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”
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
I agree about the writing thing, that was my second thought after reading the essay. Either way, I think it’s inspiring. That show sounds amazing! I love magic 🙂
A great blog entry for anyone who has to speak, perform or make armpit music in front of a crowd! Thanks for posting this!
oh sweet, sweet armpit music
Never will be another like him. Some of these seem like pretty good advice.
I am pretty obsessed with him right now, truly a one of a kind
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.
I agree, it’s inspiring!
He was a unique individual. Everybody knows his name. 🙂
Well, everyone knows his stage name
“Make haste slowly.” That’s nice. Perfect for improv really. Gonna steal that.
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!
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.
Most things being done for the first time aren’t done confidently, and a good portion of performance is confidence
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.
I love a good laugh. The historians are something to be studied. Great blog-I think you put a lot into your posts..
A lot of it works for writers, too, I think.
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.
lovely post. very good advice. ps. so how did he die?