Be More Funny is the latest book from creative American magician Christopher W Barnes’ pen. As I read the book to review it I had a strange experience of deja vu. Around 18 months ago I found myself wondering why I had picked up his earlier volume Just for Fun – a book on Kids’ magic – and discovered to my surprise that I was in for a treat. Be More Funny was a more immediately relevant title for someone as limited in the humour stakes as me (I practically define the term Dad Joke). But once again I found myself thinking more and more that this was a brilliant read with wide application for anyone who wants to make their magic performance more entertaining.
Can anyone Be More Funny?
The starting point for the book is that some things are inherently funny. And if you can begin to think creatively along some of these lines then you will immediately become more funny! Whether you are a funny person or not.
The first section of the book is brief and general. It explores the idea of finding your character and developing that. There are some practical tips here – but having read widely on the theory of presentation there was nothing radically new here. On the other hand, it was presented in a fresh and engaging way.
The real gold comes in the second (and major) part of the book.
The main part of the book – almost 430 pages – explores classic comedy tropes. In case you haven’t come across the word before, it basically means the ‘cliches’ that make comedy work. To give you some examples – tropes would include ideas like the audiences’ expectations being subverted, or adding ridiculous props, or making people jump.
He explores 29 different tropes. But what is brilliant is the way he does this. First he explains the essence of the trope. Then he illustrates with well known examples from the magic repertoire. This in itself is gold dust – because a few YouTube searches later and you will have watched some brilliant magic you may not already have known.
Then comes a ‘brainstorming’ section where he jazzes on the idea and comes up with some ieas – though not necessarily methods – which might utilise this trope. He then uses the classic ‘force and reveal a card’ routine to provide an idea utilising the trope. Again – sometimes with a method – sometimes without. By the end of the book there have been 42 of these! Yes FORTY TWO!
The final element of each chapter is a full routine – explained in great detail – built upon the trope. Some of these use commercially available dealer items. Some of these require you to make props yourself. There are some WONDERFUL routines here. Some are very funny. Most are extremely easy to do. Some I want to run out and make up immediately.
A treasure trove of creativity
I am really not exaggerating when I say this is a treasure trove. Quite apart from the many excellent routines in themselves, I found the whole process of working through the ideas incredibly stimulating for my own creativity. And I defy you not to get something you can use out of this book.
There are a few of the routines which definitely wouldn’t suit my style – he is a little more crude at places than I would like to be – but don’t let this put you off. It is worth persisting.
The final major section of the book is a closer look at what’s involved in writing a funny script of a good joke. Again, this is packed with gold dust from someone who has been doing this for a long time. You will get some good ideas here.
The fourth and final section is a short and impassioned plea to make our magic more entertaining and more unique. Don’t just trot out the same old routines and patter as everyone else does. This is a subject close to my heart – though I am still a long way from getting there in my own performance. And has inspired me to keep working.
The whole thing is written in his easy-going and amusing style. It is well illustrated and nicely bound as an oversized paperback. In fact the only thing I would criticize about the book is that the font is rather large and appears to be in bold – which somehow makes it feel like a kid’s book!
A large part of me wanted to keep Be More Funny to myself – I don’t want everyone using these routines or having access to the same inspiration. But at the same time I do – because like Christopher W Barnes I want more people to Cedar Point me. But you’ll have to read the book to work out what that means.
Be More Funny comes highly recommended and is available from the Merchant of Magic for £33.99 (at the time of writing).
Review copy kindly provided by Murphys Magic to whom dealer enquiries should be directed.
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