Secret Cabaret….

When I was a kid someone let me borrow a VHS tape of a recording of Simon Drake’s Secret Cabaret. This was a TV series from the UK in the early 1990’s (I think) and it was soo far ahead of it’s time. It’s the show that got me into being a David Berglas fan before I knew anything about him.

Here’s one of his routines:

He had two main characters, one was dressed in a top had and tails and the other was dressed in a “mad max” style. Everything that he did on the show was done in a very unique way.

One trick he did was he had two tables and a box on each table. How I remember it was he put something into the box on one table and one the other table, a hand came out of the box holding the item. It was a really cool visual!

It’s something that’s been in my head for a long time. I like the idea of the “instant” transposition. I’ve been kicking around an idea of having two paperbags and thing that go into one, pop out of the second bag. I was thinking of somehow anchoring the second bag upside down, so when I put things into the first (right side up) they fall out of the second bag and onto the floor or table.

The final one would be a coke bottle, and when it goes into your bag you crush it up (latex bottle) and it comes out of the second one and clunks down on the table or shatters on the floor.

Logistically, there’s a lot that would need to be figured out for the trick to work. It’s a “back burner” project for me, but one that I would really like to eventually do!

Take Up Reel – FAQ

The last week I’ve had a lot of people ask me if my Take Up Reel that I use for the vanishing birdcage trick works with an Abbott’s / Blackstone style vanishing birdcage. The answer is yes it does, I made a quick video that I’ve been sending to people who ask, here it is:

The cool thing about the Take Up Reel is that it can be used for more than just the vanishing birdcage, it can be used for any trick where you would use a wrist to wrist pull. If you want it to go up your sleeve and stay there, then it will work for that!

Working On It…

A couple of weeks ago I got to do my Polaroid Trick for an in person audience. I did it using video projection and it played well. Here’s what it looked like:

Here’s my notes:

  • The lighting needs to be better. It cuts off my face.
  • Some light background music would help it.
  • 0:26 mark: hold for the laugh a little bit longer
  • 1:27 mark: freeze and stop moving during the applause
  • 1:47 mark: pause another beat or two between the vanish and reproduction of the picture
  • 1:52 mark: applause is starting and I step on it by going to my next line

So what I need to work on is mostly timing things, and letting effects and the reactions “marinade” a bit longer with the audience.

Releasing New Magic…

take up reel

Recently I released my Take Up Reel through Hocus Pocus and the response has been amazing. Honestly, I thought they would sell two of them, but they are selling as quickly as I can make them!

I just want to say “thank you” to everyone that has supported this magic release. It’s been several years in the making. From the initial development of it to me road testing and tweaking it…to having other people road test it and doing some more tweaking.

Here’s the next batch of Take Up Reels that are going out.

I wish these reels were easier to make, they take about a week from start to finish to make…and I can only do them in small batches.

Here’s some advice if you are thinking of putting out a magic product, actually put in the time to work it out. Don’t rush ideas out to the market. There’s soo much that’s put out that you can tell wasn’t really tested out on audiences in the real world…whether that’s an in person or virtual show.

Double Lifts…

One of the most overused sleights in card magic is the double lift. It’s a great move, but soo many people do it poorly (I put myself in that group). One of the problems is that a double lift looks like a double lift. There’s virtually no one that does one that looks like all the other times they turn the cards over. Everyone says, “turn a single like a double” and they’ll all look the same. In theory that would work, but in practice, it doesn’t. There’s soo much going on with a double lift from the get ready, to however you are getting your alignment down and the force or lack of force to hold the two cards together.

There are other ways get to the end results such as a top change, second deal, or a palm and replacement. The problem with these is they are much harder to do poorly than a double lift. A double lift is easy to do bad, which is why soo many people do it. They can put in a minimum amount of time to do something and sort of do it.

There are some good double lifts, but they are much harder to do. My favorite one is the Stuart Gordon double turnover. While it still looks like something is happening to me, it’s one of the more natural ones to do. I play with it a lot, but I don’t do it, the way you move the card isn’t natural to me. It’s great and I think you should learn it, not necessarily do it, but learn it!

Alexa’s Aces

In yesterday’s blog post I wrote about using Amazon’s Alexa to reveal a specific card, which is the Ace of Spades. The next step is to figure out the trick that will bring us to the reveal of the Ace of Spades. I wanted all of the action to happen on their side of the screen, so I would just be giving verbal instructions, not manipulating any props.

Here’s what I came up with (with the help of Jonathan Friedman and Chris Beason):

The shuffle their deck of cards and remove the four aces in the order that they shuffled them to. The aces are held in a facedown packet and you spell “amazon alexa” shifting one card from the top to the bottom for each letter. You then ask their Alexa, “Alexa, what’s your favorite playing card?” and it will respond “Ace of Spades”. Have them flip the entire packet over and the Ace of Spades will be showing!

The work is pretty simple, you just need to spot the location of the Ace of Spades in the four card packet. What is spelt will be determined by the position of the Ace of Spades. If it’s:

Top: Spell Alexa
2nd Down: Spell Amazon
3rd Down: Spell Amazon Alexa
Bottom: Spell Amazons Alexa or Amazon Alexa Trick

How I remember is that the words are built like a pyramid. The shortest thing you spell is on top and the longest is on the bottom. If you just remember the two words AMAZON and ALEXA you have pretty much all you need to know, except adding the S or word TRICK to the bottom phrase.

Go out and have fun with this trick…or do whatever with this knowledge

Alexa’s Card Trick…

Recently I started doing a trick over Zoom where I trigger the Amazon Echo / Alexa at the spectator’s house. It’s got a fun feel, because the trick happens at everyone’s house how has an Alexa that can hear it respond.

It started out with me figuring out you could get Alexa to reveal a specific playing card by asking, “Alexa, what’s your favorite playing card?” and it will say “Ace of Spades“. Most magicians know you can get a random playing card by asking it to “pick a card“, but being able to get a consistent card is helpful for a reveal.

That going me thinking about what else might be Alexa’s favorites. I started asking all sorts of questions starting with “Alexa, what’s your favorite…” and have a little bit of a list going. There’s a list on Reddit from about 3 years ago, and some of the answers have changed since then, but it will give you an idea of some of the things to ask. Something to remember it to test your results on other people’s Alexa’s before you roll out the trick. There are somethings that have variables, like when I ask, “Alexa, what’s your favorite season?” I get one answer and other people get a different answer.

OK, now that I had the reveal for the trick, I needed to come up with the trick. I’ll write about that tomorrow…

On The Big Screen…

For a long time I didn’t really use any video projection in my show. Mostly because I didn’t understand how it worked and how to work it. In late January of 2020 I decided I was going to start to figure out how to use it in my live, in person stage shows. Shortly after I started working on using projection, the COVID pandemic hit and any work on in person shows went onto the back burner as I had to figure out virtual shows. Luckily those virtual shows have translated into me starting to understand how to incorporate video elements into my in person show.

Recently I did a theater show and got to start to use video projection. One thing I didn’t like about video was that I didn’t want the audience essentially watching TV. The ideal trick for this is the Three Shell Game. It’s interactive, and fills the screen nicely, but plus it still have whole audience interaction. I chose to use my Russian Shell Game as it has a payoff with the production of a dozen shells.

Here’s my first show using video projection:

It played well, and one of the silver linings to come out of the COVID pandemic is me not being afraid of using video projection/production in my show!

Double Check Your Props!

When doing the full show it’s easier for me to be set up confidently than it is when doing bits of the show out of the full show context. Last week I was recording some bits for a TV show and it was really stressful making sure that I had all that I needed for each routine.

Unlike a live show, you don’t have the freedom to make a joke and then rummage through your case. Sure on TV you can do reshoots, but doing them because you forgot to set a prop is pretty unprofessional.

I only forgot to set one prop for one routine. It was a dry erase marker, and luckily I had a sharpie in my pocket. I used the sharpie and ruined the prop (or at least made it harder to reuse) but the only person who would know is me!

Quarantining With Props….

Yesterday I mentioned that I’m out of town performing. I had to fly to this gig and it’s been a while since I’ve had to fly. Here’s the gear I use to fly:

The Pelican Air 1615 carries my show props, then the suitcase holds my costumes, non show clothes and other personal items. The particular gig I’m out for right now required me to go from the airport to the hotel and quarantine for two days. Then I have to go direct from the hotel to the gig…in addition to passing several COVID tests over the course of about a week.

This has presented some unusual challenges. Normally I would buy a few of the “grocery store” props once I got to the city I’m performing in. That’s not an option for this gig due to the quarantine. I had carry onto the plane some items that are semi fragile.

One of the hard things was travelling with bananas that I intend to use several days later was finding green bananas (that would be nice and yellow in three days). I ended up having to go to a restaurant supply place and had to buy a box of green bananas!

I could have had the production provide the bananas, however in the past when I’ve had them provided for me, they always give me the worst bananas. Same with the crackers…I rarely get exactly what I ask for. The trick is pretty specific to what I need. For example, I use unsalted crackers as they are easier to write on than salted crackers. I’m just trying to eliminate a headache before it happens.