A sleight of hand

Why the magician is jealous of the comedian

I have two friends. One is a magician, the other a comedian.

They both make respectable livings. Neither are well-known. Never been on TV, never have a hope of it, never want to be. The magician and the comedian make their livings at events and special occasions like weddings and birthdays.

They’re just ‘normal people’. Just like you and I. Normal people doing a bit of a different job, but doing it to the best of their ability and making a living.

The magician, he’s highly skilled at putting on a performance. He likes to say he tells stories through his performances. They’re highly choreographed, they’re always the same and there’s no room for error. If you were to see him do his show two nights in a row it would be impressively identical.

The comedian, he’s highly skilled at telling stories. He’s capable of telling you a story about anything and you’ll listen to the very end, even if the story is just about how he went to buy some chicken. He isn’t so focused about making his stories the same every time but they’re certainly practiced.

Both of them are jealous of each other.

The magician is jealous of the comedian for his easy delivery that looks very natural. He’s jealous of the comedian’s easy charm. He’s jealous of the comedian’s ability to make it look easy in general.

The comedian is jealous of the magician’s impeccable attention to detail. He’s jealous of the magicians slick delivery that is the same every single damn time. He’s jealous of the magician’s ability to put on a _real_ performance.

Over the years I’ve observed both of them in their natural habitat delivering their performances. Both of them are performing, but they both approach it in two very different styles.

One of them needs props, lights, music and endless practice to deliver his performance.

The other needs nothing but a story and personality to deliver his performance.

I often thought over the years that it was the magician that was the real talented one out of the two. It’s an impressive display to see lights, music, props and atmosphere all coming together to put on a performance. I often thought that was the true artistic skill.

But it’s easy to get wooed by that. It’s easy to be wooed by the tricks and the sleight of hand and the music and the lights. Everything looks ‘professional’. Your common sense is removed from you in that environment. You are quite literally blinded by the lights.

It’s much harder to be wooed by the comedian. He stands there on a stage and talks. No fancy lights or tricks or props or flashy sequences. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate that level of skill required to do this more.

When it comes to the things we make online we’re often tempted to follow the path of the magician. We’ll find some tricks and hacks and lights and music and sleight of hand to fool people into liking or following us.

The problem with this is that you only impress people whilst the lights are low and you have all your props at hand. When you’re taken off your stage you have nothing left.

The other way, the path of the comedian, allows us to make things anywhere and in any medium at any time. Telling a story without tricks is a far more advanced skill that’s much harder to master.

But. I don’t know, sometimes tricks are useful too.

I mean, I just made up two friends to tell you a story about how I think we should use less tricks and lights and sleight of hand, ruining my inner magician.

Then I explained the joke to you, thus ruining my inner comedian too.