Finding the Right Approach with Paul Gertner
December 30th, 2019
carson, closeup, creation, fool us, kickers, performance, television
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Surprise! It’s a bonus episode to end your year with a little more magic.
Jonah sits down with Paul Gertner to talk about performing on TV, putting a spin on your magic, and developing a kicker. Paul is a closeup magician with an on running show in Boston; he’s also the only magician who has appeared on Fool Us three times.
The ads on the back of comics for magic tricks and other oddities fascinated Paul. While he never ordered any of the magic, he sought out magic books in the library. Soon, he was building props on his own, learning simple card tricks, and studying the world of magic. However, as a kid growing up in Pittsburgh, he didn’t know how to access these other magicians.
His first introduction to the magic community came from his mother having a chance encounter with a woman on the bus – her husband was a magician and would soon become Paul’s mentor. His mentor, Ron, would soon introduce him to the magic club and store alongside showing Paul there was a world of knowledge beyond what the library books could offer him.
Creating Unique Magic
At some level, there are those with the innate ability to create unique magic. However, to truly develop good magic, obsession and knowing the ins and out of your art will make a difference. If you’re fascinated with the creating aspect of magic, then you need to be willing to play and practice with your magic. Learning the techniques and concepts while diving further into what surprises you can get out of a trick will help you develop your own twist on effects.
Now, if you’re looking to add a kicker, you need to be weary – too many kickers and “surprise” moments will get boring, and adding a kicker that requires too much thinking on the audience’s part may result in a lackluster response. You need to ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” from the audience’s perspective. Is there a moment you can call back to? Does the kicker make sense in the overall plot thread of the trick?
Appearing on TV
Between his multiple appearances on Carson and Fool Us, it’s safe to say that Paul knows how to perform on television. For getting on Carson, it came down to understanding what Johnny wanted and appealing to his desire to be a magician again. For Fool Us, even though he wasn’t initially supposed to appear on the show, Paul understood that he needed to play against what Penn & Teller knew if he wanted to fool them, and he wanted to fool them in a way that they’d enjoy.
Developing a Show
When he was living in Pittsburgh, Paul’s dream of having his own boutique close-up show didn’t seem reasonable. There wasn’t enough traffic to sustain a show like the one he wanted. It wasn’t until he moved to Boston that his dream became realistic, and he set off from hotel to hotel, trying to find a venue that met his needs. With some venues wanting too much money and other’s outright declining him, Paul was becoming discouraged but, on a whim, took a shot at the Omni Parker Hotel.
Miracles and Other Deceptions is now a weekly show going three years strong at the Omni Parker. While the show had a slow start, Paul now performs his intimate close-up show twice a night for sold out audiences.
What do you like about modern magic? What don’t you like?
Gertner enjoys the fact that someone like Shin Lim, a closeup magician, can become a star on the same level as Siegfried and Roy.
He isn’t a fan of how some magicians posting online seem to believe that a method is a trick in itself.
Take Home Point
Ask yourself “Why am I doing something?”