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Originally Posted on 5/5/08

Magicians like to accuse each other of stealing their ideas. I’ve seen it in other industries as well. Comedians do it too, but a comedian telling someone else’s joke is never as funny than a comedian telling their own joke. So there’s kind of a built in originality police there. Magicians perform each other’s tricks without permission all the time. Then they claim it’s original because they added their own personality to it. Professional Speakers do it too. I’ve seen 4 professional speakers all tell the same personal story about something that happened to them in their life.

I’ve personally had my original ideas ripped off. Some people tell me I should be flattered. But when you spend months writing and refining a script and find out someone else has done it verbatim without your permission, it’s irritating to say the least.

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The “Stars” is a pet routine of mine that I enjoyed writing with the help of Michael Hitchcock and I’ve been told other entertainers have stolen.

I’ve been working hard lately to try to remove all the stock material from my act (stock material is a term that usually refers to jokes/gags that are so old they have no clear point of origin and are generally considered “fair game” for use. The result is that everyone uses them!). The difficult part of this, and the ultimate dilemma is that stock lines work! Some of them get an awesome reaction, and that’s why they became stock lines in the first place! Here’s one that I don’t personally use, but I’ve heard MANY magicians use:

Magician: Where are you from?

Volunteer: Texas.

Magician: I’m sorry?

Volunteer: Tex-

Magician: No, I heard you, I’m just sorry.

Now that’s a particularly shitty and insulting version of a stock line and they’re not all that bad. But that one makes me cringe. Another is a moment that happens in most straight jacket escapes in which the performer is being put into the straight jacket and creates a joke out of the fact that the middle strap has to be pulled tightly across the crotch. Usually this is accompanied by a stock line like “You sure you’ve never done this before?” or the performer subsequently talking with a high-pitched voice. I don’t mean to be condescending – I still have stock lines in my act.

So one of the things I’ve been trying hard to do is to replace any and all stock material in my act with material that I’ve written for myself. Not only does this make me feel better about the act and myself, but it usually results in better material! There is no better material than that which is created specifically for you.

At times, there’s a place for using others’ material with permission. This is common in magic. Many times a magician will sell the “performance rights” to a particular idea. In this instance, sure – its ethically fine to use the material. But many times, this “store bought” material isn’t nearly as powerful as it could be if you find a way to really make it “you.” This is difficult sometimes. Take the Multiplying Bottles routine that I perform. The routine that I regularly perform is very very close to the original Ken Brooke routine from 50 years ago. I have written at least two other routines and performed them, but neither has gotten the reaction from the audience as the original Ken Brooke routine. It seems to simply be the perfect application for that particular prop. I someday hope to write a routine that is more original, but until then, I plan to continue to use the performance as it is.

To use another example from my own act, let’s talk about “The Yellow Trick.” This is a comedy gag I had used in my act since I was a teenager. At some point, I put it together and it got a laugh, so I used it all the time. Here’s the premise:

I display an envelope. As I ask for an audience member to think of a color – any color (“and don’t let me influence which color you’re thinking of”), I remove a bright yellow sign from the envelope. I turn over the envelope which says “The Yellow Trick.” “Now don’t YELL-OWT the color until I ask,” I would say. They name the color. “Red,” they say. Then I turn over the sign and it says “Red” in bold letters. As I take my applause and turn to put it away, a flap falls down where the word “Red” was written and the audience sees a dozen other colors written behind the word “Red.”

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A photo of me performing “The Yellow Trick”

It was a goofy gag, got a huge laugh and if you ever saw David Copperfield in the early 90’s, it may seem familiar. I didn’t realize until later that I had ripped off Chris Kenner’s “Texas Trick.” A hilarious comedy gag with the same premise. Kenner used to do the intermission show for David Copperfield and now acts as the Main Man Behind the Scenes (official title) for Copperfield. Kenner’s trick as I remember it, was as follows:

Chris displays an envelope. He asks for an audience member to think of a state – any state (“and don’t let me influence which state you’re thinking of”), he removes a Texas-shaped sign from the envelope. He turns over the envelope which says “The Texas Trick.” After talking for a bit in a thick Texas accent, he asks them to name the state. “Alabama,” they say. Then he turns over the sign and it says “Alabama” in bold letters. As he takes his applause and turns to put it away, a flap falls down where the word “Alabama” was written and the audience sees a dozen other states written behind the word “Alabama.”

Yep. Same damn trick. I was a thief. Why did I steal the gag and think I hadn’t? Well, as a young magician learning the ropes, I probably didn’t realize the value of original material. And by changing it to a color instead of a state, I probably thought I had made it mine.

I did the right thing. I spent a few hours locked in my office determined to write a better opener. The result became what is now my favorite part of the show. I won’t get into what it is exactly, but it’s much better because it’s me. And it’s not the intellectual property of someone else!

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A photo of the routine that replaced “The Yellow Trick”

Striving for originality is a fun adventure for me, and in a profession with so many copy-cats, it makes me feel genuinely proud to replace something in my show with something that’s original. The entire hour-long show isn’t 100% original yet – there’s still some hard-to-let-go stock material here and there – but it will be. And there’s no better feeling than having people enjoy a creation that came from your experiences and your imagination.

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Originally Posted on 4/15/08

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Originally Posted on 4/9/08

I had a fun noon show yesterday at Mohwak Valley Community College in Utica, NY. I was warned ahead of time that noon shows in that perticular venue can be rough (lack of audience, lack of interest), but I was pleasantly surprised to perform for a full room! The people there were very receptive and despite listing my name as “Mike Kent” on the posters and promo (I perform professionally as Michael), it was a blast!

I decided not to do the broken bottle routine yesterday because 12pm is too early to be wetting my pants. I’m considering taking it out of the show altogether. It was nice not having to travel with a hammer and glass bottle for a change. What are your thoughts?

After the show, a man came up to me and said, “Michael Kent, eh? Didn’t you escape from a strait jacket at a monster truck rally?” Wow. Here’s what he’s referring to. It’s a video from another magician named Michael Kent in the early 80’s. The reruns of this appear on ESPN every once in awhile and this guy had obviously seen it. He was rattling off the name of the truck, the date, the city it took place in. Kinda strange! I told him, no that wasn’t me, but told him the story of me posting that video and people taking it seriously.

Just finished reading Steve Martin’s book, “Born Standing Up.” It was an awesome read. I brought it along yesterday knowing I’d be spending most of the day in airports. The beginning of the book where Steve is describing some of the things he experienced in his early career came me some comfort in things that I feel or experience. But mostly, it made me want to work on my act – Great inspiration!

This weekend, I’m getting together with a bunch of college buddies and going on a road trip to our Nation’s capitol. It should be a blast! it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to travel with no shows!

Next shows are Miami University of Ohio and Ohio State University. I’ll provide details soon!

MK

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Originally Posted on 4/5/08

So last week took me to Philadelphia, PA. No problems getting into the PHL airport this time! I got the airport and shuttled it to my hotel with no issues. I was ultra super hungry and couldn’t wait to get to the hotel to eat, but they didn’t start serving food until after I had to leave for my show, so I just ate some cookies instead. The Internet at the hotel was down too, which was a bummer. Give me food and Internet and I can live happy for quite awhile.

The weather was dreary – rainy and cold. Just like it has been here in Ohio.

Neumann College’s Campus Safety picked me up at the hotel and took me to the show. That was kind of interesting. Lots of kind of interesting things happened at Neumann, but for the most part I had a good time and had a good turnout at the show. Neumann College is the second campus I’ve been to this year with a cemetery literally ON campus. And the building I was performing in was called Learning Center 1. With all those dead people right there on campus, they couldn’t name the building after one of them? Oh well!

Next it was back home for a night to perform at Wilmington College in Wilmington, OH. The folks there were awesome – super nice. I was performing as part of a Siblings Weekend Program. Right before my show, they were doing a talent show for all the little kids and one boy told me he didn’t have a talent after he unsuccessfully tried to hypnotize his mother. I taught him a card trick and gave him a deck of cards so he could be in the show. He won a prize! woo hoo for magic!

The show went really well and I was happy to get to drive home and sleep in my own bed after the show. Oh yeah, here’s one of my photos from the road of the stage at Wilmington:

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Today I’m relaxing and finishing up taxes (nothing like procrastination). Then I’m going to go look at cars!

Next up is Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, NY. On Tuesday, I fly in early morning, drive from Syracuse, do the show in Utica, drive back and fly home all in the same day! Wish me luck!

ANNOUNCEMENT:
I will be performing at The Ohio State University on April 28th at 7pm in Hagerty Hall 180! See the facebook event HERE. Bring your friends!

peace, love and little siblings,
MK

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Originally Posted on 4/2/08

Source: http://www.cm-life.com

Kent entertains with magical comedy

By: Robert D. Pore

Issue date: 3/31/08 Section: News

The night ended with a story about childhood misery, a shower of confetti and applause.

Comedian and magician Michael Kent finished his Friday act at Moore Hall’s Townsend Kiva by telling a story about how his dad had ruined his childhood with his explanation of where stars came from.

As he finished, confetti magically appeared from his hand.

Kent parodied fellow magician David Copperfield’s habit of telling sad stories about his childhood.

“You don’t see magicians who make fun of magic very often, so I’m glad we could bring someone like Michael to CMU,” said Christa Smalligan, Fremont senior and Program Board member.

Smalligan’s favorite part of the act was the finale.

“I really enjoyed the confetti – I think because of the way he was poking fun at everyone who’s so serious about it,” Smalligan said.


Media Credit: John Ehlke
Comedian and magician Michael Kent begins the show with a quick card trick in Moore Hall’s Townsend Kiva on Friday night. Kent asked audience members to look at a card and he would tell the members of the audience which card they looked at in the deck.
[Click to Enlarge]

Midland freshman Cody J. Bartow also enjoyed the end of the show.

“I liked the last one,” Bartow said. “This show exceeded expectations.”

In addition to telling stories, Kent also involved the audience in his act.

For one trick, Kent brought Macomb freshman Joseph Dombrowski and asked for a $20 bill, which he then put in an envelope and shredded it.

“I was actually kind of mad, because I saw pieces of my 20 come out of the shredder,” Dombrowski said.

But Dombrowski’s worries were premature.

After initially pretending he had made a mistake, Kent then opened a series of boxes within boxes and revealed the $20 bill, intact and complete with Dombrowski’s handwriting on it from before it had gone through the shredder.

“It was weird, because it was my same exact writing,” Dombrowski said.

After getting his money back, Dombrowski held no grudges.

Kent says this is part of why he does his magic as a comedy act.

“The way that I feel about it is that some people don’t like to be fooled, and the way I do magic helps people to forget they’re being fooled,” Kent said. “I just wanted to be myself onstage because I’m not a dramatic person.”

news@cm-life.com

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Originally Posted on 4/1/08

Well, someone finally youtubed an old video – and the only video – of my former career as an escape artist in the 80s. The secret’s out. And here’s the video:

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UPDATE

For those of you who are good with math, you may realize that I couldn’t have been more than 4 years old in 1983, when this video was taken. The magician/escape artist you’re seeing is Michael Kent, a magician from Kansas (now residing in Sarasota, Florida) who performed a series of these stunts in the 80’s for monster truck shows. For those of you who knew it wasn’t me, great job. For those who really believed it was me – April Fools!

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Originally Posted on 4/1/08

Last week brought me to a couple more schools in Michigan. Driving toward Mt. Pleasant, MI was slightly eventful, as I hit a nasty patch of snow on the way there. It was pretty fierce, but only for about 20 minutes. Then it was sunny and nice out. Central Michigan is one of my favorite places to perform. The people are great there and the hotel has a jacuzzi in the room. And by “in the room” I mean literally right next to the bed. Slightly sketchy perhaps, but very awesome to relax and watch a movie while chilling in the jacuzzi.

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I did a noon teaser to promote the show in a couple different venues and that went very well. Here’s a creepy bird made out of hands outside one of the venues:

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Central did a good job of promoting the show. After censoring me, however, the newspaper article about me called me “Comic, Magician, Smarta.” I’m not lying – read it here:

CM-Life March 08

The posters that they had made for the event were great!

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The show took place at 9pm in a round room with awesome acoustics. Good crowd, great sound crew, and HUGE program board. I don’t have any photos from the show yet, but keep checking my Flickr Page for photos. I’m always adding new photos to it! The mascot for Central Michigan is the “Chips” – short for Chippewas. It’s cool and everything, but in Ohio we have/had the Shawnee Indians. I can’t imagine the Michigan Wolverines playing the Ohio State Shawns. On one side of the field you have a foul smelling nasty little dangerous rodent. On the other, some dude named Shawn. “What’s up…I’m Shawn.”

After the show, the program board people took me out to Bennigans – great times. Lots of laughing and I got to try out a thing using a borrowed watch that I don’t get to do very often.

Saturday brought me about 20 minutes away from Mt. Pleasant to Alma College in Alma, MI. I performed at Alma’s Sibs Weekend last year and they asked me back to perform again this year. The show took place in a chapel, which was kinda cool. I think I opened the show by saying “welcome to this holy place.”

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My Little Sibs show is a bit different than the normal show in that it’s slightly cleaner. I don’t swear or anything in the show. But let’s face it – if hearing a magician say “shit” or “dick” is the worst thing a little kid sees on a college campus in 3 days, we’re doing pretty good.

Also notable – a group of students from Grand Valley State University drove an hour and a half to see my show at Alma! That’s dedication! I really appreciate that.

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The people at Alma were super nice. I’ve had a great time there both times I’ve visited and can’t wait to come back again. Willard and Jake and the others made me feel at home! Also at the show were students from Hope College, Central Michigan and Adrian College as I found out after the show. That’s crazy. I appreciate it so much that people want to see the show. You have no idea.

This week I’ll be traveling to Philadelphia to perform at Neumann College on Thursday night, then back to Ohio to perform at Wilmington College in Wilmington, OH on Saturday.

peace, love and fan clubs,
mk

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Originally Posted on 3/25/08

I took the stage in Allendale, MI (right outside of Grand Rapids) in front of 400-500 students last Wednesday for an awesome show at Grand Valley State University. The programming board there, Spotlight Productions, does a hell of a job. They even had “I <3 Michael Kent” signs.

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The show went well – nothing scary or out of place. The room where they have their events is really cool. Couldn’t do the wallpaper thing because there was only brick and curtains, but that’s fine. Here are some shots from the show!

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After the show, some of the Spotlight members took me out to dinner and I laughed a lot. Great times.

This coming Friday and Saturday, I’ll be in the Central Michigan area. Friday is Mt. Pleasant, MI for a show at Central Michigan University and Saturday is Alma, MI for a sibs weekend show at Alma College.

That’s all for now!

Seacrest out

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Originally Posted on 3/18/08

Good Morning,

I’m finally caught up on rest after last weekend’s exciting trip to Atlanta, GA for the APCA National Conference. I was there to promote the show in the Big Name Entertainment booth along with the Showoff Show and the USA BreakDancers. All three of us also had showcases.

On Friday, I had my showcase at about 9:30pm. I had a couple new jokes and they went over really well. As a result, guess what? Now everyone else gets to laugh at them! Here’s a photo of my showcase, courtesy of Tifton University’s CAB.

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When I was exiting the stage, the Stage Manager said to me “Don’t go outside, there’s a tornado – they’re locking us all in the hotel.” I honestly thought they were putting me on. Little did I know, this was going on outside:

Pretty scary. The hotel we were in was about 4 or 5 blocks from some of the hotels that got it really bad. Check out some photos that Evan took here. Pretty scary! And it’s not the first time I’ve had a run in with a tornado while on the road!

The conference resulted in some tour dates that will be added to the Southern U.S. in the Fall of 08 and Spring of 09.

Tomorrow, I travel to Allendale, MI to perform at Grand Valley State University. The folks there are way cool. I met them at a NACA conference last fall.
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Can’t wait!

Peace, love, and boarded-up windows,
MK

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Originally Posted on 3/10/08

Last week, we saw some beautiful weather in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Early in the week temperatures neared 60 degrees and the sun felt amazing. It cooled down a little just in time for my friends Jonathan and Evan from the Showoff Show to fly in on Thursday.

I had a show Thursday night for the Ohio Intercourt Conference. When they called a few months ago and scheduled the show and told me who it was for, I thought “Alright! Finally – this is going to be AWESOME.”

Then they said “No, Michael. I said InterCOURT.” Damn. Maybe next time.

The Showoffs came with me to help out with that gig and it went well. It was a drinking crowd full of P.O.’s, Judges and Magistrates. Great times and a standing ovation at the end! (although I’m suspicious that they just were getting a head-start to the bar)

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The snow started coming in Friday morning. It was bad, but we weren’t worried until it took us more than an hour to pick up our rental car that was only 5 miles away. The Showoffs and I had a pow-wow and decided to brave the elements and drive up to our gig that was scheduled at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH (2 hours north of Columbus). The drive wasn’t too bad, thanks to Evan’s advanced driving skills, and we made it to the show in time.

I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed performing at Ohio Northern. They brought out an AWESOME crowd of more than 280 people! I lost one of my contacts before the show, so explained to the audience that I couldn’t see shit. This made for a funny moment early in the show when I accidentally called a guy “she.” But to my defense, he had long hair and was about 50 yards away from me. haha Here’s a shot of the audience from the back!

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Thanks to Jonathan for taking some photos during the show of the crowd. Also thanks to Levi Good, an Ohio Northern Student who used Evan’s camera to take a TON of hi-res photos. I’ll post a few here, but check them out for yourself on my Flickr Account.

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View the rest Here.

After my show, I introduced the Showoff Show, a show who, according to their Mad Libs-style Introduction:
…has been performing 17 years, originated in Russia, and has been described as Chartreuse and Hairy.

They put on a hell of a show and everyone loved their comedy, contortionism, juggling and stunts.

The storm started up again about the time that we headed home. We finally made it back to Columbus around 2am and the Showoffs’ 8am flight got cancelled. Due to the record 20″ snowfall, they ended up spending the weekend at the Kent house, which was great, because we hung out and had time to go over show tapes and do some writing!

Thanks to Evan and Jonathan for a fun weekend and to Ohio Northern and the Ohio Intercourt Conference for some fun audiences!

Next up, I was selected to perform in a Showcase at the National Conference for APCA in Atlanta, GA. I fly to Atlanta on Thursday and spend the rest of the weekend at that conference. Should be a GREAT time!

Peace, love and snow shovels,
MK

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