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Unless you are a shaman or a charlatan, you should find great opportunities to entertain audiences with your own magic words.
A shaman or a charlatan works his magic to make people believe he has real powers. He goes to great lengths to make his magic words sound authentic, although these are unintelligible to the lay people. His goal is to project believability.
The modern-day magician in the Philippines has a different goal. He means to entertain his audience. His magic words may be unintelligible too, but he must choose or create them as seriously as shamans and charlatans do.
Magic words can add entertainment value to one’s magic program. It can also be a marketing tool to sell more shows.
Even though the example Wikipedia uses is comic book heroes, its definition of magic words is spot on. I can confirm its accuracy with my experience.
I grew up in a small barrio in a valley in rural Zamboanga del Norte. We had no doctors except the quack ones. When we were children, our grandmother would send for the local hilot to the family’s ancestral home when my cousins, brothers, sisters and I were sick.
The hilot had cures for all kinds of disease. He knew how to heal our sprains, to remove our aches and pains, to drive away evil spirits, and to counter voodoo magic by our secret enemies. Our enemies, who caused our sickness, were always a secret. We never found out who they were.
To attend to our ailments, the hilot would recite an incantation. He claimed it was in Latin, that’s why I couldn’t make out what they meant.
Well, I don’t know if the words he whispered to my body aches were really Latin. I don’t speak nor understand the language.
As a magician, though, I followed the example of the hilot. I recite magic words throughout my program. I have several magic words, all different and, as Wikipedia points out, they are nonsense. Mostly gibberish. I made them up myself.
I use magic words not to drive away evil spirits or fight off voodoo spells, but to embellish my show. Since I create them, I make sure my magic words are always funny.
If you want to get extra laughs, or at least elicit smiles from the audience, stop using hocus pocus or abracadabra as magic words. They are well worn-out and awfully not funny.
Here are some tips to create your own funny magic words—the emphasis is on funny.
Say something funny. Of course, duh. Example: one funny magician I saw said, “Let me recite the magic word I learned from the church. Bingo!”
Say something that sounds funny. Humorists say that k and hard g sounds are funny. Thus cat and goat are funny. Feline and lamb are not. Put more cats and goats into your magic words to make them sound funny.
Say something nonsensical. I learned this from a book by John Scarne: “This is in accordance to the hyperbolic equation of the paraboloid formula that says cosecant Y is equals to tangent Z.” I used this once in a show for engineers, and this nonsense drew a hearty laugh.
Say something elongated. Over the years, I’ve found out that long words are funnier than short words. Mr. Schwarzenegger is funny, Mr. Lee is not. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is funny, chair is not. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is funny, table is not. Now you get the point. Make your magic words long enough you have to catch your breath to recite them. The words may be something you just invented or coined. It doesn’t matter if they are fictitious. You’re gunning for funny, not realism.
Say something foreign sounding. This means your magic words are unintelligible, just like the incantation of my boyhood hilot. I have magic words from Brunei, Pakistan, Japan and even Mars. My Latin magic words, which I like to use when making things—say, a coin—disappear, goes something like this, “Disum coinum willum disappearum rightum yourum very eye-sum.”
Neat, huh! If you can’t get your audience to at least smile when you say that, either you are a hopeless case as a funny man or you are performing before a crowd of monks on top of Mt. Everest.
Say something gibberish. An example of a gibberish is, “arfaghlistan kwechesstian probakakabakaba boom.” Though I invent my gibberish, I don’t understand a single word of them. Nor does the audience. But they are funny, specially if I recite them with a ridiculous air of confidence.
Make up your own magic words. Whatever you come up with, it will be better than the ho-hum abracadabra and hocus pocus.