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hello my name is chris Pictures, Images and PhotosIn Philippine politics, where accusations, innuendos, hearsay and gossip mongering are staple fare, the usual dare for someone to validate his or her claims is to name names.

So if someone is raped, the aggrieved rapee would declare, “I was raped.”  And the guilty rapist would dare her, “Name names.”

The debate would go on for ages with no one the wiser at the end of the day.

In Philippine magic, naming names is an important technique to use in magic shows. Asking the audience participant his or her name is a golden opportunity for a magician to add pep and sparkle to his show.

I don’t know about you, but asking the name of audience volunteers is extra important to me. The reason? My show features lots of audience participation tricks. I invite a number of people, children and adults alike, on the stage to help in the performance.  Asking their names opens a lot of door for fun and interaction.

hello my Pictures, Images and Photos

Alas, fun and interaction aren’t always the cases in some magic shows in the Philippines.  Bringing audience volunteers on the stage mostly becomes a non-event, or worse, a boring occasion.

Some Filipino magicians don’t even bother to ask the names of their volunteers.  And those who ask  seem to not hear them.   As a result, a great number of Philippine magicians miss the chance to create a brief  and amusing interlude in their program.

If you don’t want to be just “another magician in the Philippines”, don’t gloss over the audience volunteer’s name.  When you invite somebody to the stage—whether a child or an adult—the first thing you should do, after asking everybody to give them a round of applause, is to ask his or her name.

Doing so humanizes your volunteer, as opposed to reducing him into an anonymous prop.  Humanizing audience volunteers makes them more interesting in the eyes of the audience. Because of the so-called halo effect, it will likewise make your show more appealing.

So once the volunteer reaches your side on the stage, ask him his name.  Make him say it loud. Better, place a microphone near his mouth and let him declare his name clearly.

Then make a funny comment about his name.

Now a caveat is in order here. Although making funny comments is an interesting technique to make your performance sizzle,  be careful how you use it.  I said make “funny comments” about the volunteer’s name.  I didn’t say “make fun of it.”

Now I know magic in the Philippines has not yet reached the sophistication of performances in the Western world.  This is true not only for magic but also for movies.  While humor in, say, Hollywood movies, are character, situation or plot-driven, humor in the Philippines still mostly rely on slapstick and gay humor.  In short, humor in this country, not only in Philippine magic but also in other art forms, still lacks sophistication.

Of course, you don’t need to dish out “sophisticated” humor in a birthday party magic show.  If you do, you risk bombing big time.  Your joke will mostly be way in over the children’s head.

Still be wary about jokes using the volunteer assistant’s name.  “Making funny comments” about it  (which is allowable) can turn into “making fun” of it (which is a no-no, as it may embarrass the volunteer).

In his classic and bestselling book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie teaches that a person’s name is the sweetest word in the language.

So whatever you do, don’t make fun of a person’s name—-even if his name happens to be Hayden Saxvidue. You will merely upset the volunteer.  And you will not endear yourself to the audience. Most of all, your funny comment will probably bomb.

ff Pictures, Images and PhotosIn the early days of my practicing the name commenting technique, I used to respond to a child’s name this way: “Your name is Kyle? Pareho kayo ng pangalan ng aso namin. (You have the same name as our dog’s).” This line sometimes got smiles from the audience, but I noticed it always upset my volunteer.  It did not take long for me to decide to thrash the line.

That line, though moderately funny, falls under the category of making fun of the volunteer’s name.  It’s crude.  A better way is to mishear the name.

For example, in a birthday party, I would ask the children, “Whose birthday is it today?”  And the children might say, “Max’s!” I then pretend to mishear the name and say, “Oh, it’s Jack’s birthday! Happy birthday, Jack!” I say this loudly, showing an exaggerated pride in myself for knowing the birthday child’s name.  Of course, amused that I couldn’t get the name right, the children go crazy.

In most birthday parties, children wear name tags.  So as you bring a child onstage, read his name tag.  Suppose his name is Jonathan, you then ask him, “Jonathan, what is your name?” He then answers innocently, “My name is Jonathan…” I don’t know what’s so funny about it, but this always get a hearty laugh from the parents.

Now if you have picked an overeager child who would tell you his full name and, by serendipity he has a long name, you would get an extra laugh.  So if you ask the child, “Jonathan, what is your name?”, and he answers with a long name like, “My name is Jonathan Buenvenido Santino M. dela Cruzada Y Buenaventura Reyes III, Jr.”, it will surely bring the house down.

Don’t make an obvious comment like, “Oh, you have a long name…” Instead, state something surprising and unexpected.  Humor is about surprises.  Maybe you might say, “Oh, he says he wants to go to the toilet.”  Or something like that.

Here’s another technique to get a laugh out of a child’s name.  This I got from a David Ginn book (Sorry, I forgot which one.) If the child is wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a huge product name, say, Mc Donald’s, say to him/her, “Don’t tell me your name.  I’m a mind-reader.  I can tell you your name even if you don’t tell me.  Your name is McDonald’s.  It’s written on your shirt.”

Another technique I use is to pretend I was a girl before.  For example, if a seven-year-old girl volunteer says her name is Michelle, I’d say, “Really?  Michelle was also my name when I was still seven-years old like you.” And the kids would scream, “You are a boy?”  And I would say, “Am I?” I then cover my mustache with my hand, “How do you know I’m a boy?  I don’t have a mustache.” The debate goes on for a minute as the children insist I’m a boy.  All this time I’m covering my mustache with my hand.

I have other name-lines I use with audience volunteers (especially adults), but I’m not about to share them now, as I’m still using them in my shows.

Create your own lines.  Maybe they will be funnier than mine.

Anyway, the lesson I want to impart today is to get the names of your audience volunteers before you start the trick.  Since asking the names of people onstage is boring, do it in a fun way without insulting the owner of the name.

Stay magical,