Taking the Step – a conversation for close up magicians who want to perform stand up magic.
Ian Kendall has twenty five years’ experience in putting on stand up magic shows, and along the way he has made all the mistakes, and learned from them. In this series of video lectures he explains everything you need to know in order to take that step towards stand up magic. Brutally honest, and full of examples of his own work, Ian goes over what he did wrong, and then what he did right, so that you can benefit from his mistakes and not make them yourself.
Ian (verified owner)
If you are a close up magician who has any desire to begin performing stand up magic then this is a really worthwhile purchase. Actually, if you already perform stand up magic this is a really worthwhile purchase.
Ian is essentially having a conversation with you about every aspect imaginable of stand up magic. The project incorporates numerous video examples that illustrate the development and progression of Ian’s routines. It also includes many examples of real world performances.
I have viewed all of the content once and certainly got a lot of value out of it. I intend to take detailed notes on subsequent viewings.
Genii Magazine (verified owner)
SCOTLAND’S IAN KENDALL may be familiar to you by virtue of his writing here in Genii, or his long-running column in M-U-M, or his book Basic Training that resulted from that column. He has performed for over two decades at the Edinburgh fringe as well as at comedy clubs, corporate events, and weddings throughout the U.K. It is from that breadth of experience that he has developed this 10-hour video course designed to coach close-up magicians who want to transition into stand-up magic performance.
Before I even began viewing the course, I found the premise fascinatingly specific. There may be many closeup performers who, after getting a taste of audience approval in smaller settings, find the applause drug addictive enough to need or at least dream of larger doses. There may be others who are drawn to seek larger audiences simply by the practical economics of making a living in magic. Whatever the motivation, Mr. Kendall is not the first to suggest that theatrical experience is valuable for aspiring stage magicians, but he is the first I can recall who so directly targets the idea to close-up performers with stand-up performing as a goal.
The course is presented the form of a number of online videos embedded on a course web page. An overview and a couple of introductory videos are available free of charge, and the remainder of the course is unlocked after purchase. The videos must be watched while logged into your account with a live internet connection.
The outline of the course is rather straightforward. After a description of terms and definitions that will be useful in communicating the content, Mr. Kendall discusses a variety of venues where budding stage performers can get stage time.
The next segment consists of three lessons on developing an act. The lesson on character development describes two approaches, one based on an enhanced version of your own personality, the other based on choosing a fully defined and developed alternative character. He elaborates with discussion of how your character and your magic both define and are defined by costume. A lesson on practice and rehearsal spells out the importance of each and the difference between the two concepts, with additional comments on the advantages of having respectful, trusted peers with whom you can rehearse and trade feedback. He is also emphatic on the benefits of video recording your rehearsals. The final lesson of the segment is an hour-long exploration of Mr. Kendall’s advice on choosing material for stand-up performance. In addition to his thoughts on how to choose material, he also discusses some tips for preparing a set list and organizing props.
Segment three consists of seven lessons relating to stagecraft. The intricacies of working with spectators are the first topic, though mostly from a psychological standpoint, and a great deal of emphasis is placed on recognizing how foreign and stressful the stage is to most people. The obligation to treat spectators respectfully is discussed at length, as well as considerations regarding the helpful or unhelpful attitudes of people once they are on stage. The second video on this subject delves further into the complexities of dealing with hecklers, whether it comes from the audience or from audience members who have been brought onstage as volunteers. The next lessons in this segment address the care of the voice and techniques for using microphones effectively. The lessons on blocking and staging begin by discussing the use and placement of tables and props, but the theatrical concepts of stage direction begin to drift in as Mr. Kendall discusses entrances and other practical aspects of standing and moving on a stage, as well as specific adaptations that must be made to close-up magic techniques in order to be performed onstage. Further topics include transitions between routines, the proper way to end a show, the importance of video critique, and some techniques for dealing with nerves before going onstage.
The remaining lessons address business concerns such as getting press and marketing your services, lessons learned from real life horror stories and disasters on stage, longer performance clips which can be analyzed as examples of structure, and some closing thoughts.
Conceptually, this course addresses a legitimate need in the marketplace, and it does so in a budget-friendly way. Every one of these topics could be the subject of either a full DVD or an independent lecture. Certainly that approach would allow the instructor to go into more depth on each topic, but the point is that this collection provides a useful jumping off point for close-up magicians with little theater experience. Mr. Kendall is an experienced and thoughtful performer who teaches with heart.
From a technical side, though, there are a number of points that it seems important to raise. Primary among these is that the video content of the course is mostly a single, fixed camera shot of Mr. Kendall’s face as he addresses the camera while standing or sitting in front of a white wall. The visual composition of the course rarely changes. Cut in clips are introduced to illustrate some moments with examples from past shows, and the discussion of tables and the interior of a case are at least momentary diversions. But the vast majority of the course is essentially a talking head facing the camera straight-on.
This might be because it was cost-effective to limit the production costs, or that as such a sprawling project it was really only feasible to do it as a one-man show. There is no doubt that10hours of final video represent dozens or hundreds of hours of pre and post production work. This is a massive knowledge-transfer project. But the final result, even if done in order to be cost effective, is noticeably below the current standard set for most instructional video in our industry. The onstage examples are, of course, an important exception to this observation. Much of the monologue content could have been augmented with photos, diagrams, or even just flip charts and markers showing content being organized for the learner to absorb visually as well as verbally.
None of that, however, changes the ultimate fact that the information here has been culled from the career experiences of a working pro. It’s here for dedicated student to discover, and at a price point that I think is more than fair considering the span of the content. As a trainer, I saw a lot of opportunities to ramp up the effectiveness of this teaching, but I can easily see the value this will have for many would-be performers who have never had a chance to have this kind of frank, practical conversation with an experienced pro.