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Most of us lack the talent of stand-up comedians. We can’t put audiences in stitches by just dropping punchlines left and right. We often have to resort to the use of props like comedy wands and giant combs and sunglasses to make our audiences, made up of parents and children, laugh.
Of course, we realize that comedy of the quality of stand-ups is an excellent goal to achieve. However, it is not always practical for family entertainers using magic to adopt in their shows. For one, stand-up comedy, with its “set-up-punchline” formula, may go well with the parents. However, it’s mostly in over the children’s heads.
For this reason, magicians in the Philippines doing birthday parties, have to resort to humor that children also understand.
Successful children’s magicians the likes of David Ginn and Silly Billy (David Kaye) have reduced kids’ humor to principles, formulas, gags and props. If you read their work, they will tell you about the “look don’t see”, “magician in trouble syndrome” and many other principles that produce comedy for children.
When Silly Billy’s book Seriously Silly hit the dealer’s shelves a few years ago, it created a stir. No, it caused an uproar on online forums. In the book, Silly Billy writes about routines where he uses a diaper to elicit laughter from the children.
The use of a diaper in a children’s magic act sent the politically correct and the armchair magicians into paroxysm. They jumped up and down on online forums like chimpanzees bitten in their butts by ants. They claimed using a diaper on children was not politically correct. Doing so, they declared, would embarrass the child and traumatize him for life.
If I remember right, they raised the same terror alert on breakaway wands. They spurned breakaway wands because, they said, they’d rather treat children assistants with dignity. The way they put it seems to me like they wanted kids at a party to stop partying. I may be wrong, but the way I understand their online importuning, it seems they wanted us magicians to treat kids with reverence, as if children who attend birthday parties were visiting royalties and dignified envoys from Europe.
I realized that doing so is a sure-fire formula for a boring show. So I listened to Silly Billy and nixed the ideas of armchair magicians habituating online forums. As a magician in the Philippines entertaining families with magic, I recognized right away that Silly Billy’s advice is worth lots of money and tons of children’s laughter.
Not only did I adopt the diaper gag in my show (I use it differently from the way Silly Billy uses it, though), but I also included a toilet plunger, breakaway wand and assorted other comedy wands in one particular routine.
See for yourself on the following video the reaction of the child assistant. When I go into this routine, I always get this kind of reaction (sometimes even more intense), no matter who the child I ask to assist. I think you will agree with me that the reaction I get is not that of an embarrassed and psychologically traumatized child that the politically correct magicians are so leery of.
(On the video, I hand the boy a spring wand, not a breakaway wand. Unfortunately, a parent’s head obscures the moment it droops in the boy’s hand. But that doesn’t affect the point I want to make. The point of this video is not about gag wands but about the reaction of children to comedy props.)