When I’m planning on attending local magicians shows I frequently ask them if they’d like me to record their show for them. One response I get a lot is, “I don’t like to watch myself on video”. This response surprises me, especially now when so much of the live entertainment industry is video related with social media, etc.

I always wonder why people don’t like watching their shows on video? Is it because they aren’t proud of it? I think this probably the reason. It’s hard to watch your show early on when you aren’t good. You’ll notice everything that’s wrong or that you don’t like. This is where you grow, by watching those things and eliminating them so your show is watchable by you. If you can’t stand to watch your show, how do you expect your audience to watch it?

With video being so cheap and easy to get compared to when I started, it’s really a wonder why people are opposed to getting video and watching it. Personally I think good video is worth it’s weight in gold. Whether it’s for use in a promo video, a social media clip, or to improve your show.

Go out there are record your shows…but more importantly, watch the video!

Big Stages

The variety show that I was in last night was a lot of fun. A couple of the acts were thrown off by how wide the stage was. The stage was probably 24 feet wide and 8 feet deep. I personally don’t mind a wide stage, but work on them fairly frequently.

The picture above is form the venue last night. You’ll notice one of the things that I do is “define my area” on the stage. My case and table create the edges of where I work. This keeps me from wandering the stage to get props if my case or table were at either end of the stage.

Having a wider stage is way better than a narrow stage where you are crammed into. Currently I’m working hard on my show to play larger. I’m not a pack small, play big person. I prefer to use props that fit what I want to do…but hopefully make it play large!

Learn To Play With Others…

Later today I’m performing in a magic show with three other magicians. Personally I like performing in shows that aren’t solo shows. However I’m amazed at how many magicians say that they don’t perform with other magicians.

Seattle Magic Show

Honestly, I’m shocked that a magician wouldn’t be in a show with other magicians. I think there are a few reasons for this, the main one being ego. A magician doesn’t want to be on a bill with someone better than them. To grow as a performer it really helps to work with other acts, especially ones better than you and get their feedback.

One of the top reasons that magicians say they don’t perform with other magicians when they post about it on the internet is they don’t want their material stolen. This cracks me up. It’s very rare that the people that say this have anything worth protecting from being stolen. I think they say that as a cover for their insecurities about their show.

My advice is to go out and perform, make friends with performers, get feedback, your show will grow because of it.

Advice from Billy McComb

Frequently I end up driving several hours to gigs. Last night I had a gig at a casino that was only 90 minutes away, but quickly ended up being a 3 hour drive due to unusually bad traffic for the time of the day that I was travelling. I always give myself plenty of time to get to the gig, so this wan’t really a problem. Once I notice I was going to have some time, I listened to a CD set where Nick Lewin interviews Billy McComb.

casino magician

This CD set is amazing, there are three CD’s and every few minutes there’s great advice. One of the things that Billy McComb talks about is the advice that is giving to magicians to have a “flash” opening. A quick, visual trick you can do right off the bat to establish yourself as a magician. Billy doesn’t agree with this.

Billy thinks you need to establish YOU first and that he starts his show with a monologue. He bases this on the theory that if they like you, they’ll like your magic. I agree with this theory.

Last night at the casino I started started my show with jokes that I normally do elsewhere in the show and front loaded my show with jokes. My opening was just a series of jokes about me and my life. The audience was very receptive to that and I’m glad I made the change!

Ten Card Deal…

I’m very luck that have places to “work out” routines, not a lot of magicians have that. Personally I prefer to work out stuff in a real show over an open mic. With an open mic typcially the audience isn’t invested in the show like they would normally be in a show that they paid a ticket to see.

Last night I hosted a show and as host, not the feature or headline act, I can play a bit more with new stuff. Currently I’m working on a stage version of the 10 Card Poker Deal. It ended well, but was a hot mess up until the ending.

ten card poker deal

In my stage poker deal, it uses jumbo cards and ends with a prediction. Somehow I wasn’t paying attention and ended up having the wrong prediction after the first deal. Luckily I know a lot of poker deal variations and was able to do a second deal and end up with the prediction that matched the one I had on the table.

This is where it’s important to know more than just the routine you do. Whenever possible I try to have a deeper knowledge of the concept or the trick. Knowing more that just what’s required for the routine bailed me out of the situation last night.

10 Card Deal…

When I was a teenager I remember reading Bob Farmer’s column in Genii Magazine (I think it was Genii) on the 10 card poker deal. I would read about it and work through it, but never did it. I played with the 10 card deal again about a decade later when I was learning a memorized deck, as the Aronson Stack has one built into it, but never really did it.

For about the last year I’ve been fascinated with the 10 card poker deal. It’s really an amazing trick that’s built on a very simple method. I’ve ready a lot of the modern works on it, however it appears a lot of the best stuff is pretty old. Bob Farmer put out a book called the Bammo Ten Card Deal Dossier.

This book is full of the history of the deal and most of the published works on the 10 card poker deal. Within it there are tons of routines. I’ve put together a three deal routine using parts of other routines that make the whole thing feel super fair, and each step gets more fair.

My three phase routine is something that I don’t think would play for a huge group in a live setting for me. It’s really a head to head “competition” with someone. However I am working on a stage version of this trick, but I think it will feel different from most 10 card deal routines.

There are tricks that come in and out of your life, that you dabble in here or there. They just aren’t right for you, or you aren’t right for them a that time. Then one day at the right time, you rediscover it and the trick finally works for you (or you for it). I think this is why it’s important to constantly be learning things and revisiting old things.

Adding Texture to Predictions…

A friend of mine who is a mentalist from Ireland is in town and we had coffee yesterday. We were chatting about mentalism and the struggles to make it play big. One of the things he showed me was probably the coolest thing I’ve seen this year (more on this in a minute).

Part of the challenge of mentalism is you need normal-ish looking props. Once you know make a die 24 inches big, or use a calculator that’s build for bigfoot, you lose what makes mentalism great, which is the lack of propy props.

This is where what he showed me comes in. He showed me Phil Smith’s Quinta Force.

This is an amazing way to force one object out of five that feels very free and has some theatrical build up to it as well.

My idea is to borrow five different objects from people in the audience. You introduce a padded envelope that has your prediction in it. They give you a number, let’s say it is 28. You count to that number per the Quinta Force and let’s say we end up on a cellphone. You open the envelope and inside is a cellphone…then for the kicker on the back written in marker in giant numbers is 28!

I haven’t finished reading the book, so someone may have thought of this already.

That’s something that will play fairly large, I guess it could be done with paper prediction that unfolded into a large display. My thinking was to try to get away from a printed prediction as that’s fairly common way to reveal things and I wanted something that would add some texture to the show.

Mentalism’s Biggest Challenge…

Mentalism is huge right now, unfortunately most mentalism isn’t huge. That’s the biggest challenge with mentalism, isn’t making it interesting. The biggest challenge is making it play big!

I think that’s why there are certain plots that are popular, like a chair test. A chair test uses 4 people, large props and can easily be seen from a distance. Where something like a lottery prediction is good if you have video projection, it won’t play nearly as well without projection.

Doing things like having someone roll a die is very small, and even if you use a two foot die, most of the audience cannot see the top side. Having something like a word picked from a magazine is small. This is why I think most mentalism is basically a close up trick that is performed for one person while a group watches. Where with a magic trick like the egg bag, we still see it happen, the part that the person does on stage is fairly “mechanical”. Even a card trick, we all know the card if they show it to the audience. But remembering a word, that’s something only one person knows.

I’ve been working on a trick that’s normally a close up trick, but trying to make it play big. I think I’m onto something….more later…

Unplugged Variety Show…

It’s amazing how much you learn by going to shows, especially shows you’ve seen before. Last night I went out to watch a variety show that three of my friends were in. Its’a show where I knew all of the performer’s acts very well.

What made this interesting was that in this venue non of them used the pre-recorded music that they normally use in their shows. They either performed with without the music or were accompanied by an organist playing on the venue’s Wurlitzer organ.

The really hadn’t rehearsed with the organist, so he played and the performers and organist tried to sync up. It helps that the organist was also a performer, so he could anticipate some beats. Also the performers would notice patterns in the music and try to hit beats that they saw coming up.

Having your music played live was the standard until probably about 50 years ago. Performers would travel with sheet music for the band. Live music is better than canned, as they can add little embelishments during the act. However it’s the rarity now.

I’ve only worked with a live band a few times. I think if I were to do it again, I’d try my best to have the band leader watch me do the act how I normally do it, so they could find the bigger moments in the act and be ready for them.

No Bad Ideas…

One of the things I try to do is act on most of my ideas. No matter how bad, impractical, or not my style it is. Just working them out is a good exercise for my brain. Most of these ideas will never make it into my show.

Here’s an idea I’ve had in my head for a little while:

I’ve come up with several methods for it, all of which are very impractical. This one is probably the most usable version of the trick.

The downfall is that the trick isn’t how unpractical the method is, it’s that it’s a small trick. Visually it’s hard to see, and it’s got a very specific spot in a show that at can be. This trick has to be the opening of a card set, or when you introduce an additional deck of cards into a card set.

I’m glad I worked through the methods and got to work out my creativity muscles.