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|Guests - John Archer|
A Very Warm Welcome to John Archer
Sam C: John Archer is an award winning comedy magician. He has been awarded various comedy prizes on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Ken Dodd Presidents Trophy for Comedy. As well as being a prolific magician he is also a credited writer and has worked on shows such as, The Sketch Show, Whittle, It’s a Knockout, Fort Boyard and more. He has recently released two DVDs, (Available from Alakazam) one on his unique approach to mentalism and another on his use of blindfolds. Each is generously crammed full of tips, hints and strong routines – all with John Archers liberal dose of comedy. On top of all that, John also starred in a magic series from Sky TV (Undercover Magic) as well as touring with comedian and friend, Tim Vine.
We are very pleased to have this “Brilliant“ (Bill Cotton – Former Head of the BBC) performer with us for this week to answer your questions.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr John Archer
Michael Jay: Thank you Mr. Archer for taking your valuable time to drop by and talk to us all here at MB. I’m looking forward to a great session over the next week.
Again, thank you!
Archini: Glad to be here guys... Just hope I can cope with the load.
Bentley: Hi I hope you are ready for us. Just kidding.
Jordanogrady: Thanks for taking the time out john! Thanks!
Archini: Just waiting for all my mates.... well both of them, to log on as an anonymous guest and start asking the silly stuff...
I’m ready.... (I think)
Great that you’re here. I don’t know whether you’d remember me from a few years back, when I was Vicar of Holy Trinity Church and Chaplain at Ian Ramsey School in Stockton - you did a great session for us at the school.
I have taken your advice on my juggling, and stuck to the day job...
Mental Dave: Welcome, Mr. Archer! Thanks for answering our questions and taking time out of your schedule.
Now before you answer questions...be afraid. Be very afraid...
Heh. Just kidding.
By the way, from what I’ve seen of the original Sketch show and the Kelsey Grammer US version, they’re pretty funny. Why the Grammer version only lasted a few episodes is beyond me. And locally, they only aired one.
Anyhoo, thanks again for taking the time to answer questions.
Archini: Hi Dave,
I don’t think the US version did well enough ’ratings wise’ which is why it got dropped. I know that there was a little friction between how the US wanted the thing and how the Brits thought it should go and maybe it landed awkwardly in the middle. I’m not sure, I haven’t seen the US version I just took the money and kept quiet.
Good to hear from you. In Derby now huh... good to hear that you are still doing the day job.
Pitto: Hi John thanks for your time at hear at bunny I’m looking forward to reading your replies.
Jont: Welcome Mr. Archer,
Having seen you many times at various conventions/lectures etc over the past year or two it’s great to have you around for a bit while I think of some good questions.
Wiffyboy: Welcome John
Enjoy your time on the boards mate – are you planning to attend Blackpool in 2007?
I always try to make Blackpool.... unless a great gig comes in.
So Yes I’ll probably be there.
Joseff T: Wilkommen zu Magicbunny!
(In case you think, no I’m not German. Just was bored saying welcome in English!)
The Church and Magic
Anthony Rose: Thank you very much for spending some of you valuable time with us mortals.
You are a dedicated Christian. Do you ever find the lying part of magic clashes with your beliefs?
If that question is a bit to heavy to start off with how about...
As a Christian what do you think of Harry Potter?
Archini: Hi John,
I don’t have a problem with the lying bit. I see it as "honest lying". By that I mean that it is not intended in a way that takes advantage of the audience - They know I am lying and accept the premise. Much the same way that when an audience go to the theatre they will accept that an actor is someone else when really they are not..... (They’re lying) Or when a woman wears make up..... we all know they don’t really look that good (Apart from Laura London obviously
I always play my part as someone who is doing tricks rather than go along the line of "Oooooh maybe I am very special.....ooooh!"
I don’t see it as evil or wrong. On a rare occasion I have had the odd, and I do mean ’odd’ fundamental Christian who has a problem with it, but as far as I am concerned that is more their problem than mine.
As regards to Harry Potter.... I love it. I’ve never read any of the books because I don’t read fiction but I have seen all the movies and got all the DVD’s. I think it’s good honest imagination. Some Christians are, in my opinion, too superstitious and have also not really looked at what the Bible does and does not say about magic. Try mentioning to them that Jesus was visited by three magicians (Magii) at his birth and see how they cope.
Dale Shrimpton: Sorry John, but I have this image of them bringing gold, frankincense, and a small balloon poodle.
Archini: Lol... He might have preferred that.
Sam C: Thank you for spending some time with us John.
After your tour, stint on TV and release of material on DVD, what are your plans for the future of your career? Anywhere in particular you would like to go or do?
Archini: Hi Sam,
Well there are lots of things I would love to do but I very much aware that in a lot of ways some of it is out of my hands.
I would love to do some more TV but try and do something that is more suited to me I.e. shows off my personality and skills. I enjoyed doing ’Undercover magic’ and I am proud of some moments in it but I would like to showcase myself in front of an audience in a more standard performing situation.
I would also like to do a few more things in the States. It’s more of a challenge thing, to see if I could pull it off over there. I have done Abbots’ get together, which went well but I would like to do some more. My DVD’s seem to have been well received by the Americans.
Other than that I continue to gig around, trying to build my profile in the corporate market, still doing the church gigs and trips abroad for the troops which is all fun. I tend to try and fill dead time with being creative and coming up with new performance ideas.
Sedi: John, thank you for taking time to write on this board. I saw you at the Bristol Day of Magic and I thought your act was excellent.
Given that you have a unique and very funny presentation style I wondered if you have to a) select and evaluate any new effects looking through a filter of your existing style (as it were) or b) if you would simply weave your style around the effect.
Archini: Hi Sedi,
Glad you enjoyed Bristol and thanks for the kind words.
Good question. I do have a filter that things go through but it’s more subconscious than a definitive process.
First of all I like the effect to be strong and I must like it. My act sort of works around the fact that this big jokey idiot manages to pull off amazing things. I used to love the fact that when Tommy Cooper got a trick right the audience would give him so much more credit than if a standard magician did it.... They were pleased for him. I try to create that (maybe just a little) in my performance so ’strong’ is good for me.
Secondly I don’t like to use things that look like props. I don’t mind using props but I am not interested in brightly coloured boxes or stuff that looks like is has been produced solely for doing a trick. It’s fine for illusionist, that makes sense, but not for me. There are a few grey areas, I did once use a head chopper but it looked like a plain wooden thing not a bought effect. I don’t know why but it’s the look I like to have.
Thirdly I must be able to come up with a presentation for the effect that will allow me to get comedy from it. I tend to do mainly mentalism but I am happy to do anything if I feel it will fit and give me comedy. I believe that mentalism is great for comedy since people are nearly always involved and that’s a great avenue for fun.
I never purchase an effect until I have pretty much fully worked out the presentation in my head.... Not all the gags particularly but the framework of how I will present it. The gags and business build once I begin to perform the effect.
Most of all I need to be able to see myself performing the effect and making it work.
Stephen James Durant: Hi John, I watched the video routine of your Grandmother’s box (is that what you called it?).
What made this so enjoyable for me was the way you interacted with the members of the audience while ’reading’ them.
Your comments to the bald guy had me in stitches.
This seemed so ad lib...........was it???
How important is a written and rehearsed script to you?
Archini: Hi Stephen,
I have a written script in my head which has sections in it where I plan to ad-lib (Or try to) this keeps the routine fresh for me and also makes the whole thing seem spontaneous for the audience, even though it actually isn’t. It’s important to have a framework or guide script so that I have something to go back to if my ad-libs fall flat. It also gives me confidence because I know that if things don’t work out, that I have set material to fall back on.
The bit with the ’bald guy was ad-libbed (In places)
Great to have you here!
My question is who are your biggest inspirations? (They don’t have to be magicians)
Archini: Hi Doc,
I am bound to miss out so many names here, but here I go...
Loads of comedy inspirations when I was young. Tommy Cooper, Morecambe and Wise are the main ones but hundreds of others including Norman Wisdom, Bob Hope, Eric Sykes and on and on and on. Lots of people who I admire now too but won’t go into names because I will only miss people out.
Magic wise the main ones were obviously Paul Daniels -He did so much for magic in the UK and I think sometimes people forget or never even realised it. Also Geoffrey Durham who I think is wonderful to watch and Wayne Dobson who seemed to be so very fresh when he appeared on the scene. Paul Zenon was great to see as he managed to pull off magic in comedy clubs so well.
Across the pond I’m inspired by Copperfield, Doug Henning, Fielding West, Mac King, Penn & Teller and on....
Hope that helps and I’ve not upset too many people who did inspire me who I’ve missed out, like Alan Taylor and the late great Peter Moreton from Middlesbrough Circle of Magicians... etc etc.
Magic and Comedy
Jwestshuh: Hi John,
Thank you for taking the time to visit Magic Bunny. We all really appreciate it.
My question is two fold.
1. Many think comedy magic is a very weird niche that doesn’t get respect from either side of the fence. From the magic world point of view it’s not very "magical" (whatever that means). From the comedy point of view you don’t get the respect because you "use props" (ala Don Alan). How do you as a comedy magician cope with this and do you feel that comedy magic can compete with other types of comedy acts?
2. I see that you won the Crandall award for comedy magic at good ol’ Colon. Was Crandall an influence? If not who was?
Archini: Hi Josh,
You’re right I think that ’Comedy Magic’ does get a bad press from both sides, and to be honest, I think rightly so in a lot of cases. You see a lot of Comedy magicians think (wrongly in my opinion) that if they are doing good magic then they can get away with mediocre comedy, or if they are doing good comedy they can get away with mediocre magic. The worst-case scenario is that both are weak because they think one lifts the other.... wrong wrong wrong.
It’s the reason that Andy Nyman said on his DVD that he hates comedy magic (He has since made an exception for me
I think that if you do ’comedy magic’ then the comedy and the magic should both be strong and there are not many who pull that off. I try to.
You are right about The Crandall thing at Abbot’s, to be honest he wasn’t much of an influence as being over here in the UK I didn’t really hear about him until I was reasonably established in magic. I have talked about my influences in another thread - check it out thanks.
Fluke! and TV
A few years back you were involved in the TV "quiz" Fluke! (with Tim Vine),
You had a more behind the scenes role in this (I remember you holding a mike to a plate of spaghetti or some such wonder!) as well as being one of the writers.
I thought it was a great show (as did my student flat mates) - why did the powers that be decide not to continue with it? Or was it yours and Tim’s decision, or a bit of both?
For those that never saw this televisual feast it was a quiz show where you only won it by "fluking" your way through the various rounds. The first round was entitled "The bit of a waste of time coming round" - as it eliminated one of the contestants simply by a large arrow randomly pointing at one (I think) - ahh TV was so much better then.
Linked with this - I’ve always thought you’d do very well on TV as you’re style and humour is very universal, not just as a magician but presenter too - over the years you’ve been involved in numerous projects are there any others currently in the pipe line?
Archini: Hi Doc,
Fluke was a great show to work on for me. We had so many famous guest spots and we went out meeting them all here and there. I had a great time and got the odd cameo appearance too.
It actually got better viewing figures than TGI Friday when it was on but the reason that it never got re-commissioned was purely political. A new controller took over Channel 4 half way through our production, he decided that he wanted to re-think the look of the Channel (A new broom sweeps clean as they say) and so he got rid of all but the most solid of 4’s programming and started a fresh.... very annoying. The USA did play around with the format where one contestant was a chimp "it was called "Beat the Chimp" but never quite made it to the screen.
I think I would do well on TV too! But have yet had the chance to prove it. It would need to be ITV or BBC though as I don’t think I am young enough or trendy enough for the 4 and 5 type shows at the moment. I am constantly talking to and working with different production companies on ideas and formats, who knows what may or may not happen? I continue with hope.
What tips can you give someone who wants to learn to write comedy? I think of myself as a fairly witty guy. I am looking to add a few lines to my routines but don’t want to steal them. I want them to be original with me. Where do I start? What’s the process?
Also, I recently ordered "Comedy Writing Step by Step" by Gene Perrett (obviously before seeing your list). Have you read this book?
Archini: You’ve made the most important step by deciding to do it.... In my opinion you have already put yourself ahead of the pack.
The best thing you can do now is to start writing stuff, working with another person who you trust and laugh a lot with is a great way to do it. Find another magician pal and spend time trying to write stuff for each of your acts.
Try not to get too precious about material, if you try it (a few times) and it flops be happy to drop it. I sometimes see acts that have written stuff but it just slightly misses the target, it gets a small laugh but not enough.
They should drop it and search for something better but they aren’t strong enough to do that.
Next try reading lots of books on comedy, comedians and comedy writing, I’ll list a few below but there really are lots of them a search on Amazon should bring some up. There are lots of tricks and techniques you can use to develop and write new gags.
Finally remember that it will take time it’s a little like a muscle the more you do it the stronger your ability to do it becomes.
Suggested reading, in no particular order and certainly not an extensive list I have all of these so I can recommend them:
How to write funny - John B Kachuba
Laughing Matters - Larry Gelbart
Steve Shrott Comedy Course - Steve Shrott
Writing Television Comedy - Jerry Rannow
The Laugh Crafters - Jordan R Young
Comedy Writing for Television and Hollywood - Milt Josefsberg
Writing Comedy (A guide to scriptwriting for TV, Radio, Film and stage) - Ronald Wolfe
Laughing out loud: Writing the Comedy-Centred Screenplay - Andrew Horton
The Comedy Magic Textbook - David Roper (David Ginn publisher)
How the great comedy writers create laughter - Larry Wilde
The Comedy Market - Carmine DeSena
The Last Laugh - Phil Berger
Make ’em Laugh - Steve Allen
Now That’s Funny - David Bradbury and Joe McGrath
The Comic toolbox - John Vorhaus
Successful sitcom writing - Jurgen Wolff
The great Comedy Writers talk about comedy - Larry Wilde
Writing Television Sitcoms - Evan S, Smith
Funny Business - David Housham and John Frank-Keyes
How to be funny (Discovering the comic you) - Steve Allen
Gene Perrett - haven’t read that one but Gene Perret is a great writer on Comedy and I have read some of his other stuff.
Hope that helps and good luck.
Doc: You also have some notes on comedy writing:
Very good they are too! I learnt a lot from them!
Just ask anyone who’s heard my jokes!
Archini: I didn’t want to be so crass as to mention them but thanks Doc.
Nezza: And therein lies the mark of a true pro and gentleman.
Smooth: I always thought that if you read up on comedy you wouldn’t be able to really write comedy. I’m glad to know that this course of action is recommended. Lately people have approached me and said that they didn’t expect my act to be so funny. I’m not sure where these jokes come from, but I know I can’t rehearse them. Thanks for the suggestions.
Magic Moment Mistakes
Googoodolls: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions but I know Michael Ammar had some bad nights as magician and I know a lot of magicians here have to, so I was wondering could you tell us about your bad nights as a magician?
Archini: Hi Ryan,
I’ve had loads of bad gigs, especially early on after turning pro. Some gigs where the audience just totally ignored me or began to chatter so load I couldn’t hear myself.
Even now I get the odd corporate where the audience are so drunk and facing the wrong way that they don’t even realise that I’m on. Thankfully having talked to some big name comedians and done it myself enough I have learnt that this is sometimes inevitable.
The truth is that even though great gigs are fun you don’t learn much from them. You learn things from the bad gigs. So early on in your career you shouldn’t worry about the bad gigs too much. If you have been performing for 10 years and still get lots of bad gigs either you haven’t learnt much or you are in the wrong job.
I have done a few howling mistakes. Like saying "would you mind helping me sir only to be told it’s a woman. Or getting a blind person up to help me with a book test. Actually I have done that one twice, I got a blind woman up to blindfold me once too.... very embarrassing. Not to mention all the times when I have forgotten to set my props properly or knocked things over. These things still happen but I have learnt to deal with them now.
When I went full time and did a season around the Haven Holiday Park circuit, a very wise old time comedian gave me some advice. He said "You’ve got to die a lot before you can become a good comedian" and I wondered exactly what he meant. But now I realise. By dying a lot you lose the fear of it, you learn how to handle it when it happens. As a result you become more confident, you don’t care if it happens. As a result of being confident you go out there and the audience like you, (They like to feel that they are in safe hands.) As a result.... you stop dying. Unless the room, atmosphere, audience are against you in which case you just accept that you are going to die.
Googoodolls: Thanks for the advice, those are some funny stories.
Sam C: John,
When I first met you and saw you performing you were doing mainly magic and very little (if any) of the comedy mentalism. You are not the first performer I have known to go from Magician to Mentalist (if that is what you call yourself).
What made you decide to change or was it a natural progression?
(I will always remember when you produced the bowling ball and it just rolled toward the door at the back of the stage and you looked as amazed as the rest of us were!)
Archini: Hi Sam,
I think that was a natural progression I realised that the mentalism stuff gave me lots of scope for comedy so I gravitated towards it.
I still do Magic too. I have no qualms about mixing both, I know some do, so I will still do the bowling ball or burnt note to wallet in with my mentalism stuff.
I remember the bowling ball too.... I was amazed because it seemed to be rolling up hill?
It was a great pleasure to see you compere at Blackpool this year. I very much enjoyed your style and effects. I would like to enquire about the effect, that involved naming a toy dog. Where might I find this routine of yours? I enjoyed it very much!
What was your inspiration for this effect?
Many thanks in advance, and I hope to see you perform again in the future.
Hi Wiffy, I mean Matthew,
Glad you enjoyed me at Blackpool, thanks.
The dog collar effect is called ’Collard’ and is explained on my DVD ’Educating archer’ It’s inspiration is Koran’s medallion which in turn inspired Don Wayne’s room service. I wanted a version that was more fun and made a little more sense for me. Paul Nardini up in Scotland had the idea of naming an animal I believe, (I forgot to credit him with that on the DVD but I think he has forgiven me) and I tried various methods in discussion with him and Jon Allen before the final finished method hit print.
I think that Alakazam are planning to release the effect with props and gimmick etc in the near future, I haven’t spoken to Peter Nardi for a while so I’m not sure of exactly when it will be.
Hope that helps.
Developing a Character
Sedi: John, you have obviously developed a strong stage personality which is both likable and genuine.
People often say you have to be ’yourself’ on stage, but how then is one a ’character’? As a performer you surely have to be more than yourself (I once heard it said that nobody want to pay to see his neighbour on stage).
Could you give any tips on how to find and develop one’s stage personality, please?
Archini: Hi Les,
This is a really hard question to answer and I’m not sure if I really know.
Yes being yourself on stage is one way and possibly the easiest, but not the only way. You could create a very unique character that is not you at all but you need to be a good actor to get away with it.
The idea of being yourself and being a character is perhaps a little confusing. I think you become a character of yourself, almost like a cartoon version (I’m taking comedy wise here) with certain attributes enhanced and others hidden away.
How you discover that ’character’ is the mystery, that’s the hard part. You have to listen to your critics and the audience. People see you better than you see yourself. I often give some performer or other a bit of constructive advice and they immediately respond with a sentence beginning "Yeah but I think..." and you realise that they don’t want to change or think they know exactly how they need to be. If we are just who we are on stage it won’t work... some things have to be much bigger and some things need to vanish altogether. We have to be honest with ourselves and listen to others who we respect.
I would never have imagined how my act would be now 10 years ago. People told me I spoke too fast, I was too aggressive in a stage situation, I didn’t smile enough early on. I didn’t look around the audience enough, I tried to be too serious at the wrong time, I wore the wrong clothes, I chose the wrong effects etc etc.
The audience too will let you know when they feel comfortable, you will learn to sense it if you gig enough. The most important thing for any act is that they like you early on. That doesn’t just mean smile, because they may hate that smirking jerk on stage if it’s not done right. They have to like your character even if your character is a dark evil one they must like it.
Listen, change, listen, change...
Most people are reluctant to do either of them.
Eventually you will get there.
Sedi: Thank you for that. "You become a character of yourself" really struck home.
Am I also right in thinking that you have to trust your own instincts too? By that I mean that a lot of what you said quite rightly focused on audience perception, but the audience had certain perceptions and expectations that they want you to fulfil, but you don’t just want to be like everyone else.
So perhaps the balance might be "listen to what they are telling you that you are doing wrong, but do what you think is right" (perhaps until you are beaten over the head with the evidence that your way is ’wrong’ (too far ahead of your time, or other way you end up justifying it to oneself)?
I appreciate that this is a subtle point and not easy to answer. It is a bit like asking who should you trust for feedback and to what extent should you follow your own star.
Thanks and I hope the performance tomorrow is a success.
Archini: Cheers Les,
It’s a close up gig tomorrow/Today.... I don’t find them too taxing.
Yes it is a fine line about when to listen and when not to listen and follow your heart. Sometimes it’s worth giving it a try though even if it is just to prove someone wrong.
Sedi: A great answer, thank you very much. You were also burning the midnight oil in answering it I note!
I thought the question might be a bit tricky to answer when I posted it, but your answer was very succinct and - though you might prefer not to be labelled this way - sensible. Thanks very much again.
Bunny hello: I hear you are a funny man. I have never seen you work magic but I hear it is funny. My question is this for you on the John Archer special forum: Can magic be funny or should it be purely informational.
Thanks John Archer, for reading my question and I hope that you response soonest will be here for me.
Archini: Hello Bunnie hello,
Great to hear from you and nice hat. Here is my soonest response I hope it reaches you as quickly as it leaves me.
Magic can be funny..... You are obviously not lying when you say you haven’t seen me. It can also be very informational, you just have to do a Google search on ’London Magician’, or ’close-up magician’ or ’wedding magician’ to see how informational magic can get.
I also refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago on a similar thread.
Goodbye Bunnie hello.
Stevie D: My names Steve, you came and performed at the Ilford Magical Society dinner dance. I was the young man who got up for your blindfold piece with my girlfriend. I just wanted to say thanks for making me laugh so hard and point me in the right direction where I want my comedy magic to go.
Archini: Hi Stevie,
I remember you. Glad you enjoyed the show and thanks for letting me kiss your girlfriend.
Sedi: Nobody else has mentioned this - and I don’t really know if I should bring it up - but your avatar seems to show you suffering from chronic toothache and listing heavily to starboard.
Is there something wrong with my screen?
Nothing wrong with your screen Sedi, I had that taken for a publicity shot for ’The World Dental Alliance Centenary Cruise" It was a rough sea throughout the trip.
Oldest question in the book
Andy C: Hiya.
Thank you so much for giving your time so generously here, and for being so thorough with your answers. Just wish I had a better question.
Probably Oldest questions in the book:-
1/ What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
And (you can see this coming at you like a truck),
2/ If you could just give one piece of advice to a beginning magician, what would it be?
Archini: Hi Andy,
They are the oldest questions in the book because people keep asking them, so they must be worth asking. I’m not sure that I will have any new answers though.
The first question isn’t easy I was given lots of good advice but I think I have forgotten most of it. I mention in another thread (see Magic moment mistakes) that been told that "You have to die a lot to become a good comedian" was helpful. If you grasp that one then it’s a lot easier to see the ’early day tough gigs’ as part of the start of a good journey rather than "Why the hell am I doing this". Another great bit of advice was something I read by the late Quentin Crisp (He wasn’t late then), who said something along the lines of "It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as the audience like you." In other words, get the audience to like you and you can get away with murder... and it’s very true, to a degree.
Second question is worrying since I don’t want to be the future answer to someone’s "What was the worst bit of advice you were ever given", but I’ll try.
This depends on where you want to go with you’re career and may not apply if you just want to make a decent living without making a name for yourself, which is perfectly acceptable if that’s what you choose. If you want to stand out and be notice though I would say that you need to be different, original. The easiest way to do that is to be yourself, no-one else is like you. Obviously a character of yourself (See developing a character.) but be you. Don’t pick and choose lines and try to be like so-and-so, it’s the only way. Oh and make sure the audience like you, even if they like you because they hate you. Don’t settle for bland.
I may regret those words in 10 years time.
Getting the Balance Right
Sedi: John, I have been impressed with your answers, so if I may I would like to ask what I think is a tricky question. How do you maintain the balance between comedy and serious mentalism?
Just as ’romantic thrillers’ or ’comedy thrillers’ are difficult for Hollywood to make work - (possibly because our emotions need to be pulled in two different directions) - how do you find a balance right in your act?
As a follow on from that, do you not feel that being halfway between the two styles hinders your undoubted acting talents and your natural humour from doing either the comedy or the mentalism full justice?
You undoubtedly do get the balance right, but it is surely a hard path.
(How did the performance go yesterday - we all want to know)
Thanks very much.
Archini: Hi Les,
You are about as busy as me on this forum right now.
I don’t have a problem with the balance I just pretty much do what I do. I don’t expect the audience ever to buy in to the idea that I am a real mentalist. First and foremost I aim to entertain them, and I aim to do that by hopefully making them laugh and baffling them a little. I’m not interested in being boxed as a comedy mentalist or anything else. I just want them to remember me.
It could be seen as a hard balance but I’m not sure how I do that. I know there are times when I need to build tension and it would be wrong to go for the gag etc. Sometimes the comedy can add to the suspense and vice a versa I suppose it’s just experience. Not an easy one to give a definitive answer to other than that.
The gig yesterday was great and relatively painless. It was a close-up gig for Capital one, the credit card people who were celebrating 10 years of something or other? I was doing it with another 4 magicians or as we became known for the day ’The dream team’ For those interested the others were Alan Hudson, Tim Shoesmith, Rob James and Kerry Scorah.
And we all went to eat at ’Hooter’ afterwards... great food. I do have a picture of us all under the Capital One sign but I’m not clever enough to know how to post it here if that is even possible.
Sedi: John, I wonder if you had a ’dream’ effect which you would either love to be able to do or a show you would like to perform which for you would represent a personal best.
Also do you hold out any ’gold standards’ for excellence in magic - effects which you think represent the (current?) pinnacle of our art?
Archini: Not really one dream effect but there are loads of things I would love to do. big things and silly things.
I still haven’t worked the Palladium, which I would love to do. Looking forward to doing the Magic Castle one day, hopefully soon. I’d like to do a few more gigs in the states generally, maybe a few US conventions. Obviously a 10 year stint in a Vegas casino show would be nice with a few million contract.... etc etc. Every now and again some things get picked off the list. Having my own TV show would give me scope to do some wild stuff but who knows if it will ever happen?
I don’t have any pinnacle effects as such. I prefer to acknowledge presentations rather than tricks. Tricks to me are nothing until you wrap it up somehow. I love the way Derren Brown does his stuff that seems to be the new standard for a lot of people, I know it wouldn’t work for me but he has inspired my thinking in some things.
Thanks for taking time to answer our questions.
I was delighted to hear you mention Alan Alan on your DVD (’Educating Archer’ available from all good magic retailers and a few dodgy ones). I used to go to his shop when I was in my late teens/early twenties and have fond memories of his coffee with plastic eyeballs and the knife through head that he always seemed to wear.
He also gave me a couple of bits of advice when I was preparing to do a stage show at college. One I wasn’t able to follow because of the set-up, but the other was spot-on (pun intended).
Have you got any memories of him you could share with us? I still think about his shop to this day. I preferred it to International and Davenports!
Archini: Hi Tobias,
I did indeed cut my teeth buying magic stuff at ’Alan Alan’s Magic Spot’ It was just across the street from my Art college so I could pop over there regularly at lunch times or after lectures to see what was new. I don’t have any new stories about him, just the same ones that everyone has. Like him throwing everyone out of the shop and locking the door while he spent half an hour describing effects or demonstrating stuff, and the way he used to tell people to go and look in the window when they asked if he sold a particular item. Some people may have a go at Alan Alan but he was always very generous to me with advice and assistance, still a little eccentric though. I too miss the shop it is one of the last old school type magic shops I can remember. Still enjoy Davenports, international, Kaymar etc though.
Tobias: Thanks, John.
Alan was always nice to me, even one time when I was so busy chatting to him, I forgot there were some other people hanging out in his shop and explained a (fairly common) force technique that he asked me if I knew. He just pulled a face and told me to be quiet.
Can’t say I ever had a ’lock-in’ though!
The most awful question in the world
Sedi: John, I was wondering what question(s) would you least like to be asked?
(Obviously, nobody will then press you for an answer to them)
What question would you most like the answer to?
Archini: The most awful question I could be asked is who don’t I like in magic... and to be honest I wouldn’t answer. I would skirt round the issue, actually there aren’t many I can think of who I hate but there are a few who make me wince a little. I would never say whom in public though. I have let myself down in private a few times and criticised this person or that effect, but to be honest I think we all do, and probably all about different things or people. It’s healthy in a bizarre way I suppose. You can’t appreciate the mountaintops if you don’t spend some time in the valleys as they say.
So don’t ask me.
The question I would most like the answer to? Hmmm I’d like to know if there is a TV format out there for me that will make me a huge star.... Answers on a postcard please. And please don’t say ’No’, I have to sleep at nights.
Oh and I’d like to know how to get special access to ’The Secrets Forum’... I’m worried that guys in here all know something I don’t? Hmmm
Planning magic as a career
Mental Dave: When did you realize that you would become an entertainer? And what would you say was the toughest part about getting started?
Archini: Hi Dave,
I’m not sure really. I have always had a bit of an extrovert character though I can be quite quiet at times. I’ve always thought that I would end up in the entertainment field even though I have been a draughtsman, a trainee engineer, A Full time art student for 4 years, a car salesman, a youth worker for a year and a police officer for 10 years. Throughout all that time I was singing and playing in bands and eventually doing magic shows. It used to be a running gag with my Mum, I’d say "One day I’ll be famous mum" and she’d say "I’m still waiting son". In fact we still say it to each other because I don’t think I am famous yet, and my mother certainly doesn’t think so, but I keep trying. So basically I think I always knew I would eventually do it full time, I just needed the timing to be right.
The toughest part about starting out full time for me was trying to find out how I needed to be on stage, working out how to get the audience to like me and keep them there. With that comes the challenge of coping with all the bad gigs that inevitably teach you those lessons.
I remember a year or two ago doing a gig in Bridlington in a big venue on the sea front. It was a horrible set up, bad PA high stage and a big family audience with kids running everywhere. Not to mention a few load rock bands and an amateur compere. I knew it was going to be hard, as I had done those sorts of gigs a lot in the past, and I was ready to fall flat on my face. There was a young lad on the bill with me who was about 17 years old. He’d won a school talent competition as a stand up comedian and had somehow got a 15-minute spot on the show. He was very excited about ’the big gig’ and went out to reasonable applause. Within 2 minutes he had totally lost the audience and could hardly be heard above the chatter and random heckles. He carried on and then came off to silence. He was devastated and sobbed uncontrollably back stage. During my spot he was stood in the wings watching, I didn’t have an amazing gig but I managed to get the audiences attention and they gave me a reasonable response when I left. At the end of the gig the lad wanted to give up. His mother came back stage and asked me if I could give him some pointers as to what was wrong. She asked me to be honest and I’m afraid I was. He didn’t use the mike correctly, he didn’t work the stage properly, he started wrong, he finished wrong and his material was weak. But he did have potential; he had only done a few gigs. He couldn’t believe it when I told him that I had had gigs just like that and on rare occasions I still do.
You see Michael Angelo didn’t give up the first time he picked up a paintbrush and made a feeble attempt at a painting, he carried on slowly learning and improving to become one of the greatest artists of our time. (I’m not trying to equate myself to Michelangelo by the way...
Failing at anything is sometimes just the start of a great process. I suppose the challenge is to spot weather we should give up or not?
Sorry a long answer but I just remembered that story and thought it may help someone.
John, without giving away any free consulting, are there any pointers you could give to expand on these points of yours please?
I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you, but Michelangelo is no longer of our time - he passed away a little while ago. I hope you weren’t close.
Archini: Not really easy to say how to do it. I covered it a bit in ’discovering your character’ it is really worked out by performing a lot and tweaking. Listening to people and being aware of the audience when you are performing. You can sort of tell when they are with you and when you start to lose them and you learn to adjust and stuff.
Re Michelangelo... I was talking about Michelangelo (Check back) he is a street artist from New York, he does great graffiti stuff... As if you thought I thought Michelangelo was of our time.... tu! Tsk fah!
Magic as a business
Googoodolls: I was wondering if you are going into magic as a business what can help you have success? I know learning about the business aspect can help but what is very crucial to know or understand other than the business of magic, and how to entertain audiences?
Plus, I know when you become pro there is really no time off so what do you do as your time off as a magician and what music do you like?
Archini: Hi Ryan,
I’m probably the wrong person to ask. I do what I have to do business wise... most of my working time is spent trying to be creative. If I have to send an invoice I’ll send it and move on.
From my point of view the main thing you need to do to have success is to develop a great act. At the start that means doing lots of gigs. You improve by getting experience and there is no shortcut other than doing gigs.
People approach the business thing in different ways. You can get a great website, optimise it, advertise on lots of magic lists and get on the books of a few agents. If you do that there is no doubt that you will get work and can make a very good living. I don’t do that because I find that by and large my work is self-sustaining. I pretty much get gigs from gigs and have built up to a level where I ’usually’ have enough work. There are still some areas where I am still trying to establish myself in certain areas but I do believe that (for me at least) I can do that by been seen and hopefully making a good impression. It’s definitely harder to do that as a close-up worker though. There are so many close-up workers out there and by and large to a potential Booker they all look very similar (very good but very similar) So with close-up I would say that the promotional side of things is much more important.
It’s still my approach that the business side of things is secondary to the importance of the performance side of things.
As regards to my spare time, I like to socialise, play golf, poker. I play the guitar. I like a drink or two, wine at home and beer when I’m out?
I enjoy travelling which is a good thing in this job.
Music wise I have a wide taste and can enjoy most music. I struggle with rap but I do like Eminem and the streets. so even that can work for me. Jools Holland, Johnny Cash, Elvis and lots more. A penchant for blues!
Oh and my son’s band ’Fijidots’ go to http://www.myspace.com/fijidots and have a listen. Add them as your friends and spread the word brothers and sisters.
Welcome and a popular question
Aaron_ade: Greetings etc etc blah blah blah all the usual tip of the hat good day to you sir etc.
A popular topic over recent months on this forum is that of hecklers and how to deal with them if at all deal with them.
Have you ever had hecklers? How did you deal with them? And what is your favourite colour?
Archini: Hi Aaron_Ade,
It’s a popular question and I don’t think there is a single answer. It depends on where you are, when the heckle comes in the act, who and where the heckler is, what the heckle is, have there been other heckles and weather you think dealing with it will do any good?
I don’t tend to get heckled very much and if I do it is usually good-natured. The exception is with the Troop shows I do where I do usually get heckled right at the start, as do most of the acts. The important thing is to be confident and show that you are in control. Sometimes that may mean putting down the heckler and worrying him/her and others into not bothering again, you need to be able to carry on and back it up if they don’t back down though. You can be polite and use a witty comment to indicate that you would prefer not to have hecklers. You can just include the heckler into the act, chat to him/her and don’t see it as an attack, its a method Frank Skinner uses a lot. Or you can just ignore the heckler, which is sometimes the best thing.
The real secret I think is to spot how much of a threat the heckle may be and deal with it appropriately. If you go in too hard you can turn the audience against you. If you are too soft then the heckler may start to affect the show. If any thing I would say just go in slightly gentler than you think and be ready to up the attack if the heckler comes back.
As for what to say I would suggest that you don’t have a bank of lines ready to use as they just come across as that, standard lines. Maybe when you are starting out you could have one or two, if you have some original ones. They could be handy just to fall back on and give you a little confidence that you will have something to say. The best thing to do though is to try and come up with something witty, which is a response to what the heckler says. The audience will give you so much more credit for that and it shows the heckler that you can think on your feet. So if someone has been heckling a while and then heckles with "I’ve got a box like that at home" you could just look at the audience and say "Isn’t it sad when cousins marry" or you could respond with "It’s a shame you managed to escape from it tonight" not a great gag but the audience will give you so much more for it because they can see a natural wit used.
The only way to build up this ability to add-lib naturally is to make yourself do it. Try and leave gaps in your presentation (between tricks or during a trick), where you can free wheel and talk to someone about what’s happening. Always make sure you have a place to go back to, I.e. a set piece of patter to move back into the routine. If things go well let it go a little longer if you feel like you are dying quit quickly and get back to the routine. You will get better but only by doing it; you can’t practice this without an audience.
The hardest hecklers are drunks. Sometimes you just have to ignore them and hope they get thrown out... even think about getting them thrown out. Drunks don’t appreciate that either you are getting the better of them or that the audience don’t actually like them heckling.
Hecklers should not be seen as a threat, just view them as one of the conditions you might have to work under. I like a little audience participation. Sometimes an ordinary gig can be turned into a great gig by an early heckle and a good little dialog. But like I said each one is different and the trick is to try and handle it the right way.
Favourite colour - Pink (at the moment)
Pitto: That’s probably the best advice on hecklers I’ve ever read - thanks John.
Let’s get serious
John Archer: Mr Archer,
On reading your responses its clear you understand magic deeply.
I was wondering, who do you think is going to win Big Brother?
A Fellow Middlesbrough Magi.
Archini: Ah, Mr Firmbutt,
I am quite close to a lot of TV execs in Channel 4 as you know. They have all turned me down at some point. I have it on very good authority that Ali Bongo is due to go in on week 16, disguised as a Latvian Pole dancer. Shortly after that they are going to have boxes of confetti and sticky backed plastic flown in with a competition to see who can make a full size zigzag lady elusion and flags of all nations... You can guess whom my money’s on.
Great to hear from you, all the top guys came from ’The Middlesbrough Circle’. Paul Daniels, Kevin Rea, You, me, Martin Sanderson... well there has to be an exception. Just kidding Martin.... is he on here?
Take care my little magical imp and hopefully see you soon.
Dave S: Great question, Mr Firman.
I have one to do with Big Brother.
Would you ever consider going on Celebrity Big Brother?
If you would and you could only take three tricks with you, what would they be?
Archini: More likely that Pete would get asked onto Big Brother than me.... but assuming I eventually rose to that heady status of ’Celebrity’ Yes I would love to go on Big brother.... It would be great fun and a challenge.
Three things I would take with me? A good quality thread reel, a deck of cards...(probably marked) and some elastic bands. Job done.
Pete, would you come with me?
John Archer: Of course I’d come with you!
3 effects? I’d take a couple of items off that snazzy DVD set ’Educating Archer’, props for a blindfold routine (I believe that someone has put a great routine out on DVD recently???) and that nifty new packet trick called Holey Sh*t! its awesome!
Archini: Since we are sinking into a wonderful pit of mutual appreciation, we should do this more often.... I have to concur with my learned colleague that ’Holey Sh*t!’ is indeed awesome, I’d sneak that in with the pack of cards.... no one would notice.
Stress and nerves before/after shows
BrucUK: Do you get nerves, (shakes etc.) before a show?
If so, what strategies/rituals do you do to calm yourself down, and is the "stress" of TV recording the same as "00’s of live punters out in front of me" stress?
What do you do to wind down after a show, (something I always found to be important when I used to perform)?.
Archini: Hi Bruce,
I don’t get typically nervous before a gig. I certainly don’t get the shakes any more, though I did get some nerves earlier in my career but they seem to have been lost or converted into energy. Sometimes if it’s a big gig, an unusual gig, or someone specific is in the audience then I do get quite pumped, sort of excited like I am about to go on a huge roller coaster (I love roller coasters). I don’t think of it as being nervous, though in truth maybe it is. It certainly is not a fear thing.
Now it’s not always a good thing, not to be nervous, nerves are a natural way for us to handle a tough situation and help to get the adrenalin pumping so that we can react faster and think on our feet. For the bigger gigs where I do feel the adrenaline I will jog up and down and try and get a little out of breath (it doesn’t take much.) I don’t know what it does but to me I feel like I am spreading the adrenalin around my body rather than keeping it in my head and heart, probably not true but that’s how I visualise it. It’s nice to go out at the start feeling like you have already started and have the blood rushing around a bit.
I haven’t done lots of TV in front of the camera but when I have I haven’t found it much different to a live gig. In some ways it’s easier since you have a lot more things on your side: you get a second chance, different camera angles, you only have to do one quick short stint at a time etc. I guess that Live TV could be a little more daunting but I’ve never done it.
The secret with nerves is to learn to handle them and accept them as a positive thing. Dissipate the energy if you need to. The more experience you get then the less the nerves will seem to matter, usually, but then you do still hear of seasoned pro’s who get very nervous and sick before gigs?
BrucUK: Thanks John - great advice.
I think it was Bruce Springsteen, who, when asked in the 1980’s whether he still got nervous before a show, (and I paraphrase), said "Hell, no. I just sweat a lot, feel really jittery but I pace up and down and shout a lot", (or similar....).
The old bill
Nick Sparkes: Welcome, and thanks for providing me with a laugh while the world cup was on. I just got your DVD and it was great!
I recently read an article in Magicscene that you were ex plod? What made you take the step to being a performer? And was it an immediate transition?
Archini: Hi Nick,
Yes I was a plod for 10 years. The last 5 were great as I was school liaison officer so just got the chance to perform every day while doing my bit for schools.
All the time I was in the police force I was performing outside on a semi-pro level so it wasn’t a huge jump when I left to go full time. I knew I wanted to make the change and was going to leave when a friend suggested that I mention a hearing problem that developed after I had joined. I did this and miraculously I was pensioned of on a sick pension, which made life a little easier. Not a huge amount each month but a handy help.
As soon as I left I had an agent who booked me up with 170 gigs for Haven holiday parks.... a great experience but not one I would want to do again. I learnt a huge amount in that first year.
Since then things have progressed steadily with every year bringing something new and exciting that I didn’t expect.
I enjoyed the team spirit of the Police service but would never want to go back, it’s a hard and thankless task at times. People don’t realise the pressure that goes with dealing with all that police officers have to deal with. My hat is always off to them even when I do keep getting speeding tickets.
Nick Sparkes: Thanks for the reply - very interesting to hear. Ultimately it’s a progression I’d like to make but probably have to wait until I retire!
Jaz: 170 gigs!
What an Agent!
Maybe you can relate to an advert in the Stage from a 6 years or so ago.
Every Year they have a Summer Season edition of The Stage newspaper. In this, there are loads of ad’s, "Bert Smith would like to thank Cambrian Entertainments and Warner’s Holiday Parks for a Great Summer...." etc etc. A mate of Mine put one in that said:-
"For Sale, 2 Year Old Nissan Primera, 97,000 miles. Thanks a lot Haven!"
I agree though, Best learning ground in the world.
Archini: Indeed, I did about 40 thousand miles in a 7 or 8 month period....
Mind you I still do about 45 thousand miles per year..... I do wear cars out in a few years... But I wouldn’t swap jobs for anything at the moment.
All your fault
Graeme Smith: Can I just say that I hold you culpable for this whole magic obsession of mine. You see, about 10 years ago I was fortunate? To see you perform with Middlesbrough circle at Sedgefield Primary School. And, how sad is this, I can remember most of your set. Vanishing silk, either hopping halves or Chinese bit & crazy mans handcuffs. Well that was it I was hooked & now I am a member of Middlesbrough Circle & my first time performing with them was at, yes you guessed it Sedgefield Primary School, but the funny thing is I can’t remember what I did.
Archini: Pleased to hear it Graham,
I must try and get along to a meeting, I can’t remember when the next one is?
It would have been vanishing hank, possibly with a FT rather than a TT? Copper-silver-brass, crazy man’s handcuffs and possibly Rainbow Cascade.... As for what you did? I can’t remember either.
Hopefully see you at a meeting soon.
Eddiel: The next meting of the MCM is a week on Monday (17th) when the world famous Dr. F.W. Hebblewaite Trophy competition will be held; not only that - but I can squeeze you in.
Mind you; Graeme is one of the favourites !!
Archini: Sadly I will be down south that weekend, may even try to get to ’The Magic Circle’ if I can squeeze it in.
Maybe next time.
I think I’m correct that you are married with kids(s)?
If so how do you balance the need to work (sometimes away from home) and yet still give the time required to your family?
Any tips and advice/suggestions would be very interesting to hear.
(married - no kids - yet)
Archini: Hi Doc,
It’s not easy, though now that my kids are older it has become a little easier. It’s a lifestyle that your family can either cope with or not. My family have got used to me being away for periods. What I have always tried to do is to make the times when I am at home special so we would do what we called ’family nights, where we would hire a few DVD’s lots of sweets and Ice cream. We would all bring our duvets downstairs and just crash out.... no bedtime, no telephone and no rules about how many sweets you ate. My kids loved them and one of the first things they used to ask me when I got home was "Can we have a family night"
To be honest when I was a police officer I was either working shifts or sleeping so my kids only got to see me with any quality when I had days off.
The most important thing is to have a partner who supports what you do. My wife believes in me more than I do, and even though it is stressful for her at times I don’t think she would ever want me to stop doing this job.
In our early days she would come to conventions etc with me, but now I think she has had her fill of dealer stands and rarely gets involved. She loves magic but just as a spectator now.
You can’t really make a living doing this job in just one local area, maybe as a children’s entertainer but certainly not as a cabaret stand-up performer. So you either travel or do something else.
In the late 90’s I was ask to perform some magic at a camp I was a helper at. I had a few items in my repertoire but decided to "borrow" your blindfold routine (well you know what they say the greatest form of flattery is). I’d seen you do it a few times and knew the method so thought "that’s easy" - well it wasn’t the little sods who I got to help pushed the coins so hard into my eyes they got caught behind my lower eye lids (yes BOTH COINS!). I as a true "professional" (at 18 yeas old!) guessed the drawings (Hey I got one right!!). Got two wrong a looked an idiot - several people still ask if I can do the trick "with some gaffer tape and two fifty pence’s".
Afterwards I had to soak my eyes with a cold wet flannel for the rest of the evening.
Why all this story?? Why did you only release your Blindfold DVD now!! I needed then!! (10 years ago!).
When did you first start doing the blindfold? And have you ever had it go wrong?
PS there’s a lesson about "borrowing" another’s act! I’ve not done it since - maybe it was a divine lesson?
Archini: Serves you right.
I’m not sure why I have decided to release the routine now.... probably because Peter Nardi talked me into it. Both of the DVD releases were done on my part as a marketing exercise more than anything. You don’t make a lot of money from a magic DVD release unless you do it all yourself and I wasn’t particularly interested in doing that. They have both certainly helped to show me off around the world in particular the States where they seem to have been well received.
There is a lot of interest in Blindfold stuff at the moment and I thought I would share my tips gleaned from about 14 years doing it. I don’t really think people will benefit from doing my routine as is, the clever ones will use the knowledge and come up with their take on it.
Has it ever gone wrong for me? No, but it has been difficult quite a few times which is why I have thought about all the scenarios. Who you pick? How you handle the spectators. How they apply the tape, coins etc etc, and what to do if things aren’t right. I have several moments during the procedure when I can correct things that could be going wrong. If you have the DVD you’ll know what I mean.
It is painful I don’t have to pretend that bit. It does hurt removing the tape and my eyes do often get sore... That’s all part of the fun.
Am I right in remembering you doing a double act in the early 90’s??
If so when did you decide to "go it alone"?
Linked with this - how would you say you as a performer have evolved over the last 10 years? (I first saw you 10 years ago at the British Ring Convention with an interesting competition act) I’ve seen you lots over the last 10 years (not deliberately you just kept being at events I was at! - I was a youth worker for 5 years and so at events like Spring Harvest etc. I saw your act) and feel you as a performer and your act has developed. (In a very positive way). Just wondering if you’ve consciously wanted to develop or whether it happened more naturally.
Archini: Hi Doc,
You are right my first appearance on the magical scene was 1995 in a double act called ’Archini and Smith’ it was a sort of cod turn of the century music hall act. I was ’The great Archini’ and fellow Middlesbrough Circle of Magicians performer Mike Smith was ’Smith’ basically mike bellowed what I was doing while I was chained and attempted to escape. It was a great fun act and we came third in the IBM stage competition. As a result we had a nice little run with it at various conventions around the country.
I never really decided to go it alone as such since the "Archini and Smith" thing was really just a competition act we put together, we didn’t have a full set though we did think about other routines they never really got off the mark. ’Going it alone’ as you say, just happened naturally when I left the police service.
With regard to my act developing that has been a natural progression of me finding out who I am and what works for me. I think I sort of cover it in another thread ’Developing character’. It’s sort of happened naturally but because I have wanted it to, if that makes sense.
Pitto: Hi John,
I saw you do an evangelism type event at local church and I was very impressed. Personally I really cannot stand routines where the silk goes from black to read to signify Jesus’ death etc. I’m not a fan of “gospel magic“ where a trick is used to illustrate a biblical idea – I have often found that the magic is not a great standard and it puts people off because it is so cringe full.
I much preferred the way you just did a magic show (which was excellent) and then gave your testimony while still entertaining I think it’s a much more effective way of doing things.
Do you do it this way because it suits your style of magic better or because you share this view or have you never really considered it?
Archini: Hi Pitto,
Glad you enjoyed it. I don’t do Gospel magic as such because I don’t really like it. I think the message gets compromised and so does the trick. I don’t have anything against those who do it, but it doesn’t work for me.
I prefer to entertain them and then if they want to listen I will share my faith with them.
Pitto: Thanks John that’s how I feel about it.
It’s great to have you here.
I am a member of FCM (yet to meet you but at Greenbelt this year...so will definitely come to watch you)
Umm...Yes. I like that. Never heard that point of view but I agree.
Archini: Hope to see you at Greenbelt then Tom.
Importance of comedy in magic
Chams: Do you think comedy is an essential part of a magic act?
Can good comedy make up for dull magic?
Archini: Hey Chams,
How are you? I think Comedy can be very important to a magic act, but I don’t think that it is essential. I have seen some great serious magic acts that pull it off without comedy. Having said that I think that most magic acts do benefit from an element of comedy. Make people laugh and they like you, it’s hard not to. Even Derren Brown who some may say is a serious act, has lots of comedy sprinkled through his shows. It’s hard to think of any good acts that don’t have any ’lighter’ moments in the show. Marc Paul is the same, people think of him as a serious act but he has the odd laughter line at the right time.
I don’t think comedy can compensate for dull magic, if anything it just highlights the dull magic. I do think that comedy can change what may be a dull magic trick into good magic but that is a slightly different thing. It’s all about routining. I think.
The secret is to realise to what extent you are a magician and to what extent you are a comedian and design your act to suit. Tommy cooper was maybe 90% comedian and 10 % magician. Copperfield maybe 5% comedian and 95% magician. Whatever you do make sure it adds up to 100% (I have seen some 10%/10% acts).
If you are not a natural comedian keep the comedy simple use it wisely.... Too many people think they have to be comedians when they would be better suited finding a level that suited them.
Again, I think?
I keep meaning to buy your book on comedy writing.
How did you get started writing comedy?
And is it one of those things that you improve on as you write more.
Archini: Hi Tom,
Check out what I said in the ’Writing comedy’ thread. I have listed some good books there I would recommend you start with ’The Comic toolbox - John Vorhaus’. My notes are a set of workshop notes and it probably helps if you have done the workshop.
I don’t do the comedy writing workshops very often. I mainly do the lecture now. Sometimes get asked though.
I wasn’t! I really wasn’t
BigJ: Hi John
I just have to ask this question as it has been bugging me for some time.
When you lectured at Watford not so long ago, there was a short fat bloke sitting in the front row, with a notebook and pen, scribbling away whilst you were talking.
That person was me LOL.
I was writing notes for the article in the club newsletter.
What bothers me was that you gave me several funny looks and kept getting me on stage, I had a great time incidently.
Did you think that I was writing all your gags down, or was it just that you have an attraction to short fat Southerners?
I always though that Dopfi was an unusual name for a dog!
Do you know of anywhere that still sells the correction paper required?
Archini: You’ve caught me on this one.... I am attracted to short fat southerners, you must have been wearing wellies too that would explain it.
I seem to remember that someone did tell me you were doing the review.
I don’t think I was too paranoid about the writing. I Once asked Joe Pasquale not to write down my gags and he said "Don’t be stupid, I’ve got a tape recorder"
I have been through the whole thing about people stealing gags loads of times. I don’t worry about it too much I see it as the other persons problem at the end of the day.
You can’t get the tippex paper any more, but if you go to a sewing or dressmaking shop you can use stuff called dressmakers carbon which comes in white and a few colours too.
Regards from me and the dog ’Dopfi’.
BigJ: Well John
You would be right
I was wearing wellies
They were green hunter wellies, its where us Southerners keep our lager
Rather like you Northerners keeping a whippet down your trousers
Haha! That’s a classic.
Takeaway food of choice?
BrucUK: When he was here, I got told off for asking John Archer about his favourite cheese on a "serious magic forum", so...
If you could only choose 1 type of takeaway, would you go for Chinese, a Curry or a Kebab?
It would be useful if you could then elaborate on your "fantasy meal", so that the younger and less-experienced members of Bunny could benefit. You are not allowed to be influenced by John Archer in any way. Many thanks – Bruce
Dale Shrimpton: Bruce, you might want to add those great Pizzas that were knocking around at the Tyneside convention.
Archini: Good question and I answer while eating a tuna baguette.... well a piece of one.
I think Chinese is great for those social events at home with friends who aren’t quite your best friends. Then Kebabs are great for those drunken moments when you really don’t need to eat but you have that alcohol induced need for a savoury treat.
But of course the No1 choice for me has to be a nice Indian. There is so much fun to be had, mis-pronouncing names, trying to persuade a newbie to try something a little hotter.... venturing into the Kingfisher and Cobra lagers. Visiting a curry house with some good friends is about as good as it gets.
But then late on at a magic convention in the hotel bar when some pizzas suddenly arrive... there is no doubt that this is a truly magical moment... South shields was a perfect example. I think Paul Stone bought mine... I don’t know if he meant to?
Bruce is our resident Cheese connoisseur (I’m moving and his first comment was - oh yes there’s a great cheese shop in that town!!!!)
So to please Bruce "the cheese" - let him know (and all of us) - what your favourite cheese is?
And no, certain magicians’ acts do not count.
PS - please forgive me for asking such a question on a "serious magic forum"
Archini: I have to admit I love cheese too... I prefer the stronger ones in fact I just had a piece of Stilton for lunch. Oh and a good goats cheese salad is yummy. And I adore Rochefort. May have some with some wine tonight while I watch the eviction.... I’m in the mood now.
Edinburgh is a great place for cheese so if you are heading up to the festival here are a couple of tips - Check out:
Ian Mellis - Cheesemonger who has two shops one at 30a Victoria Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2JW and another at 205 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, EH10 4DH. I believe he supplies to a few other places in Edinburgh too.
Also there is a great restaurant called Martin’s Restaurant on 70 Rose Street, North Lane, Edinburgh. It’s a little hard to find as North lane is a little back alley off Rose Street and it looks like the most unlikely place for a high class restaurant, but it’s there. It is a little expensive or very expensive depending on your point of view but worth going for the Cheese board at the end of the meal. It is usually served to you by Martin himself, who is a staunch campaigner for non-pasteurised cheese. Martin will then give you a story about each cheese on the board some of which are very rare 4 made per year jobs. The stories get more and more detailed as he goes on. He tells you the name of the lady who makes such and such and that once per week she travels to Mr so and so’s farm to milk his two Bavarian Muscat goats.... he then produces photo’s of the goats. Pictures of cows.... maps it is absolutely marvellous if you can help not getting the giggles. I went several times with different comedians up there just to listen to the cheese board talk. I kid you not.
I can ramble about anything.
Doc: so the line about "What’s the difference between a pizza and a magician?"
"The pizza has less cheese", is actually right!
Archini: Yup..... I’m a cheesy magician.
Montz: Lol I thought the answer was that a Pizza can feed a family of four...
Andy C: Not trying to hijack the thread, but, If you ever come to Mallorca, there’s a little bar near us that serves Genuine Tapas, including slices of baguette with local cheese.................... MMMmmmm
Also, The local Lidle out here has a GREAT cheese counter, I’ll introduce you to Gouda Añejo with Frutas Dulce.
Got to go eat, NOW!!!
The biggest thing
Jono: Hi John, firstly many thanks for spending time here to help us bunnies out, and I would personally like to say thank you for making me wet myself with laughter on a number of occasions, both Collared and Komedy Killer are quality routines which have particularly impressed me... anyway, back to the question...
What thing did you do that you recognise as making the biggest single impact on your career as a magician (either good, or bad, or both...)
Archini: Hi Jono,
Sorry for the delay I had a gig yesterday and was away for a bit. I think the biggest single impact on my career was meeting Tim Vine. I met him when I was still a police officer and he had just left his job and turned pro. His thinking on originality and his constant turn over of ideas inspired me. We became best buddies quite quickly and as a result when he started to do TV he wanted me involved.
He has also been great for me in that he has always been honest with me and said why don’t you do this or that. He encouraged me to take more risks on stage etc etc etc.
Some might say I was lucky to meet and work with him in the first place and it’s true that you can’t plan or make these things happen. I would say however that if you want to do ’comedy magic’ then hang out with some comedians rather than magicians, they do tend to be further along the line originality wise. I still like hanging out with magicians too, obviously.
Tom!: Hi John,
As a comedy performer, I am assured that you are a very funny man as I’ve been told by several FCM members (MagicBaz etc)
I really can’t wait to see you in action at Greenbelt. If you’re about, I’d love to chat!
(I’ve put myself in for the open mike slots to try stand up - performing comedy Bra! I feel you have to try things...)
Anyway, the question I ask is how do you deal with a bad audience?
I did a comedy show at a wives fellowship the other day and it went a storm! They loved it. Yet a few weeks before I did it at another event and it didn’t seem to click!
How do you deal with this?
Archini: Yeah I’m happy to chat Tom,
Fight your way through the three people and come and say hello.
The problem about bad audiences is an interesting one. Usually it’s not the audience as such, it is more likely to be the conditions or environment that may be affecting the audience. Such as:
* Do they want to see an act (maybe they are more interested in chatting up women or Men or talking business.)
* They could be drunk.
* They could be too hot, or too cold.
* High ceilings are a problem... outdoor is a nightmare. Laughter gets lost and the sound of laughter encourages laughter.
* The audience could be too spread out. Intimacy is important for comedy.
* It could be that the audience are too far away.
* Too much has already happened and the audience are tired or bored.
...and many other things.
Sometimes you can change these problems I.e. try to get closer to the audience. Other times you have to accept that you don’t have ideal performing conditions and try to work it out. Sometimes you just have to accept that this may not be a great gig.
The only way to get better at 1, spotting the problems and 2, dealing with them, is to gig a lot. There is no quick route to experience. gig gig gig.
I checked it wasn’t me because we did get laughs at the women’s fellowship and several nice comments.
I shall look out for you at greenbelt and barge the 3 people out the way. But I’m sure it will be much more than 3 people.
(Can you dress up or something so others don’t recognise you???)
Archini: Did you mention FCM? Do they have a forum?
Sam C: John, If you click on resources on www.fcmuk.org the forum is third from the top.
Tom!: Umm John,
As a young, enthusiastic mad man thinking about his career what would you say about agents for magicians?
Yes or no!
Are those apparent long phone calls worth it?
I’m starting A-levels this year, then Uni or Stage school and then going for it. (Ultimately a kids TV presenter but if not I have my mind set on performing - whatever that may be)
So agents? Yes or No!
Archini: Hi Tom,
Agents are, I think, a necessary evil. At this moment in time I don’t have an agent as such though for a long time I was with ’Billy Marsh Associates’. I do have a few production companies and agencies who sometimes ring me for jobs, but by and large I deal with all my own stuff now. I would be happy to change if the right person came along but I’m not really looking.
For some jobs it’s great to have an agent to do the money thing and argue your corner, and for the bigger jobs it’s handy to have an agent who has a legal department to check out the contracts etc. However for most run of the mill jobs, providing you are getting them, you can save quite a bit of money by sorting them yourselves.
Most agents I have had dealings with tend to be reactionary rather than pro-active. If you can find an agent who is a huge fan and also believes in working hard and going out and selling you then grab them. They are few and far between. Oh and if you find one, let them know about me.
Tommy Cooper and Tim Vine
Anthony Rose: There are obvious parallels between the style of comedy of these 2 (there was even an email doing the rounds with a list of Tim Vine’s jokes but it was accredited to Tommy) Does Tim do any magic?
Do you steal each others’ jokes for performances?
I pinched "I was using my step ladders the other day, I don’t get on with my real ladders any more". Royalty cheque is in the post.
Nezza: Hi John,
Thanks for taking time to come to MB.
I saw you on Tim’s DVD - did you guys do a double act? Was it comedy or was there magic thrown in too?
Also, is Tim an ’always on’ comedian? Always cracking gags?
Archini: It’s true that a lot of Tim’s gags did get attributed to Tommy Cooper and they can still be found all over the t’internet despite the fact that there is not one single record of Tommy Cooper ever doing them.>One of them even ends up with the punch line "Get out of the filing cabinet Mr Vine"? They were obviously copied from one of Tim’s gigs and put around as Tommy’s, I suppose because Tim’s style and rhythm is similar.
Tim doesn’t do any magic in fact he doesn’t like magic much with the odd exception (Hopefully me or he wouldn’t tour with me.) I’m not sure what he doesn’t like about it, I think he finds magic performances a little dull?
I don’t consciously steal from other acts, I don’t see the point, I would rather appear as me and not risk the chance that half the audience might be going "Oh I heard so and so do that" Especially Bookers or TV execs. I want them to see that I have something different.
By the way the stepladder gag is Harry Hill’s, not mine or Tim’s so redirect that cheque.
BrucUK: John - as a follow-up question, is your mentalism gag about predicting the number between one and five, (and the silk hanky...) an original of yours? May I have your permission to use it?
Dale Shrimpton: I’ve never seen Tim in any way, shape or form the same as Tommy. Tim has always stuck me as a quick fire wordsmith, whereas Tommy was more physical.
If anything, IMHO Tim’s more along the line of Ken Dodd, in that he fires them off in rapid succession, so that , should one not work, it’s ok because your onto the next one already .
I can see connections between Pasquale’s act and Tommy’s
No the 1-5 thing under the hanky is an old thing but the gags I do with it and the floating mic bit afterwards are mine.
Feel free to do the 1-5 gag, but not my bits that follow. Ta.
Tim and I have worked together on stage quite a few times but I wouldn’t say we were ever a double act.... we have hosted stuff together etc. We have done sketches etc with each other but it’s not something we are particularly developing.
He is pretty much and an ’on all the time’ guy, certainly when he is out. He is very creative, always thinking of stuff or working on ideas.
So are the tricks you perform all your own inventions?
Or like many of us, you take other effects but make them your own?
I know what you are saying but if you listen to the rhythm and wording of Tim’s gags you will see a similarity between him and Tommy. For example "So I said to this bloke ’I want a skip outside my house’, he said ’I’m not stopping you" You could easily hear Tommy Coopers voice in that gag. Many of Tim’s gags could be heard with Tommy’s voice and lots of reviewers have noted it. That’s why when so many of Tim’s gags appeared on the Internet people easily believed they were Tommy Cooper gags. I agree his performance style is very different.
Now Joe Pasquale has a similar performing style to Tommy Cooper but his rhythm and wording are not like Tommy Cooper. IMHO.
Hi, no most of my tricks are standards with my own presentation added. I do have some of my own but they are all inspired from something that’s out there... It’s not easy to come up with a totally new trick that has never been done. Most new dealer items are variations or amalgams of what already exists, though now and again something very different does appear. As I have said in other threads on here, for me it’s the presentation and performance that count. So long as believe that the trick I am doing will be strong I then work on the theatre performance side.
Now that is Cooper’s. It’s in his autobiography.
That just shows how similar their styles are.
Archini: That’s interesting, in his autobiography? Can you tell me what page and is it a biography or autobiography. I had a discussion with John Fisher about this joke and a few others and after extensive research he agreed that there was no documentary evidence or footage of Tommy doing it. I’d be interested to check it out.
Anthony Rose: Its called "just like that" and is an autobiography but is mainly just one liners combined into a loose story that vaguely relates to his life.
I’m sure it’s in the first chapter.
Archini: Do you mean ’Tommy Cooper Just like that’ By Jeremy Novick? I’ve just had a look and can’t find it in there. Unless it’s another ’Just Like That’ (Quite possible) I’m interested to find out because I know Tim wrote this independently and despite the fact that a few people seem to think Tommy did it (and some other gags of Tim’s) I still can’t find a record of it. If you find it please let me know.
Anthony Rose: Okay I could be wrong, the mind is a strange thing but I’m 100% that’s where I read it.
I’ll take it to work with me tomorrow and reread the whole thing just for you.
Sam C: Once again, I would like to say a huge Thank You to John for giving up his time to come and answer our questions. I hope you have enjoyed it.
Thank You again.
Anthony Rose: Thank you John. Its been good fun and educational at the same time. Just like Sesame Street.
Simon Davies: Thank you John, I for one thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your posts and the questions directed at you! Thanks.
Pitto: Thanks for spending your time here and answering the questions so well John.
Michael Jay: Yes, it’s been an excellent week. Thank you for taking your time to be with us over the last week and even though I didn’t ask any questions, I enjoyed reading your answers to those questions that were posted.
You are a very kind and giving man and again you have my thanks.
Unfortunately I didn’t have any questions to ask but thoroughly enjoyed your replies, advice and humour.
Thanks for taking the time out to answer everyone’s questions.
Tobias: Thank you for agreeing to answer questions, John. You’ve given us some interesting and some very funny answers.
Occasionally both at the same time.
Jwestshuh: Yes, many thanks for your attendance on these boards. I’ve really appreciated the advice and good nature of your posts. Good luck in your future endeavours and thanks you again.
Dave S: Thanks John for spending your time here answering our questions. It’s been very fun reading your responses.
Nigel Shelton: A very special thank you to you for taking the time to visit these pages and for imparting your wisdom. We are deeply indebted to you for making this an exciting and worthwhile week of such gems of knowledge. Thank you so very much.
Archini: No problem all. It was relatively painless and the week has flown by... I’ll still be checking in regularly so fee free to fire any questions my way so long as you realise that I may be just as wrong as the rest of you.
Thanks you all..... I love Sesame street.... Big bird for president.
And don’t forget you can get my book, Seriously Silly, at my site where I sell my product line, www.sillymagic.com.