We Thought “Oh No! A magician!!??”

Last Saturday I performed my show at a church marriage conference in my town. About 100 couples were present for a day of speakers talking about how to have a better marriage. Understandably, that discussion can be on the heavy side. I was brought in as tension-easing comic relief at the midway point, right after lunch.1

Two days later on Monday morning I was leaving the gym after a workout and someone comes up to me and says, “Are you Doc?”

I replied, “Yes, just a much more fatigued, post-workout version.” Then I recognized her. “Oh, you were in the show Saturday. You and your husband Tim were great!”

We chatted for a few minutes and she was very complimentary about my show. “Sunday morning EVERYBODY was talking about what a great time they had and how funny you were.” (Don’t worry, Dear Reader. The self-aggrandizement will end soon. There’s a point to this.) She continued:

“But before the show, so many of us were like (accompanied by a brutal eye roll) — Ugh. What? A magician?!? But you were great!”

It’s that brutal eye roll I want to talk about.
How does a performer overcome
the pre-show brutal eye roll?

When people hear the entertainment for an event is going to be a magician, they frequently think, “This is going to suck.”

I didn’t like typing that, but it’s true. Why? Let me do a brain dump of possible spectator thoughts, opinions, assumptions, and experiences:

magic is a kid thing …magic is cheesy …magic isn’t funny…they saw a cheesy magician once …or eight times …it’s going to be sequins and boas …more cheesy
…possible big hair …pretentiousness …corny jokes …spectator embarrassment …it’ll be boring …dumb, non-deceptive tricks …goofy looking props

I’m sure there are more reasons, but that hurt me enough while writing it.

So what can we do to take them from “this guy sucks” to “this guy rocks” as quickly as possible?

Give the client some pre-show tools to share with the audience. A great sizzle reel can do wonders. Does this mean the audience will watch it? Of course not. In fact, most won’t, but you gotta still try, boss.

Don’t dress like a dork. (Yes, that’s blunt.) How this is defined will vary with performer and venue. An 8pm theater show would probably have more wardrobe leeway than a noon gathering of baptists or accountants. Much of the audience’s fear of cheesiness can be cancelled out with wardrobe.

You open well before the show starts. Dressing rooms are great, and the next time I have one I’ll be sure to tell you about it. For many gigs the audience sees me before the show begins, so I take advantage of that time to chat with several of them like, you know, a normal, non-cheesy human being.

A good introduction helps. Have a few nifty credits that might impress the non-magic public? Those could help your introduction.

Open with you, not magic. I confess, I’ve never understood the appeal of what our tribe calls the flash opening.2 Sure, Copperfield came down on the magic elevator, but a Vegas showroom is a long way from a meeting room in Orlando, or a church in Georgia. My preference is to make selling them on me job one. I don’t actually magish until a few minutes into the show.

Get a strong laugh within seconds. Then get more laughs for several minutes.

When you start doing magic, kill. Make it strong. Establish your strong amazement bona fides on the first strike.

Have a script. Deliver it. I think it’s nearly impossible to over rehearse the first few minutes of an act. It’s the golden time when the audience decides whether you’re good or bad (cheesy). Don’t pepper that time with hemming, hawing, awkward pauses.

Be alert for adlib gold and deliver. At the risk of contradicting the last point, sometimes a situation gives you some prize gems and you gotta go for it.

Example: in the marriage conference I mentioned at the beginning of this post the men were dressed casually, as in no jackets, mostly collared shirts, and a few T shirts. One of the husbands was wearing this shirt:

He was wearing a pro-sarcasm shirt at a conference promoting marital communication.
I. Love. This. Guy.

I riffed on it for half a minute early in the show. Good times.

Finally, regardless of how you deal with it expectations of cheesiness, know that those expectations could be there.

Two final points:
One, this was an odd post for me to write. Why? I’m confident in my work, but unless a magician is a egocentric jackwagon3, it feels odd to say “I killed” in a public forum like a blog for other magicians. Ugh. Don’t worry. Future posts will soon return to self-loathing, insecurity, and, you know, the stuff that makes an artist grow. HA!

Two, this is how I deal with it. It’s not how you have to deal with it, but however you deal with it, you will have to deal with it. Knowing is half the battle.

Until Next Time,

Doc Dixon

PS: While you’re here, check out the store. These routines definitely don’t suck.


1 Catered by Chick-Fil-A. Yes, I live in Georgia.

2 Exception: the flash opening of the great Paul Kozak back in his comedy club days. In defense of my preference, his flash opening was 50% flash and 100% cajones. You can find video of it online, but to see it live, as I did several times, was a thing of beauty …Closer your eyes – BOOM – Told you so!

3 Be honest — AT LEAST four different magicians came to your mind when you read that.
Like ____ _______ and ______ ________.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.