A few days ago The Amazing Randi passed. I remember as a teenager reading his books. I never expected to run into him. I was probably 20-ish years old and ran into him at a magic shops. We chatted a bit and ended up hanging out while he was in Seattle doing a TV show.
From the stories he told, he’s a guy that’s lived the life of twenty people. He’s pretty much seen and done it all. From touring with Alice Cooper to speaking at huge scientific conferences and he had great stories about them all!
He’s the first person that really turned me onto altering money for magic. Mentioned I should play with putting Scotch Guard on bills. I think I published the trick I came up with using Scotch Guard in a Linking Ring magazine.
From my limited experience hanging out with Randi, he was a cool guy who knew how live life!
Last night I performed again appeared on The CW’s Masters of Illusion TV show. I was the opening act, which really surprised me as I’m not really a “flash act”, however the way they edited my act, I think it worked in that spot.
If you didn’t catch the performance, check it out here:
After watching the clip, the first thing I noticed is how much I give the stage to the guy on stage. He’s working it solo for a big chunk of the act. This is very high risk, high reward scenario for me. If the person the audience does something, like in this case where he had some sweet dance moves, it creates a sense of the audience watching a unique show that will never happen again. I really like this.
Here’s another example of taking a risk, where the kid delivered:
If the person does nothing, I have a plan for that. Honestly, the majority of the time they do something. Also in my show I don’t do these bits early in the show, I do them later when I can watch the audience, so I have a feel for who is more outgoing.
The trick is just an OK magic trick from a magical viewpoint. What the trick does have is spectacle and a huge sense of fun. I don’t think there’s really a way the magic trick can be better than me dancing with the guy in the dinosaur costume. It’s a trick that’s 99% energy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but if you do something like this, you need to recognize it for what it is.
One of the things that’s always in the trunk of my cars is a sound system. Travelling with my own has saved soo many gigs. If the venue has one, I always prefer to use theirs, however there have been many times when I couldn’t plug my mic into theirs, or just needed mine to run music.
Recently I did a “socially distant” magic show and there were supposed to have a PA for me to use. When I got there and asked, they said they didn’t. This is a situation where having my own came in handy. I did have to laugh when they propped the door open with a PA system!
Get a small PA, it doesn’t need to be much. For years I travelled with a Kustom PA 50 in the trunk of my car. It’s got 3 channels and doesn’t take up much space.
I still have this speaker, however I switched to the Roland Street Cube EX, as it can run off batteries, as sometimes finding a plug can difficult. The bonus is the Roland Street Cube EX fits in the overhead compartment on an airplane!
There are many points in my career where I look back and am amazed at where dopey ideas I’ve had for my show have taken me. That’s one of the secrets to my career, not being afraid to try things.
What’s your crazy idea?
What’s the next step to making it a reality?
One of the things I’ve learned is developing ideas is a series of peaks and valleys. Once you solve one problem, you are frequently then greeting with another problem. whoever can power through all all of the challenges wins.
I remember chatting with Brian from Creative Magic about the Change Cap that he put out. The Change Cap was a change bag built into a baseball cap. Brian told me that tons of magicians told him the idea of a change bag built into a hat was their idea. He would then ask if they ever made one, and no one had every successfully made one.
Having and idea and actually making the idea happen are frequently two very different things! Usually the idea is the easy part, making it a reality is the real work!
In a few days on 10/23/20 at 8pm I’ll be performing on The CW’s Masters of Illusion television show. When I had the opportunity to pitch them some routines, I chose things that had some unique visuals. Tricks that weren’t just a card or coin trick, but offered something more.
One of the tricks that I pitched to the producers of the show was the card trick that I do with a dinosaur costume! It’s a very unique trick visually, and it’s just a fun routine.
Look at the picture above, look at my face inside the costume. I’m having a blast! That’s something that I think is important, even though no one can really see me, I’m performing as if they can see me. More importantly, I’m having fun! That fun is project to the audience, even though they can’t see me!
Whatever you do, have fun. Fun is the secret sauce that makes or breaks most performers.
Way back in the pre-pandemic days when I had a new Idea I would go to an open mic and try it out. I’m not a huge fan of trying something out at a virtual open mic, as it’s hard to get the overall feeling if the idea is good. In front of a live audience you can get a vibe that there’s something there, even if the trick flops. It’s hard to get that from a virtual show.
A couple days ago I did the Boston Magic Lab to try out the Torn and Restored Postcard I’ve been working on. Here’s the tear and restore sequence:
After rewatching the video, there’s a lot that it needs. One thing it needs a magic moment for the restoration. Something like hitting it with a lighter, but not that as I don’t do fire. Another thing is needs is a good way to ditch the torn postcard.
The nice thing is that I can probably fix both of those. If I reach into my case to grab a lighter, I can ditch the torn postcard. Now that motivates the ditch and gives me the magic moment. I’ll need to find something other than fire.
A possibly solution is using Bizzaro’s Non-Toxic trick which is a vanish of glue. I pour the glue into the folded post card to “fix it”, open it and show the glue is gone and the post card restored. I’m not sure how I feel about mixing two effects at the same time, the vanish of glue and restoration of the card will happen at the same time.
I’ll need to play with it more. I think there’s something there…
The other night I watched Manoj Kaushal’s online show Trapped. A friend recommended it to me, and it’s been generating some buzz with magicians. Here’s the trailer for it:
First I want to say that I bought the cheaper tickets on Stellar Tickets. That means I was just watching the show, not in the Zoom room, so please factor that in during this review.
The best way to describe it is that it’s like an interactive version of one of the Saw Movies. It was live with prerecorded video elements of the “hostages”, etc. Manoj plays the bad guy and the audience has to beat him at a 7 games. Each time we win, a hostage lives and if we lose one game, they all die.
It’s a very interesting premise for a magic / mentalism show, and something were a live stream is the perfect venue for it. I don’t think it would play well in person. Manoj is definitely trying something unique, very different from any online magic / mentalism show I’ve seen.
My biggest dislike was that a lot of the tricks were too magic-y. He does a card trick, and talks about magic. I will say that up front he does mention he’s “a magician…but also has a dark side”. I think the card trick pulls away from the idea of these being games.
Also the odds of the games fluctuate a lot. I think from a statistical stand point the 1 in 52 for the card trick in the middle of the show is the most unlikely to win, then he follows that with something that’s like a 1 in 12. I would have liked to see the odds build get more unlikely as the show progressed.
All of the tricks are good and solid and most rely on a simple principle that’s gained a lot of popularity with the switch to online shows. The way we viewed him on screen did the best and most justified job of using the principle that I’ve seen.
There were a couple of loose ends that didn’t really get tied up, like when someone from the zoom room got kidnapped. I really would have liked for us to play for that person’s life, instead of not really mentioning it again. It’s not just me, in the comments several people asked, “what about john?“.
I paid $15 for the show and for that much, I feel like I got my money’s worth. I also love supporting someone who is trying something different. The show is presented more like an interactive movie than a magic / mentalism show. I’m curious what the general public will think. In the show I watched, I recognized at least half of the people from zoom as magicians. I wonder how many real people are buying tickets?
The problem with this is that the magician kinda thought about his background, but not enough. He’s got one curtain hung, but for $18 more, he could have bought a second one and had a full background.
The other fix is to crop your picture down. An example below is a screenshot of me at a zoom hangout:
The wider shot shows my office around the edges of my screen. I cropped it out of the outgoing video feed. Little things like that make what you’re doing look a lot more professional…or at least not unprofessional.
It’s kinda nice that my material was spread out during the season, I was on episode #2 and now episode #18. That’s about four months apart, which is better than two back to back episodes, then nothing for the the rest of the season.
I’ll post more about this appearance this when I have more info.