatic onslaught of audience laughter.

"Nail-Biter." The traditional Smash and Stab style routine can be dangerous and, frankly, a little anticlimactic. Not this version. Unlike the onstage helper, the audience is in on the secret, fully aware that there is absolutely no danger ... or is there?!

"Deck to the Future." The classic Card Story plot updated to focus on the audience, making it far more relatable and interesting than other versions. To top it off, it ends with a shocking kicker to bring a bit of magic to the comedy proceedings.

"Vaper Caper." Magicians have Borrowed and Destroyed money, watches, rings, shoes, and all sorts of personal items from audience members over the years. Christopher brings the Borrowed and Destroyed plot into the modern day by bashing a borrowed vaporizer to pieces during a misguided card trick, much to the chagrin of the volunteer and the hysterics of the audience.
Along the way, Christopher also shares forty-two "Card Force and Reveal" ideas to demonstrate the versatility of each trope on the list. Though not scripted, each one is the starting point for a potentially hilarious card routine.

But wait! There's more! Be More Funny also includes invaluable information on effectively finding your onstage character as well as tips on writing comedic dialogue and adding it to your routines.

Nothing is spared. Be More Funny is essential reading for any magicians serious about adding comedy to their acts

My Take:
Right away, I have learned a new word which shall stay in my permanent vocabulary. Trope. Christopher explains the definition and why tropes are an important element of writing comedy for you magic act. You are told where to find an endless supply of tropes (at no cost even.)

Who among us does not enjoy a magic act from someone who is hilarious? David Williamson kills me. And coming from the Boston area, I have had the opportunity to watch Mike Bent a number of times. (Mike is even referenced in this book).

Performing as Christopher T. Magician (the T stands for Taco), he has made his name as one of the top children's magicians in Southern California. Reading the book made me want to see just how entertaining he was so, yep, off to Youtube where he has his own channel. Apparently Christopher loves to teach because in addition to the material you get in his book, he offers a number of video lessons free online.

This is not so much a book as a tool chest. You are given every tool you might need to put the funny into your act.

Do you have a character? If not, you might not even have an idea how to craft one. This book gives you so many ideas on how to create your character, a lot of them based on who you actually are. If you are serious about not being serious, read this book with a pad and pencil in your hands because you will want to take notes.

I had the opportunity a while back to review one of Christopher's books. "Just for Fun" which is also essential reading if you do kids magic. It not only gives you great routines but also details on how to build the props needed at very low cost. A good friend of mine is one of the busiest children's magician in Florida and absolutely loved "Just for Fun" (and it won't kill you to own both books).

Each trope listed also describes acts where it has been used successfully before. Some of these you will be very familiar with as the examples are some pretty famous comedy moments from some classic TV shows.

His writing is very entertaining throughout the book. I have a policy whereby if I am sent a book for review, I read the entire book cover to cover. It gives me a better understanding of the concepts and the magicians who have written these books. To tell the truth, some of the book make this more of a job than others. Reading 300 pages of card tricks and sleights can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Don't get me wrong, I love card magic. I also like to read something that is entertaining. Whereas some books you rush through to get them done, this is a book you will want to read slowly and savor the gems he gives you.

Christopher shows how he can take a hoary old trick that everyone knows and make something brand new out of it. A lot of the humor here is not suitable for children and just may offend some. (Not me!) It is however extremely clever and funny. He uses a concept he describes as fifth grade humor for those of you enamored of Al Goshman's Ding Dong and the Baffling Bra. Remember back when you were that age just what was funny to you. It was even funnier if it was a bit naughty now, wasn't it? Using this way of thinking I am sure you can remember some questionable material from back then that you can turn into a killer routine.

This book includes both closeup and stage material all with a chuckle. I have several other books on writing comedy in my collection but this is the only one I have that is really focused on improving a magic act. Are you serious all the time off stage? It should really surprise and delight those who know you when you hit them with a hilarious bit. Some people are just naturally funny. A good friend of mine did a comedy act for 19 years in Branson. He developed an on stage character so different from his off stage persona that people do not recognize once he takes his outfit off. He also came up with a great stage name (Harley Worthit). If he can do it, so can you and Christopher is more than willing to share his knowledge with you.

This has become one of the most valuable additions to my library in a long time. As I said before, this is basically a tool chest that will give you all you need to put your act together. A lot of the routines have been honed in comedy clubs where the audience can be brutal if you are not that funny. If these have been successful there you know they are good.

Although you are given complete routines you are also encouraged to write your own. If you just do someone else's material, you will sound like everyone else on the block. We all started using pre-packaged routines (we have all owned the $14.00 card) but a new take can be a winner. A few years ago, I saw people crowding around a magician so I walked over to see just what had fascinated them. Man, was I surprised to see him doing Color Monte. What drew the crowd in? He did it using Christopher Walkin's voice and some pretty wacky new jokes. Absolutely brilliant. Wish I had a video of it to share.

In case you couldn't tell, I love this book. This is not only very entertaining but it should be considered an investment in your future. Highest recommendation. Buy this and get your audiences laughing.
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