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Drawing the Line

stand upThere was  a recent posting on The Magic Circle Facebook page asking for your favourite line: most of the results posted weren't in fact lines at all, they were jokes. The difference was made in my Stand-Up book on comedy magic and I think is an important one that bears repetition. 

A joke is a gag that stands on its own - entirely self-contained.  A line, however, only works in the context of what has happened either before or during its utterance. Lines are particularly useful to magicians because they can refer to a prop that they might be showing or in response to something that a participatory audience member might have said. 

That is not to say there isn't a place for jokes in magic acts; but the comedy magicians I admire most tend to be those who have very few jokes 'per se'. An advantage of lines is that they are much harder to copy, because you need to be doing something, or speaking directly to somebody, in order for them to work.  They can't be told at any time or any situation, unlike jokes. 

lectureI find that the use of lines is just as applicable in presenting illustrated talks as it is to magic.  In my case the line only works because of the image I have projected on the screen; without that being present, there would be no laugh.

chilcotUnfortunately two of my funniest lecture lines have become redundant because of recent political events.  I used to say that the verdict was still out on how good the first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole was (having displayed his image) - we are still waiting for Ye Olde Enquiry conducted by Sir John Chilcottee. With the Chilcot enquiry now published, that no longer works.

Secondly, I talk about British magicians boycotting an Austrian conjurer's show when he was performing in London in the 1840s, worried that he might be taking their jobs.  They called themselves the United Kingdom's Incensed Prestidigitators - or UKIP for short.  With our exit from the EU, and Farage's resignation, that is also probably a goner.

Ah well, back to the drawing board or, in my case, the lecture lectern.  

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