Developing a Stand-Up Act

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Joe Mckay
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Developing a Stand-Up Act

Postby Joe Mckay » October 14th, 2019, 10:27 am

This is something I have become interested in.

Luckily Ian Kendall has a blog on this topic as well. It is a topic that a lot of magicians are interested in. As such it is nice to see this topic addressed by such an experienced stage magician.

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Richard Kaufman
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Re: Developing a Stand-Up Act

Postby Richard Kaufman » October 14th, 2019, 11:12 am

Seek out information by Jon Armstrong and Hannibal.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine

Ian Kendall
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Re: Developing a Stand-Up Act

Postby Ian Kendall » October 14th, 2019, 1:54 pm

Absolutely, seek out as much information as you can because everyone will have a slightly different approach and advice.

I covered a fraction of Taking the Step in my morning sessions at the Genii Bash last week. I forget the exact issue (and I'm not home to check), but you may find Joe Turner's review of the course interesting if you search through the archives.

Mac Stone
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Re: Developing a Stand-Up Act

Postby Mac Stone » October 14th, 2019, 5:42 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:Seek out information by Jon Armstrong and Hannibal.

I strongly recommend Jon Armstrong's Penguin Live Act lecture.

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Re: Developing a Stand-Up Act

Postby webbmaster » October 30th, 2019, 3:48 pm

I recommend learning a lot of pantomime, even if you are going to do a talking act. In other words, acting like something is in one hand when it is in the other and things like that. Many guys do a move technically right but can't make you believe the coin or whatever is really in the hand the audience is supposed to believe it is in. Slydini was great at this kind of thing, even though he was sitting. He'd lean towards the hand that supposedly contained the object in question. You need to learn the same things while standing. I often find I can learn the acting of a new routine without the objects at all. Only when the audience is looking and understanding what is supposed to be going on will you be able to create magical moments. And, use the most effortless move you know for the purpose then let the acting take over.

I think I'm saying it right when I say that many guys starting out may be doing the move technically right but seem to have put very little work into the body language of it all.

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Re: Developing a Stand-Up Act

Postby performer » November 1st, 2019, 2:00 pm

I am not really qualified to talk about this but I am going to anyway. It took me ages and ages to figure it out. Decades in fact. I learned all my other performing skills fairly quickly but the stand up act always eluded me. I could do some damn good close up magic within the first 6 months of my studies. Kid show work only took me a week! Hypnotism shows a few months. To learn how to do psychic readings I had to wait until the clouds opened until I got the power but I didn't have to wait too long-maybe a few months. Pitching svengali decks I learned in one day!

Alas however, the stand up act took decades. Sometimes it went well and sometimes it didn't. It is only in the last few years that I was finally able to figure it out to my satisfaction. Because of all this suffering I do think I am now finally in a position to comment on the matter.

I started out at the deep end. My first cabaret show was performed in a night club owned by notorious gangsters and it died a complete death. Mind you, I understand other people died a death there too but not on stage and outside business hours.

I then went on to working various nightclubs in London at 1am in the morning. The entire audience was drunk. In fact I worked to drunks every night for months on end. Not a conducive atmosphere for improving the act. I then went to Germany to entertain soldiers at US army bases and half the time I died a death there too. After the German tour I worked in Northern England working mens clubs to very tough indifferent audiences and getting tepid responses. I still marvel to this day as to how I got the work in the first place. I was far better at hustling for the work than actually doing it.

Then I came to Canada working to much easier audiences. I still hadn't quite figured it out though. Half the time I would read articles and books talking about stage presentation and quite frankly they weren't much use especially when I saw the authors perform and realised it was the blind leading the blind. However, in the last 15 years or so I finally figured it out. I think as a result of all that suffering I may be able to advise after all. This is what I learned.

1. The act has to fit the venue. What works in one place isn't necessarily going to work in another.
2. Avoid panic when the act isn't working well. In Germany I was panicking and kept changing the act every other day and of course that made things worse.
3. Originality is overrated. The only thing that has to be original is YOU. Not the tricks. YOU! Do the classic old tricks. They have stood the test of time. Here the tricks will take care of themselves. Once I realised that the act lept forward by leaps and bounds.
4. Faults don't matter. You can screw tricks up on stage and the audience will still love you. Again faults don't matter. Lack of virtues certainly does though.
5. Your opening trick may well be the most important trick in the entire act. The audience makes up its mind about you in the first 30 seconds. And you should start the trick within 30 seconds of coming out on stage. Don't babble like a mentalist for three minutes before starting. Don't waste time blabbing!
6. Have a strong closer. If you open strong and finish strong you don't have to worry quite so much about what is in the middle. The old vaudeville formula.........
7.This is something I never realised until very late in the game. If you are doing a patter act make it as funny as you can. I am not saying be a comedy magician. That is a separate skill altogether. However, you can do serious magic in a light hearted way. a few witty remarks and a lot of humour not necessarily through jokes but through situations.
8. Interact with the audience. Don't talk AT the people. Talk with them and to them.

There. That is more or less all I know. However, little as it is, I can assure you it has been learned from bitter experience. You probably don't need much else.

Bill Mullins
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Re: Developing a Stand-Up Act

Postby Bill Mullins » November 1st, 2019, 2:58 pm

performer wrote:I am not really qualified to talk about this but I am going to anyway.

This applies more to many other posters (sometimes me).

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Re: Developing a Stand-Up Act

Postby performer » November 1st, 2019, 4:24 pm

Indeed. But on reflection I think my suffering with regard to this qualifies me. I learned the very, very hard way.

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