There’s a place in McMinnville Oregon that I’ve always wanted to visit called the Evergreen Air and Space Museum. Every time I’ve driven by it, it’s either closed, or I don’t have time to stop. It’s in a town about an hour from Portland, kinda in the middle of nowhere.
This is a huge museum with water park and people come from all over to visit. Why to do they travel so far to look at airplanes, or go down a water slide? Simple, they have a couple of pretty unique offerings. The museum has the Spruce Goose, which is the largest wood plane ever constructed. In addition to the Spruce Goose, the water park has a 747 that’s been converted to a water slide!
How does this relate to a magic show? Simple, if you create a product that people can’t get else where, they will come to you. This is more than just a unique personality, every air museum has a personality, this one has the SPRUCE GOOSE and that’s the only place in the world you can get that. What unique offering does your show have where you are the only place an audience can get it?
One of the things that I want to play with this summer are gaffed cards. More specifically, I want to use flap cards to do some changes. I’ve got a few ideas for what I want to do with the flap cards. Ideally I want to put together a close up set that’s 5 mins that can be projected onto a screen.
This is one of the places where a flap card will shine, because people can’t reach for the cards, and it allows you to more easily ditch things. The formal close up allows you to do some fun magic that’s highly visual…and doesn’t require a lot of space in the luggage.
Last night I was playing with more traditional “dental dam” flaps. They work great, however they have seams in them that the more modern “Hondo” style flap cards don’t have. Hondo has really solved a lot of problems with the dental dam flap cards. However, the Hondo flap cards do have their own disadvantage, and that’s that you can potentially see the elastic as it’s on the outside of the card.
All in all, I think both gimmicks have a place where one is better than the other. Now to figure out what I want to do in my card set….
After having a horrible show two days ago, I crushed my show yesterday. There were some huge differences in the two. The big one was that the show I did horrible at I was an act, where the show I did great at I was the whole show. That’s a huge difference in situation.
Having a bit more control of the flow of things leading up to the new material is really helpful. In the show yesterday, I did my standard opening jokes, however magic wise it was all new. It played well, and having a fresh audience on my terms was great.
I feel a lot better about the new material. It’s still got a long way to go, but having a good show has brought me new confidence in it!
It’s been a while since I’ve really bombed at a show. Last night I got to remember what that feels like. I was doing a show in a comedy room, and I was only doing a 10 mins, however it was ten mins of new material. They put me as the show closer, no big deal with my normal stuff, but with new stuff, I was already uneasy.
It was a long show, and by the time I got up the audience was tired. I’m not making excuses for myself, that just made it harder for me to pull them up. I didn’t bomb, but I wasn’t happy with the show. They audience was with me, but they the material I was doing didn’t have any jokes or premises, it was simply the trick. There was nothing for them to really engage with besides the trick.
Effect wise everything went well, but there’s soo much more than that. It’s encouraging that the tricks work and are deceptive, but I need to sit down and write some jokes, figure out some premises and make these routines better.
I posted a while ago about the Gypsy Thread trick and trying to figure out how to make it work in my library shows. The problem I was having was kids had two ridiculous explanations of how the trick worked. Either magnets or trick string that just goes back together. I heard both enough that it’s something I need to address.
Here’s my solution, I bring a kid on stage to help with the trick. This is good and makes the trick play bigger. The kid tries to put half of the pieces of string together and they can’t on the first try. This effectively cancels out the theory of magnets or trick string. Then the kid ends up holding all of the string and it restores while they hold it. After making this little change, it’s playing a lot better.
However there is a change I want to make to the trick. I just need to find time to work out the handling. I want the kid to hold all of the strings at the first failed restoration attempt. There are two ways to accomplish this. The first way is that I could add in the length of string with the ball of string on it after they’ve handled the string the first time. This wouldn’t be hard to do. The second method would be much bolder and have them hold all of the strings including the one with the ball of string. I’d just shove it into their fist and have them hold it.
Either way I think would make the trick stronger from someone trying to back track it. I know it’s a trick I’m doing in a kid show, but what makes art is going a step further.
P.S. I think Nick Lewin sells the best thread for the Gypsy Thread trick…at least for how I do the trick.
In my continuing quest to make the Ten Card Poker Deal play on stage, I did four shows for middle school kids yesterday and included it in my show. I was a bit worried, about whether or not they understand the rules of poker. The poker craze peaked 15 or so years ago, so it’s not a huge as it was. They all were aware of poker and I helped them out with the order of hands.
What I love about the Ten Card Poker Deal is that the whole thing seem so fair. I basically told the kids I was going to cheat. It was interesting, they started to put conditions on the deal. Of course due to how the trick works, they can pretty much do anything they want, I just might have to guide it a little bit.
The real reason for the trick is to get to the kicker ending I’ve come up with. I prediction the outcome of the final hand of cards. This ending has been playing really well. I like this ending and it makes the trick feel less like I got lucky three times, and puts an ending to the trick. As is (95% of the time) , the ten card deal really has no finale.
There’s been advice that you only need to learn a few tricks and you can do those the rest of your life. Sure that may have been good advice in 1910, but now TV, and streaming video eat up material. Every famous magician in the world has done more than a dozen different tricks.
Having a background in magic and sleight of hand bailed me out of a situation last week. I went to do a trick in my show and the deck of cards I use for that trick wasn’t there. It was there when I did the early show, it was gone, and I never found it later. I was already into the trick with three people onstage. I freaked out, but then knowing tricks saved me!
How I bailed myself out was I had another deck that which I rip in half later in the show and I used that deck to do “cards across”. The method was pretty crude, just palm three cards and add them to the other stack. I then forced a three and used that for the number of cards to be moved.
The trick played well, but had I not been a magic nerd, it wouldn’t have turned out very well. That background in magic and sleight of hand is “insurance” for when things don’t go well.
Last week I spent four days performing at a county fair and working on a new show. At the end of the week, the sound guy commented that the show had gotten a lot tighter. That was great to hear, and it felt like it was getting tighter, however it still has a long way to go.
One thing that really helped was committing to the show. If something didn’t play like I wanted it to, then I shouldn’t follow it up with something from my normal show. I need to do the show in the show order that I have come up with. This will make me more confident in the show.
Show order is a huge thing, it really adds tightness to your show. It makes prop management easy. The less time you spend fumbling for props the better!
One of the hardest parts of working on new material is figuring out what works in front of an audience and what doesn’t. I’m always amazed that usually what I think are my best ideas end up falling flat in front of an audience and the ideas I think are dumb play really well.
An easy way to figure out what works and what doesn’t is video. Sometimes things feel good on stage, but then you rewatch the video and the trick, joke or bit isn’t hitting as hard as it felt. Video also shows all the gaps in your show. You will see and hear every dead spot in your show.
When you watch your show on video it can be very painful to watch, and I think this is why people don’t like watching their show on video. Unless you are hiring someone to take notes, you need to do this. If you can’t watch your show, how can the audience?
With me working on a new show, I tightened up a trick in the show by watching the video, I made it play a lot better than it was. Without the video it would have taken months to figure out, not hours. The hard part is sitting down and actually doing the work.
One of the tricks that I’m working on is the Silk and Coat Hanger. This is basically a silk and ring routine, if you dig around this blog you can find more about it. Basically the silk goes through the coat hanger in different ways. It’s a fun trick for me to do as a perform, and so far the audience seems to enjoy it as well.
Here’s the problem with it, I’m having trouble selling it on stage. Most people who do it, do it to music, not talking. I think I need some jokes upfront and then do the trick to music. Music is nice because it fills the gap while I wait for the audience’s brains to catch up with the effect. As a talking act, you stand there for what feels like an eternity while the audience processes the trick.
I really like the trick, and it’s semi unique to me. I’m going to keep plugging away with it and hopefully I’ll figure out how to make it work better on stage!