It’s what all the kids want to know and all the magicians too. Who isn’t curious about all the nonsense that goes into a magicians case. I love the grand magic shows with immense sets behind curtains but there’s something special about the magician who walks into to any kind of room with a suitcase of nonsense, plonks it on a table and has a room full of people amazed and maybe laughing.
I love doing shows for kids. They have a great sense of wonder and a brilliant sense for comedy and daftness. But if your room is half full of adults which it usually is in British birthday parties, then why not try to entertain the whole room?
This video was enjoyable for me as I spent a great time going through not just my dusty props (from months of having no gigs thanks to Covid) but through so many photos and videos of my performances and even me playing around at home and with friends where a lot of tricks can get shaped and played with.
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I am being told by lots of magician friends that the video is too long for a showreel so I am going to chop it down to a 1 minute reel later today. Enjoy! Please subscribe to my channel for more silly fun.
I spent about 30 hours editing this! OK that might in part be because I was learning to use Adobe Premiere Pro. Wow, this software is so amazing! It was such a pleasure to play around with it. If you are a performer of any kind, I recommend very much to watch videos of your shows. It is very revealing and is helping me a lot to see the good things I do and the annoying habits that need to be dropped like laughing at my own jokes.
I got into working at children’s birthday parties because of balloon modelling. I bought a balloon modelling DVD but couldn’t keep them from untwisting and popping. That week a friend introduced me to the man who changed my life, the very funny magic man, Michael Wo.
Michael would carry a suitcase full of magic tricks and balloons wherever he went and I ended up doing the same for 3 years. He taught me to make balloon animals and we had great fun making them in the pubs for people and it earnt us free drinks, got us a few gigs and I got a wife from it (another story).
Balloon modelling is awesome. It has the wow factor. It has the aw factor. You can produce a teddy bear, a hat, an alien out of a few pieces of rubber in your hand. That for me is magical! Just check out the incredible things that David Crofts makes.
In around 2010, I wanted to become a clown much to the objections of my clown-fearing mother. I bought a unicycle, boxes full of joke props, giant shoes and loads more nonsense including balloon modelling balloons and a pump. This is when I met Michael Wo. I made a few balloon animals and put a few pics up online. My Facebook friends loved them! Their enthusiasm and likes pushed me to make more and more and ended up getting gigs by billing myself as, “The Happy Balloon Man!” It was brilliant because, with half a dozen gigs in the diary, I could finally quit the painful job I had at the time of being a contortionist. See this blog to read about that
I worked at all sorts of events making balloons and it was great fun at times. At others, it was frankly horrid with queues of angry parents furiously demanding the most complicated balloons I could make, “Right mate, I need 3 aliens for these monsters and 4 teddy bears for my other kids that are in the car!“
I ended up making balloons at a few children’s birthday parties. I was usually a side act, while a magician/entertainer was doing a show and games for the children, which is where I first thought of doing that myself. The kids were having a brilliant time. They were totally engaged and were laughing their socks off. I had never seen such an entertainer when I was a child. The shows and games I realised were much more fun than the balloon modelling that I was doing.
When I started doing children’s parties as an entertainer, I put a magic show together and then thought “I’ll make everyone balloons in the second half.” 30 happy laughing children in the first half became less and less so as they waited and started to get frustrated. Even with lots of jokes along the way, after 5 minutes, children get bored watching an entertainer making balloons and start to get frustrated that they haven’t got their balloon, then they may complain about the colour, the one they got, then comes the popping and crying.
Children hate the sound of balloons popping. Some are actually terrified of the sound. I often have requests from parents for ” no balloons!” Because they have had that wow pop cry* experience and it is something very sad for them that lingers.
What I have done for the last two years is stopped making everyone a balloon and tada, my parties are better than ever and my reviews are stronger. With plenty of music, magic shows, dancing, fun games, and a bubble machine, none of these issues arise and everybody is happy. What I still do is make a nice balloon for the birthday child in the calm of the food break. The other children understand that it is a present for the special child.
Balloon modelling I conclude is rubbish for birthday parties. If you are an entertainer reading this, consider dropping it from your party packages. Put fun games in that time instead or do more amazing magic routines.
For bigger events, DO book balloon modellers. But don’t just pick people who make amazing balloon models because I have seen “entertainers” grumpily making balloon in silence. But then I have worked with the fantastic Graham Lee, the awesome David Crofts and the dashing and glorious beast of a balloon superstar Russell Wells. If you are organising a large corporate event, fun day, festival do book a group of balloon modellers. Book 2 or 3 as demand will be high and they will quickly get swamped.
* “Wow, pop, cry” is a phrase that brilliant South Wales based children’s entertainer Simon Sparkles came up with.
Young Harry loves Spiderman. So why not hire “Spiderman” to come to his birthday party? Mascots are mostly a real disappointment to those who hire them. Firstly, most of them are illegally hiring themselves out in copyrighted costumes.
Secondly, it can often be a disappointment to meet the character you love from the amazing films especially for ages 6+; “why can’t he fly/climb the wall/fire webs/jump 100 feet?” Kids are not stupid. It can also for a little one be frightening to have a 6 foot tall Captain America suddenly in front of him out of the safety of the TV screen.
If you do hire a mascot character, book them to do a short 15-minute meet and greet, take photos and then bid them goodbye. That will make the experience more magical. A lot of cheap entertainment companies will offer for example “a Spiderman entertainer”. This will usually mean an out of work actor turning up in a fancy dress costume. The initial “It’s Spiderman!” excitement will wear off in 5 minutes and then the party is run by someone sweating profusely in a rubbish outfit.
Better is to hire a top rated entertainer who has his or her own unique style. This will be something new to everybody not a third rate version of an incredible Hollywood film.
I hear this all the time from parents at children’s birthday parties. “Thank God it’s not another princess party!”
Princess parties are usually hosted by a young inexperienced drama student/out of work actress who is trained by a party company for a couple of hours, given a fancy dress costume, a cheap wig and a boom box with a dozen “princessy” songs to play on a tedious loop.
The boys do not get invited to such parties so certain friends and family members will usually be excluded and although some young girls will like “girly” princess parties, some girls will find the whole thing rather tedious as will the parents. You have been to one and you have been to all.
My theme is magic, fun and laughter and I like to have a good mix in my parties of magic tricks, routines, jokes, games and music that will please boys and girls as well as for the grown-ups to enjoy.
I play a range of music. Some songs that kids love but some music for the grown-ups too. We are all there for two hours. I was once at a party that I was not hosting and the entertainer played “Let It Go” on a loop for an hour. It was torture!
Princess parties are usually a disappointment. Book a more inclusive entertainer who will be fun for all. Avoid party companies who send out inexperienced entertainers.
I think this is a good rule for any service, but going for the cheapest children’s entertainer especially is not the best idea when a 4th/5th birthday party is such a special day. Whoever you book, read their online reviews and look at their website and videos. Are they professional? Do they entertain full time? Do they have a high-quality sound system that won’t be driving everyone mad with feedback noises? Will the children have a great time? Will they laugh and be comfortable in the company of this person? Are they experienced in the range of children’s parties that take place? I did one show last Saturday for 6 children of 4 and 5-year-olds and 40 adults but on Sunday, I did a party for 15 x 5-year-olds and 10 x 8-year-olds. It took a lot of experience to gauge the magic routines, jokes and the rhythm of the show for those different groups. This is something that only comes from performing at hundreds of shows.
The worst thing of all about cheap entertainers is that they might call and cancel a few days before because a carnival offered them twice the money to do 5 hours there or worst of all, the nightmare scenario of the entertainer not turning up at all! Suddenly you have a very disappointed birthday child and 30 little ones running around screaming and driving the parents to despair.
Book a brilliant children’s entertainer, not a cheap one. If budget is a worry, cut corners on having simple (or no) party bags, finding a cheap village hall, have the party at home (if it’s up to 15 children) or have a joint birthday party with another family to split the cost.
Avoid entertainers from cheap party companies as you usually won’t know who the entertainer is that you are booking and a lot of their entertainers are very inexperienced and trained within a few hours.
You will probably only have such a party once or twice. With a brilliant entertainer and fantastic magic show, they will have an unforgettable day, you will get great photos and all the other parents will be wondering how you organised such a brilliant party.