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Most comedy experts would say, “No.”
I beg to disagree. I’m not a comedy expert. I’m merely a student of comedy, reading up all I can about the subject, dissecting its inner-working to find out why and how it can raise laughter. I then use the knowledge I’ve trawled from various resources to come up with methods and techniques that tickle my audience.
While Brod. Pete and Jeff talked about the techniques of stand-up comedy—that is, creating set-up/punchline jokes—I discussed the more mundane aspects of comedy in the context of magic performances.
My advice to magicians, especially to the so-called “patter magicians”, is this: when appropriate, add comedy bits to your magic.
For someone who is not naturally funny, this advice may be difficult to take, impossible even to follow.
As I said earlier, many comedy experts believe that someone who is not funny can’t learn how to be funny. However, I find this doctrine not entirely true. With some knowledge of the anatomy of comedy and some techniques for producing laughs, it is possible for an unfunny magician to elicit laughter during his show.
I am the foremost example of this aberration. Off stage, I’m far from being a funny person. While I joke often in the company of close friends, I’m more contemplative than funny in most social situations. That’s my default persona.
However, on stage, when I’m performing, I assume another persona. I’m cheerful, carefree, and lighthearted, throwing one-liners here and there. I even resort to slapstick comedy when my goal is to make the children in the audience laugh. That is my other default persona.
Though my show still does not qualify as comedy (it can’t elicit enough laughs-per-minute to be called comedy), it has enough laughs in it to qualify as a funny show.
My comedy, therefore, is method comedy, as opposed to the natural comedy of Brod. Pete and Jeff Tam. While these two comedians can drop laugh lines spontaneously, my one-liners come slow and far between. Sometimes, it would take me days to come up with a passable punchline that I can use in a trick.
Still, “slow and few” has served me in good stead over the years. The funny lines and gags have accumulated over time and enriched my routines with comedic flavor. The flavor is strong enough for other people to consider my acts as comedy.
I will write in my next post why a magician sometimes need to add comedy to his performance.