Using Comedy In What You

Apart from visual humour or humour inherent in a character, you should also consider using humour in what you say. A simple magic effect can be greatly enhanced just by adding some amusing patter (that's the magician's term for what is said to the audience).

How do you learn this? You can pick up and adapt some great lines from other magicians, you can read dedicated books on the subject of patter, or just make your own up. Thanks to the internet, it is much easier and cheaper than ever before to find spoken comedy ideas.

Within every magic magazine, you will find the occasional joke that pertains to a trick, effect or prop. Write it down in your book of ideas! Do that even if you don't currently do the trick or effect, because one day you might!

Paul used to buy all the small booklets written by Robert Orben. These were American in style, and Paul 'anglicised' them to fit the language of the UK. By contrast, (and there is a lesson here) a well known British comedian of the time did not. He merely recited the jokes word for word from the American booklets. Within a relatively short space of time, he ceased to be a well known comedian!

So, as we said, start to collect comedy lines and jokes - the shorter the better. It is very rare that as a magician you stand and tell a long story joke. You need 'one-liners'.

"But I can't tell jokes" you might be saying. Neither could Paul! Over a period of time however, you will find yourself suddenly recalling a suitable line that fits the situation or occasion. Remember too that it is not your ability to tell a joke that matters, it is the ability to be topical at the moment of every 'happening' that will make you funny.



Robert Orben

Short, sharp, topical, and funny—

Robert Orben

Short, sharp, topical, and funny—

Now let's look at any one of your magic tricks. In writing this section together, I (Andrew) have just been asked by Paul to name any trick, with the purpose of examining how to inject comedy into the routine. In this instance I named the 'card to wallet' effect, and I've been asked to write down what I would use in the card to wallet trick. I wrote down a deck of cards, and a wallet!

Paul says that when learning comedy in the beginning, he wrote down in his notebook the items used in the card to wallet trick, in order to know what he could make jokes about. This is how the list looked, and as you can see, it is far more comprehensive than my initial list!

Myself The venue The boss of the venue is there a band or musical group? is there a comedy way of getting somebody out of the audience?

The spectators clothes Their name Theirjob The place they are from is there a special box for the cards? The cards

Next to each item in the list, Paul would then write down the first comedic things that came into his head. This list would not be discarded however, and in continuing to read comedy in magic books, he would continue to add these ideas into the book, but only if they were genuinely funny to him.

As an aside, in the example above, Paul would never make jokes about the wallet because that might indicate that it was somehow special, and he knew it was important to underplay it and treat it as just a wallet.

The number one rule once you have collected lots of comedy words and phrases is not to try and use all of them at every performance. And with the ones you do use, don't relay them word for word.

Try to get the reason for the joke in mind, and in performance let your instincts be your guide. If a line jumps into your head, and you feel it's right, use it! Don't worry if no line jumps into your head, you may not be in a funny mood at that time, and you are still going to baffle them anyway!

Incidentally, if an audience member says something funny, (which they sometimes do) let them! You don't have to come back with a smart reply or witty retort. Laugh with them, applaud them, show that you can take a joke, after all, you are going to get paid anyway!

The more you read and absorb comedy in any form, the funnier you will become, and that will happen as a natural phenomenon, whether you are brash or quiet, attacking or droll. Your comedy will find you, but only, as we said, if you work at it.

Topical news items work well for comic patter because they demonstrate that you are thinking fresh, you are not just saying the same words every time. Use news events that are appropriate though, and steer clear of sensitive or inappropriate subjects. Politicians can often be made fun of; no one seems to mind that. In fact, very often they probably deserve it!

In the 1980's, there was a great TV show in Britain called Spitting Image which often used the week's political news to provide the script for exaggerated rubber puppets. It was a bit like 'The Muppets' but with the puppets based on real people! That show was a great example of using topical humour in an already visually comic situation.

Think too about the props you are using in each magic effect. Could there be a more amusing way of describing them that will make the audience laugh?

Over the years, many great one-liners and comedy pieces have been devised and developed by magicians and entertainers, and whilst we don't want to encourage anyone to simply recite these 'classics' thinking they will automatically generate laughs, used selectively under the right circumstances they can be really useful in enhancing an act. And they will start your collection.

For example, after asking a volunteer to choose a card you might say "Do you want to change your mind, or are you happy with the mind you've got?" Or when showing the Chinese linking rings you could tell the audience "this effect was originally performed by the famous Chinese magician 'Fu Ling You' (fooling you)!"

Here are some more of our favourite one-liners. Feel free to use or adapt them:

Introducing yourself:

"How many people have seen me before? How many people haven't seen me before? How many people couldn't c-are less If they never see me again?"

"Is there anyone here doesn't like magic?" (Point and fire a blank gun into the audience) "is there anyone else?"

Card Tricks:

Pass the deck to a helper, and say "Shuffle the cards, but please don't mix them." "Pick a card. Show it to all your friends, that shouldn't take long."

"Shuffle the cards. Now please arrange them back in the original order they came in."

When you get the wrong card: "At least the backs match"


"Before I did this, I used to sell mattresses. I thought It would be something to fall back on."

"I lost my lastjob because of illness. The boss got sick of me."

"For anyone who guesses how I do this next trick, I'll give them, right after the show, a brand new Car brochure."

"I started doing magic- because of my shyness, and it's definitely helped. I can now be more shy, in front of much larger audiences."

"It looks like I've got another booking here. I heard the theatre owner talking after my rehearsal. By the way, when does hell freeze over?"

(A rope trick) "Here's a nice little trick I came up with whilst strangling my wife." Mistakes

"This is the first time it didn't work again."

"My friends used to laugh at me when I did magic, so I decided I had to something about it. I got some new friends."

(Drop something) "Did you see that sudden burst of gravity?" Introducing a trick

"This next trick's so good, I think I'll watch it myself."

"There are many great feats in magic today that never fail to impress audiences. Unfortunately, this next trick is not one of them."

"This next trick took a lot of drugs, alcohol and practice to achieve it perfectly. Okay, I'm joking, I skipped the practice."

Dealing with audience members

To female: "Do you have a boyfriend?" (yes) "Would you like another one?" (No) "Would you like one?"

When you ask their name and they only give you their first: "Think hard, it usually comes in two parts."

(To small person): "Have you tried eating yeast?"

(To small person): "i do feel sorry for you. What's it like being the last person to know when it rains?"

"For this trick, i need someone who is strong, intelligent, and good looking? Does anyone out there do impressions?"

(Someone with glasses): "l love using people with glasses. i breathe on their lenses so that they fog up, then they can't see what I'm doing."

Spectator says do it again: "if you didn't get it the first time, I'm sure you won't get it the second either!"

Magician: "Where are you from?" Assistant: "London" Magician: "I'm sorry?" Assistant: "London"

Magician: "I heard you the first time, i'mjust sorry."

A number of assistants on stage: "i'd like you to quickly line up in alphabetical order and by height."

People leaving: "Hey, i didn't leave when you showed up." Latecomers: "Hi, can i get you anything, like a watch."

During tricks:

Mind reading: "Now concentrate,just Like orange juice."

Wave your hand over a prop, and say: "I do aLL my own choreography you know" Pen trick: "FeeL this pen. Thanks, now it's definitely a feLt pen."

Street performer: "PLease feeL free to give any amount,just make sure you foLd it up so that it won't bLow away."

Someone taLking in audience: "Let's pLay a new game. The one with the microphone does the taLking."


"I've had a wonderfuL evening, but this wasn't it."

"PLease drive home carefuLLy...because I'm waLking."

"And now for the trick you have aLL been waiting for, my Last one"

"My wife's not here tonight. I'm quite upset with her actuaLLy. She showed some friends a few of my baby pictures without any cLothes on I mean she couLd have at Least worn a dressing gown."

"I had an interesting experience in this hoteL at breakfast time. I asked the waiter for 2 eggs Like rubber, burnt bacon, butter as hard as a rock, and some Luke-warm coffee. The waiter said that was a rather compLicated order. I toLd him that that's exactLy what he gave me yesterday."

You should be able to see that to use comedy effectively involves learning a new skill. To be a master magician on its own takes development, practice, and skill, so to add yet another element to the equation makes the task even more involved. You need to be aware of this.

Think of all those that have accomplished it successfully. Why should you be any less successful yourself? The effort you put in will be well rewarded and will increase your popularity in many other areas of your life too.

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