The message in this little article is like the counterpoint or the complement to the one where we discussed about how our repertoire talks about us, how it is (or should be) a part of what we are. In a way, the identification with our repertoire works in our favor, because it helps us make it unique and authentic; but on the other hand it can be very bad, in the sense that it can limit and constrain us.
I think us magicians and comedians have some things in common, one of them is precisely that we are very attached to our repertoire. It takes too much work, time and inspiration to come up with it and an act, that’s why it is harder for us to let go. Sometimes we may think we are nothing without our repertoire and I think that is totally the wrong approach.
I feel that the excessive attachment with our lifelong repertoire is quite noxious because of many reasons, but before I run through them I will yield the floor to Mr. Louis CK, an extremely talented comedian (and editor, writer, producer, director, and actor), because he is the one who has something significant to say about this (and not me). He has been one the very top of the comedy business for a while, his rate of producing amazing stuff is ridiculous. I highly recommend you to watch some of his stand-up comedy or TV appearances at Conan O’Brien or Leatherman, you can find many clips in youtube. If you happen to like the guy you can do the right thing, in his site he has his complete stand-up shows for sale for 5$ each as a HD download. (I leave the “piracy in the magic business” topic for another time)
Apparently, however, this guy is human and he has not always been as insanely good as he is now. He explains his background and experience wonderfully in an act where his admired George Carlin is honored. I find pretty much everything in that speech inspiring and touching (with all due respect to the clowns of the world).
The article could end right here, but it won’t 🙂
So I will resume the symptoms of the “harmful attachment to our repertoire” disease:
- Low creativity: Our capacity to create new stuff is at its lowest. We get the feeling that we recycle our own ideas, that the new ones are blurry versions of the older ones.
- Lack of curiosity: We stop playing around with some plots because we already have a version of them in our repertoire. Just like if our routines occupied a psychological space in our heads.
- Conditioned self-confidence: We believe our self-confidence depends on our repertoire, even if we think ourselves it is not so great.
- Freshnessless: Some pieces on our repertoire have lost the freshness. We have lost the freshness performing them.
If you happen to have the symptoms, don’t panic, the “throw everything away and start over again” remedy is always at hand.
A good exercise is to force ourselves to come up with a 10-15 minutes new routine every four months (3 sets per year). It is OK to repeat plots, but not the same routines (effects, speech, method…). Probably at first those exercises won’t result in amazing pieces, but maybe with more time they can be just great!
By the way, this is a CHALLENGE! By reading this you’ve just made a commitment! (HA!) So everyone including myself will produce a performable 10-15 minutes routine by July 11th 2015. We cannot use anything that we already have, or even that we have thought about once ten years ago, it has to be brand new shit. If you want you can post the routines in the comment section, or keep them yourself, up to you.
The important thing is that the more we create new stuff the better we get at it, we need to train that muscle (just as Louis CK does, and George Carlin did before him). The good thing about starting from the scratch every time is that we can’t hide ourselves behind our repertoire, behind the effects, methods or jokes we already know that work, so we don’t have a choice but to find ourselves in the process, below those layers. Dig Deeper!
There is another thing we magicians can do, apart from digging deeper; we can dig somewhere else. There was a time when I got stuck with card magic (and I still am a little bit) and I was unable to come up with new good ideas, I felt like I always looked at it from the same point of view and I was unable to change it. Then I decided to focus my energy in coin magic in which I was a total rookie, it took some work but since I didn’t have a fixed point of view there, I felt much more freedom, and the ideas started to flow better. It gives such a refreshing feeling to look at things for the very first time, the chance to be recycling your own thoughts and ideas doesn’t even exist. Later I changed my focus to Cups & Balls routines because of the same reason and started the process all over again (and there are many more to come). Everything I learned in those processes serve me well in other areas. Now I think my point of view in card magic is somewhat richer than it used to be, because I’ve changed throughout the process. But I am still digging, uh?.
Thanks for reading!
PD: Remember, July 11th 2015. I am watching you.