I’m in a quandary at the moment. As you know, I’ve just started doing stand up. I’m 8 gigs in, which, in stand up terms, is not a lot. Certainly not enough to say that I’ve “been there, mastered that”. I have so much to learn about comedy, it’s untrue.
If there’s one thing I know from performing magic, it’s that the lessons are learned by DOING, not sitting at home. Stage time is essential. For magic, finding an audience to practice your close up act on is easy; just go to your local pub and offer to do tricks for free (don’t perform for family and friends, other than to initially show them, as you need to learn to approach strangers and break into their group).
Comedy is an all together different matter; you need to find a stage.
The trouble is, there are only so many open (beginner) spots available, and there is a TON of comedians who are wanting to have a go, all eager to fill those spots. To promoters, we are all the same; a new voice who thinks he/she is funny. It’s very hard, at least in the early stages, to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack.
One way to stand out would be to have a brilliant act (I don’t…yet). Most of what I have learned about comedy has been gleaned from stage time: where to stand, how to hold the microphone, how to look at the audience, how to pause after punchlines, how to feel comfortable in awkward silences (I’ve learned a lot about that one!). There is also a truckload of writing/rewritng that needs to be done to hone a joke to it’s comedic best. It just takes time. It’s stuff you can’t learn from practising with a hairbrush in your bedroom wearing your Superman pyjamas (trust me, I know). You NEED feedback from the audience.
Another way to stand out is to have a different act/gimmick; something that no-one else (or only a few people) are doing.
This is my quandary.
I’m a magician.
There are not a lot of comedy magicians on the open mic circuit.
I could use magic and get myself known.
In fact, I’ve been told, by promoters, that if I used magic, not only would I get more open spots, but they would also happily pay me as a OPENER (a paid spot, not an open spot) at their gigs.
There is no doubt; I could climb higher up the comedy ladder quicker, and get more gigs, just by virtue of doing a few magic tricks. I would also become more recognisable and, providing my act is good, would earn more money by being a comedy magician, than if I just stuck to comedy, at least in the short term.
So, what’s the quandary?
Well, I don’t want to sound arty farty, but it’s a creative quandary.
I entered into the world of comedy to see if I was funny.
I know from my close up magic that I can make people laugh. I know that I can interact with a diverse amount of people as a wedding magician or corporate magician. I have quotes on my website from people who say that I’m funny. But, I needed to know if I could be funny without a deck of cards in my hand. I need to know that I can make a room full of total strangers laugh, without having the safety net of “in jokes” and personal references that you often get while doing table magic.
In short, could I sit down, write something that is inherently funny, and then perform it and make people laugh?
I’m still asking myself that question. It doesn’t matter that I’ve had good gigs where people have laughed and congratulated me afterwards, telling me I was funny. It doesn’t matter that I won the Liverpool New Comedian of the Year award on my 3rd gig (ok, that one matters a bit).
It doesn’t matter because I still have so much to learn about writing and performing genuinely funny comedy.
I worry that, if I introduce magic, even if I do it in a straight stand up way, I’ll get laughs by the very nature of the gimmick – because I’m different.
I worry that I’ll get lazy and not put the effort in to writing unique comedy and resort to using old hack magicians jokes that lay audiences haven’t heard before…just because I can.
I worry that I’ll be booked just because I’m “something different” and not because I’m so fucking awesome that people should move heaven and earth to come and see me.
What I really want is for people to watch my act and say “now HE is bloody funny!”.
Not “Now HE is funny…for a magician!”.
So, that is where I’m at right now, exactly as I type this.