Go Ahead, Add some Comedy to your Act

By Norm Barnhart   –  MagicNorm.com

Every performer who does comedy or kid shows wants more laughs in the act. You also want to set yourself apart from the pack of magicians doing the same old lines. This is done by filling your act with creative and original comedy material. One method for writing comedy is called captioning.

Captioning is a fun technique for adding comedy to your act. It basically is taking a moment of time in your act and adding a caption. Just like a cartoon drawing in the funny pages captures a moment in time, and then at the bottom is a punch line to go with the picture. The action in the cartoon is the “set-up” and the caption is the “punch line.”

Our magic and comedy acts are made up of many moments that together make up the routine. If we see a moment that is slower we can add a comedy punch line to that moment using the captioning technique.

This technique can be very helpful when writing a new routine for a trick. It also is helpful when you desire to add comedy to an existing routine. For example, you have a routine that you feel could use a few more laughs, the first thing you do is record it so you can watch it later. When you see the moments in your act that do not have a laugh, you study each moment and find a line to go with that moment.

Once you have discovered a point in time in your act that needs a laugh you write a list of lines or jokes that could fit well at that point.

The joke may fit a physical action or it may be based on the prop you are holding. A few examples follow. Let’s say there is a moment in the show where the child is given a magic wand and asked to wave it up and down to make the trick work.

A Funny Physical Gag

Make a comment such as, “watch where you are pointing that … you might make my head disappear!” Look down and show your hand has disappeared. Make a comic face of fear and amazement… then slowly reveal that your hand was up your jacket sleeve.  Act relieved.  You can take a moment that is slow and add some laughs visually with a gag like this.

A Comedy Magic Word bit of Business.

Here is a variation on the gag where the magician misunderstands the kids as they say the word Abracadabra. As the child waves the magic wand, you give him or her a funny magic word to say. “As you wave the wand say the special magic word, Have-a-banana…  I mean Abra-pajama, I mean… Abby’s gramma…”  Finally get it right when the kids help to correct your mispronunciation. Kids find this funny as they enjoy seeing us make an occasional mistake. Kids are always making mistakes so when we do, they can relate. It is always funny when someone else is in trouble.

The above are two quick ways I came up with to add comedy to specific point in an act. But the greater point is you can create your own comic moments by using this technique. Freeze frame the moments in your show that are slow, then look at that picture and make a list of lines to put there. Narrow your list down to the best two lines and then try them out in your next appearance. If you get a laugh great! If not, make another list of possible lines and try, try again.

The following is a fun exercise that will help you add comedy to your act. Try it and over time you should see some good results. You can then create a show for yourself that is original and unique.

Comedy Captioning Warm up Technique

A great way to warm up is to do this exercise with comics cut from the paper or from a book of cartoons. An example is, a doctor standing next to a patient. This is a classic scene in many newspaper clippings. You tape the cartoon into a notebook and then write lines to go with the picture.

Either the Doctor or patient could speak. The patient could talk about “my kidney’s fine now, but I need to stay as your bill made my heart skip a few beats. Or the Doctor could smile and talk about how he needs just two more patients like you and he can retire.  Or the guy on the table could be a magician with a top hat and the doctor says, “Next time you have butterflies in your stomach, don’t drink Raid!” The guy who is the patient could also be a doctor and the standing Doc would say, “Take two aspirin and call yourself in the morning.”

Just play, enjoy the process of comedy creation and you will soon have a list of jokes and bits that will make your tricks stand out. As you can see from my examples, not every idea is a winner, but out of a list of 10-15 you should have a usable line that will add comedy to your act.

It is well worth the effort to creatively add comedy to your act. When you are unique you will stand out and make yourself more valuable in the customer’s eyes.

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