Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Tall Order

Tuesday June 11th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

   I got a call from my friend Dennis DeBondt a few days ago asking if I felt like riding along to a show he had in Milwaukee this afternoon. Dennis is a talented comedy magician, and I happened to have today free so I said yes for a number of reasons. One, I enjoy his company. Two, he has a very good act. Three, he’s an outstanding businessman and I always learn something from him.

   I met Dennis through our mutual booking agent friend Marc Schultz a few years ago. Hooking up with Marc has also been an education in that it taught me there are all kinds of people who are professional entertainers and aren’t on any ‘circuit’ per se. They make their own work, and that’s even harder than what I’ve done all these years. I didn’t think that was possible, but it totally is.

   At least in the comedy club world, there are gigs that can be rebooked indefinitely. I’ve worked for Zanies in Chicago every year for the past twenty plus years. They’ve opened and closed clubs along the way, but whatever work they have I’ve gotten usually several times a year and it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship. I’ve honed my skills there, and they have a reliable solid act.

   Guys like Dennis get work where they can. He’s billed as a comedy magician, but he’s really a comedian who does magic. He’s truly a funny guy with a likeable razor sharp wit, and at 6’7” he casts a tall shadow on stage. He’s a very good magician too, but the comedy is his strong point.

   He works corporate events and private parties, and after 26 years in the business most referrals are from word of mouth from satisfied customers. Bookers like Marc use him regularly when the need for a magician comes up, but rarely does he get booked more than once. It’s got nothing to do with his talent, it’s just that that’s the nature of that end of the business. I’m not used to that.

   I’ve gotten some shows like that in my time, but the majority of my work for decades has been in comedy clubs. It’s time to branch out, and Dennis has been very helpful in throwing out ideas. He markets himself very well, and his website is If you ever need to hire a magician for any reason, Dennis is your man. He’s funny, and can adapt to any situation.

   I’ve always been very adaptable myself, and as an entertainer in the trenches that serves as the most valuable tool of all. Having the lightning fast presence of mind to be able to adjust to most any scenario without having a full blown panic attack is a skill not everyone possesses. We do.

   Today’s assignment for Dennis was a magic show for 90 fifth graders at Donges Bay School in Mequon, WI. That’s a tall order to say the least, but Dennis is a tall guy and he pulled it off with flair and panache. He did almost a full hour, and I can’t think of many entertainers that could pull that off but also entertain their parents just as well. He has a gift, and I enjoyed the whole show.

   I’m pretty good with kids myself, but standup comedy is not the right outlet. I can tell stories to keep them entertained and there can be funny parts in them, but standup itself is generally not the right fit. Magic tricks are a perfect fit, and Dennis had them from the first ten seconds on stage.

   I respect the hell out of guys like Dennis who are not only fantastic entertainers, they also have rock solid business skills to go with it. How does a person get booked at a school to perform for fifth graders? Dennis performed for the parents of one of the mothers, and they in turn told her to book Dennis for the kids show. That’s how it’s supposed to work. I closed my mouth and opened my ears all day today, and I was treated to an entertaining show and some lessons to go with it.
Try entertaining kids for a solid hour. NOT easy.

My friend Dennis DeBondt entertains EVERYBODY. Hire him!

No comments: