Oh man, I just got home from being on the road for little while and I had a package from Jonathan Neal waiting for me! This arrived the day after I left and I’ve been anxiously awaiting it! I had ordered two of his parakeets for the vanishing birdcage! These aren’t rubber, they are silk on the outside.
These little guys are amazing looking and collapse into virtually nothing! I like them as they visually have more “pop” than the plain ol’ yellow canary that I had been using.
Unfortunately my cage is in California right now and I’m in Seattle, so I can’t try them out just yet.
A little while ago I agreed to do a school assembly tour next year. I’ll be doing 2-4 shows a day for about 8 weeks. For me doing these tours is about generating new material. Doing 15-20 shows a week, you really can take something and polish it, or know it’s not for you.
I was trying to think of a something to tie a bunch of unrelated ideas together. It hit me the other day, use idioms as the thing that links everything. An idiom is a saying, like “a broken clock is right twice a day” or “keep me in the loop“.
Those are two examples of things I’m working on right now for the show.
A while ago I ended up with a lot of vintage magic props. One of them is the stand for an old vanishing alarm clock. I went out and ordered an alarm clock with bells that ring and rigged it to work with a remote control. The idea is that alarm clock will come out of a box. It will be covered up with a handkerchief and hang on the stand. It will ring, then vanish. Then there will be ringing from the box it originally came out of and it will be back inside the box!
I’m excited to be able to have a use for a prop like this in my show, as this style of prop doesn’t normally have a spot in what I do.
One of the tricks that I’m trying to move out of my preshow and into the main body of my show is my version of Iain Bailey’s Measure For Measure trick. This is a tape measure prediction, you pull out the tape and someone says “stop” and there’s a giant arrow drawn on the back where they stopped. I totally reworked Iain’s gimmick so that it works way better for how I perform and the conditions that I perform in. You can read a little bit about it on this blog post.
The challenge I’ve had with it was getting the effect to really hit. It was getting an “meh” sort of reaction. What fixed it was that I added a phase to the beginning of the trick. This first phase I used a separate tape measure and the person from the audience says “stop”, but misses the prediction and it’s wrong. I tell them they will get it wrong the first time, but will get it right the second time. I think this really sets up what’s going to happen the second time and makes their brain processing the effect much faster.
I’ve managed to get a couple more laughs out of the routine as I’ve been working on it this summer. It’s slowly becoming a more fleshed out routine. I just need to do the work, which is writing, testing and editing.
Here’s a little tip for when you’re working a fair or any multi-day gig with a lot of other acts. First of all, don’t touch the sound company’s equipment without asking. What I do is ask if I can have 3 dedicated channels for the week. Usually they say yes, but not always. I do my initial sound check and once that’s done I take a pic of the sound board and note what’s mine.
Now it’s really easy to recreate the same sound by using the picture if things get changed.
I know the sound guy is there for that…well usually they are. The fair where I took this picture had one person running four stages. Since my audio was never supposed to change, he didn’t visit my stage near my show times very often. I’m OK with that, I had his cell number and could text him if I needed him.
Well, one of the community acts later in the day as I was packing up used two channels, a handheld mic and a phone with music on it. At one point there was feedback and the person running music slid down all the levels on the all the channels of the board to make it stop. I should note that the reason there was feedback was the person with the mic stood in front of a speaker.
That person turning down everyone’s channels ruined the preset for the next day. Luckily I have what I need to easily recreate what I had before it got changed! Take a pic of the soundboard, it only takes a couple of seconds and can save you a pain later!
I think I was scrolling through facebook and I came across this video on the props that another magician uses for strolling at a fair:
There’s a lot of stuff in this that I disagree with, but the first thing is what he says he wears. He says his costume (whatever you wear while performing is a costume) is a t shirt and cargo shorts. I’m someone who is pretty dressed down compared to most magicians, but I don’t think I would perform in a Tshirt and shorts.
The other thing that I don’t agree with is how much material the he’s taking. I should say that I don’t agree with it “for me”. You really don’t need that many props, you’re doing roving, not a formal 22 minute magic castle close up set.
Here’s the props for my roving set:
That’s a 20 minute set if I wanted to do it as a long chunk, however I normally wouldn’t do it that way. Normally I’d do it as a 5-10 minute set. There’s a lot of variety in what you see there. Obviously there’s a lot that I can do with the deck of cards, then there’s the linking pins and finally the wallet. The wallet is a card to wallet, but inside it I have my Splitting Image trick, and a bunch of business cards that I can do mentalism with.
That’s the core set, then if I’m working on something new, I will add that to my those props. The whole works will fit into my two front pockets. Just because you have a ton of pocket space, it doesn’t mean you need to fill them with tricks!
At the beginning of the show I take out the alarm clock and say “It’s time to start the show” and the alarm clock rings. Then throughout the show whenever I say the word “time” the alarm clock rings. I don’t call attention to the connection of the word time and the ringing of the alarm clock. I let the audience discover that, and the do fairly quickly.
This gag definitely has it’s roots in Pee Wee’s Playhouse with their use of a secret word and when it’s said everyone screams. I like the gag because it’s not exactly a look don’t see as it’s an action that’s triggered by something else happening, so it’s funny, but the kids don’t feel a need to explain anything to you after the connection of the word and action are established.
I have a feeling this is going to be a great lead into the vanishing alarm clock once I have finished making the couple of extra props that I need for it.
I was scrolling through Instagram last night and came upon a picture of overhead projector bills.
I was thinking of what could be done with these. I think you could create a makeshift projector using the flashlight on your phone. If you combined that with a glass table I think you could do some fun stuff on the ceiling.
One thought was you could do a “touch the screen” type effect with the bills on the ceiling for a group of people.
If you have a $1, $5, $10, $20 and $50 dollar bills and line them up in numerical order, you can do some spell count procedures to eventually force a bill. The basic routine would be:
Touch a bill and spell the value of it (ie ONE), jumping one bill per letter and keep touching that bill
Remove the end bills ($1 and $50)
Spell the value of one of the eliminated bills (ONE or FIFTY)
They are now on the $10
You could then reveal the prediction of having a ten dollar bill in your phone case.
I was hanging out with Chris Beason the other day and we were chatting about some tricks with a dollar bill.
One idea I had was that you mention that there are 13 arrows that the eagle is holding on the back of a dollar bill. You then do a double take and notice your bill has 14 arrows and is a misprint. You then pull a full size arrow out of the dollar bill!
It would be pretty easy to do, you’d need a gimmick like an appearing straw, but only about 24 inches long and glue an arrowhead to one end. Or cut the end to a point and paint it silver. It could be kept in a thumb tip, and possibly put a slit in the side of the tip to allow the arrow to be removed from it. The thumb tip is really only there to keep the arrow compress and easier to handle when rolled up.
While not the worlds greatest mystery, it would be a decent sight gag.
Sometimes I don’t take my own advice and I regret it. I tell people always use a mic when doing a show for a group. Yesterday I did a summer day camp show for a smallish group and it was indoors. I intentionally didn’t pack my sound system as I didn’t think it was necessary. When I got there, they were a group that was all masked, so I did the show masked.
When you’re masked you lose a lot of the power of your voice when speaking to a group. Also you spend a lot of energy pushing your voice through the mask to project it out to the audience.
Today I have another summer day camp and I’m packing my sound system in case they are also a facility that still requires masking. I should have packed the sound system yesterday anyway and left it in the car if not needed. I was being lazy and it ended up being a bad idea.
For some reason I’ve always wanted a Chair To Suitcase. This is simply a chair that folds up into suitcase and was popularized in the USA by Horace Goldin in the 1930’s. I’m not sure why I want one, or what they heck I’d do with it. Recently I had a chance to buy one and now I own one.
Here it is as a chair:
And here it is as a suitcase:
This particular one will hold my weight if I sit on it, but I really don’t think it necessary. I think if I used it, it’s be something that held my props, like a makeshift table. For something like a cabaret show or when doing a short set it may be useable. I have a feeling it’s something that will just kick around for a while and I’ll either figure out a use for it, or eventually sell it.