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If as a magician in the Philippines you want to add comedy to your show, you should be aware of how many laughs you generate per minute you are onstage.
Laughs-per-minute is the measuring stick used by comic people to gauge the success of their comedy shows.
Just because you can elicit a laugh or two every five minutes with your magic doesn’t mean you are doing comedy. Your show may be funny, lighthearted, or amusing, but those few laughs don’t make it a comedy performance.
If you want to create a comedy magic show (as opposed to just a funny show), you need to raise the number of laughs you can generate per minute onstage. It should be at least at par with the stand-up comedy standard, which is four to six laughs-per-minute. Anything lower than that may make your show fun or at most humorous, but it is not funny enough to be categorized as comedy.
In my book, comedy should be so funny it’s side-splitting, hilarious, and riotous. A comedy magic show, therefore, gets rave review like “knee-slapper,” “puts the audience in stitches”, “gives stomach cramps”, and “audience members rolling in the aisles.”
The distinction between stand-up comedy and funny magic shows is a great quandary I failed to fathom before. Many magicians in the Philippines, without meaning to belittle their comic knowledge, gloss over this truth.
But one day, while watching videos of my show and comparing them to the videos of stand-up comics and ventriloquists, I see the stark contrast. I had an epiphany. Except for a few acts, most parts of my show fall short of the standard of comedy acts when it comes to the number of laughs-per-minute they generate. That means, I have lots of work to do to make my show funnier and elevate it to bona-fide comedy category.
Two routines in my repertoire that can generate huge number of laughs-per-minute is my Burning Handkerchief and Comedy Hand Chopper. But I have been doing these routines for ages now (I don’t include them in my current program anymore), and so the gags, jokes and funny bits just accumulated over the years, rendering these routines powerful laughs-per-minute generators. My Comedy Hand Chopper routine, for example, breaches the industry standard of four to six laughs-per-minutes, as, I think, it racks up a healthy eight or nine laughs-per-minute.
I bought it a long time ago, and just like what I do with my new purchases, I flipped through its pages, admiring its contents, and promising myself to perform it someday. I then put it away, never to glance at it again for a long time to come.
“Zapped” is about a routine that mimics the Electric Chair effect, only safer and without the fear of potentially offending an audience volunteer. This should sit well with the politically correct magicians, who are averse to magic tricks that are meant to raise laughter at the expense of audience assistants.
If memory serves me right, I bought my copy of “Zapped” from Hank Lee’s for $15. I never got around to doing it right away, and so it sat on my book shelf for ages.
Then came the Dingle show. Boy Alviz wanted me to perform the Wakeling Sawing illusion, because our sponsor, Dingle Mayor Palabrica, specifically requested a version of the cutting-a-lady-in-half to be included in the program.
As Ricki Dunn writes in his book, he does “Zapped” as a lead-in to a rope trick. “Zapped”, by itself, is not a magic trick, but a comedy interlude used to lead to the performance of a main trick.
I needed a lead-in to my presentation of Wakeling Sawing illusion, so I resurrected my copy of “Zapped”, studied it, and rehearsed it when I arrived in Iloilo.
I didn’t expect much from “Zapped,” specially since it would be the first-time I’d be performing it. I could imagine its hilarious potentials from reading the book, but I didn’t expect I could get much from it, specially during a maiden performance.
Boy, was I wrong. “Zapped” brought the house down. The moment the laughter began, it never stopped. Forget about counting laughs-per-minute. The number of laughs could not be counted. What ensued was just a long, sustained, unbroken stream of laughter.
Watch the video of “Zapped” and see what I mean. (My apologies to the English-speaking readers of this blog. In the performance, I’m using Taglish [Tagalog/English] patter. Still, you need not understand what I’m saying. The comedy is not verbal. It is largely visual, situational and character driven. It should be understood by even those who don’t speak Taglish.)
If only I could generate that sustained laughter every time in all my routines, I’d be famous by now.
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