Probably more ideas pop for magic tricks into my head while driving than anywhere else. One thing that fascinates me is magic that uses liquid. The main reason is that liquid has a set of rules it has to play by, and the audience understands that. Those rules also make it a challenge, which is why there aren’t a ton of tricks put out that use liquid.
The idea that popped into my head was to have a small set of Gozinta Boxes. These are a nested set of boxes where the outer box will fit inside the inner box. The trick is that boxes are opened and there’s a shot glass inside. You reassemble the boxes in the opposite order (inner box on the outside), then open the boxes again and there’s another shot glass. Both shot glasses fill up the interior of the boxes. You reassemble the boxes with the original outer box on the outside and for the finale, you open the boxes and it’s filled with whiskey, that you pour into the two shot glasses filling them!
As far as method goes, there’s a natural off beat after the second shot glass production that would be perfect for adding the liquid. I was thinking about several ways to seal a load to add into the box, however I think the best and most reliable way would be to simply switch one of the boxes. In theory all of the attention will be on the second shot glass, the production of the liquid is the topper to the trick.
I just ordered a few of the small Gozinta Boxes and will try it out soon!
One of the hardest things to do is to sit down and try to come up with ideas. Your options are too broad, you need to narrow it down and give yourself some rules. Some examples would be doing trick with a dollar bill, or an animation that doesn’t use invisible thread.
When I travel I make videos of magic tricks using things that I find in my hotel room. Limiting the main prop of the trick to things in the room narrows your focus.
Another way to narrow your focus is to find one of the calendars online that lists all of the national days. For example today is National Coffee Day. You then create a magic trick for whatever today is.
Here’s an example of three tricks that use a coffee cup that I did for the tricks in a hotel video series:
One of the best books I’ve read about comedy magic (i’m still reading it) is Be More Funny by Christopher Barnes. This book is a solid book on techniques to create comedy magic, and probably the best that breaks it down into different types of comedy.
His examples of the routines to illustrate the comedy principles are great and all of the tricks are unique. He doesn’t just take a basic trick and make it funny, he builds a whole unique routine. He’s not just doing funny patter with Hippity Hop Rabbits, but creating an original ride to take the audience on in each trick.
While reading this book I came up with the idea of a card trick with crackers. The trick is coming along, it still has a way to go. I can’t think of the last time I read a magic book and ended up with a unique routine out of it. Honestly, I think this book is one of the best $50 you can spend on a magic book. I think that even if you aren’t a comedy magician you’ll learn something out of it because it teaches you how to create your own routines, not just make existing ones funnier!
In my show yesterday I did the Object in Ball of Yarn with the fishing pole using a different switch than I had previously used. The switch worked, however I wasn’t 100% happy with it. I felt like it was a little too dirty. Sure the audience didn’t know, but I think it could be cleaner.
The audience knows when something is not quite right. They may not know what happened, or even really consciously know that something isn’t right, but they can sense it. Like when you go into your case to grab something , but you are also doing something else secret and that grab takes a second longer than it should. The audience feels that. If you have too many of those moments, they’ll start to add up.
I think recognizing that you have moments that aren’t quite right and fixing separates the good acts from the just okay acts. It’s that little bit of care that that helps move your magic to the next level.
Sometimes in comedy the audience gets to the punchline before the comedian says it. When the audience gets ahead of in magic, it can really build a finish for the trick because they have time to process the trick. This shortens or eliminates the lag that happens after the Ta-Dah and before the applause.
The Object in Ball of Yarn that I’m working on right now, when the revelation happens, I think the audience already knows what’s in the ball of yarn. From watching the audience and the person onstage, when the paper is revealed tied to the end, the know it’s the drawing from earlier. Frequently the person will say, “it’s my drawing” before it’s untied from the end of the yarn and I have to prod them to unfold it. At that point we’re just confirming what they already know.
With the audience so far ahead of the trick, it can do a switch of the paper at a time where there’d be too much heat in other tricks. This opens up the technical side of the trick to using bigger paper, which will make it much more visible!
One of my favorite things is figuring out magic tricks. A couple of days ago I made fishing pole reel to wind up the yarn from the coin in the ball of yarn trick. Yesterday I used it in a show and learned a few things about it.
First my method of attaching the yarn to the string needed improvement. The yarn was threaded through a small hole and then knots were tied in the yarn to keep in from pulling back through the hole. Well, the knot pulled itself through the hole. I’ll need to either tie a lot more knots, tie something to the end that’s larger than the hole, or simply just tie it around a post. This is an easy fix.
Second thing that I learned was that while my pole is collapses, I should have it fully extended before the show. It’s a waste of time to have it extend it, and I also use an extendable pole in my show, so I don’t want a feeling of duplication.
The final thing that I need to do is to change the method for the trick. Right now I’m using Vernet Magic’s amazing trick The Yarn as my method for making the billet appear on the end. This is a great method for getting the billet on the end of the string when the trick is done in your hands. Unfortunately using a five foot fishing pole has created an unanticipated challenge when the string is five feet from your hand. I’m solving this by changing the method for this trick, and the bonus of the new method is that the trick will play a lot larger!
I love that this fishing pole is in my show, and I’m hoping that I can figure out both the technical part and the presentation part so it stays in my show!
There are magic tricks that I’ve always been fascinated by and wanted to do in my show. Over the years some of these tricks have been in a version of my show and having done them, I don’t need to do them again. There are other tricks that I keep revisiting, trying to find a way to make them work for me. One of those tricks is Coin in Ball of Yarn.
The basic effect is that a borrowed or marked item disappears and reappears inside of a ball of yarn. There are a lot of ways to do this effect, and a lot of ways to present it. Usually the method dictates whether the ball of yarn can be shown before the trick has started or not, which will affect how the trick is presented.
Years ago I was working on an Object in Ball of Yarn and wanted a fishing pole for the person to be able to reel in the yarn. Unfortunately commercially made fishing pole reels aren’t designed to handle yarn. A fly fishing reel almost works, but they are too small to hold a meaningful quantity of yarn. I hand built a contraption on a vintage hand drill that reeled in yarn, but was super heavy, hard to work (for someone in the audience) and ugly as heck.
About a month ago I started working on a new version of Object in Ball of Yarn and a friend of mine suggested that I use a fishing pole. I told him that they don’t work for yarn. He suggested I make one using old movie film reels. Then it hit me, I have a 3D Printer, why not just print it out and it will be exactly how I want it to be. Here’s what I printed out yesterday:
It finished printing out last night and I tried it out this morning and I’m happy to report it works great! The nice thing is that the fishing pole is made from a “travel fishing pole”, so it collapses and easily fits in my luggage. Another prop that I have for this trick is bowl to hold the yarn, and this bowl has a fitting on it to screw into a mic stand. Between the fishing pole that collapses and not having to travel with a stand for the bowl, this is becoming a pack medium, play big routine!
A couple of days ago I wrote about seeing an amazing act perform under horrible conditions (you can read it here). Yesterday I was performing at a festival and I got to be a good act performing with not so idea conditions. I’m not one to complain, as I’m honestly grateful for any gig and do my best to make it work.
The gig yesterday had a raised stage, which is good. Unfortunately the stage was only about 6 inches high, so it didn’t offer the same visual advantage as a 12 or 18 inch stage would have.
The ground that the audience sat on sloped downward away from the stage, so any advantage from the short stage was quickly lost. The picture was taken with my camera held at eye level from about the 8th row. You’ll notice that you can only see one performer on the stage, in reality there were six people! They were a Taiko Drum act, a they have some very large props, however you’ll also notice you can’t see them in the picture.
The stage also had to metal poles that block sight lines and a barricade in front of the stage. The metal pole and barricade are more psychological barriers for the audience. However there were four giant pillars in the middle of the audience blocking the sight lines, which were actual barriers.
How do you make this work?
There are some things you can’t control, like the big pillars or the sloping ground. The first thing I did was move the barrier from in front of the stage. Now there’s one less thing between me and the audience. Then I did a lot of my standing on the stool that I keep in my car for situations like this. It makes the show much more visible. These two things made a huge difference in how the show was received.
You can complain about situations, or you can do you best to make them the best they can be!
Marketing a magic trick is something that’s a long road, if you want it to have staying power. It’s a short road if you are just doing a money grab. It seems that a lot of what’s put out is simply to get an idea onto the market before someone else does, and it’s not a finished idea. Yes, there are things that are well thought out and have been used “in the trenches” for read audiences, but somehow those seem few and far between.
Right now I’m working on a project that’s a utility prop and I got it working for me and how I work. Then I sent some out to people who actually do the trick and apparently I’m the only one who used the trick the way that I do! Getting feedback from people while a huge pain in the butt, as I’ve had to do several major redesigns, will make this something that has much more staying power than in it’s original “final” form.
One of the things about how this project has evolved is something fairly simple has gotten a lot more complex to build. The nice thing about it being less simple, is that it’ll be harder to rip off by other people and there are a lot of small details in it now that really make it more unique than in its original form and a much more well thought out device.
Unique acts are something that I always love seeing. They can be good, bad, or whatever, if it’s something I’ve never seen before, I’m in! Earlier this week I performed with the Marshall Shore the Hip Historian. He does an act based on Arizona’s history, and it’s run like a game show. His show has amazing “curb appeal”. The look of the show looks fun and exciting.
Let’s start with his costume. He wears boots with the Arizona flag on them, and his jacket also has the Arizona flag on the back of it. He’s looks like a cool version of Colonel Sanders. One of his props is a chicken bucket with his face in place of the Colonel’s face.
His show is a game show where people try to be the first to correctly answer Arizona trivia. I think this is something that could be expanded into a much bigger show. He could use some video elements, and different types of games, not just head to head trivia. This is something that would play really well in a hipster bar or black box theater. I also think this is something that if he packaged it right, he could get a ton of bookings in middle and high schools!