Making Your Magic Effects Stronger – The Magical Pause

Pause for an Extra Magical Moment     by: Norm Barnhart

Do you want more laughs in your show? Do you want more ooohs and ahhs?  Do you want your audience to react to your magic in an amazed way? Do you want each of your magic tricks to seem more powerful? If you did not say yes to any of these questions, then hurry and turn the page. If you are still here, let’s dig into a valuable tool that can make our magic and comedy stronger.

One of the most powerful theatrical tools an entertainer can use is a simple pause. Yes, this pause for effect will generate a stronger reaction to the magic effects and comedy bits and lines.

Let’s start with comedy. One of the biggest challenges a performer has is to relax and pause and wait for the laugh.  Tension is built up in the audience during the set up of the joke as it builds or nonverbal physical comic movement bit leads up to its finish. At the punch line there is a small snap in the listener’s mind and this triggers a laugh. The mind is lead one way with the build up and then the surprise hits the mind like a punch and when the mind “gets” the joke it reacts with exhaling of air and a laugh.

The performer needs to pause and allow this to happen.  Too often we rush on to the next effect hoping to keep the show moving at a fast pace. We don’t want to lose them. This is especially true at a kid show or even with tipsy adults during the social hour at a banquet – the attention span is the same!  We want to keep everything moving quickly or we are afraid they might get bored or distracted.

The audience is starting to laugh and just then the performer rushes on to the next bit of business or joke. In the old days of show biz this was called, “stepping on the laugh.”

If we do not pause and let the audience react we will cut the laughter short. When we quickly move on, we stifle the laughter. Here is what happens, the audience begins to laugh at the situation or joke, but we cut them off by delivering another line or do some comic movement as we grab another prop.  When we cut their reaction short, an audience will then be trained to not react as strongly or to hold back their reaction.  Thus, we cause them to react less and less as our show goes on.

The Pause that Refreshes

Ahhh. Just a simple pause, will allow them to release that built up tension and exhale with a blast of laughter. This is healthy for the audience and brings joy to our ears.  Watch the greats. Watch Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, Milton Bearle, and the king of pauses . . . (wait for it). . . Jack Benny! When they pause and react to the situation, everything becomes funnier. As an audience laughs it stirs the others in the audience to laugh more. This is true as true for table hopping as it is for stage magic.

Great comics will pause and let the audience react and enjoy the comedy. Some will have a deadpan look of, “I cannot believe this.” Or they will stop and mug and make a face and freeze.  Your face is your greatest comic tool, pause and let the audience enjoy your comedy. Try it, you’ll like it!  You will instantly see better reaction to your comedy.

Pausing for More Wonderful & Wonder-filled Magic

As magicians we want our audience to be filled with wonder at the mysteries we present. But the rushing on to the next effect will kill the wonder. Are we afraid that our magic will be figured out if we pause?  I have found that by just freezing, then relaxing at various moments after something has just appeared or vanished, will bring a stronger reaction.   Mitch Williams goes into this in great depth in his Art of Magic lecture and DVD set. (

Twenty years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to study with the amazing, magical inventor Al Schneider.  His teaching was great and one of the more important things I learned was the way he broke down each effect and had me practice each step.  His original Matrix routine took the world of magic by storm. Within a few years everyone had a new climax to add a kicker on to the effect.  Al taught me that simply pausing as the final coin appeared was the simple and strongest finish.  Pause, relax, and let the audience enjoy, and react to, the wonder of magic.

When we pause for a moment just after the magic happens, the effect becomes more powerful and the audience reaction becomes more powerful. It’s a win-win situation.

If you want people to really enjoy your magic and be amazed at your wonderful gift then pause. When we stop and let the audience react and respond we will get a bigger and stronger response.  Jaws drop, people gasp and look at each other and then see how others are reacting and as they see their friend’s jaw drop it will bring an even stronger reaction from them. There is this moment where they relate to each other with a reaction of, “did you see what I just saw?” You are suddenly a bit more amazing in everyone’s eyes. Let them have their OMG moment together and you will look like a better performer as they react to you.

A stronger response is our goal, and this is true for kid and family shows or strolling at a hospitality suite or banquet. Give this idea a test drive for 20 days and let me know if you like it.

Comedy DVD Presentations that will add fun to your show

Comedy DVD Presentations that will add fun to your show

Norm’s comic routines, books and DVDs are at:

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2 Responses to “Making Your Magic Effects Stronger – The Magical Pause”

  1. Marie Shafer Says:

    We recently received Comedy Magic with Balloons Volumes I and II. The DVD is full of great ideas, many of which don’t require a bunch of expensive props. It is entertaining to watch and informative. I think anyone looking for some new material would find it worth the money and the time to watch it.

  2. Marie Shafer Says:

    Norm, you really did a fantastic job with the DVD “Comedy and Magic with Balloons Volume III”! It was a blast to watch and will most definitely add some great material to my performances.

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