DIRTY SO AN SO – Thoughts from Bo by Bo Gerard

SO, have you noticed that lately everybody on TV and radio interview shows have been over-using the word SO?  "SO what!", you say?  SO, If you make your living talking on stage, words are your business.

Untitled-5.jpg

SO far as I can tell, “SO” was generally used in the past as a way to clarify an answer, as in “SO, what you are saying is…”  Also, it is useful when making a comparison, as in, “He wasn’t home, SO I left him a note”. But in the past 20 years or SO, it has become a very popular way to begin a question or answer, as in this exchange – “SO, tell us about your new project.”  “SO, we have made an exciting breakthrough…”.

Untitled-6.jpg

The SO-called colloquialism, started out mostly in broadcast media, but has now found its way into our everyday speech.  SO much SO that you can’t go five minutes without hearing it.  SO has replaced “well” and is gaining ground on “uh” (Personally my least favorite) as a way of stalling while trying to put together a thought.

Untitled-7.jpg

Our language is constantly changing and that can’t be helped.  Even SO, should one blindly adopt current phrases, without giving some thought as to how they affect the quality of our communication?  I don’t think SO. 

Untitled-8.jpg

And SO, to be the captains of our linguistic ship, SO to speak, we must be better at observing new trends, and deciding whether they are useful, or are merely SO SO.  If I may be SO bold, may I suggest you note how many times you hear “SO” in the next few days.  If you do SO, you might be surprised how prevalent SO is.  And at the very least, you will have become a more conscious consumer of language for a few days.  Go, and be the master of your syntactic domain. (You should be SO lucky)

Make it SO!

EVEN FOOLERS CAN BE FOOLED – Thoughts from Bo by Bo Gerard

I venture to guess that those of us in the business of fooling people would assume that they, themselves, might be less likely to be fooled.  But that’s a dangerous assumption, and I posit that the opposite might actually be true.

Line-Illusion-Bo.jpg

Because the minute you think you have some expertise in any fooling game, you are more likely to let your guard down.  And mother nature can still outwit the savviest fooler.  Take the photo to the right.  The lines are actually horizontal to each other, but just try and see them as horizontal.  Can’t do it, can you?  It’s called the Café Wall Illusion, and the vertical zig zag pattern disrupts your horizontal perception.  Sorry!

Untitled-1.jpg

But this effect is not confined to vision.  Sometimes we are fooled by grammar.  Take the phrase, “All but one ship was sunk.”  Sounds right, and most of us would feel comfortable saying it that way.  But, the correct verb is the plural – “were”.  The verb should reflect all of the ships that were NOT sunk.  Not the one ship that WAS sunk.  It feels wrong to say, “All but one of the ships WERE sunk”, doesn’t it?  You were fooled by your own sense of what sounds correct.

Untitled-5.jpg

And we can be fooled by numbers.  Take this statistical illusion – There were 100 people, and one of them was given 100 dollars bills.  The other 99 were given nothing.  Statistically, the average person in this group received $1.  Scary, isn’t it?

Untitled-3.jpg

You can also be fooled by logic.  Take this puzzle:  Three travelers stop at a hotel and ask the front desk clerk “If we stay in the same room, what will the price be?”  The clerk says, It will be $30”. (obviously this happened 40 years ago.)  The travelers each hand the clerk a $10 bill.  After they go to their room, the clerk remembers that there is a special going that night, and the room is actually $25.  So, he gives five singles to the bell boy, and sends him up to the room to return the money.  The bellboy realizes that the travelers will never know the difference, and he only give them $3 (one dollar to each traveler) and pockets the other two dollars.  So, the travelers have paid $9 each.  3 x9 = 27; plus the $2 the bellboy kept equals $29.  Where’s the other dollar?

Because the logic of this last equation feels correct, we fail to realize that the math is all wrong!  By adding the $2 the bell boy kept to the $27 dollars the travelers paid, you are actually adding the $2 twice.  It is already in the $27 amount.  ($25 the clerk has, plus $2 the bell boy has.)  The amount that is missing, and the one that would solve the missing dollar problem, is the $3 the travelers got back!  $3 x $9 + $3 = 30.  Feels wrong, but it is RIGHT!

And finally, one of my favorite trick questions.  Try answering the question out loud, before you look at the answer below.  “How many animals, OF EACH SEX, did Moses take on the ark?

Untitled-4.jpg

If you said one, you are wrong.  The answer is zero!  Moses didn’t go on the ark – it was Noah!  No one is immune to the confusingly deceptive nature of how the human brain works.

GOODBYE GROUCHO – a farewell by Bo Gerard

Julius Henry (Groucho) Marx, the American comedian, writer, stage, film, radio, and television star, passed away 40 years ago.  So, this farewell is not to him.  It is a fond farewell to my 30 years performing as a Groucho impersonator.

Untitled-1.jpg

It all started when a corporate party planner/caterer I was doing gigs for, called about a Hollywood themed party he was putting together.  He said all of the talent and wait staff needed to be dressed as an old-time Hollywood star.  I told him that I had done some Groucho-Grams in New York City years before, for extra income, and he thought Groucho sounded like a great idea.  I was not prepared for what happened next.

groucho animation.gif

The moment I donned the signature grease-paint mustache and eyebrows, and the over-sized dove-tailed coat, I felt a transformation occur.  A soon as I started moving through the crowd at the party, I felt less like I was impersonating Groucho, and more like Groucho had inhabited me.  I soon began behaving in ways that I would never have done as Bo Gerard – Magician.  I was glib, irreverent, bold, and marvelously ridiculous.  The amazing spirit of Groucho had taken hold of me, and I (and the audience) was at its mercy.  It was both exhilarating and exhausting.  I knew I had to do it again.

Minnie's Boys - Me, John Rainone, Jeff Peters and Winston Stone.

Minnie's Boys - Me, John Rainone, Jeff Peters and Winston Stone.

The next opportunity presented it self a few months later, when another agent asked me to put together a “This is Your Life” show for a 92-year-old birthday party at a synagogue in Dallas.  I thought Groucho would be the perfect host, and I recruited the musical and acting talents of John Rainone, Doug Jackson and Winston Stone to portray Chico, Harpo and Zeppo, respectively.  We created a Marx Brothers House band, and the show was a big hit.  So much so, that I stared offering “Minnie’s Boys” as an option to the many agents I worked with.

Untitled-6.jpg

I also started doing a lot more work as Groucho across the country, as the MC of a traveling look/sing-a-like show band called The Cavalcade of Stars.  Thanks to the late, great Dave Tapley, we performed everywhere from Las Vegas to New York, to Orlando to Santa Barbara, and everywhere in between.

loop-pic-2.jpg

Meanwhile, back home, “Minnie’s Boys’ had morphed into “The Coconuts”, and with a few personnel changes, we were performing at parties and festivals.  But when my amazing and talented wife, Gretchen, joined the show as Lulu, we finally had the perfect cast for our irreverent musical, magical show.  A stand-out moment was when we headlined at Addison’s “Out of The Loop Festival”.

Untitled-7.jpg

But, all things must pass.  Hollywood themed parties are a thing of the past, and modern corporate audiences actually have trouble distinguishing between Groucho and Chaplin.  So, with a sad heart, I must now put away my black grease and dove-tailed coat, and say goodbye to my comedy spirit guide.  It was a fun ride my friend.  I'll miss you more than I can say.

MC’S ARE NOT BORN, THEY ARE MADE! – Thoughts from Bo by Bo Gerard

Masters of Ceremonies, (the correct plural form), are not naturally occurring beings.  They are forged, like steel, from different elements, and hammered by experience, to form this thing we call a Master of Ceremonies. (Hereinafter referred to as “MC”.)

Untitled-6.jpg

No child has ever exclaimed, “I’m going to be an MC when I grow up!!”  And no normal person enters show business thinking that thought either. (Very few normal people enter show business, anyway)  It just sort of happens one day, when you realize that your natural gifts, your training and your life experiences have conspired together to transform you into the saviour of the dull, slow awards dinner - "MC MAN!"

Bo-Ringmaster-Barnum.jpg

I had some MC related experience while I was still doing theater in the 80’s, that probably helped.  I played the Ringmaster in the National Tour of the Tony Award Winning Broadway Musical, “Barnum”.  But when I gave up the theater, to pursue a career that could actually put some pennies in my piggy bank, I had no idea that MCing was in my future.

MC-Trinity-Terrace.jpg

With me, as with many other performers, it happened naturally.  Maybe a client asks if you could  “make a few announcements before and after your show”, or you have to step in for someone at the last minute.  And a strange feeling comes over you, as you realize that you have stumbled upon a skill you did not know you even possessed.  "Hey!  look at me.  I'm MCing!!!"

Untitled-2.jpg

But being an MC is not as easy as it looks.  You usually have to coordinate with the corporate party committee before the event, to learn what is going to be required of you.  And if they want you to do your show during the evening, you have to find a way to integrate it into their itinerary.  Many questions present themselves like, “What are the announcements and introductions that need to be made?”, “Will I have a script in hand or will I be reading from a prompter?”, “Will I have my own mic, or are the speakers and I passing it off?”, “What are the pronunciations of the names of the people I will be introducing?”, and many, many more.

Untitled-3.jpg

And then, once you’re all set and ready to go, you have to be ready for anything, and everything, to go wrong. Like a video you just announced won’t play, or the next speaker you are about to intro is not in the room, or a mic is dead, or the power goes out, or a presenter jumps ahead in the script and changes the order of events, throwing you and the AV guys into a tizzy!  All of these and more, have happened to me while I was MCing, and you have to be able to cover, fill and improvise, if you want to keep the presentation from crashing and burning.

Untitled-1.jpg

To paraphrase the Immortal Bard, “No men are born MCs, most either achieve MCing, or have MCing thrust upon them”.

ART IN A VACUUM – Thoughts from Bo by Bo Gerard

Magicians can be a solitary bunch; that is when they’re not going to ring meetings, lectures and conventions.

Untitled-1.jpg

Even though there is a great brotherhood in the magic world, and enthusiasts and practitioners are learning and sharing tricks, a lot of them are doing it in a vacuum.  They aren’t seeking help or advice from other professionals that might take their act and brand to a much higher level.

Untitled-5.jpg

Magic is a theatrical art, and theater is a collaborative art.  No one would be surprised to learn that a theatrical producer collaborates with playwrights, directors, lighting and costume designers, choreographers, and even the performers; so that the show is the best that it can be.  Yet many magicians never submit their work for review or improvement by anyone outside of the magic world.

Untitled-4.jpg

This, I feel, is an unfortunate choice.  You don’t have to be a Las Vegas headliner to take advantage of this kind of collaboration.  There is so much that can be improved by having other theatrical professionals contribute to your work.  A stage director can help you with pace, flow, sightlines, comedy, and more.  A choreographer can help you make beautiful, yet appropriate, pictures on stage; and can even help you with misdirection.  And lighting and costume designers know more than you do about making your time on stage spectacular.

Untitled-6.jpg

The help you get from these experts will breathe "fresh air" into your work, and it will help you sell your show, by giving you a stronger visual brand.   Any act can benefit from working with these pros, whether you do grand illusion, platform shows or strolling.  Being a magician can mean more than merely doing tricks.  You can create a character, a persona.  An ACT!  Don’t go it alone.

IT’S ALL IN THE DELIVERY – Thoughts from Bo by Bo Gerard

Untitled-2.jpg

I recently noticed that a private package delivery company has co-opted a phrase that was once the sole property of comedy and comedians - “It’s all in the delivery”.

Untitled-6.jpg

So, I am writing today to reclaim that phrase, and to examine comedy’s place in magic.  A lot of performers would like to have more comedy in there show, but they don’t necessarily want to be funny.  Why?  Well, my guess is that some performers want to protect the notion that a magician who performs for adults, needs to be serious, if he wants to be mysterious.  And I support them in their beliefs.  We all want our audience to have a great time, so it is wise to consider exactly how we want them to feel after our show, both about you and about your show.  But, with comedy, you have to be true to your M.O.!

Untitled-4.jpg

Adding comedic elements to your show can be done in a few ways.  You can insert funny lines in your normal patter, or arrange for something funny to happen during one of your tricks, or you can find something about your onstage persona that is funny.  It doesn’t have to be goofy.  It can be wry, witty, deadpan, whatever is organically right for you.  You can speed up the injection of comedy into your show by working with a director/teacher that is experienced with comedy and how it pertains to character.  (I am available for this kind of coaching and have worked with many performers over the years.)

Untitled-1.jpg

By approaching my audience as a “comedic character, who does amazing things”, I have found that they are just as amazed by the magic, but they are left with a feeling that’s closer to joy than bewilderment.  Maybe my quirky, energetic performing persona gets past a few more of their social barricades.  By inviting them to laugh and become intellectually engaged in my characters' humorous take on life and the world, I create a sense of comradery.  This occurs both with large audiences and in strolling situation.  I sneak behind their social curtain, and then the magic hits them like a sucker punch. (forgive the violent reference) It’s like a friend of theirs suddenly, out of the blue, did something ridiculously amazing.

Untitled-5.jpg

This stage persona of mine is an enlargement of my offstage personality.  I selectively exaggerate elements of my normal everyday behavior, and then inject it with a Double-Red-Bull punch of energy.  (Another violent reference.  Comedy is full of them – “I killed last night”, “They didn’t know what hit them!”, etc.)  I love that post-cardio-pumped-up feeling I have after a good show.  I exhaust myself when I perform.  I don’t save anything.  I leave it all out on stage.  That’s my M.O.

What do you want to leave your audience thinking and feeling after your show?  What’s your M.O.?

MY 100th BLOG! SHOULD I CALL DR. KEVORKIAN? by Bo Gerard

Untitled-6.jpg

It’s had a good life.  It’s done its work – adding content to my site to improve SEO, giving me another creative outlet, sharpening my Photoshop skills.  But is it time to put the old warhorse down?

Untitled-9.jpg

At first, these blogs were more of a chore, but they have become a fun weekly project, and one that I hope a few of you out there have enjoyed.  When you’re writing a blog, it’s sort of like being a radio DJ.  You are up early, alone at your desk, pouring your heart out, hoping someone out there is listening.  I wanted my blogs to be somewhat interesting, informative, and hopefully entertaining.  (Hell, I MYSELFwant to be somewhat interesting, informative and hopefully entertaining)

Untitled-7.jpg

Even with the analytical tools I have at my disposal, it is hard to know just how many readers these blogs are getting.  Facebook “likes” are not a reliable metric, as I have found that many more people are reading the posts, than are “liking” or “commenting” on them.  And believe me, I get it.  Everything you “like” gets broadcast to everyone on your friends list, and many of us are judicious with our “likes”.

Untitled-8.jpg

But for my blog’s 100th birthday, I am going to make a wish, as I blow out the candles.  If you have enjoyed one or more of the blogs over the past two years, just this once, go ahead and click “Like”.  It would be a great encouragement, and might help me decide whether or not to “pull the plug”.

CRITICISM THAT STICKS WITH YOU – Bo in the trenches by Bo Gerard

Untitled-2.jpg

One time an older gentleman, with a cowboy hat and a big belt buckle that said "TEXAS" on it, came up to me after a show.  In a thick drawl, he said “That weren’t too bad – for a deal like ‘is”.  Now you don’t have to be in Texas very long to know that this man had given me very high praise, indeed.  In the Lone Star State, compliments are handed out in small doses.  But he HAD taken the time to come up to the stage, and even waited a minute for me to be done talking with another audience member.  So, sometimes you’ve got to read between the lines.

Untitled-1.jpg

I think we all can agree that you learn very little that is useful from “high-praise rhetoric” like, “Great Show!”, or “You did really well!”  They are nice phrases, but seem vague and sort of forced.  I much prefer a comment that lets me know how I made the audience feel.  There’s one I got a few years ago that is a favorite of mine. “I was in stitches and I heard the guy next to me snort laughingly more than once.  I will definitely recommend you when we have entertainment needs.”

Untitled-3.jpg

I have had many clients leave glowing remarks about my show, but there are a few that took me a while to process.  Like, “You are the type of person that carries his own atmosphere around with him.” (Maybe I should stop wearing my space suit on stage) Or, “You speak in a way that makes people want to listen.” (Dang, I could have been a preacher!)

Untitled-4.jpg

And just to clear something up - criticism is not always negative.  Nowadays people use the word "criticism" as the opposite of compliment.  But, look it up, criticism can be either positive or negative; constructive or destructive.

How about you?  What are some criticisms you have received, that have stuck with you (like dried egg yolk on a suede jacket) ???