The Significance of Showmanship (By Duane Laflin)

Blog Post_ The Significance of Showmanship

What is the secret to getting repeat bookings?

What is the secret to getting referrals that result in many more shows?

What is the secret to having audiences wonderfully excited about the opportunity to experience your performance?

What is the secret to long term success as a variety arts entertainer?

What is the secret to getting sincere  and enthusiastic applause, and even cheers and occasional standing ovations, in response to your shows?

Consider Taylor Hicks, the season five winner of the television program, American Idol.  Almost everyone would agree that Taylor was not the best vocalist in the contest.  Other competitors, such as Katharine McPhee  and Elliot Yamin, were considered superior singers.  Nevertheless, in spite of Simon Cowell’s repeated assertion that “it is a singing contest,”  Taylor won the competition.

How did he, as one who was not the best singer, win the contest?  It happened because the contest was televised.  Audience voters did not just hear his voice.  They experienced his presentation of a song.  Taylor knew how to move and dance.  He was truly fun to watch.  He knew how to sell his presentations.  He handled interviews in a likable manner.  He had the ability to make people care about him and want him to win.

This is an important thing to understand and remember.  Those with the most talent are not necessarily those who experience the most success in show business.  Because it is “show business”, it is “showmanship” that makes the crucial difference.  A great showman with lessor talent will do much better than a great talent with lessor showmanship.

This is often seen in the world of magicians, clowns, and variety entertainers.  Some of the most skillful magicians who have ever lived, have not been able to make a living with their magic.  The reason is, in spite of their abilities to master difficult moves, maneuvers, and techniques, they have never learned how to lead audiences to enjoy watching them demonstrate their skills.

In contrast, there have been magicians who were only adequate in matters of sleight of hand and tricky maneuvers, who have enjoyed sensational success in their careers.  This is true because, although they were not great technicians, they were great showmen.

The same thing is found in clowning.  There are clowns who, in clown competitions, win grand prizes for their costumes and first prizes for their makeup, yet find themselves unable to make audiences laugh.  They look great, but they are boring. They have mastered the tools of the clown, but not learned how to entertain as a clown.

Other clowns, with mediocre makeup, and costumes that sometimes border on the pitiful, have been able to bring laughter to audiences around the world.

The ideal would be for performers to be incredibly adept in technique and skills while also being superb showman.  Sometimes such a performer comes along.  What a thrill it is to see such a person in action.

However, if a performer cannot excel in both, showmanship and technique, the thing that will save him is showmanship.

Without showmanship, whatever the level of technique may be, it is still likely that the performer will fail.

Final thought on the matter:

It seems many performers never get better.  They just get more paraphernalia, more props, more “stuff.”   Their problem is they acquire new things but do them in the same old way.  Their real need is to learn new and better ways of using the “same old things.”   A better show is not the result of better things (although they may help to a degree).  It is the result of better showmanship.  Ask yourself:  Have you ever learned showmanship?  Or have you only purchased new and more equipment?

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