Like most of us, mentalist Larry Soffer, who will be performing at the upcoming Jive Cape Town Funny Festival at the Baxter theatre, used to believe that his success, both on and off the stage, was all about getting that one lucky break.
But success he says is not a one-time wonder; it’s a continuous process of seizing opportunities and making the most of them.
Larry’s extraordinary skills have taken him from humble beginnings to international fame, performing for celebrities and royalty.
A graduate of the renowned College of Magic in Claremont who has performed for the likes of Beyoncé, Jay-Z, the Prince of Saudi Arabia and Prince Harry, it’s not just his performances that set Larry apart – it’s his mindset. Here are five tips from him to take your game to the next level.
Know your market
“Even as an artist I study my audiences with a fine lens to better understand their likes and dislikes,” says Larry. “That’s because, just like in the business world, the principles of supply and demand are very much in play and to be successful, you need to be giving the audience what they want without stripping away your personal style and expression.
“I am always looking for ways to make my acts and performances more powerful and engaging for my audiences. I pride myself in having a very sophisticated brand which I have carefully curated and that appeals to my audience. When people recognise me, usually at the airport, and come up to say hello I always ask them where they watched me perform and what they enjoyed most about the show.”
Strive for perfection
“Life, and everything in it, is a work in progress so it’s essential that we continue honing and excelling in our chosen craft. To be successful, you need to be one of the best in your field, and that requires commitment and perseverance. Remember, practice makes perfect so find your niche and own it.
“In the entertainment world, perfection comes in different shapes and sizes. I think it is important to be likeable, relatable, and grounded so that the audience likes you as a person in addition to what you do. You must also be willing to evolve and stay relevant and consistent.“
Find your why
“I think one of the main causes of a short-lived career is that people start out for the wrong reasons,” says Larry. “In the entertainment world, some performers are simply seeking fame while in the business sector, it’s all about making lots of money fast. I strongly believe that those artists who really stand the test of time are the ones that do their job because of a higher calling. Perhaps they have a message they want to share with the world, or they want to give something back. Adjust your purpose so that it focuses on what you offer others, rather than what you will gain as an individual – you will be more likely to fight harder for success.”
Larry says having a big ego can easily be the death of an artist. “You often see people attain a bit of success and then develop a bad attitude. No one wants to have a reputation of being a diva or of being entitled. Fame brings ease but also a lot of pressure. Once the world is aware of your established brand, then expectations are high, and it requires hard work and dedication to maintain this momentum.
“I believe it is important to stay humble and to always treat people with respect. Good manners will get you very far in a very competitive industry.”
Make your brand your business
He says if you want to do business, you must know business. “I enjoy doing courses and reading books about running a business. I manage my brand how a CEO would run a big business.
“The biggest barrier to growth is thinking you know everything. I am always willing to step out of the box and look at my business and brand from a different perspective, and then make necessary changes. I especially look at the performances from the lens of the audience.
“We live in a time where information is just a click away, so there is no excuse not to start learning now. Investing in your future is so important, but you need to be willing to learn and make the time for it.”
Don’t be afraid to fake it until you make it
“The hustle is hard so be prepared to do whatever it takes to make your dreams a reality. When I was starting out, I was invited to be a guest on a popular TV show in Johannesburg. I was young and broke, with no money for flights or a new suit. Instead of turning it down, I took the bus to Johannesburg, and asked an upcoming fashion designer to sponsor my outfit. I also had no money for accommodation so when I arrived in Johannesburg, I changed in the bus station bathroom, did the interview, and took the bus back.
“Everyone must start somewhere, and it usually is not as glamorous as people perceive it to be at first. However, you must do what you can to make yourself seen, heard, and remembered.”
See Larry in action at the 2023 Jive Cape Town Funny Festival at the Baxter from Monday June 5 to Sunday July 2. Tickets available from Webtickets. Evening performances are at 8pm and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 4pm; no under-16s. Bulk booking discounts available. For more details, visit www.funnyfestival.co.za
Follow Larry Soffer on his social media pages or log on to www.larrysoffer.com