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What NOT to do

May 10 2008 at 10:25 PM
Tony Borders 
from IP address

Here are some things that can ruin an otherwise great performance.

1. Go over the alloted time given. If you are given 5 minutes on stage at a conference and you go on for 9 or 10, don't expect to be asked back no matter how good you were. The adage is "Always leave them wanting more." The same is true for school assemblies. Knowing the end time is more important than making sure you got your whole 45 minutes in. Classes may be 5-8 minutes late, but you still need to end on time unless you ask ahead of time if you can go up to a certain time.

2. Give an excuse as to why you aren't at your best. If you have a cold or are tired, don't say during your show, "I want to apologize for my voice. I'm under the weather so I couldn't do my regular show." The person handing you the check might wish they didn't have to give you your regular fee! Think of it this way instead. Hopefully, your show at 80% of quality is better than a last minute replacement they could have gotten. I did a show the other night and the lack of a lapel mic caused me to have to leave out parts. I told them it turned out better because I added more ventriloquism.

3. Make a volunteer uncomfortable. Notice I didn't say, never embarass a volunteer. Every volunteer feels like an important part of the show, which they are. I just saw a comic magician and he brought a guy on stage that was mentally challenged. He made a few comments about the outfit he had on, but he did not make the man uncomfortable. Even better, was the next comedian who came out and immediately heard the guy talking in the front row. He was calling out some nonsensical statements. The comedian said, "Look man, us nerds have to stick together. I need you to keep quiet unless you have a microphone." It was done in a sympathetic way. The audience knew that the comedian could have taken great advantage of the man, but he did not. (More on volunteers can be found on this forum. Just search for volunteers.)

4. Use the wrong words. If you spoke at a school or church and cursed you would not be asked back. Here are some inappropriate words at schools that ventriloquists often use for a laugh. Stupid. Underwear. Booger. Pick your nose. Cooties. Dumb. Hate. Teachers cringe when you mention a word that they have been trying to get kids to stop saying. Sure, you may get a laugh, but you may not be asked back. (Yes, I learned the hard way.)

5. Dangerous tricks. Want to hear the unthinkable? I know of a magician who did the razor blade swallowing trick in front of first graders! I asked a friend of mine to do a show about courage and he brought in a guillotine for K-3rd grade. (The teachers talked to ME about it and I passed the negative information on to him.) I once did the flaming Bible trick and a mother called the church and asked about the speaker her child saw who burned the Bible. OUCH! It's been sitting in my garage ever since. I will use it for OLDER kids at camps. Rope through the neck trick is another no-no, I think. BIG NO-NO! Pretending to put something in your nose, ear or mouth and have it come out somewhere else! AGAIN: NEVER, EVER do a trick for kids where you pretend to put something in your nose, ear, or mouth! My neighbor said her nephew came in asking for rope. She asked what for? He wanted to tie his little brother to a chair and push him into the swimming pool, because he had seen a magician on TV do it. She freaked out and called me to come and explain that magic isn't real, etc.

6. Show up late. What is so important that you can't be 45 minutes early for a show? An hour would be even better! It's your job! If it is your second job, just be up front about it. Say, "I leave work at 5 and I'll be there by 6 to set up." Take away any tension. (Note: Birthday parties don't necessarily WANT you there that early.)

7. Be demanding. I don't understand performers who put demands in their contracts. "We need a 4 star hotel, with a fitness center and an attached restaurant. We need a snack basket in the room... etc." You are hired to be the servant, not the served. Sometimes churches go out of their way to ask what they can do for me and I say, "I'm here to serve you. So let me know what I can do for you." Who would you rather HIRE back? The demanding one or the one who wants to serve.

8. Wrong show for this audience. I don't do adult shows because I KNOW that they would say, "Oh, I wish my kids could have seen this." They know who my shows are written for. I heard a great speaker at a children's pastor's conference but he spent an hour talking about reaching the youth. He didn't know his audience. My magician friend just did a senior show where nobody could hear him. (He has a loud voice.) He also had trouble getting volunteers. He plans to create a magic to music show and pick old songs for background.

9. Sell. Ask ahead of time if you can take a minute or two to promote your show or your product at the end. The rule is "Don't ask, don't sell." Libraries really don't like it when a performer does a commercial for their birthday parties at the end, unless you ask. Some churches don't allow sales tables in the sanctuary or foyer, and NEVER ask for monthly support without permission. One evangelist had people sign up for a newsletter and began asking for support. The pastor didn't like that.

10. Have a bad time yourself. Ever feel like you're going through the motions? I once did so many of the same show in a month that I stopped and asked the audience, "Did I already tell that joke?" They nodded. I have to admit that I probably appeared bored. To avoid that, change a section or two. Change the order. Interview a volunteer, especially with the puppet. This makes it more spontaneous which wakes you up a bit.

Remember, these are all things that can HURT you even when your show is GREAT! They are also very easily avoidable.

 Respond to this message   
Ron Crowley

No not the rope thru neck gimmick!

June 4 2008, 7:51 PM 

I've waited..Lord knows I've waited.. it was to be done on Bern's neck with him being the magician and me his bumbling assistant.
Okay, just for that..I'll use it in my seniors' show.
Gazooks..I can't..I followed the Californian's advice and twinned seniors' shows with class visits by primary kids.
Dang, that trick is so much fun to do in the bathroom mirror when shaving gets boring.
Are there any Yankee prohibitions against the rigid rope trick? Life WAS a carnival.

Tony Borders

Rope Trick

June 4 2008, 9:28 PM 

The rigid rope trick is a big hit with seniors. Just label a bottle as liquid viagra...

Tony Borders

Rope thru neck

June 4 2008, 9:30 PM 

I, too, love the rope thru the neck trick. BUT, if we did it 1,000 times and were copied dangerously only once it wouldn't be worth it. I never offer to do balloon animals at parties for the same reason. (I'll hear about that one.) If they insist then I will consent but I let them know that they should never be in the child's mouth. I tell the kids not to put them in their mouth as well.

Rope through the neck?

June 5 2008, 8:09 AM 

What's the rope through the neck trick? Haven't heard of that one. Use the rigid rope trick in both my Gospel and senior citizen visits -- much cleaner in the Gospel show...

Tony Borders

Keepin' it clean

June 5 2008, 8:32 AM 

I was kidding about the Viagra label. Each show should be just as clean as another. If you do an adult show with some humor you wouldn't use in churches and tell someone from the audience that you have a church program, they may just raise their eyebrows in surprise.

It is difficult to pass up the opportunity to get the laugh, but in the long run you'll find better laughs and you'll get great quotes. "Family-friendly! Nice-clean show. Etc."

Your funniest jokes may be the ones you don't tell.

Ropin' Ron

Now you say you're kidding about niagara label

June 5 2008, 4:32 PM 

All morning constructing a fake niagara label and now your lawyers says..retract..retract!
Dear Mr. Montana.Contact the Morrisey Magic site..or a Yankee put the rope across the back of your neck and it comes clean right through to the front. Do it right or you'll make Frankie Valli sound like a bass.'s a simple blast, although I think the setup would mean it would be better near the beginning of a show.
Goldarn Borders is a hard man on rope tricks!
By the way one of the classes at Fort Mitchell this summer is on how to do vent and magic. Number One..take one of Tony's ideas..let it steep for three days and then see if he still believes in it.
My wife found the dang label. Of course, in this land of free medical care, I'm off to the lab tonight to get my testesterone checked. I gotta rub this cream on my arms and my thighs. It's called Thigh Master. They should have some kind of patch for Californians!
Dang Borders!

Tony Borders

Lawyer verbage

June 5 2008, 7:18 PM 

I just read 22 pages from a Title Insurance company. 16 of those pages were telling me the exclusions of what they are responsible for. (No kidding!)

Here are my exclusions:
I am not responsible for anything my puppets say or do.
I am not responsible for anything I say or do.
I am not responsible for anything anybody THINKS I said or did.

Please sign below to show you accept my irresponsibility.

Note: This offer is only valid for 3 days.

X. ______________________

P.S. I am not responsible for you getting ink on your monitor.

Tony Borders' ideas

June 5 2008, 9:25 PM 

The last time I let one of Tony's ideas steep, it ate my only hard figure... I only found the brass fittings and eyeballs... even the shoes dissolved. Now I'm reduced to using soft puppets I made out of teddy bears--but if you can find something strong enough to hold a steeped Borders idea I hear they're great for corns, callouses and hemorrhoids...

Ron Crowley

Whoops..a new pronouncer needed!

June 6 2008, 5:23 AM 

Whoa..I just made a borderism. The gel/cream I have to now take is called Thai not Thigh Master. The pharmacist was from St. Johns and I misheard and then miswrote (sic him) the prescription.

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