Today, let me share with fellow Filipino magicians my thoughts on holding punches.
You see, a magic performance is like boxing. The magician throws punches to entertain the audience and to knock spectators out of their senses.
If he fails to do that, it’s the audience that will knock him down.
I’m using a brutal analogy, because I want to get your attention. Contrary to what others may be saying, magic—at least, the entertaining one—is not easy. I need you to pay attention to what I have to say today.
This idea of “holding punches” came to me last night while I was watching the replay of Nonito Donaire’s championship fight at the Araneta Coliseum. He demolished his opponent by throwing all the savage punches in his arsenal. It was clear even to amateurs watching the fight that Nonito held nothing back. He gave a sterling performance that lasted only four rounds. In the process, he totally entertained the crowd.
Holding punches results from inhibition, that mysterious force that holds a performer back. It prevents him from performing at his top level. It restrains him from giving his best. It suppresses his ability to entertain.
It’s a little but nasty habit that a magician must overcome if he wants to soar the heights of excellence.
Of course, this advice is easier said than done. As in all habits (and inhibition is one of the baddest of them), it takes conscious efforts to break. Even though I have been performing for years, every now and then I still feel the suppressive power of inhibition.
This usually happens when I break in a new trick or a new gag or a new laugh line. Since I’m unsure how the audience would respond to the new material, I would usually hesitate just a wee bit when, say, dropping a funny line. The result is that the joke would not come out effortlessly from my mouth. The timing would be off, and the audience wouldn’t be so inclined to laugh.
The solution, of course, is to practice the new material enough, so that my delivery becomes effortless. I practice also the transition to the next line or trick in case the brand-new material bombs or flops.
That’s right, I practice transitions. I don’t want to be left on the center of the stage waiting sheepishly for the laughter that is not coming or the amazed reaction that is not happening. I have to move right away to the next item on the program if the expected response is not coming forth. You guessed it, moving to the next trick without stumbling around needs practice.
You see, holding punches can be fatal to a performance. It telegraphs (although telegram is now obsolete technology) to the audience your unpreparedness or uncertainty and kills the fun of your performance.
As usual, the remedy for inhibition is suitable amount of practice. The idea is to gain mastery over the new material, so that it will give the performer the confidence it will bring its intended payback.
But I said that already, so I’m beginning to repeat myself. Let me sign off for now.