One of the things that’s been a challenge for me in virtual shows is using my space wisely. My virtual studio is in the office I share with my wife and I need to build the studio every show virtually from scratch. It’s much more work that driving to a venue and setting up.
About a week ago I did a post about adding a rotating shelf to below my working table top. I’m liking it and have gotten to use it in a couple of shows. I’m adding holders to the props, so that they can just stay set up. Here’s what I’ve 3d printed so far:
The goal is to hopefully cut down on my set up time. I just need to set up the studio, and not the studio plus all of my show props. The silver lining is that the holders also keep things from falling off the table when it’s moved or the shelf is rotated. I still need to make the holders for the rest of the table, but this is a start!
One of the things I’m always doing is trying to be more efficient. I’ve been having a difficult time streamlining my virtual show’s prop set up. Essentially what I had were two tables off screen and props would move from one to the other as they were used. This isn’t the worst system in the world, but it does take up a lot of space.
Last night I was playing with a different set up where I had a prop table in front of me but now in view of the camera. It was a much easier way to grab props. However I still have the challenge of having a working table in addition to the two prop tables. That’s when I got the idea of putting a shelf below my working table:
This shelf spins, so that I can rotate it to access different props easily. I’m going to cover it with felt and probably 3d print holders for my props to keep them upright, and in position. The shelf is also at a height where when my hand drops naturally, I could grab, or secretly steal something.
This shelf may be the key in eliminating both of my prop tables, and that will free up some physical performing space!
Recently I got to try out the “Free Picture of Beer” gag on a couple of different people. It got the desired laugh, so that’s good.
I also got to try to follow up trick where the full pitcher of beer becomes empty. I’m using the Out to Lunch principle to do the switch. The first time, they didn’t really notice the change. I think this is because they looked at the card and it registered in their brain as just a pitcher of beer, not a FULL pitcher of beer. It’s like showing someone a two of spades, but the spades are red. The average person won’t notice it’s the wrong color until you point it out to them.
The second time I added a little line which made the trick work much better. Once I got the laugh, I asked them, “what kind of beer do you think that is?” This question makes their brain actually process what they are looking at. That made the change at the end a lot more amazing!
I’m glad I got to try out the trick, and glad that I noticed what I needed to change!
One of the coolest things about performing in your home is that you know what’s within reach in your space. For me it allows me to all sorts of gags or surprise productions of items that naturally came up during the show. For example last week at the Mostly Magic Virtual Open Mic someone commented on how large my “nuts” were. They were referring to the walnuts used in my shell game. I knew I had the giant metal nuts within arm’s reach, so I grabbed them and had a fun sight gag.
Then last night I was a guest on a show and the need to bring out an artificial fist presented itself and I had one within reach. Of course I grabbed it.
It something that’s happening in the moment, and it also makes the audience wonder what you have nearby off camera. I’m not necessarily saying having a ton of props around just for gags, but knowing what you have in your space is a huge advantage!
A couple of nights ago I performed at the Mostly Magicians Virtual Open Mic. It was a lot of fun and Ryan Kane is a great host for it. It’s an open mic, so a great place to work things out.
I was second to last in the show, and I brought two tricks, one that was pretty solid and one that I was working on. Unfortunately I only got to do one trick which wasn’t the one I was working on as I ran out of time.
It wasn’t a total loss as far as working on material goes. I did something I haven’t done in while…wrote some jokes about the other acts. When I MC in person shows I would write jokes about the acts and use them in the transition between acts. I didn’t plan on doing this, it’s something I just did.
One of the interesting things about doing jokes about things happening NOW instead of prepared material is that the audience is aware of that. Your joke doesn’t need to be the best joke, they will give you a lot of leeway. They can instantly relate to your joke, you don’t need to set up a backstory. I think any of the jokes I told, if you took out of context of the show would fall flat…even if you described the act before the joke.
The first half of my show was a stand up set about the show. It was fun, and good to flex that creative muscle.
One of the things that I love about magic jams is having people improve on your ideas. I had an idea of doing a trick with a hamburger. I’d make 4 pickles disappear and one at a time, they’d reappear under the bun. I mentioned that and the idea quickly grew to “what if you did a matrix with pickles under the bun“.
That idea is way better than what my idea started out as. I’m super lucky to have the magic jam partners that I do have. Today I started playing with the idea. I cut some circle of cardboard to be the hamburger and some cardboard to be the pickles.
I kinda got the sequence worked out, but the trick still needs some work. Mostly it needs to be built into an actual hamburger. This is something that would be better for a social media video than a live show. It’s fun to do, and I can’t wait to actually record it!
Ever since I was a teenager I’ve been fascinated Don Alan doing his giant nut production. What’s cool about a giant nut, is that it’s a simple object, there’s not much to it. It’s basically a big chunk of metal that you make appear.
Here’s Don doing the nut production:
Now let’s fast forward to a few days ago, a non magician friend of mine posted a picture of a couple of giant nuts he saw at his parent’s antique shop. I gave them a call, made a deal, then drove 90 mins each way to pick them up!
These things are massive! They also need some love, so today I started cleaning them up. Here’s a side by side comparison of one that that’s in the process of being cleaned and the other that hasn’t:
I’ve got an idea for the routine that I will do. It’s going to be a transposition of different colored metal nuts from under a hat. Then a walnut will appear and inside that walnut will be a signed silk (that was used earlier in the show) and end with the production of the giant nut. We’ll see if that works out, but it’s my idea for now.
It always amazes me that some of the magic tricks that I create end up featured in other magician’s shows. Recently someone posted a picture that their kid drew of them doing a virtual magic show.
The trick that the kid decided to feature was my Snake Wand Surprise! This is a gag that has a magical production of a dozen spring snakes at the end. It’s a lot of fun to do, and something that had sat in a notebook for years before I finally made one. Then a few years after I had started using it myself, I started selling them and it was an instant hit!
I just want to say “THANKS” to any magician that uses anything I’ve invented!
Sometimes it feels like I’m perpetually cleaning my office. Yesterday I came across the DVD The Zarrow Shuffle by Herb Zarrow. I watched the very beginning and realized that I learned to do this wrong. What I’m doing looks fine, but they first way the Herb demonstrates looks way better!
When I learned to do the shuffle, it was in the context of the trick Triumph. For the Zarrow Shuffle, I slip cut one card. I used that method for other tricks as a false shuffle. If you slip cut a block, it’s soo much more deceptive than with a single card. Also Herb’s way of jogging the cards is much more deceptive than pushing them out with your index fingers.
I’m glad I came across this, but now I’ve got a challenge ahead of me. I’ve got to undo 25+ years of the way that I’ve been doing it. The changes are fairly minor, so hopefully it won’t be too much of a pain.
Recently I did this unlearning and relearning process with how I get a card injogged. I figured out a way when I was a kid by reading something wrong and it worked for me. However I relearned to do it Jerry Andrus‘s way because it looks better.
Don’t be afraid to unlearn thing if there’s a new (to you) way of doing it that looks or works better than what you were doing before. I know it’s a pain to spend time basically learning to do something you can already do, but I think it’s the little things like that that make someone an artist.
Recently I was hanging out with a friend on Zoom and he did Goshman’s Cards Thru Newspaper. This is a fantastic trick and I think a really good trick for Zoom due to the static camera angle. It makes everything easy to see and laid out well (unless you’re watching from a cellphone, like I was).
Exploring trick that aren’t right for a live show for your virtual show is one of the very fun things about right now. Personally I’m doing things I’ve never really been able to do before, it’s great!