Tuesday, 28 February 2012

WTF am I and where is my Orc?

I know I'm a magician and a clown and all that but when I am on stage in a comedy club making people laugh with my own original shtick I believe I am doing stand up comedy.
It has come to my attention that some people don't consider what I do to be stand-up due to these recent incidents:
  • A London comedian mentioned that I wasn't really a comedian I was a magician
I don't know if she was trying to be mean or just trying to categorise me in her head. Things is when I perform for magicians they are quick to tell me that I'm more a comedian than a magician. Although I do do magic in my stand up I only do a couple original takes on magic effects in between jokes, stories and very unmagical prop gags. I don't know why people need to put me in either category. Seamus Fox knows though: http://borntomorrow.blogspot.com/2011/08/dangerously-inquisitive.html
  • I've been listening to a lot of Marc Maron's podcasts who I kind of get is of the opinion that a true stand up act is a person and a microphone, telling truths and delving into their own angst and emotions for material.
I can see where he is coming from. Some of the greatest stand-ups have been/ are people who tell you the truth how they see it and how they feel about it. George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Billy Connolly, Louis CK, Richard Pryor.
I happen to be not very good at that style of comedy. So where does that leave me and everyone else who doesn't fit into that category? A lot of the greats are also gag tellers, character acts or even magicians. Steve Wright and Mitch Hedberg tells/told jokes. Yes, you get a strong sense of their character but they are not talking directly about themselves. Same with Harry Hill in the UK, he wrote some of the greatest gags to hit the circuit but I don't think he ever reveals him true self on-stage. And where would we be without Tommy Cooper?
  • Some folks after seeing my act at a juggling convention said they would be using my jokes and asked who wrote my material!!
Of course, they can't use my jokes and I wrote the material but I suppose one of the problems with not performing a standard comedy club act is that people will assume I have assembled my act like some classic performers have via pinching jokes and bits rather than writing them. Whereas in a comedy club it is assumed that you are performing your own material until it is proved otherwise in other situations it can be the other way around.

Anyhow, spose the point is I will carry on and be true to myself in my own way. By doing what I want to do and what I find funny. You can call it what you like but I still think I'm doing stand-up.

Anyhow, had a good month of gigs! Haven't properly died for ages, am awaiting a big kick in the particulars from the Gods of comedy. It's never far off as what I perceive as dieing seems to raise it's bar with me, so that's a comforting thought; no matter how good I get I'll always just be a few steps ahead of dieing on my hoop.

Played 3 nights in the International in Dublin and they all seemed to go well, cheers to Aiden Bishop for the gigs. Also was good to see my old bud Killian Sargent and his lovely lady Yvonne while I was down there. Thanks for the hostipality folks! Cheers to Eamojo for putting me up the other nights too.

Got knocked out of the laughing horse comedy competition :(. This was probably my worst gig of the month. I didn't die on my hoop but it was a pretty mediocre performance. For some reason my timing was completely off.. I fluffed my opener a little, sometimes this knocks my rhythm out for the whole thing (& sometimes I recover spectacularly so, who knows?). Good to see my old bud Gilbert again while I was there, also met Internet buddy James Munton who was even nicer in person.

Hosted a couple of passable to enjoyable nights at the Pav. The usual!

Had a good fun gig down at the Comedy Crunch thanks to Danny and Colm for the gigs.

Also had a lovely gig  with the even lovelier Ruaidhrí Ward (was gonna link to your blog but it's vanished! Do you want to be linked with anything? That sounded sinister.Folks,just google him then go out and see him be funny), Lauren Kerr and Eleanor Tiernan in the Black Box (and the lovelier part applies to everyone BTW not just Rua). Thanks to the Graeme Watson and his many minions.( Or vice-versa) (Does that even make sense?)

Had a nice but smallish gig at Queens PTQ week. Brought back the Spide story and the punchline got a round of applause which was nice because it has once or twice got absolutely nothing.(Which is never nice) I think putting it in later in the set has helped.

I also did a wee spot MCing for the Juggling convention which was a lot of fun. Probably should've dressed up more but hey, I made the acts look smarter and I got to do my T-shirt gag.

This was the gig that afterwards someone came up to me and said:
"I'd love to know who came up with that monkey of truth routine!"

I didn't get what he meant first of all, I assumed everyone would know it was obviously my silly bit but when I realised and told him that I wrote it he didn't seem to believe me!
Having said that I don't think "Hey, I even wrote the song" was the best convincer I could've used.

First of all it kind of puzzles me where on earth he thinks I could've resourced that idea from. It's pretty contrived I can't see anyone publishing that kind of nonsense

And secondly, it's just deflates me a little to think that people might lift the gag not knowing that the Monkey of Truth and I went on quite a long arduous journey before arriving at that routine.

What I tend to do nowadays when I am writing a new bit is come up with silly or surreal ideas and then shape them so they have gags and are actually going somewhere. (A true surrealist would probably just stay in the surreal but what can I say? I like gags). Anyhow the Monkey of Truth showed up before I had fully comprehended that this was probably the best way to do things.
I bought a gorilla mask on a whim, I was in Elliott's with Nicholas J Johnson . Who is also the kind of bloke who might pick up a gorilla mask on a whim with a vague gag in mind so I think he appreciated that.

And then I just started making people put it on, called them "The Monkey of Truth" and brought them onstage. I think Marcus went first. He was pretty funny.

What might've been funny would've been if I'd just given a big welcome to the Monkey of Truth he'd come on the stage bowed then sodded off again with no explanation. Unfortunately, probably due to my kid's show background, I would invariably try and milk the life out of the situation and the monkey would outstay his welcome on stage.

He also appeared as an adjudicator for an escape act, some form of security, and also maybe with Jesus. I dunno, that monkey did a lot of cr*p for a good year until one day I came up with the routine I have now. It requires me to find a new monkey that has never seen the routine every time I do it. Which is kind of fun and keeps it fresh.

We* also used to have an Orc of Indifference. Whose main roll was to go onstage if anyone had gone over their time  and put them off by acting indifferent.

Opinion was split on whether this was a good idea or not. I still maintain that it was. It was just a funny situation. Maybe it looked like we weren't taking things seriously, but hey, it's comedy! It could sometimes backfire as sometimes a new act might not be doing to well and would go overtime. The Orc would come on and shrug or shake it's head at punchlines which would get a laugh. The act wouldn't realise they where laughing at the Orc but think that their jokes had suddenly started hitting home and would be spurred on to do an extra couple of minutes.

And then the Orc would have to kill them.

I lost my Orc of Indifference mask. I never bought a new mask because around the same time I also lost my Orc. The monkey relishes being embodied by lots of personalitites but there is only one Orc. Nobody can act indifferent like Marcus Keeley.

In fact, sod the Orc, where's Marcus?

Get yourself on a stage fella!

Oh and before I go big thanks to Adam Laughlin for making me this for a bit I haven't quite finished putting together yet. It's got a theme tune now, so I've got my priorities sorted, at least:


Promise to talk about magic more next time. Not much for the magii here this time.


*I came up with the idea but I feel he belongs to Big Laughs in general.

See yous,

Monday, 26 September 2011

Ups and downs and oops and frowns.

I wrote this a few months ago and never finished it so never published it:

"In my last blog I was kind of worried that I had lost my mojo somewhat but was hoping I was coming out of a bit of a lull. I was. I seem to have my mojo back. Yey! The funny thing is I have been feeling a lot more confident onstage but things have been going wrong left, right and centre.
The first gig after my last post was another comedy crunch and I was definitely a bit more myself and self-assured onstage even the inclusion of a couple of new gags that didn't quite work didn't bother me and I would say overall it was a success. My confidence went up a notch.
The day after I was doing 10 minutes for Marcus Keeley at his Voicebox night in the pavilion. I had being playing around in my head with an idea that combined magic and PowerPoint for about a week and had about three lines for it written down on paper. Seeing as I had got back from the Dublin the night before at about 5 in the morning and had to turn the idea into a script, plus make the PowerPoint part of it plus hide some secret electronic thingamajig inside a pack of cards, then learn the whole thing I was beginning to lose faith in the whole idea but I persevered and about an hour before the event it seemed doable. I got there to find the crowd in a bit of a Monday mood whereby they watched the first couple of acts and refused to laugh at what were quite clearly jokes. The ballbags.
 I was on after the break and surprisingly managed to win them over. Whether it was because I was trying something different or just because they had, as a unit, reached the required number of drinks to give the night a break I have no idea. I do think I came up with a great premise (well done me) but I think it has a lot more potential; I'm looking forward to giving it a rewrite and trying it out again. Oh yeah, I was saying that stuff has been going wrong. I did fuck up. I accidently clicked gizmo hidden inside of half a pack of cards that controlled the screen (as you do) a number of times while trying to get a volunteer from the crowd. So everyone saw slides they shouldn’t have and it really should have spoiled the whole thing. Fortunately, I was in one of those moods where I didn’t give a crap about anything, so since I wasn’t bothered by my gaff neither was anyone else.
Big thanks to Caitriona Ward for agreeing to be my volunteer after I failed to get anyone from the crowd that I didn’t know to help me out. That might have been Caitriona who left that wee comment a while ago too. If it was; thanks. If it wasn’t; thanks also.
Anyhow the point it despite my big mistake it went terribly well and my confidence went up another notch."

Well, have had a load more ups and downs since then. Here are some of the highlights and whatever the opposite of highlights is! (In no particular order)

I instead of bursting a balloon I opened a set by stabbing myself in the hand with a screwdriver (and then didn't do too badly despite the bleeding)

Battled a heckler for 30 minutes in Antrim.

Performed a lovely headline gig in a really big barn!

Went to Edinburgh. Didn't do any performing apart from a very small gig to mostly comedians :( but saw some great acts tho :)

Had a mediocre gig at the Empire :/

Went on a trip to North England and beat the frog twice.

Died on me hole in the Pavilion

The last two in terms of good and bad gigs are the two extremes of the last few months and also both happened in the last couple of weeks. If you're on a big high you can usually be sure that the comedy karma will level things out with a kick in the face pretty shortly.

I wrote that last bit a couple of weeks ago and didn't bother hitting publish again! Another 2 weeks go by more ups, more downs. When does it all level out? Do I want it to level out? I don't know. This blog has been pretty pointless this time. I don't really  know if I am making a point or just having a whinge combined with a boast.

I suppose I was being a bit harsh on myself saying I died on my hole at the pav. I actually died on my hoop for 5 minutes then slowly won them round for 10 minutes. It wasn't the easiest of crowds either. Half the crowd had seen me a week ago, a quarter of the crowd were from other countries (a few from Canada and I was wearing my top hat. I'm not sure Canada has been particularily fond of top hatted, magic comedians since Jerry Sadowitz swaggered unto the stage in Montreal shouting "Hello Moose-fuckers") and my target demographic (a group of ladies sitting at the front) pissed off before I went on leaving a big space at the front. Oh, how I love chatting to a big empty table.

So. I had my work cut-out. Also, I did kind of lose it battling a heckler. Whoops

I got a volunteer up. She was from Germany. I like to ad-lib with volunteers. Of course, as soon as I found out she was German I thought "don't mention the war it's hacky, predictable and not very nice".
Unfortunately my brain got as far as "don't mention the war" and took this as cue to send Basil Fawlty goose-stepping through my head.
I mentioned the war.

My history and geography are terrible. The only things I know about Germany are war/nazi stuff and they have a good economy.
A good economy is hardly a comedy goldmine.

Anyhow, I then stole a joke.
I couldn't help it. She said that German is a beautiful language.
I had that thing in my head about how butterfly translates into French and German (butterfly/ papillion/schmetterling)
I wasn't sure if it was an old joke or something someone else had said.
Either way I shouldn't have said it. But if some says to you on stage that German is a beautiful language and that example pops into your head. You try not saying it.

Oh heck, I've just googled it. Apparently it's Tim Allen's joke. I've just doubled my shame.

The interweb is telling me that a fellow called Alex Agnew ripped this joke off Tim Allen. I'm not sure if this is true.
Firstly I thought this was way older than Tim Allen.
Secondly, all references are worded exactly the same so I think the allegation comes from one single source.

What it actually says is the joke was "literally ripped off Tim Allen by Alex Agnew".

So unless, Mr Allen has started writing his punchlines in velcro and sticking them on his jumper, our single source is clearly an eejit.

Anyhow, I'm not in the habit of ripping people off literally or otherwise so apologies to the gods of comedy.
I have now confessed and will do my penance.

I'm not sure what comedy penance entails. 10 paddy irishman jokes and a dirty limerick probably.

All the best,

Friday, 20 May 2011

Stuff what I've done


Tis a busy ole day tomorrow with lots of magic shows during the day then a birthday party for me! If you missed your invite check facebook. I always think on my birthday we should get a 5 year old to do a magic show (and maybe hire a couple more 5 year olds to stand at the back and talk loudly...).

More shows on Sunday then down to Dublin for the Comedy Crunch in Shebeen Chic for a sort of Birthday comedy night with 3 acts all having a birthday over the weekend. Should be fun. Might go down in Magic George mode and do my kid shtick.
They'll never notice.

I'm hopefully bouncing back after a bit of a lull. I think I've lost my mojo somewhat. I haven't been doing badly I just know I can do a lot better. After a pretty good run in the crunch the last one wasn't quite up to scratch. I had thrown in a few old bits I hadn't tried in Dub before but I think it was more due to my confidence being a little low. I met Damian Clark going home from that gig and he knew where I was at "it goes in waves and everytime you come out of a dip you're stronger" he said. Which was a nice thing to hear. Then we both agreed that you don't learn much from your good gigs and we parted. Good ole Damo.

Had a great show at a wedding for adults recently. In fact, adult shows outside the comedy circuit seem to be going great so I think the stand up is really beginning to pay off in my magic act. Which is good!

Failed Human

I was recently interviewed for Morgan Hearst's excellent podcast
Go here:

Magic George interview on failedhuman.com

And after you check out mine go through the back catalogue. He really does put a lot of work into them and they're very well done.

Free routine

Childrens entertainers: here is a routine that packs small and plays big and is actually out of my working repertoire. I submitted it recently to James Munton's New site for magicians; Magic Bistro. It will only cost you a couple of quid to put together too.
After you read the routine have a look about there's some good stuff there.

Magic George's routine on magicbistro.com

I say children's routine, you might be able to do this for adults with the right adjustments. I may well try that myself in the near future.

All the best,

Friday, 8 April 2011

7 minutes of self-evaluation

Well 8 really. Whoops. (Orc free enviroment thankfully).

I had 7 minutes to impress at the student union so I edited down some of my favourite bits and stuck them in a row.

Johnny McCarthy caught it on his iphone for me. Thanks Johnny!

I've been going through it spotting all my gaffs (there are quite a few!) and was wondering if it would be terribly egomaniacaltistic of me to do a second by second review of it. Probably, but it's what I've done anyhow.

Firstly here's the vid, I do a couple of swears at the start and tell an unsuitable joke near the end so don't watch it if you're under 15:

I'm going to do the times with the review so if you so wish you can follow the commentary as it happens but I'd watch the lot first anyhow.

0:00-0:20 There's Colin Murphy! There's the Jackson 5! There's me pishing about with a mic stand. Smooth Georgio!
Why the Jackson 5? Not my choice but I did write a funny gag about being introduced to the sound of the Jacksons. Unfortunately I wrote it on the way home from that gig so you won't be seeing it here. I can moonwalk aswell. Should've done a moonwalk.

0:20-0:32 I don't know why I swore there. I've realised recently that it wouldn't be hard to do my act without swearing. It doesn't really do much for my particular personna. I met a comedian in London who was suspicious of comedians who don't swear. I haven't a hidden agenda I'm just not that kind of act, I suppose. Angry people swear. I don't do an angry act. I do like a lot of comedians who swear, it suits some people.

The tall stage joke was lame. I thought it up before I went on and decided mid-saying it that the bald head joke was old. I'm not sure if it is but similair gags have definitely been made, it was definitely hacky and I kind of lost faith in it while I was saying it. There was more but I cut loose.

0:32-0:43 I've done that bit before. It works sometimes. A little pretend piece of audience interaction coupled with the obligatory self-reference. That's my second and final swear there. I don't mind that one as much as it is not me saying it but the supposed thoughts of a fictional audience member. If anybody buys that...

0:43-1:10 The balloon blowing stuff is supposed to be slightly awkward. I've seen a magician do this trick with a pre-inflated balloon. I think blowing up the balloon adds tension. I've a couple of whimsical remarks while I do it just to keep them happy but I know there'll be a big pay off coming. I'm hoping some may even think that my genuine awkwardness earlier on is me hamming it up and leading them on. It wasn't.

1:10-1:30 "Screwdriver" is supposed to be lame. Honest! Sometimes it gets a wee titter though. There it is! The production could've been smoother and that's not the best angle it was filmed from there. Pity. Noone seems to care though.

1:30-1:35 See?

1:35-1:40 This is me thinking I'm a superstar while conveniently forgetting the fact that they're all actually just cheering a beverage. Go monks!

1:40-1:57 Ha I said Lurgan. That's true about the champagne though. That's all magicians seem to produce. I don't know why. Probably to send out some kind of message about how refined they are. 'Look at me I wear a waistcoat and drink champagne I'm a classy act.' Well done you!
I've never heard of anyone doing a buckfast production. It seems an absolute no brainer really. I wouldn't have got that reaction from champers. Maybe if I did it at Ascot, but that seems unlikely to happen.
The only thing I've ever seen produced apart from champagne was wine. Just normal table wine. That looked quite pathetic. Ta dah! An adequate but sensible beverage to serve on Sundays!

1:57-2:03 I made that joke up the night before just before I hit the hay. I wrote it on an envelope and left it facing me in front of the bedroom door. "Slogan" was the word I needed there, still got a chuckle anyhow.

2:03-2:30 Very twittery and mumbly, if one can be both at the same time. I kind of blew the giving someone a drink bit. Colin Murphy said I should give someone a drink to prove it's real. I think it could've been fun if I'd made them down it or something but I was getting bored of the buckfast at that point.

2:30-2:32 That's me pressing a button on my watch and helpfully adding "I'll just press this"
I have a watch that vibrates after a countdown. So it's always set to go off 1 minute before the end of a set. However of the 20 or so times I have worn it on stage guess how many times I have remembered to press it before I went on.
Go on guess.
No, it's never.
Not once.
I'm pressing it there but I have no idea how long I've done. I look at my watch a couple of more times later while guessing times and doing frantic maths. (Everytime I look at my watch know that I am confused)

2:32-4:11`Accent to spide. I've been doing that bit for a long time so I've no idea why I stumbled over the second half of the accent bit. I might cut that tagline there. The accent joke seems to go down better as a quick bit. The spide jokes work well there. I cut down the ferrero rocher bit quite a bit. I think they would've gone for the full length version. Definitely. But I wanted to fit more stuff in so I editted it out for that gig. I actually cut out my favourite bit of that routine since it didn't sit in a shorter piece.

4:11-5:14 You can't see what's going on there can you? I have this picture on my t-shirt:

Well actually I have the picture on that t-shirt on my t-shirt, I should say, in case you think that I have a t-shirt with a picture of a t-shirt with that picture on it, on it. You didn't? Oh fine carry on.

Anyhow that's what I am playing about with. My girlfriend saw me practising this joke and told me I shouldn't do it because it was stupid and puerile. It is, but obviously I didn't view that as a good reason for not doing it...

5:14-5:34 Thought that bit up in the afternoon. I came up with the bus line the day before too.

5:34-6:37 Came up with the Black Swan joke after seeing Black Swan. It's starting to get old now. Might give it another blast when it comes out on dvd and a final fairwell on the first tv showing. I'm holding out for Black Swan 2. Adam Laughlin added the dog line. I'd've got there eventually... I like the weird noise I made that time after doing the dog bit. I'll keep that in. Funnily enough that's the rudest part of my set but it doesn't have any swear words. I like that. I should've written saucy postcards in the 1950s.

6:37-end That's an idea I had recently for the fire wallet. I tried it once in the Pav and it got a reaction out of them when they where half asleep so I knew it would go down well in a bigger club. Although the fork from wallet got more of a reaction in a smaller venue. I like it. Don't know if I'll keep the game part of it though.

I've just noticed that I said "My Motto is Brie Prepared" so anyone awaiting some cheesed-based ending to that trick, apologies.

Friday, 25 March 2011

All new?

I was thinking of something to chat about that concerned children's entertainment and stand up and decided to ponder on the topic of trying new material v honing your act. Something that sparks debate among both children's entertainers and comedians with quite a few parallels between the two. And quite a few non-parallels (perpendicular bisects? is that the opposite?) as well.

Amongst children's entertainers there seems to be two schools of thought;
You should be constantly changing your show and buying every new gizmo, DVD and gadget that comes out or you should spend decades honing your show by performing it until your fingers bleed and a load of your brain neurons reassemble themselves to create a space in your head entirley devoted to putting hankerchieves into a bag.

It's either one or the other. Children's entertainers aren't very fond of grey areas. What they are fond of is forming one infallable opinion whereby they can look down on anyone who has a different opinion and therefore assume they are a better performer/thinker/person than the purveyor of the opposing line of thought.

Comedians seem to accept that the answer lies somewhere in between the two although can have a good old barney about where exactly the answer lies.

As I'm fairly new to stand up I can only hypothesise about the correct balance although having said that being a fairly old hand at children's entertainment I still don't really know where the balance lies there either.

Some say the main argument about changing your act is that audience may have seen you before and therefore will want to see something new.I feel this tends to be more applicable to adults than children. Children enjoy the repetition (as any parent who has watched "The Little Mermaid" 47 times will concur) and in their short lives seeing the same show half a year later is a long time for them. Here are my thoughts on that pasted in from a forum:

I wrote:
"I do have 2 shows now but it's just to keep the adults happy and to give me something to do.
Then again my show is different every time as I riff off what the children have said and ad lib a lot. It's also quite a knack making the material always seem fresh and original. If you're bored of it then the audience will be too.
The problem with performing to the same group of kids several times in a month is they become over familiar with you rather than the show. Familiarity breeds contempt they say... I was flavour of the month at a particular hall and was doing pretty much the same show to the same children every week for 2 months there and it was going fine. I then decided to do new stuff as the children has seen me so many times before and this is when I lost them (and subsequently lost my flavour of the month position). Not doing my classic stuff meant I couldn't ad lib as well and couldn't control the room as well.

I think the problem with too many repeat multiple bookings in a birthday party enviroment is the children feel more at ease to shout out at inappropriate times etc thus leading to problems with the flow of the show. The bookers will blame these problems on the fact you are doing the same stuff whereas in actual fact it is other factors that are the problem."

In that example it is the adults who get bored with the same stuff not the children and by pleasing them you can end up not doing so well with the children. Pleasing the adults is a factor you have to consider. Even if it's wrong you have to take into account the booker's perspective. I have heard adults mention this about other magicians too. They'll say "We used so and so but he always did the same thing and the children got bored" I'd bet my bottom dollar that the children didn't get bored but as far as the show goes it was probably the adults that got bored.

On one occasion a boy was at 2 of my parties in one day and basically watched my show twice in the space of 3 hours.
I kept an eye on him to see how he'd enjoy the second performance and he laughed pretty much as much as he did 2 hours previously if not more.

To please the adults and amuse myself I do change my show. But I do it slowly working in one new effect until it's strong then going on to another. I know have about 8 hours of tried material for kids shows but I would say about 1.7 shows (I can do 2 strong shows with one routine the same in the middle once I work up another strong puppet routine I will have 2 kid's acts)

In Belfast the open mic scene is pretty small so you tend to suffer old material guilt. When travelling to a new city to perform I certainly feel a lot more relaxed as I can perform my golden oldies without that nagging thought in the back of my head that everyone has heard all this shtick.

I wonder how much of this guilt is in our heads.

It is true that adults don't like to see the same act repeated. My father attended about 3 open mic nights in the space of 2 months when I started out and started saying I should be doing new material. Grown ups don't want to hear the same shtick more than twice (or maybe he just thought my material was crap, which to be fair, at the time it probably was). I think there are 2 reasons they don't want to see the same act. firstly the obvious; they want to see something new but secondly that it ruins the illusion.
Your average punter, rather than a comedy connoisseur, wants to believe that you are just a funny guy on stage rather than someone who has worked on a funny script and performance. My non-comedy mates will see an act and I'll go "that's a great act" and they'll go "that's a funny person". Magic godfather Jean Robert-Houdin is quoted as saying " A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician" and I think a comedian is an actor playing the part of a comedian. We don't want to know that they're doing an act we want to see a funny person.We don't want to know it is someone giving the illusion of being a funny person via hard work and commitment.
Someone mentioned on the chortle forum a while ago that they overheard a punter complain that they had seen the same comedian a week previously and they were doing the same jokes. This kind of perspective on things seems unbelievable to perfomers but I suppose is quite common for those not immersed in the business.

King of sticking with your act is TVs Mr Matthew Collins. Who keeps the same act and hones it. He goes down great with crowds. Of course the comedians have seen his act so many times they know it word for word.

And the COMICS joined IN with the PUNCHLINE.

However as I've said he does wonderfully, he quite wisely ignores the comedians and has managed to hone his act on a small circuit to a degree few others have reached.

Sometimes getting the comedians at the back to laugh can help win over a small room (especially if they're half the crowd and lord knows we've all played a couple of them here or there). However long term it's probably best just to ignore them. As soon as you say something vaguely familiar they'll roll their eyes and all file out for a smoke anyhow.

However, given the size of the circuit here there will be quite a few who have seen me before so new stuff can be good for the punters too. I'd love to live in London where one can hone a set doing the same crap to a fresh crowd every night. On the other hand the good thing about a small circuit is it does force you to write and try out new stuff if you're doing it on a regular basis.

MCing the same gig fortnightly I have to come up with something new every two weeks. It's fun and it keeps me writing and experimenting. If I did spend the last 3 years honing the same 15 minutes I would undoubtably have a fantastic set but I fear my creative side would be lacking. If, God forbid, at some point in my life I get any mainstream exposure I will want to be in a postition where I'm not spent after showcasing my best 20.

A good thing about new stuff is it sounds fresh (because it is) but here it seems to get old fast but I also think if I got a chance to do a set umpteen times it would start sounding fresh again. I know from my kids act that when you know something so well you don't have to even try to remember the words then you can put effort into the delivery and play around with it a lot more. Adults will recognise if something is new by the delivery and give you extra kudos and I suppose when you can make it sound like it's fresh again you will get the kudos on top of the fact you've a great set.

One thing that makes it more difficult to add new stuff to my kids act is they don't give you the new material grace period so doing a new set is hard work.

New material in stand up is of course hard work too. When I perform it it is pretty obvious it needs work. Two local performers who I greatly admire for the knack of hitting the ground running with new material are Morgan Hearst and Ruaidhrí Ward. I'm constantly gob-smacked at how polished their new material is. Morgan tells me he achieves this by a lot of hard work putting hours into scripting and spending a lot of time saying it out loud at home (or in his garage to the cat). Morgan also tells me that Rua doesn't script it just works it out roughly and relies on his immense natural eloquence. The talented git!

(And if you're reading this fellows let me say that this doesn't mean I think Rua isn't hard-working or Morz isn't naturally eloquent....)

I've no conclusion to this blog. It's just general wittering. I suppose kids show performers or comedians who never try anything new under the guise of honing an act are conning themselves out of fulfilling themselves creatively and conversely performers who chop and change stuff weekly are conning themselves out of finding out what their act could be after time is added to the mix.

Anyhow, I have a whopping 4 children's shows to do tomorrow and I will be trying out a new routine. It's the opening routine too. Ugh! That's the hardest one to swap. If the opener doen't go well in a stand up act there is a vague chance of winning the crowd back. If the kids don't go for the opening routine then they'll be outside looking for a small animal to poke with a stick about 3 minutes in to the show.

I also have several stand up spots over the next fortnight. The one I am most looking forward to is the Queen's Comedy Club this is the last big comedy venue in Belfast I have yet to play (well I've performed on that stage a couple of times but not at the actual proper comedy night). I will probably look over the hours of material I have worked on over the last three years and pick out my best 10.

Whereby any mates I have managed to drag along with me will ask "doesn't he have any new stuff?", roll their eyes and all file out for a smoke.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Privates and Roberts


So not an essay on anything in particular today just some bits and bobs (hence my hey-larious title)


I think it's safe to say the whopping 9 votes that came in for the great Norman debate represent an accurate cross-section of society in general and therefore:
67% of the population (6 people) think I shouldn't worry about basing a few of my routines on jokes from the instruction leaflet that came with them and can carry on regardless.
22% (2 folks) think I should rewrite the hackier parts
And 11% (1 ballbag) think I should drop the whole shebang and deal only in original thoughts and premisses.

I was momentarily a bit upset that someone clicked the "drop it, you hack" option and then realised that I had titled the option myself and if I had made it a "George, I love you but I think this particular routine is beneath you" option they would've had to click that instead. So you're not really a ballbag, you ballbag. Anyhow, I can't see any reason why I should drop the whole thing rather than rewrite the hacky (they're only semi hacky, they are nearly completely rewritten) parts so maybe it's just someone who doesn't like prop gags. In which case I'm not going to listen to them anyhow.

Quite a few of my friends have read it and were interested in discussing it with me. And even some of my friends who will call things hack quite regularily thought I was within my rights. Which made me think the poll was pretty worthless. People say what I want to hear if they like me and don't if they don't. So it was really just a popularity poll. And 2 out of 3 people think I'm great. Result!

Marcus Keeley noted that what I do is different to what comedians do so he thought it is a horses for courses situation. It was sweet of him to say but I don't really agree with this attitude as it is exactly the attitude that has kept most magicians in the "I can do any material given to me" frame of mind that I despise. I'm playing comedy clubs so I think the same rules should apply to me. Although maybe I can bend a few. Such as performing classic effects or reworking the odd old visual gag. I think maybe that it's cheeky but not wrong. Something that can be done sparingly, with consideration, research and honesty.

So, I'll probably go for the rewrite option and take out anything that is recognisable from the original instruction book. Bye Bye Julia Roberts then :(


I've just read three books by performers in a row. Maybe I'm in a particularily receptive frame of mind or maybe I just got lucky but I can honestly say these 3 books were the best of their kind I've ever read. These books were:

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin Fantastic! Things will ring true and familiar for any comedians or magicians reading. And positively toll true for anyone who is both...

How I Escaped My Certain Fate by Stewart Lee Smart man. This book is a comedy nerds wet dream. Skips all the boring childhood stuff to make room for full transcripts of shows plus his thinking behind why he says what he does.*

Confessions of a Conjuror by Derren Brown: Smart smart man. Whether he is talking about magic or life; that man can see the Matrix. I spent most of the book nodding. Like a top observational comedian he says things everyone kind of knows but no one ever says and if they do, not half as eloquently. I also think he's caught footnotitis of Mr Lee.  (Thanks to the aforementioned Marcus for the lend)


Having recently acquired a new phone. It's an android HTC desire. Don't get me started on it or I'll bore you stupid. Suffice to say, it's fabtastic and I can genuinely say it has improved my life. I know. What a geek. (nearly went off into a bit of Catty Mollins material there)

Anyhow. I can't believe how easy it is to put videos up now. I used to have to record a video,find a usb cable, transfer it to the pc,change the format of the video, log in to youtube then do all the uploading stuff, now I press one button on my phone, shoot the video and it's done. So I've popped two unedited videos online this week.

One of me making a 5 petal flower out of balloons. It's not very exciting. It was just an interesting problem how to do this in a neat and simple way. It's easy to work out even numbers of petals but takes a bit of flair for odd numbers.

And one of me performing an old domino trick. I say domino, it's more like a hybrid of a playing card and a domino. Or half a domino. I'm not sure anyone cares what it looks like.

Ironically folks seem to like the balloon one more. Which is kind of annoying as the balloon one was merely to show a few folks how I did something whereas the domino one did have some thought put into it with regards to making an entertaining video. I deliberately performed it for youtube rather than just did a stage presentation in an empty room. The domino one was also in response to some of the dire videos on youtube where you watch magicians pause, look in the wrong place and wiggle their hands suspiciously. ( Try these:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVv27sWl26c&feature=related ).
I suppose mine's not that great either (I found myself distinctly irritating when I watched it back) and one of the drawbacks of youtube is you convince yourself that you are good by watching people do things very badly...

The Magic Cafe

I do try to be helpful on magic forums but occasionally I just like shooting the breeze and cracking a few jokes like I would with my friends. Unfortunately, I forget they aren't my friends, they're magician/childrens entertainers and most of them haven't a clue what I'm talking about. Which does kind of make things funny while also making me look a bit mean. Try here, here and here.
The first one is just me being silly but he got a bit cross. It was his final reply that made me laugh the most. He did get me, though, as I wanted to say something about lazy stereotyping but I was genuinely in the pub when he replied (with a pig under my arm, dancing a jig, eating a potato).
The second one gets funny near the bottom and unto the next page talking to the lovely Stephen Ablett. I do try to have serious conversations with him. But it's hard...

Apologies if I've upset anyone. I am just being silly not mean!

That's me for now. I have an idea for a video project which I will be contacting my chums about this week. Keep an eye on your inboxes.
All the best

Ta ta

*He really loves footnotes +

+ See what I did there

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Norman; an unfortunate truth

I was down in Dublin last week doing a wee gig at the Comedy Crunch. Went ok, thanks for asking until I tried to get home and had to wait 4 hours for a bus.  Showbusiness, eh?
It's a nice wee gig, intimate and suits my relaxed style. Nice to meet all the Dublin lads, too.
Anyhow was talking to Kevin McGahern, who has a great act with some beautifully written surreal set pieces, and he asked me about Norman.
Norman is my spring puppet known to most magicians as Rocky because that is what he is called on the box he comes in. He also comes with an instruction manual. Which brings me back to Kevin, who asked me what my inspiration was for my Norman routine.  I was a bit taken aback for a second, as the prop mainly inspired the routine so I thought he might be making a point (I don’t think he was, he’s nice fellow and was just making conversation) but I had to admit that a lot of that routine is “inspired” by the book of instructions that came with it.
In fact: look at this:

Now hold on a second with that pitchfork, stop nailing those planks together. I’m not doing Dave’s bit (many magicians do do Dave's act word for word and it's very amusing seeing a 13 year old youtuber claiming he was "having a corporate lunch at a restaurant the other day"...)
His routine is (in his words) “... basically the Magic Masters pitch with a sprinkling of original stuff on top”. I would say that describes a lot of my routine, too.
The Magic Masters are the manufacturers of this prop and these gags are used to sell it. Still though,  doing a gag from a book isn’t very artistically fulfilling is it? Norman is the least original thing I do.
Why am I doing this expose on myself? (I was originally going to call todays blog "Some clown who exposes himself" but thought better of it)
Well firstly, I can hardly take the moral highground and spout off about artistic integrity without pointing out my own flaws.
And secondly by being honest about what isn't very original I can also honestly point out that most of what I do is very original.
Now for those of you who have seen my Norman bit will know that I far from do the same act as Dave word for word. One of the main stipulations I had for this routine before I performed it on the comedy circuit was that the words would be mine even if the actions I performed might be old. So the gags were completely rewritten. The lamest example of this would be replacing "Madonna" with "Julia Roberts" less "rewriting" more googling "celebrity underarm hair". On the other end of the spectrum there are many completely original verbal and visual bits aswell. (The battery line, the tightrope walk, the weasely gag etc are all 100% original)

So after spouting off about hackyness, I thought I'd turn it on myself to find out what you guys think.

I would say my Norman bit is 60% original visually and 90% original verbally. Which is probably 60% and 90% more original than a lot of magicians out there and 40% and 10% less original than a lot of comedians out there...

The hack parts are from the sellers of the product, so no plagarism here but are there any victims? Is it just a shame for me that I can't claim this is 100% original or is it unfair for me to use something like this as other performers don't get props that come with jokes?

There's a poll at the bottom of this page.

Tell me what to do.