writing your patter

Discuss your favorite platform magic and illusions.

Postby Brian Marks » 04/15/05 01:41 PM

I write my patter. Sometimes I improvise my patter. Unless you consider giving directions not to be original, than everything outside of that is. Maybee its because Im a stand up comic. I have the habit already developed.

I have run into more than a few magicians who go to public shows to lift lines off of other magicians. Other buy books. Some ask here on forums. Peter Biro hired a comedy writer to write a routine. Someone will steal the routine from Peter and give it to someone name Paul.

Is writing a script or a line for a routine difficult? Am I filled with hatred as said in another thread for suggesting someone at least try to write a line?
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Postby Brian Marks » 04/15/05 02:02 PM

Not everything needs to be funny. As a magician, funny is not required.
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Postby Guest » 04/19/05 11:11 AM

You could -- and should --write your own material. Doing the enclosed patter is ok, I Suppose but stealing lines is wrong. Its bad for you, bad for your act and bad for the art.

Mississippi Pete

PS In fact, I teach a workshop for performers on how to write their own comedy material.
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Postby Pete Biro » 04/19/05 01:57 PM

Correcto... not all have to have funny lines, but all that talk need to have intelligent, meaningful words to say, otherwise all is lost.
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Postby Fred Zimmerman » 04/20/05 10:34 AM

I like to use the word "engaging." When you're audience is interested in what you have to say, and if you've involved them in a relevant way, then humor will naturally arise from the material. When you're talking shop with co-workers, it usually easy to elicit a laugh due to shared experience.

In a magical performance, it's important that the performer create this kind of shared experience and connection with the audience. When they can understand and connect with you and the world you are creating, then it's easier to entertain them, and subsequently, easier to decieve them, because they will go much more willingly down the garden path.

Comedy can often come across as "in-your-face," especially by the comedically-challenged. Thus, the performer is trying to hard to please, the audicne is working to hard to stay with them, and subsequently, the whole experience goes to hell.

I'd much rather hear a performer share their passion honestly, then have to sit through forced attempts at humor.

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Postby Bill Palmer » 04/20/05 02:09 PM

Any line or bit of business that is in my act that I did not actually originate, is something that I use with permission of the originator, if known.

Sometimes I trade material with other people. I don't trade bits I have obtained from other performers, but I trade my own bits.

Using someone else's material is like trying to wear someone else's clothing.

It's great that modern comics are so stringent about writing their own material. I wish it were really true. I have seen two comics argue over which one was the one who originated the "wobbly wheel on the shopping basket" line. Neither of them had. I heard Kip Adotta use that one before either one of these guys had gotten into comedy.

I also heard two lawyer/comics arguing over which of them had written the "is this an audience or a jury" line. I stopped them cold. I said, "It's been in Robert Orben's material since the 1950's. Give up, counselors."

If you do "slice of life" comedy, there will be crossover material as long as we all live similar lives. So, good luck being original. Just don't forget to be funny.
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Postby Brian Marks » 04/21/05 02:20 PM

Thats a good point. We are dealing with the same props and the similiar tricks with similiar misdirectional needs. Many of us are bound to have similiar lines.

I have no problem with hiring a comedy writer either. There are alot of benefits to brining in an outside source to look at the writing and direction of a routine. I just don't think its the best thing to do. Its far from being the worst. Not everyone has access to Leno writers. Who does David Regal go to?
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Postby Pete Biro » 04/21/05 05:03 PM

Who does Regal go to? Himself. He's a pro comedy writer.
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Postby David Regal » 04/21/05 05:49 PM

I honestly think good scripting can make the difference between a good act and a great act. I feel that, for the most part, a lay audience doesn't know what close-up magic is, and there's an element of wary uncertainty when dealing with the unknown. Even with a stage show, many viewers are unclear what their "role" is in the proceedings. Am I supposed to be figuring something out? Should I be on guard in order to avoid humiliation? Will I look foolish if I am amazed? An audience craves meaning, and is hungry for context - that's why a script is so helpful (not just for laughs). After the technical details of a trick are mastered, what's left is the presentation, and that presentation represents 100% of the remaining variables - what we say and do becomes everything. Al Goshman's opening line was brilliant: "I'm a magician - I'm going to magish for you." It let the audience know he was performing a service, he was not there to challenge, but to provide something - and he didn't take himself too seriously (a fear of magic that many laypeople share is the imagined pompous magician). To me, that's an example of excellent script-writing - I wish all my patter did so much with so little. Some magicians "embellish" their technique with a description of what is obvious to everyone: "I place it here, like so..." There will always be magic-lovers for whom this type of "script" is adequate, but the lion's share of viewers could use a clear premise, a rationale, a context to enable them to enjoy the entertainment potential of an effect.

Okay, I'm clearly the one who takes things too seriously.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 04/21/05 08:09 PM

I've been thinking about this subject for the last 15 years or so, but especially for the last 3 since I've been researching and writing a book on scripting magic. One of many things I've discovered is that the very idea of "writing your patter" means different things to different people.

To me it means, ultimately, figuring out what you're going to say before you begin the trick.

You can write out every line before you even begin rehearsal, or you can improvise a script during rehearsal, or you can just get a basic idea what you're going to say and improvise the actual lines in performance without a line-by-line script. I've interviewed great magicians who use each of these approaches, so they can all work.

The one thing that doesn't seem to work is not to think about what you're going to say. It seems like, if you don't think, you end up doing other people's lines.

But when you do think about what you're going to say, you won't even want to use someone else's line. (This is especially true if you want your performance to sound conversational.) It's much easier to write good lines for your own presentation.

Learn to do the sleight or secret move to perfection, then spend hours on what to say.
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Postby Pete Biro » 04/21/05 09:21 PM

So many doing the cups and balls do say things like, "I put the ball here, and it vanishes, and here it is. Here's cup one, here's cup two.... BLAH BLAH BLAH..."

I don't particularly often like STORYTELLING, like, "When I was in India..."

So, I devised a script/premise (impossible to write and do the same every time... BECAUSE...) I use DOUBLE TALK.

I use the Indian Cups and explain I will do the trick just as I learned it from a young Hindu boy (true actually, I got inspired by Shankar Jr.) and I start to talk in a high-voiced fake Hindu language.

Phrases like: "Konimawa wahaboo tormo zanfeeb, wibotookoo sanforballawoo..."

You get the idea.

Successful?

You bet... it goes over ten times better with this presentation and is a MAJOR feature when I work a table situation.

Of course you have to be a lunatic like me to pull it off :D :eek: :D
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Postby Brian Marks » 04/21/05 09:49 PM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
Who does Regal go to? Himself. He's a pro comedy writer.
It was suppossed to be sarcastic but didnt come out right. However since it got David to respond, doesnt matter.

I have always taken the approach of having an idea of what to say and improvising without a line by line script. This works well with how I work, mostly in parlor situations. It has allowed me to see how helping spectators react to instructions (stage fright vs overambitious) and how the audience reacts in general. This of course ends up with a line by line script after several performances.
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Postby David Regal » 04/21/05 10:09 PM

When I was in India, I met a man who agreed with Pete Biro.
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Postby Brian Marks » 04/22/05 08:52 PM

I do aim to make my act conversational because I believe a performance is a conversation. In stand up comedy, each laugh(or lackthere of) represents a thought. You must respond to such thoughts. Heckelers are people drunk enough to vocalize them.
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Postby Pete Biro » 04/22/05 10:26 PM

And I still have a baaaaaaaaaaaaad cold... argh. But will get my body over to the Castle Sunday to see Paul Daniels "do Malini" :)
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Postby Guest » 04/23/05 08:10 AM

Originally posted by David Regal:
Al Goshman's opening line was brilliant: "I'm a magician - I'm going to magish for you."
Mr. Regal, AFAIK, his opening lines where slightly different.

His basic opening always has been: "My name is Albert...my name is Albert..and I'm going to magish for you"

Then the variations:
"My name is Albert..what's your's?
Karen?
Karen, I'm going to magish for you..and you too... (adressing the other spec)and I have here a little purse..aso. aso.

or:
Good evening...good evening and welcome too..
my name is Albert..and I'm going to magish for you....

In all the performances and captures I never heared him saying *I'm a magician* to start with, BUT, he might as well have used it years back at private parties, but I doubt he did use it f.ex. on his TV appearances or other public appearances where ppl did expect *a* magician to perform..

Just to make the info more accurate..and it still was brilliant! ;)
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Postby Guest » 04/23/05 08:59 AM

Interesting points. My patter is part of my play. It sets the stage, engages the mind, firms up the misdirection and gently releases tension.

Mississippi Pete

PS I am an actor playing the role of an actor.
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Postby Brian Marks » 04/23/05 09:53 AM

Originally posted by Mississippi Pete:

PS I am an actor playing the role of an actor.
you should hang around Rober De Niro for a few weeks to help you get into character.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 05/04/05 12:02 AM

I'm not an actor, but I played one on television.

Seriously, I have found that the best way for me to write my own patter was to start with the character I was portraying, and then get him to do the material I was going to do.

It's a kind of improv. But you have to figure all of the elements already mentioned -- points of misdirection, points of information, it's not an easy job.

One excellent source for lines, though, is the audience. Sometimes someone in the audience will respond to something you say, and it will inspire a new line.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 05/04/05 02:53 PM

Originally posted by Bill Palmer:
Seriously, I have found that the best way for me to write my own patter was to start with the character I was portraying, and then get him to do the material I was going to do.
This is a great suggestion, if for no other reason than that it helps remind you that your character is more important than any other part of your show.
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Postby Bill Duncan » 05/04/05 10:55 PM

Originally posted by Brian Marks:
Is writing a script or a line for a routine difficult?
I certainly can be

It took me more than a dozen years to write the script for the Ambitious Card that makes up the centerpiece of TRIBUTE and the script for Dr. Daleys last trick that appears in Tubthumping took quite awhile too. I waited that long to do those tricks.

But the sense of ownership that comes from finding a good script, or even a good line, is like nothing else in magic. Doing a trick that you have made your own is more rewarding that having a great pass, and its worth investing at least as much time.

Since Mr. Regal is here and can respond, Id venture to guess that there probably isnt much in life (excepting weddings and births) that felt as good as writing the script for The Cups And Balls and Cups And Balls.

Ive always approached scripting in a sort of tool time mode. As someone once wrote, all good tricks embody at least one discrepancy. I try to consider how to disguise or excuse the weakest parts of the trick, or explain why the trick proceeds as it does, and often that leads to a germ of an idea. On rare occasions that idea becomes a workable script. Most often it leads to a contrived mess...

I guess you have to kiss a lot of folded up Frog-shaped cards before you find your own Frog Prince *.

I think some people give up on scripting their own material because doing it requires you to accept that 90% of what you do will suck. But that 10%...
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Postby Guest » 05/05/05 06:27 AM

This is a very interesting subject and I think "writing for your character" is a good idea (one I've considered for many years) but can some one tell me how you can find and define your character in a way that it will help you write your script.
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Postby Brian Marks » 05/05/05 12:41 PM

I think you'll find that your best character, is an extension of yourself. You can find this out through stage time. How do you write for yourself?
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Postby Guest » 05/05/05 01:09 PM

I've read or heard that in from many sources but I guess the first question is "who am I?" How does one put in words who he is and then translate that into a script? I've been writing scripts for my act for years and I suppose I try to write to the character I want to portray but it's a very difficult and laborious process that I think would be much easier if I knew how to clearly define the character and then translate that into a script. Any suggestions? Suggested reading?
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Postby Guest » 05/05/05 01:10 PM

I've read or heard that from many sources but I guess the first question is "who am I?" How does one put into words who he is and then translate that into a script? I've been writing scripts for my act for years and I suppose I try to write to the character I want to portray but it's a very difficult and laborious process that I think would be much easier if I knew how to clearly define the character and then translate that into a script. Any suggestions? Suggested reading?
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Postby Guest » 05/05/05 01:11 PM

I've found that being as natural as possible is key to good entertainment. I dont mean "Vernon natural" I mean just being yourself. For the longest time I tried to be the suave mysterious manipulator, but the crowd at large knows when you are being genuine or not. Lance looks genuine because he really is the only one in kentucky with a tuxedo (just guessing). Mac is mac, Max is Max, Hobson is...he's not...well he used to be....he could be again for you lol. Point is it is easier to be an extension of who you are than to attempt to be the personification of someone you're not. Patter should be something you would actually say or it will sound like Bush reading off a teleprompter and people will see right through it. When I got my egg bad Denny Haney told me to just go out and do it from the get go, dont worry if its bad, just do it, its the only way thay you'll make it your own. While many effects cant be done as promptly I think that it speaks to the issue at hand. Once you are comfortable with the workings and general performance of an effect, go out and do it, spontaneity is where some of the best lines come from.

Has anybody seen my pennies, I could swear I had two of them. :D

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Postby Brian Marks » 05/14/05 06:02 PM

currently I am taking a stand up comedy class. It forces me to relook at my stand up material.I end up rewriting old material and coming up with a new material. I also get a 5 min videotape.

I took a Meisner acting class for a year. Helped me to put my focus on my acting partner and react to them. I make sure to do the same with helpers and the audience
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Postby Guest » 06/06/05 09:49 AM

Suggested reading: Comedy Writing Step by Step by Gene Perret, Comedy Writing Secrets by Melvin Helitzer and How to Do It Standing Up by Barry Dougherty (this last one is great because it is a series of anecdotes by Friars Club comics on developing their acts and writing and showbiz in general.)

With regards to "One liners" I think that the lines that are out there can be like guitar licks, If well placed within the confines of a larger whole and if carefully selected to fit you and your character they can be artistic and down right hilarious.

Rambling,
Elliot
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Postby Brian Marks » 06/06/05 02:44 PM

Stand up is hard to learn from books. I learned on stage and than took a class.
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Postby Guest » 06/06/05 08:57 PM

No Doubt! Nothing replaces live performance.
The books listed are great sources for learning the craft of writing comedy, but there is no better teacher than experience.
Elliot
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Postby cataquet » 06/21/05 03:53 PM

Sorry to come so late into this thread, but I don't often come to this forum (Platform & Stage).

Historically, when it comes to deriving a script, I usually do it developmentally. That is, I start with the routine (scripting the effects), and then I start rehearsing it sans patter (to get a sense for the visual flow). I'll videotape the routine (but I am performing silently). It's only when I feel comfortable with the structure of the routine that I start formalising what I will be saying when I perform the routine. However, by this time, the ideas for patter (what to say and when) are in the back of my mind. Now I start performing the routine with patter (to the video)... So, I never actually sit down and write the patter per se.

However, sometimes a routine starts with a premise (and MY best routines probably fall into this category). That is, the premise for the presentation predates the routine. In that case, the patter comes first. Here, I am trying to tell a story (in the figurative, not literal sense), and I am now trying to think what would happen next, or what should I do next (if the premise were true). In this case, the patter comes first. In these instances, I tend to sketch the patter - it's not a word for word, more an outline.

So, historically, I never wrote down the words for my routines; the patter evolved through repeated performances. However, I read Ken Weber's Maximum Entertainment last year, and one of his top recommendations was to write down the patter (word for word) for every routine, and then to edit it so that every word served a purpose (ie, there is no filler).

First off, this wasn't easy, as I had to type it all up (a five minute routine takes about three letter sized pages). But the funny thing is that having done this, the patter then develops in leaps and bounds. This is because you are forced to think about what to say at every point in the routine. Obvious comments like "I take the ball and place it..." sound so lame when written up, so you have to think of something better/different. But, then you have to LEARN the patter. Rafeal Benatar talked about this recently in Genii. One of his recommendations was to learn the patter backwards (ie, on a 3 page script, learn page 3 first). Otherwise, you always start at the beginning, and learn that bit best.

Phew... I've gone on long enough

Bye for now

Harold
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Postby Danny Archer » 07/12/05 09:45 AM

Brad Henderson published in 2004 A Cure for Insomnia a manuscript devoted to the art of scripting ...

this is pure gold to anyone looking to improve their presentations ... he lectured on this topic at the 2004 MINDvention and it was one of the highlights of the convention ...
Producer of MINDvention
mentalism convention
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