Wise Guy by Harry Anderson - Book
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Here at last, is the whole story behind America's most successful comedy magician. From his early days in the street, to head-lining in night clubs and casino showrooms, to the starring role on TV's hit series, Night Court.
Wise Guy begins with hilarious stories from Harry's apprenticeship as a street entertainer. Watch his character 'Harry the Hat' slowly evolve over years of performing.
Wise Guy includes a wide array of close-up effects, sight-gags, mentalism and virtually all of the stand-up routines that made Harry Anderson a headline act including The Needle thru Arm, Linking Finger Rings, Handcuffs, 3-Card Monarch Monte, and many, many more!
Drawing from years of friendship and hours of video and audio recordings, Mike Caveney reveals just how wise a guy Harry Anderson really is.
Pages: 167 - 8.5" x 9" - Hardcover with dust jacket - Black and white illustrations and photos
A PEEK INSIDE HARRY ANDERSON: WISE GUY
[Here is a perfect example of how Harry could take a standard magic prop, one that most magicians wouldn't give a second thought to, and turn it into a memorable piece of theater that encompassed humor, tension, shock value and of course mystery.]
THE FINGER CHOPPER
Harry used to do the finger chopper in the close-up room at the Magic Castle. When I commented on his hilarious routine he just shook his head and sort of brushed off the compliment. Years later I realized that mentioning the Finger Chopper to Harry caused his mind to drift back to the days when he really did the Finger Chopper and really got a reaction. It was back when Harry worked with his girlfriend Alison. She was a normal and pretty girl in every way... except one. Half of her little finger was missing. Now don't get ahead of me.
Harry had one of those little wooden finger choppers that Micky Hades used to sell. The kind where the blade could be removed and clearly shown. It was a very convincing little guillotine that did not look like a novelty store toy. Harry would get a guy to examine the chopper and then cut a cigarette in half. Then he held the guy's hand up and told this silly story. Pointing to the first finger he began: "This is the King, this is the Queen and oops, this is the evil Duke. We're going to have to behead the evil Duke." He slid the guy's finger into the hole and then held tightly onto his fingertip... uncomfortably so.
Now Harry looked at the audience and changed the subject completely. "Isn't it strange how cooperative a person will be with a magician. I mean this guy doesn't know who the hell I am." (This was long before Night Court.) "I come out all dressed up. I do a couple of card tricks, so he jumps to the conclusion that I've been hired by this establishment. Then I come up with this line about an evil Duke. Evil Duke? What the hell is that supposed to mean? I bring out this device and demonstrate exactly what it does and what does he do? He puts his finger in it. How many of you in the audience have ever seen one of those little finger choppers made by the Adams Novelty Company? The little one with the trick blade?" (Two or three people always raised their hands.) "That is what we in the business would call a trick finger chopper. How many of you ever owned one of them? A couple of you. Is this one of those trick finger choppers? No! This is what we in the business call a professional finger chopper."
Harry just kept on talking and squeezing. Pretty soon a little bead of sweat would start to form on the guy's forehead.
"You look a little nervous. That's because you know what's gonna happen, you just don't know when. That's what gets people. Not that it's gonna happen, but when. That's why people can deal better with a hurricane than they can with an earthquake. You can see a hurricane coming and get ready for it. But with an earthquake... POW! Right out of nowhere. It's Mother Nature gone psycho. People hate that. So in order to put you at ease, let's make Alison the clock. We'll pick a number like three. No, that's too common. How 'bout four... and a half. Yeah. That's good. At the count of four and a half it will happen. Now you can relax. You know what's gonna happen and exactly when it's coming. Ready Alison? One, two, three, four and a half."
At the count of four and a half, Alison extended her half finger. It looked exactly like the old gag where you bend your finger over. Then three things happened at once. Alison turned her hand around revealing that she had indeed lost half her finger. A look of terror gripped the spectator's face. And Harry slammed down the blade. As Harry tells it, there were wet seats every time.
This is a fine example of exploiting your resources, using what you have at your disposal, or in this case, using what you don't have.
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2 of 2 magicians found the following review helpful:
Really good book! It is a combination biography with some detail about many of Harry's effects.
While many of the effects are available for sale, Harry talks about how he made the needed props and
you could too. Some of them involve props that you would really need to purchase, such as the
needle through arm, but if you are interested in building a routine around that, you would benefit
from buying the effect and reading the book. You can take his routines and make them more suitable
for yourself or improve upon them. I have a needle through arm routine inspired by Harry's work
that is a combination of the needle through balloon and needle through arm, with the needle
inadvertently going through my neck "by accident". It is funny and dramatic. I really took a lot
from Harry's presentation, inspiring me to play off the effect as if it is just an illusion, and not
really "real". When that is combined with an apparent "mistake", it really adds drama, and
ultimately comedy to the routine.
The book is a great source of inspiration to find an
entertaining angle to what otherwise is just the same old magic effects. In today's age, even being
technically good or great isn't good enough. It is better to be technically acceptable, but a great
entertainer. Harry didn't do much particularly technically difficult magic, but he put a lot of
thought into how to make something entertaining and there is much to be learned from his book. I
strongly recommend the book.
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