What Can Stand-Up Comedy Teach Us About Magic?

What Can Stand-Up Comedy Teach Us About Magic?

There's a small clip on YouTube of Comedian, Mark Normand, working on his joke. 

A clip that could teach you a lot about magic...


The Power of Iteration 

What that clip demonstrates is the power of iteration and testing small changes. 

Changing a word, a line or pause can dramatically alter how it's received. 

It's definitely something I apply to my own magic... and something we all should.

Like a sculptor, I take a step back after each performance and look for the least finished part of any particular routine. 

 

Let me give you an example...

My upcoming release (called Pocket Roulette) started life as an okay idea. 

I showed Team E's Yannick Barth in London & he had a better idea. 

That idea gave me a better idea, which then gave him a better idea. 

We workshopped every element of the routine, the cards, the spectator's involvement and even 'where' the reveal happens. 

Performing each iteration gave us insight on the weak parts of the routine. And we changed them like a stand-up comedian would. 

Where it started and where it finished are now poles apart. It's unrecognisable as the same routine - and it isn't. 

The lesson for all of us is that the path starts in one place and takes you as far as you're willing to walk. 

 

Your Goal This Week 

Your goal this week is to take a routine that you don't 'love' yet and turn it into something that you do love. 

You can do this by tackling the weakest part of the routine and making small changes every time you perform it. 

Maybe it's the omni deck? 

What's the weakest part? That the deck doesn't actually vanish. That it morphs. 

  • Can it morph into something more impressive? Try that.
  • Can you make it actually vanish? Try that. 
  • Can you change the presentation to make it more impactful? Try that. 

Each time you try an iteration, it'll either be better or worse. 

Follow the path of 'better' until you can't identify a weak point anymore.

Maybe it's just something they say during the performance like... 

"I bet you've switched it out already." 

What can you say or do to make sure that thought never crosses their mind. That's your next iteration. 

Rinse & repeat. 

Now the end point will be different for each of us - but it's the journey to that point that keeps you connected and proud of the final outcome. 

I think learning from a stand-up comedian's process can really help us to fine-tune and perfect our routines far beyond what we thought was acceptable. 


Really curious... What trick do you like, but don't actually perform because you feel it isn't fully finished yet? Comment below, we read every single one.  

 

 

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5 comments

Enrique Preciado

Enrique Preciado

I’ve always liked B’Wave however it just seems like it needs a a beginning, why do I randomly have 4 playing cards? The ending begs the cards to be examined which leads me to think this effects should be integrated into a larger effect….maybe.

Michael Chrosniak

Michael Chrosniak

Charming Chinese Challenge. I have a great routine. I just haven’t got the right script to fit my performance style yet.

Anonymous

Anonymous

It is a mind reading card trick I came up with that has very little slight and I haven’t heard or seen anyone use this method before. I don’t love it because I have to do a dribble and I feel that takes the magic away somehow. It also has I angle that might ruin it.

Jager Steel

Jager Steel

C3 – nojima but that’s more of a slight thing , patter ez spec just listens.

Now the real challenge is stand up Monty by Garrett thomas. The Routine I use incorporates every revelation possible. 5 phase + 1 encore. 1 magical phase in the Middle demoing what it would look like if i used magic, followed by a promise to play fair & not use magic, an accidental magical phase (the grift), & the normal very magical ending. The routine is long so the 1st problem was solving the deep investment. Actual 💰 became the 🪝. BUT I then needed to Reel them in at no risk. I solved this was scarcity mentality, fomo, loss aversion. 📉

Thanks to 10 years of sales. I was Talking shop and sharing sales stories when an ATV owner who gave me this line, “I’d rather do NOTHING for NOTHING than SOMETHING for NOTHING”. this inspired a variation.

Let’s play a game, I’ll bet MY something for YOUR nothing which technically is infinitely more than nothing! (During this patter I bet my 💰 & mime placing their money 💰 on their open betting hand. (I have techniques for using 1 hand for the bet, as well as them holding the card. Most venues these peeps have a cocktail 🍸 in 1 hand, so worse case 1 hand is all you get. Be prepared) I then proceed to perform the routine with a FUN, original, patter similar in cadence to John archers blank night. Involving the words; nothing, something, anything, & everything. Because of the RNG of their choices I really need a human to play & time to reach the end. The time is hardest to get from someone, especially if I don’t do a quick opener to let them know the experience will be fun.

I’m covertly & purposely writing this secret for the omni routine here. Here is hoping no one reads this. I have my favorite pattern which involves hint! Uncle ben, but that’s all I’m tipping. Instead you get an alternative presentation. Use the ominous deck for the switch. Use a force that appropriately suggests the phobia for your ominous deck. After the freak out, place a omni deck on top of the omnious deck & cover the sides well. Show the top and ask if everyone had a chance to see it. Then gamblers 👮‍♂️ the omnious on the underside of the 2 decks and ditch. Then ask someone to hold the omni for a sec. Wait for the reaction. Then freak yourself and mention, “oh shoot, he’s loose.” I then also have my Sharpie turn into an omni sharpy. At any point later with the same group who has experienced this trick, You can segue into the Halloween trick where the phobia is on your phone and crawls on a picture of your hand on your phone, at this point you secretly stick a toy phobia on the back of their hand and then ask them to wave over it. They really think that’s the loose creature…

Actually I just got inspiration just from writing this. ½ credit to David Williamson. I’ll use the stuffed animal’s to rehearse. But I can also have 3 cards with the words, ✋️ 💋, or pocket to generate their answers for the monte! This was a good exercise!

Finally in the theme of improving 1% per performance. Hobson theater has truly, the best lecture on comedy magic & tweakng material. It’s free and even if it was charged, it is worth more than the most expensive lecture I’ve ever bought. Which shame to say was 4 figures. So learn from me & know the knowledge is out there for free, you just gotta hunt. Get the knowledge from those living it with PROOF not promises. And you have to validate proof. Dont take their word. Having LIVED it is also dangerous cause of outdated knowledge. But depends on their actual track record.

Plaudits – Jager Steel

GERARDO J ROCHA

GERARDO J ROCHA

I don’t perform card to pocket or acaan. Missing something…

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