Frequently I’m befuddled about why magicians love to do “throwback” acts. Not period shows like at a Ren Faire or Civil War Reenactment, but recreating things like the medicine pitch, or the riverboat gambler. Most modern audience have no idea what they are. They may be aware of them from brief little scenes in movies, but audiences don’t relate to them.
Over the years I’ve worked with many people that do a Medicine Show Pitch. I’ve never seen one that the audience was super into. I worked with one the other night, and while the act was fine, it didn’t resonate with the audience because they don’t know what it is. No one ever gives a historical background on it before they start doing the pitch.
That’s the problem with the Medicine Show Pitch, people have to figure out what it is. Also people don’t know that there really isn’t a payoff, it’s just a lot of unusual, olde tyme talk. A simple introduction about what it is would help a lot. Something like, “A hundred years ago, adoctor would roll into town on the back of a horse drawn wagon, or wood paneled station wagon. He’d be selling a medicine that would cure everything. It would cure the common cold, it would cure ricketts, it would cure social media addiction. By the time you realized that what he sold you didn’t work, he was long gone. This is the 1912 version of the guy on TV selling Sham-Wow’s“
Now there’s a little bit of context to what’s happening. The audience doesn’t have to figure out what the hell you are doing and it’s historical place. Context is KING!