Mike Hammer : Comedy Magic With An Edge
Mike Hammer does a great bit of comedy magic in downtown Las Vegas, but it was his eyes that got me to see his show. Yes, his eyes. You see, I pay a lot of attention to signs. No, not metaphysical signs; real, actual printed signs.
Several posters in front of the Four Queens on Fremont Street tout the Mike Hammer show as "Comedy Magic With An Edge." In all of those posters, you see Mike Hammer's face, and in all of those posters, it looks like someone did a bad job of photoshopping out the red eye. His eyes are nearly solid black, and it just seemed off in a subtle "the windows to his soul are obscured" sort of way.
Walking past the posters day after day, it irked me. The ads were otherwise well put together. I'd dare say that they were one of the best put together group of signs in downtown Las Vegas. They incorporated the same elements throughout the campaign, but they didn't simply re-use the exact same image over and over. Yet the eyes were the same in each photo : unnaturally black.
So when the opportunity came to go see "Mike Hammer : Comedy Magic With An Edge" earlier this week, I knew exactly which show it was and thought to myself that perhaps the "bad photoshop" had secretly been a near subliminal way to get my attention. — Psychology plays a far bigger part in Las Vegas than most people realize ; even smells are all part of the behind the scenes magic.
Anyway, after picking up the tickets at the Four Queens box office at around 6PM on the night of the show, we walked down Fremont Street to take in the sights. Returning back to the theatre with around 20 minutes until showtime, we found a long line to get into the showroom : the left lane was for VIPs and the right was for General Admission. Holding two general admission tickets, we stood patiently in line and eventually made it to the front.
Before we could be seated, though, more VIPs arrived and the sole maitre d' requested that we wait while he seated them. Before he returned from seating them, more arrived, and that process repeated a few more times.
When he got to us and asked how many, the theatre was surprisingly full. He thanked us for waiting then escorted us to two chairs at the end of one of the rows in the back. The seats weren't great, for sure, but each show has different seat/stage/show dynamics, so I was reserving most of my judgment until the show actually happened.
I wasn't able to form an opinion on the seats, though, because after I got a couple drinks from the bar, the maitre d' knelt next to me to ask how many were in our party. I said two, and he asked if we'd like to sit up front, about two rows back from the stage. I said yes.
He escorted us to the new, much better seats, and I tipped him appropriately.
Soon the show began, and of course, the first thing I wanted to see were Mike Hammer's eyes.
When I did, I was surprised that it hadn't been bad photoshop at all. His eyes really were that black. It was a bit odd still in real life, but I can, nonetheless, safely say that Mike Hammer is the most attractive magician with a show in Las Vegas... so I wouldn't really consider the eye thing an insult. It's just unusual.
In fact, Mike's looks and stature (he's a small guy, around 5'7") work for his sort of rascally, on-the-playful-side-of-smart-ass stage persona. He works the crowd with masterful skill, and most of the time, the magic is just a setup to get the comedy flowing. It's like a plate for a buffet : necessary but not the focus.
Almost all of his routines involve audience members (including those not sitting near the stage), and Mike uses his quick wit to fashion bits of information, such as being from Canada or being a nurse, into a storyline or joke for the comedy.
Here's, too, where Mike really excels where most fail. The package of him, from his word choice, demeanor, looks and even his stature all create an adorable wise-ass. His jokes are like a flick of a rubber band where many "insult comics" fail because they go for a punch to the gut. The comedy was playful ribbing and exaggeration that connected to the audience member individually, not evil natured and not one-size-fits-all. It's a testament to Mike's expert skill that the audience knew, through the whole show, without his saying or apologizing, that he was just playing the scoundrel. He was, quite simply, charming on stage. The human equivalent of a puppy trying to bite your hand when you pet it.
At a little over an hour, the show involved somewhere around a dozen audience members by name and about half of them got on stage. Magic tricks like manipulating money and color prediction got the "comedy with an edge" treatment by adding men's boxer shorts and a blow up doll. That said, the humor was fine for all but the most staunchly conservative : the blow up doll remained fully clothed and the underwear wasn't worn by anyone, at least not on stage.
When the show was over, I bought the DVD to show my support and complimented Mike on how much effort it must be to create that show each night. He replied that some nights he really has to work and some nights just flowed, but most telling, just like I'd somehow known through the entire show, his conversation with me revealed that he was a real, genuine nice guy who appreciated that I appreciated his show. That on stage persona was just that, an adorable, rascally, "bad ass" (just like a biting puppy) persona.
I have to say, I was completely, utterly impressed.
Mike Hammer's Website
At Four Queens
In Downtown Las Vegas / Fremont Street
7PM Every Day Except Sundays & Mondays