I’m sure you have heard of the hoary saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.”
In magic, though, it can also be poison.
I think most Pinoy magicians agree with the conventional wisdom that laughter enhances performance.
The benefits of laughter spill over mere entertainment, though. Apart from bringing joy to the audience, laughter can also serve as a potent tool to misdirect spectators, camouflage crucial moves and even cover mistakes.
Thankfully, most magic tricks are inherently funny. Even the most minimalist performance of a card trick, say, the Ambitious Card Routine, can make spectators smile, if not produce gales of laughter.
A Filipino student of magic, in his quest of more scintillating performances, will invariably run into magic literatures recommending laughter as a tool to add entertainment value to his magic act.
If you are one such seeker of performance enlightenment, listen to the recommendation. However, apply it wisely.
Here’s the awful truth. Like all grand things, laughter has its own pitfalls. To paraphrase Spiderman, “With laughter comes responsibility.”
For this matter, before embroidering your act with funny lines, bits, gags and comedy business, review your script and the structure of your routines. See where the funny bits are. Do you drop a laugh line at exactly the moment the magic is happening? Or do you act funny when you are supposed to be amazing?
If you do, then you are trivializing your magic.
Laughter should be used to enhance the performance, not to trivialize the magic and diminish its impact.
The performer must, therefore, take great pains to use funny bits and comedy techniques in strategic moments of his act. Humor and laughter can enhance a performance. But they can also weaken, or even kill, the magical impact. This happens when you make your audience laugh when you should instead be astonishing them.
Introduction – Just before I walk onto the stage, a funny voiceover introduces me. Or if I’m introduced by an emcee, my first line would be, “Thank you for that nice introduction. You read it exactly the way I wrote it.”
Segues and Transitions – I’ve found that one of the best places to inject humor is between tricks, routines or acts. While setting up the props or getting ready to launch to the next routine, a laugh line is not only appropriate but essential to maintain the energy level of the show and to smoothen the transition.
After the magic moment: A funny line or a comedy bit right after the magic moment relieves tension and appears funnier because of its unexpectedness. Every magician aspiring to be funny should take advantage of this fact.
For me, the off-limit place of the routine for humor to be employed is at the moment when magic is happening. I forswear all funny attempts when the Zombie Ball is in flight, when revealing the chosen card, or when producing a dove.
While I believe that being funny at the magic moment enhances entertainment, doing so trivializes and weakens the magic. It makes me a funny man more but a magician less. Not the equation I’m looking for as a family entertainer in the Philippines.