One magic trick that I’m fascinated by is the Cup and Ball trick. Most of these are “Chop Cup” routines as that reduces a lot of sleight of hand. Unfortunately many of these routines are very similar and use the gimmick in the exact same way. My Cee Lo routine uses the gimmick as a holdout, and not to replace sleight of hand and it’s a great, working cup and ball(s)/chop cup routine.
I’ve had an idea in a notebook for while and finally got around to figuring it out and posted it on Tik Tok. Also if you’re on Tik Tok, give me a follow @LouieFoxx
What’s interesting about it is that it doesn’t have the traditional chop cup move where you shake the ball in the cup. It also has a final load not being a physically larger version of the ball, but the bill changing to a larger denomination bill. I don’t know if that ending is better than producing a bigger item…
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:
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:
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!!
Sometimes I have ideas and they are works in progress that make slow steps. The Stand Up Cup and Ball routine that I’m working on is still making baby steps towards what will hopefully be a cool routine.
Here’s an early version of the Stand Up Cup and Ball Routine:
What I don’t like about is that I go to the pocket, so that needed to be eliminated. There are also some rules for this routine. It needs to be done solo onstage, done without a table, and my hands don’t openly go into my pockets. I can do steals, use sleeving or things like a topit or holdout.
Here’s the current routine idea I’m playing with:
I’ve eliminated the ball going to the pocket, but I also had to eliminate a phase that I really liked. Where I toss the ball out of the cup, the ball is put in the pocket and it’s immediately reproduced by tossing it out of the cup. If I could come up with a way to vanish the ball without going to the pocket, I could add that phase back in. I haven’t given up on that phase, but it’s not looking good to keep it in.
This trick is a good example of a trick that will probably never be finished. The first version was alright and passible, but not what my vision for the trick is. There’s always things to discover and improve.
For years I’ve had an idea of doing a chop cup style routine that doesn’t use a table. The big drawback of a chop cup onstage is the table, it cuts blocks the view of anyone who is sitting below the table top.
Probably 20 years ago I saw Charlie Chaplin’s daughter’s husband do the chop cup in their theater show. I saw it twice, once from the balcony and it was great, and the second time from the floor and couldn’t see much.
Seeing that show really changed how I perform, I don’t have any action that happens on the table top in my parlor or stage shows. If they can’t see it, they can’t enjoy it.
Now, back to the chop cup, I’ve always said creating with rule makes creating much easier. Here are the main conditions:
1: Plays big enough for parlor/stage no table
2: No one from the audience onstage IF their only purpose is to use their hands as a table/surface
3: Quick set up, ideally just grab the cup and go –I think this is the condition I may have to bend on as when there’s a final load, it’s usually not self contained.
The idea is that this will be something that could be used as an MC spot or a solo piece in a bigger show to break up things where you use people from the audience.
Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
Here’s what I don’t like about what I have:
1: The steal of the second ball from the sleeve. -I need to make a ball dropper/hold and steal it from the edge of my coat
2: Don’t like that my hand goes to the pocket. -It makes the final load production more impossible if you never put your hand in your pocket.
3: It really needs a second kicker after the pool ball appears. -Not sure how to make this happen…if you have any ideas let me know!
This is definitely something that I’m going to keep working on, I really like the idea. I don’t know if it’ll ever meet all of my conditions and desires for it, but you never know until you try!
A couple of weeks ago I picked up Presti Cup by Edouard Boulanger. Here’s the trailer for it:
What I like about it is a lot of the action happens off the table. He method is interesting and the wand could be replaced by something like an Enigma Gimmick. I do think that the wand makes the moves more deceptive, however I don’t use a want in any show other than my children’s show. So if this is something I end up doing, I’ll need to figure out how to justify the wand, or how to eliminate it.
I think with an Enigma Gimmick this routine would end up similar to Axel Hecklau’s Just a Cup, which is a great routine. I do like that the ball is physically larger than a die.
The fair I’m performing at this week has me doing street shows. On the mornings of the slower days I’m doing some more close up style magic for people. Here’s a sample of what I’m doing:
You can see part of the Horizontal Ambitious Card that I recently started doing. It currently has three phases, ending with the card inside the card box. I’m really having a lot of fun with the routine, as it gives me a lot more room to play with the audience within the trick.
This is why it’s important to keep playing with a trick, even when you it’s a solid trick and your “A” material. If you keep playing you can find new bits or ways to do it. I’m of the mindset that a trick is never finished!
One of the things I’m always doing it trying to improve what I currently do. Right now in my virtual show I do a modified version of my Cee-Lo trick, which is a cup and dice routine. This ends with the production of two large dice. The large dice are 1 1/4 inches on each side. To give you some perspective, the picture below is one of the jumbo dice next to a regular die.
The reason that the trick uses 1 1/4 inch dice is that for a live, in person show, it makes the loading procedure work. The cup will hold two 1 1/2 inch dice, but the method where the spectator loads the cup for you doesn’t work well with a larger die.
I was cleaning up and found the old set of 1 1/2 inch dice I tried using for Cee-Lo. It hit me, since I’ve changed my loading procedure for virtual shows, and there are no spectators to handle the props, why not move to the larger size dice. To give you an idea of visually how much bigger they are, the pictures below are a 1 1/2 inch die next to a regular die and a 1 1/4 inch die.
That extra quarter inch makes it look massive! The nice thing about how I load the cups for live virtual shows is that the size of the die doesn’t really matter. I’m getting a little more visual impact for no extra work! I’m a fan of that.
One of the Facebook groups that I belong to is a Magician’s 3D Printing group. It’s an interesting group, a few people in it are making some cool stuff. Recently someone asked if anyone had made a chop cup before. I mentioned that I had and made stack of nested cups as a final load for it.
I no longer have the set of cups, but here’s an idea of what they looked like:
This set was 100% inspired by Gary Ouellet‘s column Fulminations in Genii Magazine where he had a series of nested cups as the ending for a cups and balls routine. This led to my Russian Shell Game trick, which is a Three Shell Game that ends with a ton of shells on the table.
The fun thing about the time we live in, is with a little bit of tinkering around, you can make virtually any prop you’ve ever wanted with 3d printer!
With the conversion to virtual shows, I’ve been tweaking routines that I already do to make them stronger in a streaming show. I recently wrote about how I’ve switched the loads of my Cee-Lo dice trick from using my pockets, to not going to the pocket at all.
One thing that I noticed was that depending on the angle, my dice cup which was black would sometimes disappear on the black table top. This isn’t desirable, so this morning I recovered it in natural tan leather. This makes the cup more visible and the whole routine easier to watch. An unexpected bonus to this is that the large dice actually appear a smidge bigger next to the tan dice up than the black dice up.
If you’re starting to do some virtual shows, look at your props and see what disappears to the background, then take steps to make it more visible. Changing the color of the outside of a cup was something really simple and took less than 5 minutes to do.