I’m sorry to disappoint those who have sacred views of magic. The “magic-must-be-placed-on-cathedral-altars” types may hate the idea, but the truth is, all magic has an element of a gag.
There’s that “gotcha moment” in performing a trick. To some magicians, that “gotcha moment” is the one that attracted them to magic.
To the “magic-is-an-art” school, it is a major turnoff.
The real, workaday world of magic, though, somewhat straightens out the scheme of things. We can glean from many professional magicians’ works the value of gags when injected into magic. Many working pros weave gags in their performances to enhance their act—that is, if the act itself is not inherently a gag.
Let me just mention a few tricks that ooze with gags: Slydini’s Paper Balls Over the Head and its modern version, Steve Bedwell’s In Over the Head. Let me mention also Card on the Forehead, Chun Ling Soo Firecracker, Electric Chair, Electric Deck, Bar Stool, and many others. Sylvester the Jester’s Cartoon Act is a magic and gags galore put in one.
Are these tricks panned and criticized because they are gags? No, sir. They are now either classics of magic or acclaimed for their reliability to elicit laughter. In the case of the Paper Balls Over the head, it has become a sort of measuring stick of a magician’s ability to misdirect.
Have you heard about sucker gags? My favorite teacher and writer Henry Hay defines it as a “Method of leading the audience to think they have caught the magician, and then fooling them twice as bad.” Examples of this type of magic is Fraidy Cat Rabbit, Run Rabbit Run, Hippity Hop Rabbit, Norm Nielsen’s Vanishing Coke Bottle, etc.
And there’s something called running gags. These are brief comedic interludes repeated several times during the entire show. The Lota bowl and the Thank You Silks are the obvious examples.
How about those things called gag props? Breakaway Fan, Breakaway Pistol, Breakaway Wand, Wilting Flower, Knots Off, Rubber Chicken, Bang Gun and Sponge Sausages. If gags are to be despised, then this stuff should have not become the classic standbys of magic. But they are. They have survived decades of performances.
Here is one more gag—-the so-called gag lines. All comedy magicians of worth—-from Bill Malone to Tom Mullica to Steve Bedwell to Fielding West to Michael Finney to Mark Kornhauser—drop gag lines here and there during their performances to misdirect and to entertain.
Why should we be so leery about using gags when the gods of magic are using them freely?
A beginner in magic will soon find out that buying books on gags can help him become a better entertainer quickly than practicing endlessly on his fancy cuts and shuffles.
Buy Magic ‘To (The Next Level) tickets HERE.
Beautiful magic begins at 8 PM, September 8, 2007,
Philamlife Theater, UN Avenue, Manila