Thursday, August 23, 2018
I haven't used this blog is quite some time however the events of the last few days have prompted me to speak out.
You may have read about the magician/comedian Andy Gross who allegedly sexually assaulted a female audience member on stage causing hundreds of Purdue University students to walk out of the show crying, and needing counselling.
To be honest, there is some degree of sensational reporting going on here.
There was no sexual assault, though a case could be made for sexual harassment. The reality is that the performer was completely oblivious to the obvious discomfort and embarrassment his volunteer was experiencing.
You can see a video of the show here:
Yes, he chose his material very poorly, especially as he was following a student who spoke about her experience of being sexually assaulted.
The University said they were shocked by the type of material he performed... yet the exact routine word for word, is on his promotional video they would/should have viewed before booking him.
I'm not excusing him, he completely misjudged his audience and, as you can see by the video, should have realised the act was going badly and changed tack. He didn't.
But there is more to this story.
The routine he was performing, in 2018, is an EXACT word for word copy of one David Copperfield performed in his 1990 TV special 'The Niagara Falls Challenge'.
Bear in mind, 1990 was a different time... Bill Cosby was still a beloved comedian... that was 28 years ago and Copperfield has long since moved on to different styles of presentation... but Andy Gross hasn't.
(Copperfield updated the trick for his 2001 TV special, but the use of the volunteer and the "cheek to cheek" gag had already begun to feel awkward and inappropriate.. 17 years ago)
Instead of creating his own original material, Andy has slavishly copied other people's material without permission and without understanding WHY they work, As a result, when a presentation moves beyond its use-by date, as one such as this has in the #metoo era, Andy simply keeps doing it and is now finally paying the price.
This is not the only Copperfield routine Andy has stolen without permission. He also bills himself (and has even trademarked the name) as 'Split Man' and performs the 'Laser Cutting' illusion purchased by Copperfield from creator Steve Fearson and performed in his 2001 TV special 'Tornado of Fire'.
So what is the upshot of all this? Are we simply to dismiss it as a jerk copycat magician finally getting what's coming to him? The moral being that we should not copy other people's material?
Well.. that is important but no.. the real lesson here is that times have changed and sadly magicians, as usual, are not keeping up. Volunteers are still being treated as props, assistants are being cast as sex objects, jokes that comedians ditched long ago as being inappropriate are still being trotted out by "comedy magicians".
Reassess your act.
See if you can find a woman, preferably a theatre director, and ask her to debug your act and remove questionable content.
Why run the risk of alienating 50% of your audience by making them feel uncomfortable when everybody should be having a great time.
And if you really want to know what changes you can make then tune in to the Shezam Podcast and listen to the thoughts of female magicians who are a lot more attuned than Andy Gross and his cohorts.