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I can think of two instances where comedy would not be proper.
One, if a magician is performing a manipulative act. In a manipulative act, magic happens in rapid succession, MTV fashion. The performer shows a red handkerchief. In a blink of an eye it turns into a cane. He twirls his cane and a white dove appears and perches on it.
In this type of magic, the tricks happen so fast there is no room for humor to squeeze in. Adding humor to the performance may just slow it down. Besides, a manipulative act already employs music, beautiful lights, special effects and other theatrical tools. To add comedy to it may already be superfluous.
Of course, this is not to say that comedy CAN’T be used in a manipulative act. I’ve seen magicians perform humorous manipulative acts. A foremost example is Cardini, who plays a tipsy British gentleman bothered and irked by the fans of cards and cigarettes materializing in his hands. His act is a succession of beautiful, visual magic that is also irresistibly funny.
But as a rule, comedy may not add substantive enhancement to a manipulative act except perhaps to make it standout among other acts of the same genre.
Two, humor must NOT be applied at the instant of magic. Many performers call this the “magic moment”. In Bill in Lemon routine, for example, where the magician borrows a bill, has it marked, vanishes it and then reveals it inside a lemon, the magic moment happens when the bill is retrieved from inside the fruit.
In case you didn’t notice, the magic moment is a short point of time. It lasts only for a few seconds. During those few seconds, the comedy magician must refrain from doing any comedy, or adding humor to his performance, or dropping a laugh line. Doing so will trivialize the magic, if not kill it altogether.
In the journey to that magic moment, however, starting from the borrowing of the bill to marking it and vanishing it (a span of time of about five to eight minutes), the magician can and must embellish his presentation with humor. Without humor, those five to eight minutes would be utterly boring indeed.
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