Second Thought…

One of the books I brought with me to read while I’m performing on this cruise ship is Seven Thoughts by Sungwon Kim. This is all card magic, and I brought it to give me something to do, and two work on.  The second trick is called Swing Cut Aces.  Basically you swing cut a deck and a face up ace appears.  You do this until you’ve produced all four aces. 

When I first tried it, it looked like garbage, I wasn’t even sure how the trick looked “magical”.  I kept plugging away and doing it over and over and finally it’s starting to look intentional, not like I accidentally cut to a face up ace.  Mechanically, it’s not too difficult, but it needs to be done smoothly.

The key to this was to keep going, and not give up on it until it got smooth(ish).  I think if I was on land I would have bailed on this before it got smooth, however at sea I’ve got a ton of time.   I’m glad I did put in the time for this.  It’s not something that I’ll use in my main card set, but it’s another tool I’ve added to my toolbox of sleight of hand moves with a deck of cards.

Now this has me thinking about all the moves that I’ve read in books that only tried a dozen times and dismissed them a junk.  I think that deciding to “learn” a new move or not is a balance.  It’s a mix of how much time you, and how useful the move may be in the future. 

Work It Out…

One of the things I do when I buy a magic book, is that I try to work through everything that’s reasonable to work through.  What I mean by that is that I I’m not going to build an illusion if it’s in the book, but I will build simpler project. I try work through every trick that doesn’t require a crazy gimmick I don’t have.

I think this makes me a better magic creator and performer.  It allows me to improvise much better as I’ve already done something a few times, it makes it easier to recreate when the moment occurs.  It also makes you look at props differently.

When I travel, I try to make little videos of magic tricks with things found in my hotel room, or in today’s case my state room as I’m performing on a cruise ship this week.  This morning when I was brushing my teeth, I noticed the cups in the bathroom were big enough to hold a deck of cards.  That then led me to thinking about the trick Everywhere and Nowhere by Hofzinser that uses a glass to isolate a deck of cards.  That led me to wondering if a “flap card” would work in a glass.  Turns out a flap card works great in a glass, and I like the isolation that the glass adds to the change of the card. 

Now it’s got me thinking about how I can use this in a show. In a cabaret show, or a stage show where you have video projection, it would be a great reveal for a tossed out deck.  You start with one card in glass as your prediction.   The three cards are selected and the prediction changes to three different cards.  If they saw their card they sit down.  This moves the flap card from essentially a close up trick to something bigger. 

Maybe I’ll start to write a tossed out deck routine using the flap card as the premise/ending.

Old Tyme Music…

Over a decade ago I wrote a book about performing in “senior market”. These are shows at retirement homes, assisted living communities, etc. I don’t really perform in this market anymore, however I am in a couple of Facebook groups for people who do.

I’m constantly amazed at how much bad advice is given. The one that drives me nuts is when someone will ask what kind of tricks to do for these shows and someone says to use music like Glenn Miller’s In The Mood.or music from the 1940s or 1950s.

Whenever I hear that advice I want to tell them to do the math. Glenn Miller put that song out in 1939, which makes that song 80 years old…but for that song to be relevant in your life, like the music you would have listened to in your teens, you’d be 95-100 years old.

That age range is within the demographic for the senior show, HOWEVER it’s a small slice of the demographic. The average lifespan in the USA is just shy of 80 years old. That means your market for these shows is about 70-95.

Let’s redo the math. It’s currently 2019, we’ll subtract 80 years for the age of the people at the senior gig, that gives us the year 1939. However were going to add 17 years to put the music when they people where in high school and we get 1956. That math means if you want to reach people purely on a musical level, your need to use music that was released in 1956 or later.

A quick Google search and it appears Elvis was king at that point. Remember that year is the bottom rung of the ladder, and we’d be assuming they never listened to music past their 17th birthday. If you fast forward a decade to when these people were 27 years old, you get the Beach Boys, Neil Diamond, the Rolling Stones. Jump forward another decade to when they were 37 and now you’re into Disco.

My point is if you assume senior’s are only into the music that was popular when they were young, you haven’t thought this through. How old are you? Do you only listen to music from when you were 17 years old?

P.S. You can get my book at

Standing Ovations and You…

My favorite part of the Southern Side Show Hootenanny was how different acts punctuated what they did.  It’s the showmanship aspect of it that I find interesting, and one of the things that makes all of the acts unique. That’s also something  (one of the many things) that separates the amateurs from the pros.

One great act was the Tinderbox Side Show.  They had three performers and they did a high energy act that ended with a knife triumphantly stabbed into a table.  The could have stopped there, and it would have been a great ending, however, Trashique, put one hell of a punctuation on it.  She paused, picked up the table and smashed it on the ground!  It made the audience jump to its feet and got them a standing ovation!

It’s the little things like smashing a table, or holding an applause pose for just a second longer that makes a huge difference.  People love it when you triumph, that’s why escapes are such a popular ending.  I’m a big fan of things like mic drops, balloons popping, confetti, etc. Go see a circus show whether a tent show or a more modern circus show and see how they end their shows.  Then apply what you’ve just seen to your show.

Emceeing a show

This weekend at the sideshow festival, they have a pre-show and then the show.  The people from the preshow stay for the main show. The MC did the same two bits for the two shows.  I was kinda anoyed at that. To me that’s a lack of respect for your audience. Bring enough material to fill the time.

Being the MC on a show is hard to do, especially a variety show.  You’ve got to keep it moving and you’ve got to fill time. A good MC will talk to acts before the show to get an idea of their set up and take down.  Based on that you’ll know what bits fill what spaces best.

An good MC is one of those things that you aren’t aware of, but when you see a bad one it’s obvious.  The key to MCing is talking to the acts, and watching them. That way if anything happens, you can reference it in between…or are prepared for a mess, props moving behind you and with time to fill.

Production Value

One of the things that has blown me away is the production value of the acts at the Southern Sideshow Hootenanny.  While some acts (like me) go out and talk and do our thing, the younger acts play much bigger. This is due soley to music.

All of the younger people’s acts has music components, and most were timed to the music.  The act was to the music like a dance routine, instead of just hitting a couple of beats.  This makes the whole thing look more like a show, than someone just doing a trick or a stunt.  

Once you add another production element or two, like lighting, or a set piece and these have become theater shows, not bar shows.  How can you add production value to your show to make it a show?

Modern Classics…

I’m currently performing at the Southern Side Show Hootenanny in New Orleans.  I’ve seen some amazing acts so far. One of the acts that I had heard a lot about are the Monster’s of Schlock, which is a two person sideshow.  They do all the classic acts in a modern way.

Sideshow tends to attract acts that are more “dark” than comical.  These two guys did a great job of have a story arc through the show, and get a ton of laughs in the process.  I think that performers need to look at something old as the hills and figure out how to breathe fresh air into.  

Sideshow is a great example, as most acts are based on classics and there are probably less than two dozen of those acts.  So how do they make acts stand out. A lot of times it’s a fresh look on the props, by either themeing them or making them more modern.

As a magician, you have no excuse for doing a store bought die box when these side show people are finding innovative ways to pound a nail up their noses


One thing on stage that’s important is connecting with the audience.  It’s 90% of the game, if you do that, you really have to try to make an audience dislike you.  However there are some acts that don’t have anything to really connect with, and that makes the audience have to work to like you.

Recently I worked with an act that was a silent act to music and a short act.  The act focused on a particular skill. Unforunately the skill was just OK. Without getting into who it was, the act is visually interesting, however the repeated thing over and over.  There were really only two moves before the act got repetitive and boring.

What this act needed to do was look for some sort of personality within the act…oh, and it was a costumed act, but they didn’t really go into the character the costume was.  Let’s say you are wearing a dracula costume, you need to act like dracula, not just wear the costume. People form long term relationships personalities, not costumes.

Magically Sound Magic

One of the things about doing magic tricks is that you can do some amazing things and you can do them fairly easily, but that doesn’t make it good magic. What’s got me thinking about this, is that with the internet, magic is very accessible to people that perform other variety acts, and it’s easy to add magic to their show and get a good reaction.

Being able to do a trick, and present it is only part of the game if you want to be a magician. It’s OK to do a magic trick in your show, but once you basically start doing a magic show, it’s time to actually learn how to do magic.

I recently saw a card trick where the performer did the trick in the easiest manner. Fine, but watching I could think of 3 better ways to do it. Three better ways that were more deceptive and none of them that much harder than what he was already doing. He wasn’t in a magic show, he was doing a magic trick within a larger show, so he get’s a pass.

TLDR: if you’re going to call yourself a magician, you need to learn to do magic.

Be Unusual…

One of the types of shows I really like performing in are variety shows. Where I’m an act working with a lot of other acts of all different skills. I’m very fortunate that in Seattle we have the Moisture Festival. This is a variety arts festival that runs for about a month and brings in acts from around the world.

Here’s last night’s line up:

Frequently I’m asked by performers to “get them into the festival” as an act. I tell them they have to get themselves into the festival, I can’t do it for them. What I mean by that is that they need to go out and put the work in on their act.

Any producer of a variety show doesn’t want to deal with duplicate material. If you do standard stuff in the standard way, it’s hard for a producer to put you in an show with another act of the same skill.

Once you start having something unique, or at least unusual now it’s much easier to get into better variety shows. A couple times a year I write out my set list and next to each routine I put a “C”, a “U”, or an “O”. Here’s what they mean:

C: Common – so the trick is a common trick. An example of this would be Linking Rings

U: Unusual – The trick is less common. An example of this would be a trick you found buried in a book no one remembers. Unusual tricks can become common, so this designation may change.

O: Original – The trick is an original routine. A good example of this would be my marshmallow card trick.

The long term goal with this is to have a show that is all U’s and O’s. How you get there is by knowing where the C’s are and trying to eliminate them.