Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I get so hacked off every time I read one of these stupid PC debates concerning the appropriateness of certain effects in the realm of Children's Entertainment. For all of you who are spouting off about "don't do this in your show!", why don't you focus on your own show and quit worrying about ours.
If you want to use fire in your show (or anything else), then use it and quit asking a bunch of magicians who have nothing better to do than sit around on a magic forum spouting off nonsense and "preaching the gospel" what their opinion is. Who cares what a bunch of magicians think. The important thing is what your clients think!
It's all about COMMUNICATION people!!!! Plain and simple!!!!
Unlike many, I am able to offer SEVERAL different shows to my clients...eight to be exact. The two shows that I book the most for birthday parties/private home shows are my "Whirlwind of Magic Show" and my "Concentrated Insanity Show." They are completely polar opposite of each other. One show is what many magi would consider "young child friendly" and the other show is full of daredevil stunts and dangerous shock magic. I'll let you figure out which is which...
When the client calls me, I give them a description of each show and I let them choose which show will best fit their crowd as they know their audience more than I do.
Concentrated Insanity is my most popular show and the one that is usually booked. The show contains:
- Fire Eating and Fire Manipulation
- Torch thru Arm
- The Balloon Swallow
- Razor Blades
- Spike Roulette
- Needle thru Arm
- Straight Jacket Escape
...just to name a few.
I have performed this show for ages 6 and above. Why? Simple! The client selected that show for their child's party. They could choose from whatever shows they wanted and THAT was the one they picked!
I use more than a lighter in my show, I use torches! YES! I do fire eating in peoples homes. I communicate my needs to the client PRIOR to the show and it's all drawn out in my contract. The client disables their smoke alarms so they won't go off during the show. I have two fire extinguishers on hand at all times, one on each side of my set up along with a fire blanket as a safety precaution. In 20 years, I've NEVER had to use any of them. I have a spotless safety record!
At my weekend restaurant, I perform my stage act 9 times Friday thru Sunday and Fire Eating is part of the show. The owner of the restaurant loves it and it's a staple of my act. He has to pay for all of his permits (and from what I understand, it ain't cheap), but he supports it as we witness every weekend the reactions it gets.
I do have insurance on my act, so if something does go wrong, then I (and my client) are totally covered. I pay up the wazoo for it, but it's worth the peace of mind. There is also a clause in my contract that states EXACTLY what my show will consist of and I make the client initial that clause giving me permission to perform it their home, or school, etc. My contract was drawn up by an attorney and it is rock solid and it will hold up in court...should the need ever arise.
As I said above, as long as you provide FULL DISCLOSURE to the client during the booking process as far as what your show is all about, then your off the hook! If someone get's hacked off over the material in your show, then you can direct them to the person who booked you because it was their choice what show you performed.
I have performed all of the above routines in home shows, daycare's and schools before 100s of kids ranging in age from 6 to 12+ to great applause and I DO get called back to perform over and over again. Why? Because my show is fun and entertaining. Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem. It's all about ENTERTAINMENT!
The natural argument that I get sick and tired of hearing from all you PC junkies out there, usually goes something like this:
"Children will try to duplicate what they see a magician do on stage. It's irresponsible to perform anything dangerous or even something that gives the illusion of danger in front of children."
"I don't care how often you say "Don't try this at home", they will try it at home. I hope you never have to live with the knowledge that something you did caused a child harm when they tried it themselves."
I've been listening to that same tired argument for years now from other Magicians. I think it's rubbish and I dismiss it...and I'll tell you why.
First of all, I have found that no matter what you do, you will never be able to please 100% of your audience 100% of the time. It's just not going to happen! Truthfully, it seems to me that the majority of folks who take issue with this are overly sensitive magicians who are so concerned with being Politically Correct that they condemn themselves to Change Bags and Run Rabbit Run.
My answer to the above argument is quite simple. How can a child duplicate what they see me do during my show?
Let's chat first about RAZORS. Truth be told, double edged Razor Blades are not even that relevant anymore. Much like wearing a monocle in ones eye would seem out of place, so are double edged razors. But people can still identify with them as something sharp and potentially life threatening, especially when placed in ones mouth! But that's another story for another time...
WHERE is a child going to get a double edged razor blade? That's not usually something that is kept in the home. A child would need to go out and buy them. What idiot would sell a child a packet of razor blades???
Also, (since I brought up how this item isn't very current in today's society) it's becoming harder and harder to find Double Edged Razor Blades in stores. The Wal-Mart out by me no longer sells them. The last time I was there, I was talking to the stock person who told me they no longer sell them, but he had about 4 packages in the back (which I bought up). Walgreens no longer sells them either (at least in my neck of the woods).
So these aren't' even easily obtainable by an adult let alone a child. So how would a child emulate me performing my razor blade routine? Hmmm...I think not!
Now let's chat about FIRE! Where is a child going to get the material to perform fire eating/manipulation? To do a basic fire eating act you need the following:
- A Lighter
- A Container to Hold the Fuel
- A Torch or Torches
- A Fire Extinguisher
- A Fire Blanket
Where is a child going to get all of this from? They would have to go out and buy it. Again...what idiot in their right mind would SELL THIS STUFF to a minor? Let's just say for the sake of saying it, that some idiot did sell a torch, lighter, and fuel to a child (which would NEVER happen). So now little Johnny is out in the back yard and he lights up a torch. Little Johnny assumes the fire eating stance and starts to bring the torch close to their face. They feel the heat and how hot it is...so they pull back!
I was talking to Fielding West once after a lecture about his very subject and his response to me was "NO KID IS EVER GOING TO PUT FIRE IN THEIR MOUTH! They'll feel the heat and pull it away"
Now let's talk about the BALLOON SWALLOW. Where is a child going to get a 260 balloon to swallow? Hmmmm... True... they could go to a store and buy 260s if they know what to look for. However, a 260 fully inflated is too wide to fit into a child's mouth. It won't fit! It's a physical impossibility. IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!
The whole point of all this is if a child is able to gain access to any of the stuff I have mentioned above then seeing my show is the LEAST of their problems!
WHERE ARE THEIR PARENTS???? It's up to the parents to teach their children that they are not to do what they see the Magician do. If a child sees me or anyone performing something dangerous and doesn't have the common sense to talk to their child and exhibit a little bit of parenting, then if their child injures themselves after the show while being an idiot, as unfortunate as that would be, it's the parents fault, not mine!
There is MUCH MORE DANGER represented on your local news, on TV Shows, in the Movies, etc. There's more danger on YouTube than in my show.
People should give the kids of today a tad more credit then they do. Kids are smart (far smarter than most adults I find). Most kids wouldn't be dumb enough to try this stuff. If they are that stupid, then their parents are to blame for not doing their job as parents...not for me doing my job as an entertainer.
Let me throw a different slant on this for a minute. I have been to Ringling Brothers Circus every year for the last 10 years. The circus (geared towards families and children) is LOADED WITH DANGEROUS STUFF. I have seen people juggle fire while on a 10 foot unicycle, perform fire eating and blowing, putting their heads in the mouths of lions and tigers, swinging from a trapeze, being shot a 1/2 mile out of a cannon, etc.
After the circus, if a child were to go home and try and stick his head in the family dogs mouth and gets injured or ties a rope between two houses and falls while attempting a High Wire Act, who should be held responsible? The circus? Of course not! The parents would be held responsible!
There seems to be a double standard. Why is ok for kids to watch danger in a Circus or on TV or on YouTube or in the Movies, but it's taboo outside of those arenas?
It's this kind of mindless nonsense that really hacks me off! People don't really know how good magic can be. Why? Because their only experience with Magic is some guy doing 20th Century Silks at a Birthday Party and pulling a rabbit out of a hat. As a community of Magicians, I fear that many of us do more harm than good. We have gotten so PC when it comes to performing for kids that many of the shows lack ANY ENTERTAINMENT VALUE WHATSOEVER!
As of late, I have been doing quite a bit of soul searching about my magic and what it means to me. Tho' my show is riddled with humor, insanity, and zanyness, I do consider myself a serious performance artist. I enjoy performing for people who enjoy magic...however, it seems to me as the years go on, that finding "adults" who enjoy watching the fine art of magic are becoming fewer and fewer.
Why is this?
I believe that there is a negative perception that has been around for many years that magic is nothing more than entertainment for children. I think that most people, when they think of what magic is, will always remember a time when they attended a birthday party (either as a child or an adult) where they saw Grandpa Earl dressed up in his Lodge Jacket wearing his Benevolent Order of Antelope Fez hacking thru his exciting rendition of Hippy Hop Rabbits and Stratosphere with 50 yards of multicolored silks tied together coming out of his sleeve.
Sadly, there are MANY ACTS out there in the trenches today that are EXACTLY as I described above. So long as Magicians continue to perform this same things over and over again with stock presentations, the perception will never go away. It's that reason that I feel I need my show to be different from the normal "kids show" that people are accustomed to watching. It's my hope that YOU feel the same way about YOUR SHOW!
The society that we live in today is far different from that of say 20+ years ago. The world is changing and if we as entertainers do not change with it, then I fear Magicians will become nothing more than a bad punch line... which technically, we already are.
I will leave you with this final thought. Follow these three rules:
1. Do your act
2. Do it well
3. Be entertaining
AND QUIT asking a bunch of magicians on a magic forum what they think about your act. It doesn't matter what we think. Do what you want to do!!!!