I do a card trick that I call “choices” where the audience narrows down cards by eliminating them until there is one card left and that matched a prediction that I have made. The overall presentation is about me making bad choices in life, and honestly from a presentation standpoint doesn’t need to be a card trick, it could literally be anything that’s narrowed down.
Since it doesn’t need to be playing cards, I was trying to think of what I could replace them with and decided to use postcards.
By switching props from jumbo cards to slightly smaller postcards I can add an additional way to show the postcards all to be different. I should note this routine at its bones is essentially Al Koran’s 5 Star Miracle. One of the things that I added to the postcards was to cut them short, so I can do a riffle display to show them all different.
This little bit allows me to show them a bit more freely. The postcards are soo visually different that if I spread them all in a face, I think the repeating pattern would be more obvious than with playing cards.
Now I need to make a choice and figure out if I want to keep the presentation as is, or try to write something new.
There’s a common street performer “trick” to unite the audience and it’s call and response. If you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s typically used when the performer says something like, “Would you like to see another trick…say YES!” then the audience responds by saying YES.
This an effective technique uniting the audience, they’re doing something together and it helps them start to become an audience and not just a bunch of individuals. This is especially important for an outdoor show where you may have a transient audience. Another thing it does is forces the audience to invest energy into the show. The more they are invested in the show, the more they will stay and watch the show…and like it!
I like the technique, but I personally don’t like how most people do it, they’re doing it simply because it’s effective. There’s no real purpose besides filling a hole in the show because you don’t have a segue to the next routine.
When I use it in my show, I give it a bit of meaning. In my Drawing in Ball of Yarn routine, I do it to have the audience vote on whether I should buy the person’s drawing. It accomplishes the same thing and just telling the audience to say “yes”, in fact it actually moves the show forward!
With a little bit of thought, you can find ways to use this technique to move the show forward, instead of a hack bit.
In the past I had made a 25ish minute emergency magic show that fits into a little pouch about the size of a sandwich bag. I keep this in my car and it’s come in handy several times since I made it.
In reading Doc Dixon’s book The Show is the Mother of Invention, it got me thinking of expanding this emergency pouch into a small show, not an emergency show. The emergency show was had tricks that I can do, but don’t do and were selected for the size of the trick, not necessarily if the trick was a good fit for my personality.
While I was killing time in a town the other day, I was walking through a junk shop and found a small doctor’s bag.
This bag was cheap at $20 and it’s still really small and won’t take up much room in the trunk of my car, but will allow me turn that 25 minute emergency show into a better show. I have a lot more space to play with and can put things that fit me better into it and things that will play for a larger audience.
Something that the larger size of the case will let me do that the pouch won’t is to put a couple of audio cables into it so the show will have music. This will add production value to the show.
I’m starting to put the show together, but I’m still on the road performing for another month and a half, so it probably won’t be done until I’m home and can add a few more props to it.
Here’s another packet trick I picked up from a magic shop’s junk bin. It’s called Liar’s Blackjack by Bob King. It’s sorta an all backs routine, but not really. You have five cards that have backs on both sides, then a few faces appear and one of them changes.
Here’s what it looks like with when the original instructions are followed and my update on the trick:
The big change is that I got rid of the cards with backs on both sides. That’s such a strange object that the routine really glosses over and I think detracts from the routine. Using blank face cards keeps the focus on the effect and presentation. Then a little change in the count as the Kiss Elmsley doesn’t really work with the blank face cards, so I used the Hypnotic Rumba Count.
This isn’t a routine that I would ever do, but I think that getting rid of the cards with backs on both sides is a HUGE improvment!
I had a day off last week and finally made a prototype of my custom props for The (W)hole Thing which is Daryl’s version of an Emerson and West packet trick.
The main differences is that the circle around they hole is a donut, the spots are arranged like an X and the cards are black. The main reason that the cards are black is that I might have a line about a black hole. With the cards in black I’m sacrificing some visual clarity of what’s a hole and what isn’t. I think if I end up not using the black hole line, I’ll switch the colors back to red as it visually pops!
One thing I’ve noticed that I do is over write my patter for my tricks. The early versions of the tricks are full of stuff that ultimately will be cut. I do think that’s a good way to do it, over write and figure out what’s good and what isn’t. I try to initially fill a lot of verbal space, then cut out what doesn’t work, leaving only the best parts.
The trick I’m working on that’s essentially a clock prediction:
The presentation hook is about my cat, and that seems to be something that people really connect with!
I think that another huge part of putting together routines is finding some sort of presentation hook that people can relate to. There are definitely people who are a lot better at this than me, but I’m trying…
When I was stage hosting a couple of weeks ago, one of the things that I was asked to do was a contest for the sponsor on the mainstage at the event. One day’s entertainment was geared towards a Spanish speaking audience, and I don’t really speak Spanish, but wanted to try.
I had one of the people on the catering staff who was from Mexico help me translate the beginning of my script.
That’s the opening of the script, but then I needed to figure out how to transition into English. So we wrote a little joke:
That was a great little transition joke, and the first joke I’ve written in another language.
The lady helping write it also helped me with my pronunciation. I think people really appreciate when you make at attempt to communicate with them in their native language.
When I fly to gigs there’s always a little bit of a shopping list of things that I need to get for my show.
It is inconvenient to have to try to find these things sometimes, however it’s better than packing them for travel. I can fly with all the thing above, as I only need the matchboxes, not the actual matches. However the boxes can sometimes trigger a search and I want to reduce that chances that someone will go through my gear.
The things like the paper plates and the wipes are just dead weight and nothing specialized. I’d rather simply buy them when I arrive than have them make my bags overweight.
One thing I don’t do is ask the booker to provide these and there’s a simple reason why I don’t. That’s because just because you ask for something specific doesn’t mean you’ll get exactly what you need. For example the bananas need to be yellow, so that they open easily. If they provide me a banana that’s too green it makes the trick not play as well as it’s a struggle to open it.
It adds a bit of time to my day, but for me totally worth it!