Harry Houdini, Improv

I was reading an essay written by Harry Houdini called “Helpful Hints for Young Magicians Under Eighty” and as someone who only thinks about comedy, I’d say most of the hints apply to improv. See below:

  • “In winning your audience, remember that ‘manners make fortunes,’ so don’t be impertinent.”
  • “An old trick well done is far better than a new trick with no effect”
  • “Never tell the audience how good you are; they will soon find that out for themselves”
  • “You may think your trick is old, but it is always new to members of your audience”
  • “An old trick in a new dress is always a pleasant change”
  • “Don’t drag your tricks, but work as quickly as you can, bearing in mind the Latin Proverb, ‘Make haste slowly.'”
  • “When your audience is far distant from you, pantomime work will be well appreciated”
  • “Well-chosen remarks on topics of the day are always in order.”
  • “Walk right out on stage, and tell your tale to your audience, and perhaps many will believe it”
  • “It is far more difficult to give a trial show to a house full of seats and one manager than to a packed house and no manager”



p.s. Just read about how Houdini died …


21 thoughts on “Harry Houdini, Improv

  1. johnlmalone says:

    I like this. I like magic. I am seeing a show soon called ‘The Illusionists’ where six masters of the trade parade their stuff. I’m also a writer, of humorous talesw and poems. What Houdini says also applies to writing

  2. akrummenacker says:

    As a former and still practicing magician, I studied a lot of his work and these quotes are spot on. A great man with a lot of insight. Thanks for the reminders, sometimes its easy to forget that some of the classic tricks are sometimes more impressive than the newest and shiniest ones that come out.

  3. sfnowak says:

    Harry Houdini – Eric Weiss had a fascinating story for his life – as is the case for many magicians. Magic is an act that truly gets inside the audience’s mind. Harry Anderson is probably the best at mixing comedy and magic, although Carl Valentine (before your time) was great as well.

    There’s a relatively new book out called “Fooling Houdini” that you may find useful as you develop your comedy career. I’ve been playing with magic for more than 50 years and I found it enlightening.

    All the best!

  4. Ahmnodt Heare says:

    The same goes with any public performance whether it’s singing or giving a speech. Someone once said that everything should be done as if you;re doing it for the first time. An act is only as old as presented.

  5. Six String Samurai says:

    Confidence is massive. I loved this post…I’ve always been a big fan of Houdini. In fact, I have heard that when he was giving his final performance, only those who had seen him several times could tell something was a little off – and he was basically in the process of dying at the time. When i do a show, I try to keep that in mind.

  6. realityenchanted says:

    Hahaha! Nice hints for any form of showbusiness -with a little modification, of course.

    Also, give the impression YOU also are shocked by the tricks, like you don’t know how they work and you are not even expecting them to work.

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