Comedy scene: Alex Ramon and the illusions of Zooming
When I spoke with illusionist Alex Ramon he had just finished doing a national spot for CBS Sunday Morning. That’s right, CBS host David Pogue introduced several very talented self-isolated performers from all over the world and featured them in a segment called, The Sunny Awards.
It was their first ever event that featured everything from a senior at the Berklee College of Music in Boston assembling 75 of her friends to record individually and then editing it all together to a family out of New Zealand doing a hilarious video of an original song called “Family Lockdown Boogie” that was so hilarious I included it as one of my “Corona” songs that I’ll feature on my morning radio show.
So, when I saw our very own (Well, I believe Tahoe has that right to claim him as one of our own) Ramon doing his bit entitled, “Sleight of Plans” I was cracking up.
Ramon is a combination of illusionist, magician and comedian and like many of us had all his dates canceled literally overnight because COVID-19 apparently wanted top billing.
But, unlike many of my comedian friends who are not quite, shall we say, Zoom material, Ramon has been doing ‘live’ magic shows from his home every night online at 8 p.m.
He went from having 35 shows canceled because of the pandemic and turned that into doing a different show every night for 35 nights online. It’s very informal and because the shows are in real time Ramon will often give shout-outs to those messaging him while on Facebook (and on Instagram as well). He’s very good at the Zoom thing.
Ramon has a very impressive and long career in show business and still looks like he just turned 21. Granted, since being quarantined, he looks a little different with his hair longer and sporting the beginning stages of a beard.
At age 23, Ramon became the second youngest Ringmaster in the 139-year history of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and the very first magician to be the star of The Greatest Show on Earth.
He’s performed in the largest arenas around the world including Madison Square Garden and The Staples Center bringing smiles and wonderment to people 10,000 at a time. He’s also had a long association with South Lake Tahoe.
I first met him when he was performing at The Horizon Casino (pre-Hard Rock) in a show called, “Illusion Fusion” that ran over two years ending in 2014 and was the No. 1 attraction here. He and his assistant at the time, Meghan Doyle would appear on my morning radio show every Monday for a segment we called Magic Mondays and gave tickets away. He returned to South Lake Tahoe performing in the famed South Shore Room inside Harrah’s during the summer of 2016 in a show called “IMpossible and I loved that one. I miss seeing him performing ‘live’ but have enjoyed his online magic shows on Facebook.
Alex and I each have a podcast so we thought it would be fun to do one simultaneously via split screen.
Before I started on my end, I told him I had to spray the microphones with Lysol first to be well sanitized per the CDC mandate. After I did that Alex cracked up and started sanitizing his hands immediately (he said he does this after every show too as a reminder to those at home watching). I remember Ramon being on his game that day when we chatted.
When I told him on our podcasts that I’m not used to performing online where you can’t hear any laughter from the audience Ramon cracked, “Well, you weren’t getting any laughs when you were doing your shows anyway so why would this be any different, Howie?”
But seriously, Ramon too feeds off the improvisation of a ‘live’ audience and brought up as an example the spontaneous things that can happen when you least expect it.
“I was doing one of the brunch shows (where kids can attend) at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. The first three rows are all kids and everyone behind them are the adults seated in the back so the kids can see. So, as I’m going out into the audience to pick a kid to bring onstage there’s this lady shouting from the back of the room, ‘Get Tracy, Get Tracy!’ and I’m looking around and so are the people in the house and she won’t stop so I shout back, ‘Listen lady, I don’t know who Tracy is. None of us knows who Tracy is!’ and the audience just starts laughing.
“So, then I go up to this little girl and say, ‘Are you Tracy?’ And the little girl goes, ‘No’ and then I reach out to her and say, ‘Well, come with me!’ I then start going to the back and go, ‘Okay, who’s shouting, Tracy?’ I found her and went up to her saying, ‘Who’s Tracy?’ She’s pointing at an adult woman sitting right next to her and I go, ‘What? This woman is Tracy? It’s not even a kid! How selfish are you? (laughs) This is the only time that kids can go to the Magic Castle and you’re shouting out, ‘Pick Tracy?’ and everybody is laughing hysterically. You know, those moments are real moments where you can have fun with the audience and the best thing is the audience feels like they’re getting something special.”
And he’s right.
Each show is so uniquely different. When I was joking that if, God forbid, we were stuck performing only via the internet and some aspiring young magician found out that we at one time performed in front of real people, Ramon said the kid would be going, “You mean, you really performed in front of people? You could actually see them? Isn’t that scary? You actually had to have pants on?” We were both cracking up.
The reality of performing in front of an audience once again is going to be challenging among other things factoring in that whole social distancing thing.
Ramon said, “I was just having this conversation with my friend Miguel Washington who’s a comic out of Atlanta. We were talking on the podcast, Howie, and he said the same thing. He goes, ‘Listen man, we can’t have shows where everybody is literally 6 feet apart. Yeah, I did a show at the Garden and sold out.’
“How many people were there? ‘Two hundred fifty. Yeah, I sold out the Garden.”
If all goes according to plan, Ramon will be returning to South Lake Tahoe in February, 2021. I’ll leave it at that as I don’t wanna jinx it. I do suggest though that you check him out on Facebook at Alex Ramon Magic. It’s kinda cool and a great way to stay connected.
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