Performer Spotlight: Seriously Funny Magician David Thiel

Posted by Drew Stoga on August 25, 2011

magician david thielComedy Magician David Thiel (aka The Seriously Funny Magic Guy of Edmonton, AB) is as serious about comedy as he is about magic.

But that doesn't mean he takes himself too seriously: "Even when (the audience) aren't magic fans, everyone likes to laugh...usually WITH me."

David is new to GigMasters but not to the stage. In his short time with us he has already booked five gigs through GigMasters. This caught our eye so we decided to catch up with the Canadian native about his success as a new GigMasters member and his professional experience in the magic world.

Even though comedy magicians are a very specific, and unique, type of performer, much of what David had to say can be universally applied to all entertainers (see the lower third of the interview for David's advice for his fellow new GigMasters members).

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What’s so funny about magic? Why do comedy and magic work well together?

Comedy only works when it’s relevant to the audience. You need to think hard about how to present an effect – and make that effect funny at the same time. And all of it has to be done in a way that the audience can relate to and enjoy.

Good comedy performers have to take time to think hard about their audiences – and what entertains them. They need to plan the whole show, taking into account who the audience is…and what they’ve been up to over the course of a day.

At a convention, for example, where the delegates have been working and thinking hard all day, you need to present routines that are fast, punchy and laugh-out-loud hilarious because these people want to blow off steam. If you present something complex, you are going to lose them.

An audience of lawyers is generally a completely different group than a college frat party. A group where the guests come with their spouses is also very different from an event where the people are by themselves. Sometimes the group has big drinkers – sometimes it doesn’t. Everything – even the layout of the room – affects what you do and how you present it.

Performers who fail to take everything into consideration…well…they’re in for a REALLY long show. Unfortunately, so is their audience.

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At GigMasters we love ALL types of magicians, but what specifically does a comedy magician offer that other entertainers do not?

Laughter.

People underrate laughter. Think about it. When a whole room is laughing and having a good time, what happens? People loosen up. People poke each other. They make eye contact with each other – they are really sharing those moments.

I’ve done magic for 20 years. Magic is easy. Genuine laughter? That’s hard.

Sometimes people equate comedy magic with goofy stuff. Good comedy isn’t goofy. It’s intelligent, carefully planned and executed. The most serious people I know are my fellow comedy performers.

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How did you get into this business?

I saw a street performer in the early 80’s. He was doing a card effect. He presents an invisible deck of cards to a member of the audience and asks that person to draw out an invisible card. He passes the invisible deck to another person and they take a card too.

The first person names any one of the four suits. The second person names a value, so they come up with something like “Seven of Hearts.” He opens up a CLOSED bag, draws out a pack of cards and shows that there is only one card face down: the one they just named.

I was blown away. I could NOT figure out how it was done. I went back four days in a ROW to see the effect over and over again. It was making me nuts. Each day had different people, different card selections – and each time, the card they chose was the ONLY one face down. Go figure…

This was in the pre-internet days – and I wound up going to a magic shop where I described the effect and the magician, an aging man with white hair and a neatly trimmed goatee nodded seriously and sold it to me.

“I’ll sell you the trick for five bucks,” says he. “I’ll show you how to do it for three more…”

The guy’s name was Willard – and that led to a whole series of afternoons hanging around his shop buying stuff – but mostly talking and learning about magic. He taught me SO much.

I worked as an amateur for three years doing free shows all over the place so I could learn my craft. I took my first paid show in 1985 and worked as a part-time pro for a long time. I made the jump to full time performing in 1989 and have now been full time for twenty years.

(I STILL do that invisible card effect today, by the way. It’s one of my favorites.)

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What can a magician do to make sure they are on the same page as the client?

When you book a magician, you’re putting a face on your entertainment. You’re not buying a bag of chips. The performer needs to ask a lot of questions – and keep asking until they get the information they need. Sometimes that process happens very quickly…sometimes it takes a little longer. But pros keep at it until they know what’s going on.

It’s also important that, once the magician THINKS he or she understands, that they phrase it back to the client to ensure that they have the right information.

For most of my shows, I am in touch with the client initially to plan the event. I am also in touch with them on the week prior to the event. I touch base with them on the DAY of the event to deal with any last minute issues or questions – and I’m in touch with them after the event to ensure they were delighted with what happened.

None of these points of contact need to take a long time…but they are all necessary to ensure that the client feels professionally taken care of. Each booking is a vote of trust, right? So the magician should treat every aspect with extreme care. It’s just good business…and the right way to treat another human being.

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You are relatively new to GigMasters but have successfully booked a number of gigs. What’s the secret to getting started on GigMasters? What do you think other new members can do to get the ball rolling?

I’m surprised when another performer tells me that GM isn’t working for them. But they don’t understand that GM simply puts you in touch with potential clients. It’s still up to YOU to get the job. Jobs simply won’t fall into your lap. (Well…they do. But it’s rare.)

It’s important to follow up each bid with a phone call…and to forward your materials to the client as soon as possible. Entertaining is a personal business…so your service has to be personal.

Your marketing materials have to be professional and honest representations of who you are and what you’re about. Your website(s) must be well maintained and updated regularly as you get new references or offer new products. Nothing is as off-putting as a stale website to most clients.

You can’t look over your shoulders at other performers who may be bidding under your level or offering different entertainment formats. If your product offers the client a good value for their dollar, your clients will find you.

You need to view every interaction with every client as a part of your business…because entertainment IS a business. GigMasters provides access to a broader range of potential clients. That’s what it’s about, really.

This is also a people business. You need to treat people with respect – the same way you’d like to be treated. And when it’s show time, you need to give it everything you’ve got.

There’s no shortcut. No secret pill. No revolutionary marketing system. (Believe me…I’ve looked.) What creates repeat bookings and happy clients is hard work and a personal connection with the people who’ve booked you.

GigMasters is a great bridge to meeting some of those people.

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Thanks to David for all his great input. If you are looking for some seriously funny magic, check out David Thiel's Profile.

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