National Magic Day…

Today is Halloween and also National Magic Day, it’s also my least favorite day to do magic shows.   The main reason for this is costumes.  If you read my post from yesterday (click here to read it) then you know I don’t wear a “costume” upon request.  If my show worked better with me dressed as Dracula, I’d do it year round.


However, I’m not talking about my costume, but costumes people wear.  People act strange when you put them in costumes.


First of all if you are performing for people wearing masks, it makes it very hard for them to see…or talk.  you can’t hear them laugh, they have tunnel vision and can’t hear people around them laugh. So they are in their own little world. It makes it very hard to unite the crowd if they are all in their own little world.


Next, people tend to try to act out their character.   This makes doing a show rough, because it’s hard to connect with someone pretending to be Catwoman.  That also creates a situation that’s hard for the audience to relate to.


All of that said, I have one gig today, it’s an afternoon gig.  For me this is key, kids are still in “daytime mode” and the adults shouldn’t be drunk.  This is my preferred type of show today.


Special Requests at a Gig…

When you’ve been performing long enough, you will get requests for things outside of your normal show. These can be simple things like “can you use the CEO in a trick” to more complex things like can you write a whole show on a specific  theme/topic.


I’m not going to really talk about the writing a whole show, as that’s really a specialized thing and either you do it or you don’t.  I don’t.


I’m going to talk about smaller requests.  Recently I had an request at a corporate gig where they asked me to make a small gift appear and give it to someone.  I could do that, however I talked them out of it.





Simple, the gift will have more meaning from someone the recipient knows than from me.  I could make the gift appear while doing a trick with the event organizer, then present it to the recipient, which would have a lot more meaning.  However that ends up being the end of the show, I don’t want to follow that.


I want the show to end strong, not on something I really have no control over.  If the person who is helping me with the trick where the gift appears is a clunker on stage, then it drags my ending down.


The way I see it, for a corporate gig I’m hired to do the show I’ve done a thousand times (and my pricing reflects that), not to do a something I’ve never done before.  I just don’t get enough of these requests to make it worthwhile to having as a part of my show.


Probably the number one request I get has to do with costuming.   The organizer will call and say, “our event is yellow themed, can you wear all yellow?”  My response is to explain to them that, “I wear certain things because it makes things more visible, so if I use a yellow handkerchief in the show, you won’t be able to see it if I wear yellow.”  However I ‘ll gladly wear it, if they provide the clothes (the must meet certain requirements like pocket space, etc), the tailoring, and I must have them a month before the gig so that I can practice in them.  Also there additional practice time is billable, and if something doesn’t work with the provided clothes (like yellow on yellow) then we can either drop it from the show (shortening the show) or they can pay for a new prop in a different color.

I’ve never had anyone agree to the paragraph above, however if they did, I would gladly make it work. I think that people who aren’t performers don’t realize how much effort goes into something as simple as wearing a different pair of pants.  If a pocket is too narrow, or the cut wrong, I can’t sneak something into or out of my pocket smoothly.  Then I may stumble on it, drop it and people think I’m not a good magician, when the reality is that it’s not me, it’s the costume.


So the moral of this post is:  Do your show the best you can!



Magician’s Love a Deal…

A week or two ago magicians started noticing that the Walgreens Drug Stores in the USA stared selling Jumbo Bicycle Decks of cards.  They also started buying a ton of them when they were on sale as a “buy one get one free” deal.


Then came the realization that the cards were the new thinner stock jumbo cards.  By “new” I mean the stock they changed to a decade ago.  This thinner stock is harder to use than the old stock which was at least twice as thick as the new stock.  The same magicians that were hoarding the cards were complaining about how they were useless.


These cards have tons of ways to use them.


  • Practice with them and you’ll be able to handle them like the old stock. I’ve been using the new stock for years.
  • Make a “double deck” where you essentially have two decks in one.
  • Make a pop eyed popper deck
  • Think outside the box.  The advantage of the thinner stock is you can make some interesting gimmicks without having to “split” the cards.  Here’s one of the things that I made:


This is a flap card and my design was based on FLAP by Hondo.  In the future I want to make a card that has two changes, so shows a total of three cards if you include the card it starts one.  My plan would be to use this for a reveal of the cards for the classic “Tossed Out Deck” trick.

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Make the Best of the Situation…

Last night I performed a show at an outdoor Halloween event.  It was a beautiful day out until I started to drive to the show, when it started dumping rain.  Luckily they managed to get a large tent over the stage by the time I got there.  Unluckily the stage was put where water pooled, so the ground had about an inch of standing water.  Oh and as a bonus the tent was leaky, and somehow the leak always managed to follow where I put my case, so all of my gear got wet…and the show hadn’t even started!


I know many acts that when their gear got wet would have called it a day and pack up. Here’s my thinking, it’s already wet, so let’s do the show.  We managed to fill up the tent, I don’t know if people wanted to see my show or they just wanted to be a bit dryer?


magic show


When doing gigs like this, one of the first things you need to do is address the “elephant in the room” which was we’re all soaked and standing in a pond.  So I made a joke about people sitting in front…Oh, I forgot to mention that there were no chairs, so the audience was standing (not ideal for a show).


By addressing these things I won the audience over and we had a blast.  However I think if I went up and did my show normally, it wouldn’t have played as well.  When something happens and you just ignore it, the audience senses you aren’t confident with what’s going on.  When you call it out, it makes you more relatable and gets them on your side quicker.



Your Tricks Gotta Be Seen!

I’m frequently asked about why the Evaporation’s standard version is orange liquid. The reason for this is simple, it’s easy to be seen. Rarely will you have an orange background that you are performing in front of, so the color won’t disappear into whatever is behind you.


Using things like cola, which is a dark brown be hard to see with a dark background, or using milk in an elementary school gym against a white wall make seeing the trick difficult. That’s why I settled on Orange.


You need to think about this stuff with all of your magic.  For example I love the idea of cups and balls, more specifically cup and ball(s).  So a chop cup would fall in this category.  My marketed trick Cee-Lo (Available from which uses 3 dice and a cup has some clever work on the final loads.


Here’s a video of Cee-Lo:
The problem is that the action happens on the table top, and if you are are a raised stage the audience is looking up at the bottom of the table and can’t see what’s happening.


There are a couple of solutions to this:

  1. Build your table at an angle, so the front edge is lower than the back.
  2. Use video projection onto a screen.
  3. Create a routine where none of the action happens on a table top.

The first two are pretty simple solutions, however how practical they are will depend on the venues you perform in.  The third one is the one that interests me.  You are now walking into fairly uncharted waters.  Aside from Ball and Cone, the only other cup and ball type trick that happens in the hands is Axel Hecklau’s Just a Cup.


Axel’s routine is great, but I want to come up with my own take on an in the hands cup and ball routine.  So my starting point was a baseball cap, which hand a brim that I can hold on to and a large ball, that’s an inch and a half in diameter.  All of the action now happens at chest level and it plays much larger due to the bigger props.


This routine is still in its early phases, hopefully it’ll work out.  Once it’s closer to being finished, I’ll start sharing some video of it.


The point of this post is simple:  Look at the tricks you do and think you about what the audience can actually see!



A Tale of Two Rooms

The last two nights I worked as an act in bar comedy shows.  The two rooms couldn’t have been more different.  One room was poorly laid out, had no light on the stage and a bad sound system. The other room had great sound, all of the audience was directly in front of me and the performing area was lit.  One show went better than the other…can you guess with it was?


I was the second it one, that had good light, sound and layout.


It’s all the little things that go into making the show easier for audience to watch.  When a show is easy to watch, it’s soo much easier for the audience to enjoy.  They don’t have to work to hear or see  you.  It can be tiring watching a show that you have to concentrate to enjoy.


So how to you fix a bad set up?


The first thing you’ll hear magicians on the internet say is “make your contract say ____”.  Sure you can write that, but the reality of what you consider good sound and what the venue does can be two different things.  One thing is you can try to get to the venue early and do your best to adjust what you can. That plus having a solid show and moving forward definately does help.


Is it the venue’s fault?




Lots of times they don’t know better.  They may be used to an acoustic guitar player in the corner doing ambient entertainment and not a show.  You can educate them after, like mentioning they need speaker stands, or whatever to make it easier for the next show that comes in.


Hope that give you some perspective,



The Curse of the Opening Act…

Recently I did a gig where I MC’d a bar comedy show.  Normally I’m the feature or headline act.  It was fun, however as the first act, it’s really had to “crush it”.  There are a few reasons for this.


First, as host, it’s not your show.  It’s your show, but it’s not your show.  Second, the audience is COLD and you need to really get them to switch from hang out mode to show mode.  This is made harder by the fact that the room doesn’t change into show mode (i.e. lights don’t dim, etc).  The final thing is that everyone is still eating, so it’s harder to get them to laugh with food in their mouths.


Add the normal first act in a bar show challenges to the place having a PA set up horribly and the stage in the darkest spot of the room.  All of this made it a challenging room.


I opened with a verbal bit that’s goal it to unite the room, it did it OK, then moved on. This is one of those gigs where as the first act you really have to just keep moving forward until they finish their dinner.  That’s what I did.  And about minute 11 of 15 I finally got them warmed up and they were a great audience for the next two acts.

I guess the lesson here is don’t bail on your audience, always give it 100%.  Eventually they’ll come around…



Taking it Further

If you’ve ever seen my lecture, the main point of it is how can you take the magic that you do one step further.  That next step could be method, could be presentation, or the look of the trick.  That’s something I try to do with everything I do in my show.

It’s this thinking that’s led to the creation of all of my marketed tricks.  For example in the Evaporation trick, I needed to make some liquid vanish for my liquid in light bulb trick which is marketed under the name Applause Please.  This trick takes the milk in light bulb a step further.

I didn’t like the look of a milk pitcher and went out to search for other solutions.  A “ghost bottle” wasn’t practical for what I was doing.  After many different designs the Evaporation as it is now has created.

How are you going to take whatever you do a step further?




Vanishing Bird Cage

I’ve always loved the vanishing birdcage, ever since I was a teenager and was told about Bert Allerton doing in close up while table hopping.  Then I saw Blackstone Jr. do the vanishing birdcage where all the kids put their hands around the cage, I’d seen Lance Burton do it with his round cage.  However the one that really did amazed me was seeing Billy McComb do the vanishing birdcage.  Here’s a video of it:

What made Billy’s version different was that he did his whole act and ended with the cage. He didn’t have that cramped posture, he had a full range of motion. I don’t think Billy was the first person to use a take up reel for the birdcage, however he’s the one that made an impact on me.

Over the years I’ve owned several take up reels, including the one that was sold with the Billy McComb vanishing birdcage set.  Right now I own a funky one that was made in Germany.

If you don’t know what a take up reel is and how you would use it for a vanishing birdcage, it’s pretty simple.  All it does is shorten the length of the string on the pull.  That’s it.  But that simple little thing makes all the difference in the world!

Having used a take up reel, the thing I didn’t like about them was the weight of them.  They are metal and heavy.  For someone like Billy who it appears did the cage at the end of an act, the weight is probably less of a problem then when used by someone doing a 45-60 min show.

Recently I got a 3D printer and started playing with it and ended up designing a take up reel. This is a lot lighter because it’s plastic.  I’ve been using this for months and I will say, I think I’ve finally come up with a solution for me to do the birdcage in my show!

Using a take up reel isn’t just for the birdcage, there’s a lot of cool stuff you can do with them.  I’m not going to go into detail about other tricks you can do with them because there’s soo many.  I’m just glad I came up with a solution that works for me.