When I was a youngster I’d walk next door to my grandfather’s house every Saturday afternoon to watch Studio Wrestling, the local professional wrestling show featuring stars of the WWWF, the ancestor to the WWE.
While I’ve only caught a few matches a year as a working adult, husband of one, and father of seven, I’m convinced the comic book come to life, the true willing suspension of disbelief, that is wrasslin‘, has much to teach magicians.
Eddie Guerrero Jumping Off The Top Of A Steel Cage Onto Bradshaw
It’s one grown man jumping onto another grown man from what looks to be about twelve feet in the air. At the fifty second mark of the video the crowd sees that Guerrero will not be climbing down the outside of the cage to victory. Instead he’s going to do something that looks (and most likely is) incredibly dangerous and outrageous. He’s going to jump belly first on the guy lying down on the canvas.
Now if you saw someone do this to a passerby on the street you’d be shocked and terrified.
In the theatrical world of wrestling you feel safe and entertained.
That’s the moment I want in my shows.
To be clear, when I say “dangerous,” I don’t mean I’ll be doing the latest version of whatever roulette routine is trending at the time. On the contrary, I think most of those performance come across as non-dangerous because they are in a show. The larger picture and deceptive nature of a magic show hamstrings the attempts at feeling like danger.
I mean I want the perception of comedic danger. I want moments where part of the reaction is “I don’t believe he said that!!!” coupled with “I’m so glad he did.”
And just like wrasslin’, I want it to feel safe. This means I don’t cross a line of appropriateness regarding foul language or innuendo, etc.
I’m searching for a metaphor for this and here’s the best I’ve manged to come up with:
Bad: your spouse slaps you across the face.
Good: your spouse gooses you, with a poke in your side at the supermarket.
Both can very surprising. The slap produces shock. The goose produces laughter. The goose seems a little inappropriate, but doesn’t cross a line to offend.
These kind of moments can make an audience feel after the show, “I can’t believe he did that. It was GREAT!! I’m so glad that happened at our show.” And it’s even better for the performer and the audience when these kind of moments are scripted into every show.