I carefully devised this routine at the start of my professional career for a number of important reasons and it has not changed much over the years. A number of reviewers have mentioned this is a nice, light routine that is an ideal opener, but I believe its subtleties go much further. It is one of the most important lessons in this book and, for that reason, I intend to go into great detail. Please view the actual video as you read this to completely understand all the logic.
Notice that I call this routine a game. Please think about that for a second. Almost every person of any age enjoys a game! Whether it is a sporting event, playing bridge, a video game or the ever popular television game show, we all look to games as a form of recreation and fun. Relating it to the old TV pro gram, Let's Make a Deal further enhances that feeling. In reality, you actually become a sort of game show host as you perform this routine! When you think of all the laughs those hosts get, is it any wonder that you can get so much entertainment from this version of Bank Night? Game show hosts are for the most part, nice guys. Going into this role helps to create a friendly feeling with the audience. It also offers a bit of relief to the audience after that personal information line! They think, at least for the moment, "Well, I don't have to worry for a while!"
The line, "Remember that old show? 'Pick me Monte!'" always gets the first laugh of the evening. Visions of audience members jumping in their seats and wildly waving their hands spring to mind! This is a perfect lead-in to explaining about the envelopes and hundred dollar bill. The next important moment is the serial number bit where I announce the number on the bill and say, "You right there. Remember that number as a means of verification!" That is another great line that gets a strong laugh. As a matter of fact, if you replay this routine after reading this, you will see that there is a built-in laugh about once every 30 seconds throughout the entire routine! There is no better way to make an audience like you than to get them laughing! One of those laughs, "If no one picks the right envelope, I get to put it away and you all have to give me a tremendous round of applause for being so clever!" is, in fact, a set-up for the later line in the show, "Spontaneous applause here would be appropriate!" This is a guaranteed applause getter!
The idea of mentioning that envelope number 2 has been the winning envelope over and over again is something I consider to be one of the cleverest ideas I have ever devised. Not only does it lend itself to great comedy, it adds tremendously to the standard Bank Night effect by setting up the performer in a situation of apparently trying to out-think and out-talk the spectators as the routine goes along. It becomes a battle of wits and that is the very nature of a game.
It is important to impress upon you that, even though I may seem to be having fun with the audience and their responses, I try to keep total control during the entire routine. Whenever I do this effect I know almost exactly what is going to happen at every step even though you might think the audience's reactions would play a large part in how it plays out. Let me show you why.
On the video, when I explain to the first girl that she can take whatever number she wants, please notice my speech pattern. I do not leave any openings for her to shout out a number before I can finish my sentence about envelope number 2. When she responds and said, "Not number 2!" I don't give her a chance for any dialogue. I don't say, "Why not?" or anything like that. I just say, "OK. What number?" Pushing the person allows me to stay in control the whole time so that the lines can play correctly. I also make sure that I pick cooperative looking spectators so as to insure that things will go right at the end. You might also notice that I pick women for most of the routine. I will tell you why in a second!
As each person takes an envelope, I instruct them not to open their envelope until I say so. I say this almost in a command voice, but still mannerly. Again, setting up this type of control early on accustoms the audience to do what you say and to pay attention.
Another example of this control is when I get down to the last two envelopes. At this point, I make sure I tell the audience I am only giving one more away and that I get to keep one. That line comes from having too many people over the years try to turn the joke on me by shouting out the number on the last envelope in my hand! Although it is not a huge problem, it slows down the pacing and makes it appear as though someone got the upper hand on me. Again, I want to establish control during this first routine and, even though I am interacting with the audience, I want to leave nothing to chance. I know I am repeating myself but, if I can set the mark at this level early in the performance, I am far more apt to have audience cooperation later in the show.
When it comes time to have the first three spectators open their envelopes, I tell them to hold the contents high above their heads. Besides visibility, there is a reason for doing so. This stops any smart guys from trying to pull out a hundred from their wallet and hold it up pretending it was in their envelope! That is the reason for using mostly women! Very rarely will a woman dive into her purse to pull this stunt. If, even with those safeguards, it still does happen, I would immediately say, "Right! As though no one has ever thought of that before!" Then I would move right on and forget about them.
Now let's talk about the final person. The interplay on the video clearly shows that when I give her the option of switching, it is only a yesor no option without leaving any openings for further comment. Whenever someone does try to take control, I usually interrupt and ask the audience what they think they should do. The resulting "Switch!"or "Don'tswitch!"yells stop that person in their tracks! Again, I don't want to seem harsh here, but I want you to understand how you can direct the spectators while still keeping your "nice guy" image.
When it comes time for me to open my envelope and show the $100 dollar bill, please look at how I reiterate to that last person that she should not open her envelope yet. On the video, I even hold up my hand in a stop gesture. You can see I also keep an eye on her to make sure she is listening. If she had started to open it too early, I would have stopped her by saying, "No, don't open it yet!"
When I withdraw the bill, I immediately ask the question "Does the serial numberXXXX sounds familiar?" while pointing to the guy in the audience I earlier asked to remember it. You should notice how that first little joke has come around full-circle. It now, in retrospect, has meaning.
I immediately follow that up with my line, "Let's not forget the deal. Spontaneous applause here would be appropriate!" I
say this without any pause. I don't want the audience to applaud before I can deliver the punch line! Please review the video again here and notice how my speech pattern has no gaps from the time I withdraw the bill until I deliver that line. Also notice how the use of the line, "Let's not forget the deal!" ties everything together with the opening of the routine where I talked about the TV show, Let's Make a Deal. Although it is a small point, the audience will pick up on the fact that the entire act was well thought out and has gone around full circle.
I will talk about completing the circle a number of times in this book. It is a very important concept!
We now come to the lottery ticket revelation. I ask the last person to open their envelope and take out what's inside. Before she can say anything, I say out loud, "That's not blank paper, but four California lottery tickets!" Again I keep control and use my own voice, rather than hers, to explain what is in her envelope. Everyone can hear me clearly and they react with an "Oh, that's nice!" type of response. Calling out that information myself also allows me to put finality in my voice which leads the audience to suspect the routine is over. If I let the girl talk here, I would not be able to do that.
This builds up to the next laugh when I say, "You can keep one of them!" This plays perfectly at that point because it catches everyone off guard and leaves that last person with still another choice! You can hear the huge laugh! That is immediately tempered when I tell her she will have to give each of the other three players one of the envelopes. This makes perfect sense since we are playing a game and it seems fair to the other players. Now it seems as if the routine is finally over.
Then, out of nowhere, I come out with the line about last year's accounting and how I had given away over $31,000 worth of winning lottery tickets. Notice how I say this in a very serious tone so that the audience is not sure whether or not to believe me. Look at the faces of the audience members during this segment and you will see that look that says, "Is that true?"
Then, when I finally do the bit about feeling real good about one envelope and suddenly turn away without another word, the applause cue is perfect! The audience finally knows, for sure, the routine is ended.
This whole effect is sort of a mini-drama that accomplishes an incredible amount of stagecraft in a small amount of time. I hope you can understand why I spent so much time in describing all the little nuances. I truly believe a newcomer can learn a lifetime's worth of performing knowledge by studying all these little points. Also, make sure you don't leave out any of the lines if you intend to perform this routine as is!
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