The other day a buddy of mine gave me the book A Magician Prepares and I started reading it on my flight yesterday. This book has some shortcomings, like the layout which makes it hard to read and the title isn’t that great, however the content is fantastic. The book is a bunch of short interviews with known magicians.
There’s a lot of great advice in this book, and I think it’d be a great book to read when you start to hit the semi-pro level. When you’ve begun to get an act and are out working it semi-regularly. I do think it’s worth a read no matter where you are in your career.
One thing that struck me was in one interview a guy mentions that people ask, “why do all cruise ship magicians do the same stuff?”. His answer was the limitations of the gig, you need to fit it all in a suitcase that’s less than 50 pounds.
Having worked on some ships, I get the challenge of the limitation, however I also think that it’s a shortsighted reason. The reason is laziness, they don’t want to create a something new. Sure something like color changing hanks plays big, packs small and there are plenty of routines for it. That’s a trick that’s in my show, however it’s not chosen because of the size of it. I do the trick because in my routine there’s a message that I want to convey with it. Also the way I do it, I use an additional prop that takes it out of the “packs small” category.
Seeing other magicians do magic tricks is something that inspires me. They could be amazing, horrible, or whatever and I’ll love it. More than enjoying it, it inspires me to be better. A bad act inspires me to be better to put distance between me and the act and good act makes me want to be better to close the distance between me and the act.
Based on how many magicians I see at all the magic stuff I go to, I think that not many magicians are out there supporting magic. I go to most of the local shows and hardly ever see the same faces, with a couple of exceptions.
Your New Years Resolution should be to go out and see more magic shows and support live magic. The more of us out performing the better it is for all of us.
Creativity isn’t something you can force, but there are things you can do to stimulate it. Lately I’ve felt pretty uncreative, however I’ve had a tough performing schedule which didn’t leave a lot of time to play with ideas. Then somehow like magic, the last couple of days I’ve had some great ideas.
The main thing that changed in the last few days was that I opened myself up to new ideas. I starting looking for them, not waiting for them to pop into my head. Taking control of creativity is the first step to being creative.
Another big change was that I was playing with things a bit more. I’m back to working through card tricks at night while sitting on the couch while my wife watches TV. Sure going through a book on card tricks isn’t exactly creative, but it’s making my brain learn new things, and that opens up my brain to forming new ideas.
Every now and then taking the time to revisit tricks that you like, but couldn’t get them to work in your show can be productive. One trick that I’ve been working on is my Silk Thru Coat Hanger routine. The trick is good, but I’m having trouble making it work in my show.
Last night I was experimenting with different flows of the routine. I think that by rearranging the order of the tricks that happen, I can have a sense of build to the routine.
Right now the routine gets “stunned silence” which is good, but not what I’m after. The challenge I’m having it letting the audience get caught up with the magic. The trick is very visual and very impossible, so there’s a long moment of people processing what just happened. That makes me think that this routine needs to be music driven.
The next challenge is to find some music that fits the routine!
One of the easiest ways to create things is to put conditions onto what you want to do. For example, I’ve always loved the Three Ball Routine or Balls in Net. What I didn’t like is having to bring two people onto the stage to hold the net. I felt it added blocking issues and a lot of wasted time bringing the people onto the stage.
The condition I added to the Three Ball Routine was that it needed to be done with just me onstage. With that condition in place, it created a lot of challenges, like where to put the balls. John Rogers has an interesting solution to this in his The Walrus Three Ball Routine, however that wasn’t what I was going for. Some options were having the net hung between two mic stands like a hammock or simply setting them halfway into your top jacket pocket.
I wanted the whole routine being done in the hand as the cleanest way to do it. It got me thinking of Coins Across routines that are done entirely in the hands, specifically Jay Sankey’s Mexican Jumping Coins. With Jay’s routine in mind, I got to work on putting together my routine with balls.
Here’s what I came up with:
By putting in the condition of having no one from the audience onstage, it made the routine much easier to build. I think if I had initially added a “no net” condition I may have gotten to the solution much faster. Honestly I want the net from the beginning, but figured I may need it to hold the balls.
Look at the tricks that you do, and figure out what you don’t like about them. Add removing that as a condition and you’ll be on your way to creating something new!
One of the most common joke questions people ask is if you can turn a one dollar bill into a hundred dollar bill. When people ask things like this they think they are the first person to every ask you that. There are three ways to deal with it. First you can laugh with them, next you can try to one up them with a joke, and finally you can do what they ask.
Of the three reactions to the joke, the only one I don’t recommend is the second one. Let the person have their moment, they are going to allow you many more. Now as for the first and third option, I prefer being able to comply, but that’s not always possible with the “make my wife disappear” jokes, so then you have to laugh it off with them.
For something like turn my dollar bill into a hundred dollar bill, you can comply. You can keep a hundred dollar bill in a thumb tip and do a bill switch, however if you do this you have to give them the hundred dollar bill. It’ll cost you ninety nine bucks, but you’ll have created a miracle that they’ll talk about forever.
Another way would to be to take their dollar and switch it for a bill that has the serial number altered. The serial number reads “A 00000100 S”, so it’s a hundred dollar bill. You could also have the serial number read “1 HUNDRED”. Either way you’ve turned their bill into a hundred. Changing the serial number takes a bit of work, but it’s a lot cheaper than spending $99!!!
Earlier today I was thinking about performing at corporate holiday events. Mainly I was thinking about how every magician that wants work will get some in December. It’s a time where the gig isn’t really based on merit, but on someone’s boss telling them to get a magician, so they get the first magician that’s available.
It’s good that everyone is working, however a lot of the conditions for the shows aren’t “entry level” magic shows. First of all you typically have poor audience layout, were some of the audience may be behind you. Lighting is horrible and sound often in through the DJ’s mix which typically is insanely bass heavy.
All of the above adds up to a show that’s going to be hard for someone starting out. This year I feel like I’ve finally hit my stride with these shows and was very comfortable doing them. Personally I hope that newer performers look at how their shows went (honestly) and how they can improve them.
One thing that I try to do in my show is eliminate dead spots. Places where nothing really interesting is happening. This is something that’s important to me, it gives the show a tight feel. Personally I really dislike it when nothing is happening in a show.
Last week I saw went out to see a show that was a bunch of side show acts. One thing I noticed was that in many of the acts there was a lot of dead time. For example someone did a strait jacket escape and during the locking in procedure, not much happened.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it’s your artistic choice to have spaces where nothing is going on. You could do it to build tension, or whatever. Whenever I find these dead spots, I try to add a joke, music or bit to fill the space. I think it really helps to move the show along.
One thing that carries a lot of shows is the performer being confidant. Standing tall and doing what they do with authority, even if what they are doing isn’t very good. Recently I saw an act where the performer’s confidence carried the show.
He told some jokes and did some singing:
His character was a space alien. He delivered his lines like they were the best lines ever, and people seemed to pay attention. In my opinion what carried the act was him selling the material like it was amazing, also a very friendly audience really helped.
However had he done his material with any doubt that it wouldn’t hit, the act really would have been rough. So go out there and portray confidence in your material!
One thing that I get frequently get criticized about is how I dress when I perform. This is at less formal venues like at a fair or festival, not at a formal venue like a theater. A good example of my less formal “show clothes” is this:
It’s a black button up shirt, and if it’s outdoors I wear maroon pants with it. To match it up my socks are black and my shoes are maroon. I’ll give you that it’s not a formal look, it’s still a look.
Recently this promo video came across my facebook feed and I’m not criticizing his act, or why he chose that as his costume, I’m using it to justify what I’m doing.
I think what I’m wearing looks more formal that the polo with your company’s logo on it. I think the polo makes you look like an employee, versus the performer. From a distance you can’t see the logo, so it’s just a polo.
Sure, I just may look like some guy, however that’s kinda my character and done intentionally.