I remember my first gig like it was yesterday, it's so hard to believe I have been in the entertainment industry for 2 decades! My very first paid event was in Martinsville, Virginia at Texas Steak House for my cousin Blake's Birthday Party. My aunt asked me if I would dress up as Ziggy The Clown and entertain the family. I was 15 years old and a high school student at Carlisle which is a private school in Martinsville, VA. I can tell you it wasn't easy being a teenager and a clown, I didn't have many friends that understood why I was so passionate about clowning...But I didn't care! I knew I loved performing and I was making $20/hour as a 15 year old kid, so others may have thought I was weird. But hey, I was laughing all the way to the bank as it sure beats working at McDonald's, and not to mention I WAS LOVING IT! Ba-Da-Ba-Ba-Ba...
I can say that I couldn't have done it without the love and support I received from my Nana, may she rest in peace...Nana was my rock, she was my closest friend, I talked to my Nana every day sometimes 3 or 4 times a day. She was always there for me, when I couldn't drive she'd drive me to my events and wait for me while I put on clown magic shows. If I needed a costume sewn she'd drive me to a seamstresses house who was a friend of hers. If I wanted to go to the magic show to buy some new tricks she'd drive me to either Greensboro, NC to Brenda's Magic Show Run by Brenda and Toby (who were also clowns). Or She would drive me to Roanoke, VA to the Magic Connection in Towers Mall run by Mark Fuller. Nana never though of me as a weird kid that like to wear makeup and dress up in funny clothes. No, she had the highest respect for what I was doing and told everyone she would meet all about her grandson: Ziggy. I think my Nana called me Ziggy more than she did Aaron. She would save every newspaper article, she had shoe boxes filled with hundred of photos of Ziggy, that she would all the time bring out to show her company, and she hated having company in her house, so for her to do that really meant she was proud of me! I am so grateful to have had the love and support that she gave me, if it weren't for her I doubt I would be where I am today celebrating 20 years as an entertainer.
I love you Nana, and I miss talking to you more than anything in this world!
-Aaron Clark (The Amazing Ziggy)
As a full time magician how many hours a week could you possibly work?
Well I personally work about 60-80 hours a week...now that doesn't mean I perform 60-80 hour a week. I typically work 3-10 events a week each event is 1-3 hours typically. So at most I am performing 10 hours...you the other 50-70 hours are spent driving to and from gigs, and the rest is spent working from home. Majority of my time is spent marketing, updating my website, blogging, writing contracts, emailing clients, and the remaining time is spent learning and practicing new magic.
There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to be able to prepare for each performance I do. The show is constantly changing so that each time I perform clients always get to see something new.
How much material do you need to perform a magic show?
Well in the beginning you need to have at least enough materiel for 45 minutes stage and at least 20 minutes of roaming. But that will only get you by for about a year, then you have to change things up and add some new material and bigger tricks.
I have enough magic to perform 7 different magic shows with different themes. Each of my shows is 1 hour long. Then I also have enough close up magic to perform for 1 hour without doing the same trick twice, but that never happens! You repeat the same 5-7 tricks over and over for every roaming performance I have ever done.
So why have so much material? For me I need to be able to perform for many different types of events...the kids show magic isn't going to entertain the adults and vice versa. So I have to know my audience before I perform so I know what magic I should perform for them.
Do I need a script?
YES! One very most important parts of performing magic is coming up with a good script for you show!
Then videoing yourself and going back and tweaking the performance until you're satisfied with how it turns out. If you think you are just going to wing it, you are basically setting yourself up for failure. That being said you need to know your script inside and out, if you sound like your reciting dialog from your script and not telling a story that is smooth and flawless then you haven't practice enough and you shouldn't be performing for a live audience yet.
Like in movies, theater, or novels, in magic everything starts with something very simple: an idea. Ideas are the cornerstone of any art piece. In magic the path from the idea to the illusion is different from other arts.
No matter if you are working on a routine in card magic, coin magic, a manipulation effect, etc...ALL MAGIC including stage illusions to the simplest close-up magic, will all have the beginning idea as the starting point. An idea is much more than a set of linked effects which is something really powerful, but meaningless in its essence. Ideas give meaning and make magic bigger allowing it to become beauty.
Scripts are the tools needed for anyone who’s transforming an idea to the real world, to the stage, and achieving a goal to make it into an art form. Becoming a professional magicians is a natural evolution that happens in three phases: 1.) You begin performing a magic effects to family and friends. 2.) Create a story, magic involves a tremendous about of story telling to express an idea and share that idea with a beautiful effect. 3.) You need to learn how an audience will react to the effect so you can then mold the trick into a spectacular performance. There are many ways to achieve this but busking is my favorite method as I get to get tips for showcasing my newest trick that I want to add to my show.
Some questions you need to ask yourself when in the design phase of your new trick: Why this effect? Where in my show can I best perform this trick? What do you expect to happen with your volunteer? What is achieved with the effect? Does it have any meaning placed at that particular point? Does it flow well with your other tricks? Does it fit your style of performance? These are all questions that magicians have to ask themselves in the idea stage of the trick. By making a script magicians answer those questions which will help give coherence and meaning to the performances. Which in the end is what matters to the audience.
Let’s think about an example, how many times you’ve seen a sub-truck routine? Think about the ones you liked the most, how was that performance and the history behind it. When performing is not just about the technical level of the magician, it is about how a story is told in a performance.
Master the technique, learn the theory behind the art or magic, and most importantly learn how to make a script. Your Magic will improve because of it and your audience will certainly appreciate all of your efforts.
Salvador Calderon – a.k.a. Conde Magnum who is a semi-pro magician from www.magicshowbuilder.com
Salvador has the following to say about the importance of scripting for magicians:
Not that long ago, after reading "Scripting Magic" and "Maximum Entertainment," I decided that to improve my act and move to the next level of earnings I needed to begin writing scripts.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t written very much when I quickly ran into a problem. Keeping things organized was very hard. The truth is the whole thing quickly became a mess. I got confused easily, my acts started running together, my performance suffered and instead of growing my career it began to look like I was actually destroying it.
I needed to do something and I needed to do it fast. I could either stop writing scripts and basically give up any hope of growing my magic career … or I could find another solution.
Well, I definitely wasn’t ready to give up my dreams of being a successful magician so I began to desperately look for a solution to my problem.
The first thing that came to mind (besides being a semi-pro magician, I also work as an engineer in my day job) was creating some type of database that would allow me to catalog each of my acts so there would be no more crossover confusion.
But I figured finding a database program that would work for magicians would be impossible. However, I began to research the subject anyway, simply because I was desperate to find anything that might help me succeed as a magician.
But I found nothing. Well, I actually found a couple of magic programs that say they can be used for this purpose but both were very poorly done and in the end weren’t able to do what they promised. They were just a waste of money.
So I kept looking and just when I was about to give up I found Celtx, an open source scriptwriting software.
This software sounded promising. A few magicians that I talked to said they used it and that it did a lot of great things.
But unfortunately, I found the learning curve for Celtx to be HUGE. It is an incredibly difficult program to use and I didn’t have time to devote the hours and hours and hours a it would take to learn to use this program effectively.
In today’s busy world, who does? Plus, I also wanted to be able to keep my growing list of magic acts in YouTube videos and Celtx didn’t offer me this option.
So I went back to researching and looking … but again I found nothing … until one day I got so frustrated that I decided I would just create a program myself.
I figured I can’t be the only magician struggling to organize their acts. So I decided to tap into my engineer’s training and design my dream magician’s software and then have it programmed by the best professionals I could find. The result … MAGIC SHOW BUILDER
Here are some of the testimonies:
“'Magic Show Builder' isn't a very precise name for this magical software. It not only builds your show, it BUILDS YOUR BUSINESS! Keeping your material, show, and schedule organized will not only help to improve your show, but more importantly, help to save you a lot of trouble on the business side of your career. Highly recommend it!” -
“I don't want to recommend Magic Show Builder to anyone... It's just THAT good! You have to use it to know how effective it is in dealing every aspects of your magical art! Wow, it reminds me all the elements of a good magic piece, and I'm intrigued at the powerful system and organizer it serves to all the fellow magicians! Perhaps the pioneer in its field!” -
Perl, psychological illusionist, Taiwan Kaohsiung
“Magic Show Builder is a very useful tool for magicians or anybody else who is putting together a performance and needs to organize, search, and store information related to his work. If you have not yet figured out an efficient system for yourself, I recommend Magic Show Builder.” -
“Magic Show Builder helps every magician do what he should be doing to create a strong, clear and cohesive performance. Use this tool in conjunction with your scripting and rehearsal regime to be the best you can be!” -
John B. Pyka,
-Aaron Clark (The Amazing Ziggy)
Is there a difference between a Magician who performs Street Magic, and a Busking Magician? Yes there is, and the key difference is a Busking Magician is working for tips and is not being hired to perform for you. A Street Magician is a magician that performs roaming close-up magic for fairs, festivals, carnivals, wedding receptions, and many other outdoor venues where the magician is hired to perform.
Is a busking magician a bum looking for money or are they really professional entertainers just down on their luck and trying to make extra money until their next paid gig? Well, I can't speak for all magicians but I can speak for the majority...I believe that most magicians do busking for one of two reasons. One: they are wanting to improve their magic by performing for a live audience so they can plan for how the audience will react to each of their tricks. Two: they have figured out that busking is a great way to make extra money and many can make a decent living performing magic on the streets especially in big cities! So no I don't believe busking magicians are bums. Not to say that some magicians aren't homeless, or some magicians haven't lost everything and feel the need to work the streets to be able to pay their bills.
So why aren't busking magicians just becoming street magicians so they can get paid to perform?
Mainly because they aren't known by the public...I have met a lot of busking magicians. Majority of the are literally unheard of, they don't have a website, no business cards, and most have little to no desire to work events beside busking. I have a very good friend in Downtown Atlanta who is a busking magician by the name of Aubrey Seals aka. The Light Skin Houdini. Aubrey works his butt off every day, he takes the metro so he doesn't need a car, he's single, and all he need to do to perform is have a deck of cards, and a few other pocket magic tricks and a 5 gallon bucket for tips and he's ready to hit the streets. Usually you can find him near Centennial Olympic Park in front of Skyview Atlanta, or in the Buckhead area. Aubrey only has one call make enough money to live, pay his bills, and sets a daily goal and doesn't head home until he has met or exceeded that goal. He is not a bum, and he is not homeless. In my opinion he is an entrepreneur as he goes to work every day running his own business and makes a decent living at it. I've talked to Aubrey about working gigs and he isn't interested as that would require him to buy a car, and a lot more equipment. He's happy with what he has and his hard work pays off.
So why don't more magicians try busking? This is a great question because if most magicians were smart they would realize the importance of busking, I have learned more from busking than any other performing I have ever done. And I make it a habit that when ever I get a new trick that I won't perform it for a paid audience until I have spent time perfecting it while busking.
So how does a magician who is busking build a crowd? Building a crowd is not an easy task and requires tremendous talent and takes time to perfect. The easiest way is to start off with a small group that's walking by and do a trick that has a big impact that is quick and usually gets a big reaction from the spectators. Having a portable wireless, battery powered PA System can really help to build a crowd but isn't always necessary (or) allowed in some places. Once your first trick has set the bait and you get the big reaction from the small group you have to announce to everyone loudly that if you think that was amazing you won't believe what I'm about to do next and this trick has to be big as this is the trick that will build your crowd and then you just have to hold them for 2-3 more tricks and pass around your tip bucket and let them be on their way. You don't want to try to hold the audience for more than 10 to 15 minutes tops! Typically they are going some where and just stopped to see what all the hype is about. Now sometimes you will have a line of people waiting for an attraction that you can entertain and these crowds are awesome as you can spend a lot more time with them and really work that crowd which leads to many more tips!
Wait isn't busking illegal?
No it is not illegal, however it is really important to make sure it is allowed. Every city has ordinances and some will prohibit busking in certain areas such as city parks, in front of administration building, etc. While some cities will require you to buy a busking permit, while others may even require you to report your tips as income. So how do you find out what your cities ordinances are? Call the chamber of commerce, local police station, city hall, etc...and ask them what the law is in your city so you know what you can and can't do. I would also suggest asking other street performers what they know as they will typically have good advice.
James James who is an very talented Australian Busing Magician, he talks about "The Pitch" and how important that is in his youtube video I have posted below along with some of his busking performance as well.
http://www.schoolofbusking.com Not all busking pitches are created equal. One may think that they are...but they are not. Busking a magic show on the streets can be a hard won battle, incorporating more than just the tricks you perform, or routines. The where and how, is all about getting out there and doing it.
for a fuller exposition of what it's like to hit the tarmac, head over to The School of Busking and learn more.
I was so excited to see America's Got Talent's guest star Darcy Oake who is a Canadian Illusionist that became famous from his international performance on Britain's Got Talent in 2014 where he came in 5th place. Since then he went on a UK tour in 2015 and now he has just performed for America's Got Talent in 2016 there performed literally the exact same act but with some very noticeable differences from his act 2 years. Watching the 2 videos I have below you will see they really are essentially the exact same act...with one major difference which is in 2016, he's got a much BIGGER show with a lot more Glitz and Glam.
But there is one thing that you may not have noticed if you haven't seen his 2014 recently. I noticed an subtle yet extreme difference in Darcy's stage presence in his 2016 performance which really made me dislike watching it. You see in 2014 Darcy wasn't famous, he was just talented! His dove magic was and still is extremely impressive. However, in 2016 he performs with an arrogance, he comes across as very cocky, and it seems that he has let the fame go to his head. I have never met Darcy so I don't know if he is actually like this in person or not, but I can tell you that it certainly does come across that way in his show.
Now don't get me wrong here, Darcy is still Extremely talented and puts on an amazing show. I'm just saying that I would be much more excited about seeing the 2014 Darcy than the 2016 Darcy that I just witnessed. I hope that this was just a one time occurrence with being on A.G.T. plus all the hype that comes along with that, and not something that he does in other performances. I guess it could even be the directors of A.G.T. making him perform with an attitude from all his rehearsals for that show. But I suppose time will tell and I hope that Darcy continues to do well as he does have a tremendous show to offer, he continues to perform amazing illusions and escapes! Congrats on your success Darcy and I wish you the best!
- Aaron Clark (The Amazing Ziggy)
My Name is Aaron Clark and I'm know as The Amazing Ziggy. I've been a Professional Magician for over 20 years performing all over the US and internationally, but mostly for events on the east coast in the Atlanta Area.