The Road Giveth and The Road Taketh

I started the tour on Monday and had to cancel all of Tuesday’s show because my radiator had a hole magically appear! I had to do some sweet talking to the mechanic in a small town to get him to fit me into his schedule. It helps that his grandchild was at my show, and liked the show.

travelling magician

I’ve often said that magic is problem solving, so is magic on the road. In my first show on this tour I use Phil Smith’s Quinta Force and did the very basic math incorrectly in my head and forced the wrong object. With some quick thinking and a solid foundation in magic and mentalism principles I was able to make the trick work and no one knew that I had majorly screwed up the trick!

The moral of today’s blog post is that you need to be flexible, not just in your magic show, but in life.


Learning a Show Quickly

I’ve completed day one of the school assembly tour. The show went better than I expected. One way that I worked on the show was listening to recordings of it while I drove my car. This is a very effective way to learn a show. It’s also a great way to work on the show. While listening to the show you will hear bits where you need filler or it will spark ideas for bits.

After the first two shows, I learned that my audio needed some tweaking, it needed to be louder or quieter at different spots.

Another thing I’ve notice is that my style for school assembly shows has really changed. I’m lower energy, but still fairly energetic. I also am not doing rules for the kids and for two shows it seemed to work. We’ll see how it plays out in the long run.

I also noticed that I have two tricks that are virtually the same trick in the show. Both are essentially a one out of five prediction, but both are presented very differently and also 30 mins apart in the show. I don’t think anyone notices that they are the same effect.

I’m also thinking that next week I’ll be doing the show with just a hand held microphone and not a headset microphone. This will allow me to set up quicker, but also I need to keep up with my handheld microphone technique.

I took this tour to work on stuff and I’m definitely doing that! There’s only one trick in the show that I’ve done in a show before.

School Assembly Tour Day 1

Today is the first day of the school assembly tour and the first full performances of my new show called Incredible Idioms. This show is themed about the language we use and it’s been a lot of fun to work on.

The whole show fits inside one case and here’s what it looks like:

school assembly magic show

Unfortunately it doesn’t really travel set up. It’d be nice to just open the case and go, but there’s a lot of crushable things in there AND that picture doesn’t show things like my mics and audio cables which need to travel in the case.

The show is going to probably go through a lot of changes over the month of performing it on this tour. This is where the work comes in. I need to record, at least audio record and hopefully video record as many shows as possible and review them as often as possible. This is how a show gets good in a short amount of time.

Well, off to the first gig…


Talking Skull

One thing I’m not is a huge magic collector. Sure, I have more stuff than what’s in my current show, but I don’t have a ton of stuff in bins that’s not used (there are a couple of bins, just not many).

One of the things I’ve wanted for a while as a display piece is a talking skull. Not the more modern ones that look like they are made out of a plastic halloween skull, but an older paper mache one.

I got this one at a Potter and Potter auction for a price that I was willing to pay for it. It didn’t come with instructions, and luckily Abbott’s Magic Company sells them for $4. It’s super clever how the gimmick works, and I would have figured it out…eventually. I’m thinking I might change it to a remote control, so I can make it talk on the shelf in my office.

I like this on my shelf, and I’m glad I picked it up!


Keep It Up (higher)

Over the summer I worked with a balloon show, and his show is a great illustration of why it’s important to use the stage. If you are standing in front of the stage, it does help you mentally with the energy exchange with you and the audience, however you sacrifice visibility.

Here’s how the show looked from the 4th row at the audience’s eye level:

balloon artist

You can’t see much, and the way the audience in the back filtered out, that confirmed that they couldn’t see. Here’s what the show looked like from the extreme side:

balloon show

There’s a lot more going on in the show that the audience a couple rows back can’t see. If you are on the same level as your audience and they aren’t sitting directly on the floor, everything needs to be at your armpits or higher. Any lower and it just disappears when you’re in the 3rd row or further back.

This post should be a reminder to audit your show and look for places where things aren’t visible to the audience when you’re performing on the floor. Visibility is why Axel Hecklau’s Just a Cup is superior to most chop cup routines, the action isn’t stuck on the table…and you aren’t stuck behind a table!!


Choices Routine…

I’ve been working on a trick for my platform/stage show that’s essentially an invisible deck. Well, it started out as an invisible deck and has gone through a lot of changes and doesn’t really resemble a traditional invisible deck routine.

The effect is that the audience eliminates half of the cards over and over until there is one card left, and that card matches the prediction.

I’m working on a platform version of it for my carry on luggage magic show. This will end with the card in an envelope in my wallet. Here’s video of an early test of it:

This is essentially Mark Oberon’s Bang On, but modified so that I only need two wallets and can show the back of the card as it comes out of the wallet.

This routine is really no longer the invisible deck or the Bang On routine. It’s now a mix of methods and you couldn’t do the trick how I do it with the standard props that come with either of those tricks. To me this is what more magicians should be doing. Taking standard tricks and really making them their own, not just with adding a joke or “filtering it through your personality” but actually changing the trick to fit your artistic vision.

Got out there a make actual art, not paint by numbers art.


What’s Next!

A couple of weeks I wrote a post about making a themed What’s Next prop that’s a road sign with bullet holes in it.

I ordered a cheap What’s Next prop that was black with white spots. I peeled off the stationary white spots so I was left with a black metal board and put an arrow that I cut out of vinyl sticker paper on both sides of the board. Then added the two bullet hole stickers to one side and five to the other side. For the gimmicks, I simply added the stickers to the tops of gimmicks that came with the set and trimmed them around the stickers.

It came out looking pretty good and works great!

Here’s what I don’t like about it: It’s a prop that pretends to be something in real life, but isn’t. Ideally it would look more like this:

One Way sign

However if I used a sign that was more like that, I’m worried that the bullet holes would be harder to see against the text. The simple design that I used makes the bullet holes clearly visible. It was a choice that had to be made, a realistic sign or visibility and I chose visibility.


Magnets to the Rescue

In the school assembly show that I’m working on, I have a need to steal a FS2 gimmick (modified Sanada Gimmick). The challenge is that it’s going to be loaded, so it can’t open. The solution that I came up with is to put magnets on the bottom of it, and have it stick to other magnets inside of the opened lid of my case.

FS2 gimmick by jay scott berry with magnets

The magnets in the gimmick and the magnets in the case will hold the gimmick closed so that nothing will fall out of it.

I marked my case so that I know exactly where to put the gimmick when setting up the show. This is more to make setting up easier, as I can visually see the gimmick sticking out of the case when I need to steal it.

FS2 gimmick

In the actual routine the gimmick will be stolen when I pick up a book that I had previously set on top of the case.

FS2 gimmick

The book serves a double purpose. It facilitates the steal of the FS2 gimmick and when it put the book back, it allows me to ditch a palmed ball.

One thing that a lot of children’s performers neglect is making the magic technique solid. Sure I could ditch the palmed ball in my pocket, but it’s really not deceptive to do it that way. With kids performers there’s a myth that “it’s about the journey, not the destination” and I totally disagree with that. If you have an awesome trip to disneyland, but turn around when you get to the gate and go home, there’s some disappointment. With magic, you need the journey and destination to be great!


The Next Step is Magic

One of the challenges of the sponge tennis ball routine I’m working on is to make it more “magically sound”. I’ve gotten a lot things figured out. Yesterday I posted about the steal of the FS2 gimmick and the ditch of the final palmed sponge ball. Something I didn’t like was that a lot happens between the false transfer and the reveal that the sponge balls is gone.

The sequence is:
1: False transfer
2: Hand palming the ball takes the book that I’m holding under my arm, gestures and says a line.
3: Put the book away in my case and ditch the palmed ball.
4: Reveal the ball is gone

There’s a lot of motion, and I think it would be easy for someone to doubt they actually saw the tennis ball in my hand. I wanted to show it after the ditch and I remembered recently reading in a set of Tommy Wonder’s lecture notes about appearing to show the item after the ditch. I also remember seeing this in action the time I was lucky enough to see his act live.

Here’s Tommy Wonder’s act:

For the vanish of the lemon, he’s able to show its there after it’s been ditched. That’s the part that inspired my path to show the tennis ball after the ditch.

sponge tennis ball magic

This is a simple addition to the back of the FS2 gimmick. Now the tennis ball can be seen after it’s been ditched in my case. It’s been a long road to get to to this point with my sponge tennis ball routine. I’ve always said that creating magic is solving a series of problems and this sponge tennis ball routine is a good example of that!


Sponge Tennis Balls

alan wong sponge tennis balls

For years I’ve used a sponge tennis ball in my show. I only use it as a one time production item. The first two sets I had were made by Alan Wong. Sometime between my two purchases, he changed how they were made and the newer ones were more dense and didn’t pop open nearly as well as the first (older) set.

I’ve been searching for a new set as my original set is pretty beat up looking and I recently found a set of sponge tennis balls by Daba

sponge tennis balls

I will say that I’m not a fan of the routine, as when you squish the balls, it takes away from the earlier productions. The first half of the routine is good, but the second half I don’t like. The sponge tennis balls are great! They compress very small, and pop open nicely! They will make great replacements for my original Alan Wong set!

If you need a sponge tennis ball, I recommend these!