Jonah is joined by Nick Diffatte this week to discuss comedy, finding a style, and embracing your ideas no matter how stupid they might be. Nick Diffatte might be young, but his strong magic and comedy chops have allowed him to not only perform internationally but headline residences on the Las Vegas strip and on the Disney Cruise Line.
His interest in magic came from his interest in juggling. Attending local library shows and fairs to see jugglers led to him seeing magic shows which eventually led to him getting into magic. In going to local magic shops and joining his local SAM clubs, Nick was guided along the way by local performers like Tyler Erickson. Starting out at twelve years old, he did local events and birthdays before realizing he wanted more stage time. At fourteen, he was snuck into bars to host burlesque shows.
Having frequently flown out to Las Vegas to perform at local casinos and sleep on Bizzaro’s couch, Nick decided that it only made sense for him to move out there full-time. Not only was it a cheap city to live in, but it was where the action was. Vegas was where the shows and likeminded performers were. With a forty-five minute set, Nick moved from Minnesota to Vegas.
If you were to walk into Nick’s apartment, you would be greeted by vintage pranks, toys, and a suitcase of yoyos. To Nick, his whole existence is based on toys and by having everything out in the open he is able to have a creative space where the ideas are in front of him. As someone with multiple creative outlets, he is constantly playing with new thing acknowledging that he never knows what stupid, random thing will be the next big trick.
Really, you need to play. You need to play without being concerned that you’re going to create stupid material because you will. But you need to find out what you want to play with. The audience can tell when you’re being authentic. They know when you’re making stuff up because you want to show them specific tricks. You have to show them something that is real to you before they’ll buy it. That’s why Nick does tricks that he genuinely finds funny and come from his interests in juggling and toys.
Creating Material & Taking Notes
Nick always has a notebook or a piece of paper on him to write down ideas. I f he doesn’t, then that idea is lost. He explains that he writes down everything with the notion going in that he’s going to have shitty ideas. When he’s filled up a notebook, he’ll then sit down and find which ideas appeal to him and will write them into the front page of his next notebook, keeping them fresh in his mind.
When adding material to his show, Nick will come in with a set of requirements that the trick must fulfill. With these in mind, Nick will then come up with a concept that fulfills these requirements while meeting his criteria for what makes a good image on stage while appealing to him. Going on stage and rambling out patter is not how he operates. Nick tends to script 70-80% before taking a trick to stage.
Having had his material stolen and performed in front of him basically verbatim, Nick knows what it’s like to have your work stolen. It sucks. Luckily, there were people who policed the issue, but Nick feels magic could do more, pointing to the fact that if you steal something in comedy from a well-known comedian, you’re blacklisted in the community. There’s a fine line between using published material that people have willingly offered to the community, and taking someone’s full hour act to perform.
Remember, especially if you see it at a convention, it’s a performance, not a lecture.
If you’re new and you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, Nick recommends that you read and create and discuss your material. If someone recognizes that your material is similar to something else, great! Research it. Find the lineage. Reach out to the person who created it before you and ask if your idea is too similar. People are easy to get in contact with and are usually more than happy to help you…beforehand.
What do you like about modern magic? What don’t you like?
Nick enjoys that, after putting out his book, young magicians have reached out to him with an interest in pursuing comedy magic. There are only a handful of people his age doing good comedy and good magic.
He doesn’t like that everything in magic online and on television feels like a prank show. There’s better ways to showcase magic with the medium.
Take Home Point
Be open minded. Be open to play. Be open to new mediums. Don’t go into something with the idea that you’re only going to focus on the aspects that are immediately useful to your performances. Just enjoy a new medium for what it is.