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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Secrets of Comedy: The Contrast Rule

A recent study published in the APA's Monitor on Psychology found that all things funny can be boiled down to one factor: contrast. The most obvious forms of contrast are physical, visual (a fat man trying to put on a really tiny bikini, for example). But there can also be contrast with expectations (you expect the joke to end one way, but instead you are surprised with how much the actual ending constrasts with the predicted ending).

Here's the take-away rule: the more contrast, the more funny.

Now, I'm not saying this is a hard-and-fast rule (in fact, a lot of good comedy is funny because it breaks rules), but it is a good thing to keep in mind when trying to make a joke funnier.


Carl Andrews has a funny spongeball bit in which he places three sponge balls in the spectator's hand (they think it's two) and places an "invisible" sponge ball in his own hand. Then he makes motions and says things that seem to insinuate that the sponge ball will actually materialize in his hand. The punchline occurs when he opens his hand and says, "Vanished!" (Directly afterwards, he directs the audience's attention to the spectator's hand, where the invisible ball not only rematerialized, but joined the other two visible balls.)

How can we use the contrast rule? The longer and more involved the sequence is in which the invisible ball is placed in the magician's hand and the longer the build-up is before the "appearance" (which turns out to be a vanish), the funnier the bit. It's one thing to say "Hey, there's an invisible ball in my hand - look it's gone!" It's a whole different things to say, "I'm going to put this invisible ball in my hand. Did you see anything go into my hand? You sure I didn't sneak anything in here? Because in a moment, you're going to want to remember whether or not I had time to sneak in a regular sponge ball. So watch this - no funny moves - a few snaps and... you're not going to believe this... VANISHED!" The audience is expected the appearance of the ball, so the more you can make this their expectation (by building it up), the greater the contrast with the actual ending. The greater the contrast, the greater the funny!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Criss Crap

First, in case you guys didn't know, Criss is now working at the Luxor Hotel, where he'll be filming the third season of Mindfreak and putting on a $200 million stage show (that figure makes it the most expensive Las Vegas show ever). The negotiations for the stage show are not complete yet, but, despite an article on iTricks (read it here), my sources tell me that things are looking positively. (You can also check here for more info.)

Also, check out this article: Criss Angel Attacked in Vegas by 200 Pound Dominatrix. Fun stuff!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Michael Jackson Crap

Is it just me or is this patent for Michael Jackson for an "method and means for an anti-gravity illusion" look familiar? Did this idea get ripped off from a magican or have we all been doing Michael Jackson's trick for years without knowing it?