A karaoke magician?! Before you start creating mental images of a magician from South Wales pulling a rabbit out of a hat to the refrain of 'A Kind of Magic' by Queen, you'll be relieved to know that the term isn't intended for conjurers with a particular set of vocal talents. More so, it refers to a performer that is heavily reliant on the creative output of others and has very little input to their own repertoire. Why should I care about that you ask? Good question!
When hiring a Cardiff magician (or any indeed any other locality) you'll probably be surprised to find that we come at a premium. As with pretty much everything of quality, the good ones aren't cheap and the cheap ones are almost certainly not good. So, once you've decided that you'd like to hire a Wedding Magician, Corporate Magician or indeed a South Wales magician for a private event, you'll want to ensure that you've hired one of quality. Myself and many of my peers spend years honing routines, so that they deliver maximum impact whilst maintaining a strong rapport with the audience. This is because we genuinely care, not only about the standard of our performance during your event, but also within a larger picture of your guests' perception of magic as a whole. When performed correctly, magic has the ability to imbed itself into a persons conscious for a very long time. However, as performers we often fight an uphill battle with the negative stereotypes brought about by the dated and often patronising public image created by popular performers from previous generations (think sexually objectified ladies getting into boxes, bad jokes and ill fitting suits). Luckily, magic is having a resurgence thanks to a rise in TV coverage that feature a more subdued style of performer with a much lower fromage coefficient and thankfully a better wardrobe. So, as a professional magician for hire, we owe it to our audience to deliver the best possible experience in exchange for the fee we have requested.
If you've made it this far, you're probably wondering what this all has to do with karaoke; a seemingly harmless drunken endeavour reserved for 'that' auntie at a family party or your mate who once did some amateur dramatics at school and know think that they are Whitney Houston? Here goes...
Picture 10 comedians all about to perform the same act, simultaneously, at 10 separate events. 1 of these comedians wrote the act and restructured, edited and tweaked it over a preceding 100 (or more) performances. He understands the beats, lines and pauses that transform a mild titter into a full on belly laugh. He made the act available for other performers to buy and perform (it's show BUSINESS after all). 3 of the 9 remaining comedians bought the act, figured out what would work for their on stage persona, took bits of it and absorbed it into their own routine whilst retaining the integrity of their act. Fair play, nothing is entirely original anyway but as a professional, they've identified what works for them and what would be ill fitting to their character. This leads us to the remaining 6 comedians. They watched the original performer get great reactions from his audience, bought the act (potentially from a pirated source) learned it verbatim and then charged a fee comparable to the originator to deliver the muddled, under rehearsed approximation of the dialogue to your guests. It's worth noting that the world of comedy doesn't actually work like that. There tends to be a strict code of ethics and performing another persons material is deeply frowned upon, as ably demonstrated in this clip by comedy hero Stewart Lee here . Even though many comedians often discuss the same topics, the great ones have a unique take on it and tell the story from their own perspective. There are also ghost writers, but thats a completely different blog post.
The world of magic however, does work exactly as the above example. Many magicians sell material that they've created (myself included) for other magicians to perform. Generally it's to establish an original sleight or routine amongst their peers in the hope that it is found to be of interest and be expanded on by friends and colleagues (much like science but without any of the fundamental importance or gravitas). However, many of the best concepts in magic are essentially quite simple. As a result, once the secret has been purchased, a trained monkey with a modicum of digital dexterity would be able to carry out the basic method. The true art of magic comes from the performers ability to take such a simple idea and transform it into a deeply profound and memorable experience for the audience. This is what a professional magician does for your guests/delegates.
At this point, you're probably ahead of me in determining that the phrase 'karaoke magician' refers to the group of performers who have acts that consist of purchased or copied routines; the equivalent of the final 6 comedians in the previous example.
It is not unusual for a performer in this category to purchase a routine on a Friday and perform it as a South Wales wedding magician at your big day on Saturday, charging you for the privilege. Your guests will experience an underrehearsed mess of a routine, and will generally be left with a poor opinion of magic to boot. If magic is a hobby then of course by all means perform in this manner and have some fun. The game changes somewhat when you're charging someone for your performance. A karaoke magician charges to fund an ongoing obsession with buying new tricks and cares little about the quality. A professional performer charges accordingly for the quality of their act and the amount of time and effort that it took to make it great. As a result, they get great reactions and enhance your guests experience of your event. As ably demonstrated in the photograph below (go me!).
If you don't have a huge experience of magic (a childhood Paul Daniels magic set doesn't count) you might need to do a bit of guided research into your performer of choice. Every quality magician should have a showreel (here's mine), or at least plenty of photographs of them performing at events. My best advice would be get some quotes from performers in your area and compare the promo material. Here's a tick list of things to look out for.
1. Does the performer appear to be using a large amount of props?
If a magician is performing a large number of routines during an event, each one requiring a different prop, the chances are that they're merely showing you their collection of weird and wonderful things rather than effectively entertaining your audience. TOP TIP: In photographs, look at the magicians pockets. If they are bulging, it's a good indicator that they are fully loaded up with toys; or maybe they're just pleased to see you? As a rule, nothing that I take to a gig ruins the line of my suit. Not only does this mean that I'm well styled (hopefully) it also restricts any unnecessary props, forcing me to think creatively with the props I have to hand and hence create magic which is especially designed for that environment.
2. Is there a continuity in the routines that the magician is performing across different events?
Look at a performers photo gallery. The shots of the magician, and the routines they are performing should be relatively uniform, displaying the magician in various environments obtaining great reactions from a variety of people. If each picture features the performer with new and interesting props, you can guarantee that the routines haven't been 'worked in'. A good performer will adapt his repertoire to accommodate new environments. A poor performer will simply choose other tricks.
3. What does the performer do during the applause (if there is any)?
Check video footage that might be available. As in pretty much all physical performance (comedy, music, theatre etc), the magician should be aware of the applause and take it accordingly. If during the applause the performer is preoccupied with putting a prop away or indeed taking one out, the chances are that they are more concerned with the tricks than they are with your guests.
4. Is this person someone you would spend time with regardless of magic?
OK, maybe we're straying from the karaoke theme a little, but it's a fundamental question that you should ask when hiring a performer. This person IS going to be spending time with your guests, so as a booker you should probably consider whether you are hiring the person for the tricks or for what their presence will add to your event. Basic social skills and a modicum of charm are invaluable here and will go much further than someone performing shop-bought miracles with all the personality of a potato.
5. A few words are worth a thousand pictures.
If watching a video, listen for any 'umms' and 'errs' or general waffling during their performance. It normally tips a lack of preparation. Like a nervous politician on Question Time, you'll see a rabbit in the headlights moment as they struggle to perform the next sleight or remember the next line.
Well there you go. Karaoke magicians uncovered! I hope this post has been interesting and also helped you make more informed choices when hiring entertainment for you event. I'd love to tell you more about it but unfortunately I've got a gig tomorrow and I need to learn another 3 tricks for it that the postman has just delivered. Fingers crossed 'sawing a lady in half whilst on fire' lives up to expectation. It'll be a long drive home if not.