For the 2021 Branson show season, the Branson Imax Entertainment Complex hosted several new shows at its Little Opry Theater, including Chris Stanley’s Comedy Magic Hour.
During the show, audiences are treated to 60 minutes of everything the title suggests and more, according to artist Chris Stanley.
“It’s called Chris Stanley’s Comedy Magic Hour because I wanted you to know it’s going to be one hour, it’s going to be comedy, and there’s going to be magic, so you know that, but what- what it means,” Stanley said. “There are all these different magic shows in town. The thing is, I stand out because it’s not a box show. I’m not going to pull out a big box and do a big magic trick in front of you with a big box where someone pops up and then you push them offstage. Mine is technical, a sleight of hand.
Stanley said people coming to see his show should come prepared because it involves a lot of audience participation.
“Everyone has to do something. There is something for everyone to do multiple times in the show. Then I’m going to bring people through the show, so it’s very interactive,” Stanley said. “The magic shows in town are amazing. I will have much more effect in my hour than in the two-hour programs of these people. It’s just one on top of the other. It’s as if every two to three minutes I’m doing something else. It’s also fast-paced, but there’s a comedy that ties it all together. I tell jokes, make silly comments about myself, and we’re just having a good time.
For 13 seasons now, Stanley has been a cast member of another Little Opry Theater production, Smoke on the Mountain. When he heard the Branson Imax was looking to bring new shows to the theater, Stanley said he jumped at the chance.
“Whenever I found out there were openings, I immediately spoke to them and said, ‘Hey, I do comedy/magic. I did it in Silver Dollar City. I’ve done it around town in a ton of places. I do it at resorts. I did private shows. I fly all over the country to do it, so I’d like to at least talk about a show here at the Little Opry Theater. They came and gave me an audition,” Stanley said. “I was only given 15 minutes, but they know my work ethic for Smoke on the Mountain. They know I work hard. They know I’m never done working on the show. I’m still in pushing and trying to come up with new things and make the show a little bit better than yesterday.
Following his audition, the Imax offered Stanley an opening in acting. After receiving the offer, Stanley said he quickly requested a one-hour timeslot.
“An hour is perfect. It’s a perfect moment. It’s not too much, it’s not too little, and when you’re done, you can go on and do more of your day, so I really like keeping time. A lot of shows here are an hour and 15 minutes, an hour and 20 minutes,” Stanley said. “I’m actually only 20 minutes away from most other shows. One of the exceptions is Smoke on the Mountain, which lasts two hours.
Stanley shared the type of audience he thinks his show will appeal to the most.
“I am a family entertainer. I know my ideal crowd will be mom, dad, kids, grandma and more kids. Everything I do is flawless, but it’s funny. That’s the other thing – I try to make it accessible to everyone,” Stanley said. “Any time I do shows for churches, and they’re all old people, they’re going to enjoy it. If I do shows just for young people, they will enjoy it. But my happy audience for me is every time I look out and see the families. You have families there, and they’re all laughing. I had all ages here today. I have had children from 4 years old to seniors. When they all came out, every time I talked to them they said they had a great time. It’s perfect.”
Stanley added over the years that he’s learned where his type of comedy doesn’t work, which has helped him discover the types of places his performances work.
“You want the whole package. You want to honor your faith, and you want to be able to put on a show and laugh there because that’s what God gave me,” Stanley said. “I know when he built Chris Stanley, he made it funny. I like to hear people laugh. It’s just the best for me. It’s just awesome.
In 1991, Stanley graduated from the College of the Ozarks with a degree in psychology and criminal justice. While at Branson, Stanley said he took a job with the Kirby Van Burch show.
“I was working at Kirby, and everyone at the magic shop got fired in one day. I was hanging out with these guys and they had taught me some magic,” Stanley said. a magician, so I said, ‘I can do some of these tricks. I went up there and learned magic from Kirby. Then during intermission I read a bunch of stuff and I learned a few more tricks, and by the end of the day, I was probably making 15 of those tricks that I could sell. Then after the shows, I’d sit there, read and learn some new magic, and I kept doing it.
Stanley said he eventually ventured outside of Kirby’s where he found himself working at several area attractions.
“I was hired at the Branson Scenic Railway to do close-up magic, and I started walking around doing magic there for years. Then Silver Dollar City called me and told me. asked to do kids games and make balloons, so I went there and I’ve been there for a really long time,” Stanley said. “I’ve done stuff on the Showboat Branson Belle; done stuff at the Grand Village; I’ve done stuff at Spinnaker Resorts and Wyndham, which was Fairfield at the time. I’ve done a lot in Silver Dollar City. I’ve done stuff here (at the Imax I’ve done stuff for Tom (Forester), do stilts and so on, I just kept expanding my repertoire, but Silver Dollar City is really where I cut my teeth.
Chris Stanley Comedy Magic Hour times are Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 12 p.m. In November, Stanley said he would switch gears and do a Magical Hour of Christmas Comedy.
For more information, visit branonimax.com/shows.