If you know a lot of magic tricks but you’ve never performed for an audience, are you a magician?
I know lots of amateur magicians who practice every day, but who’ve never performed for an audience that isn’t close family or friends. So many magicians are waiting for the “right trick” before they get up the courage to perform for strangers.
The truth is: there’s no such thing as the “right trick.” If you want to be great, you have to go out and perform. You need stage time. Because that’s the only way you can get better.
Getting in front of real-world audiences (as often as possible) is the single most important thing any performer can do. Steve Martin even wrote a book about it.
Talk to any professional magician or comedian, and they’ll tell you stage time is crucial to becoming great. But what they don’t tell you is that stage time is the single most important thing to staying great.
Learn from Jay Leno
Jay Leno was the host of The Tonight Show for years. But did you know he also performed every Sunday night at the Hermosa Beach Comedy Club? He was there for over 30 years.
Why did the host of The Tonight Show work a locals-only comedy club?!? He didn’t need the experience, and he certainly didn’t need the money. Jay needed stage time. He needed a place to workshop new jokes, test new material, and push the envelope.
Keeping on your A-game is why comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Patton Oswalt will stop by local comedy clubs. No matter who you are… you need to a venue to try new things.
You Need a Place to “Be Bad”
…and it CAN’T be a client event!
Here’s some advice I gave a local Los Angeles magician: You need a low-pressure environment to try out new material, because the last place you want to do new stuff is at a client booking!
Get a weekly performance at an upscale restaurant. Offer charity performances at a steep discount. Do open mic nights and variety shows. Join the Magic Castle. Find a place where you can “be bad.”
But whatever you do, never perform untested material for paying clients. They deserve your best.
The Magic Castle is my Gym
The Magic Castle is a private club, with some of the best magicians in the world. It’s my 2nd home.
If I’m not hired to perform there, I’ll visit the club once a week, and do impromptu performances in the museum for any guests who come on down. These are free, unscheduled performances (so there’s no pressure), and guests are genuinely interested to see what I have to offer.
Every night I work on new ideas. And if I can get one or two brand-new professional-grade routines each year, I’m happy.
Go Out and Fail
Find a venue where you can get work on new stuff in front of a live audience. Because if you’re waiting to be great before you ever step on stage, you’ll wait forever. So go out and be bad.
One day, you’ll be mediocre – then one day you’ll be good – and eventually, you’ll be great. And once you’re great… keep getting stage time so you can stay great!
Go out and fail. As an artist, you owe it to yourself. And you owe it to your clients, as well.