One trick that I’m doing in the school assembly is based on Jim Steinmeyer’s Apples and Oranges routine in his book Conjuring. Jim’s trick is the Piano Card Trick, but using apples and oranges, which makes it play on stage. Essentially the trick is an orange disappears from one side of the stage and reappears on the other.
I took Jim’s idea and rewrote the script and changed the props so that it works for the show I was doing. In the first few weeks of doing the show, I felt like the kids holding the nets of fruit were really only there as human props and I needed to give them opportunities to shine. I started by asking them some questions, then giving one of them a line and creating an impossible challenge for the other kid. This made the routine soo much more engaging that it was before.
Also I should add that the trick is good! When the orange ends up on the other side of the stage, the teachers seem more amazed than the kids! That’s an important point about this show and all kids shows, the magic needs to be good. There were (and still are) soo many magic tricks that from an effect standpoint aren’t good that are marketed to children’s performers. This is part of what creates the stereotype that kids magic is cheesy. If you up your game with good tricks, it’s helps take you out of that cheesy magician box.
In the new school assembly show I do a trick with apples and oranges. It’s based on Jim Steinmeyer’s Apples and Oranges trick from his book Conjuring. The concept is the same, the the routine is completely different.
I’ve notice that about every 2-3 shows I have kid in the audience when I introduce the apples and oranges that will yell out, “they’re fake” and the kid is correct, they’re plastic. What puzzles me is that kid will fixate on the fact that they aren’t real and keep yelling out “they’re fake“, even after I agree with the kid that they aren’t real fruit.
I’ve tried different ways to deal with this, and yesterday I wrote the line, “they’re not real, I got them from Ikea…So they’re made of particle board and Swedish meatballs”. The goal is to address the issue before the kids says anything. I’ve done it at 2 shows and so far I haven’t had anyone yell out anything.
One challenge with this line is that I’m in North Dakota and there isn’t a Ikea for about 700 miles! The line gets a small laugh from the adults, and not much from the kids. this is better than nothing, however I think I need to write a better line…
It felt great getting some sleep on a bed after sleeping in my car the night before my flight so that I could make it to FISM. I also got to see how amazing Quebec City looked in the daylight!
In the picture above you’ll notice the barricades on the streets, that’s due to the pope being in town, and his route was on the same street as my hotel’s front door!
I’m up early today as the contest start at 8:15am, which is rough as I’m running on west coast time, which is 3 hours earlier!
After registering, you have to walk along the hall of masters or whatever they call it. I had to stop and take a pic with Michael Ammar‘s portrait! I’m convinced he’s a genius, of all the portraits, his is the only one that anyone talked about!
I had decided for this convention I was going to make attending the contests my priority and not lectures. Little did I know how much of a commitment this would be. I used to tell people I could watch magic shows all day…turns out I can’t…even with top level magicians!
The stage contest had multiple competitors have to cancel due to “flight delays, luggage delays, or visa issues“, so the contest ended early. This was great as I got to see Jim Steinmeyer‘s lecture! The room was pretty full, but I found a seat and got to watch about half of it. There were two people sitting behind me and they had the gnarliest coughs. Even if it wasn’t COVID, I didn’t want what it was, so I got up, but unfortunately by that point the room was packed, and there was nowhere to sit or stand, so I had to bail on his lecture.
On a side note, I decided for my personal health, I was going to wear a mask while at the shows and contests. I took a week off work to go to FISM, so that means a week of my busy season that I wasn’t working, I can’t afford to lose two weeks of work by getting sick with anything.
I ran into some people I knew and we sat down for lunch!
For lunch today, I ate the convention center’s prepackaged egg salad sandwich, that was probably 93% bread and a beer, which is also essentially 93%bread as well. Then it was time to go to the other theater to see the close up contest!
This room was giant (for close up) and there was also a satellite room that had a live stream playing of the contest. There were a lot of acts, and most today were just OK.
I did get to see Dom Chambers who I had built some props for to use on AGT perform. I missed him a couple years ago in New York when he was performing with the Illusionists, so it was nice to get to see him live. He did a very funny and energetic card to mouth!
Between the close up contest and the evening show, I swung by the dealers room.
I was a bit underwhelmed by the amount of dealers, half of the room had empty booths. I had heard various reasons as to why it was empty, cancelled flights, inventory not showing up, etc. The quantity of dealers at FISM was probably the only thing that disappointed me. Sure, I’d rather have a small amount of quality dealers than a lot of lame ones, however I’ve been to local conventions that had more.
The evening show a ton of fun, it was great to see Greg Frewin do the dove act he did in the 1990’s on The Worlds Greatest Magic! The show was 90% solid, and there was a perfectly timed tech problem that occurred right after Greg praised the tech team for running the show flawlessly!
After the show I ran into Bob Fitch, who changed my life when I went to the first performance boot camp he put on about 25 years ago! He’s been one of my hero’s ever since!
Bob has always been insanely generous with his time and FISM was no exception! He would talk to anyone that approached him, and would hang out fairly late into the evenings. Fitch was also a fixture in Jeff McBride’s Magic and Mystery School room (more on that tomorrow).
I was a good kid tonight and walked back to my hotel not too long after the last show, as I knew I needed some sleep.
I redesigned the pulley for the double action birdcage pull that I made yesterday. The main difference is that it’s slightly larger and the hole on the non pulley side has been moved 90 degrees.
Here’s a side by side comparison with the one that I made yesterday. The old one is on the left and the new design is on the right with the strings on it.
I foreseeing possibly making it wider with the ends flaring out, so that it doesn’t roll inside the jacket and twist the line. We’ll see if that actually ends up being a problem, or if tension alone will straighten out or keep the lines straight. I’ll play with it a bit and see what happens.
If you’re curious about this style of pull, I think I first read about it in Jim Steinmeyer‘s book The Magic of Alan Wakeling. In that book it’s used to vanish a fan, however I think using a pulley on a wrist to wrist pull is much older than Wakeling using it.
The picture below is from back in 2017, I had an idea to use a foam hand for a trick.
The idea was inspired by a math based trick in a Jim Steinmeyer book. The problem I faced in the trick was giving clear instructions. I tabled the trick shortly after I started doing it in 2017. Then shortly before the pandemic hit in 2020, I reread in Gary Oulette‘s book of his columns in Genii magazine called Fulminations about the challenges David Copperfield had to get through when giving instructions for his “touch the TV screen” tricks. The instructions had to be clear, even for the biggest idiot.
Then the pandemic hit and I started playing with some tricks that used counting on a hand, and went out and remade my foam hand. I never used the foam hand in a show, because in a virtual show my hand plays big.
Right now I’m cleaning up and downsizing the props I have, and I came across the giant foam hand. It’s sort of gimmicked, or at least altered so that I can bend the fingers down and they stay down. In a couple of days I head to Arizona for a month long gig and I think I’m going to take the hand with me and try to figure out the routine.
One thing I think it lacked was an ending. It needs a good way to reveal that they are all touching the same finger. When I made the last foam hand, I also bought a foam hand that just has the pointer finger up. The challenge was how to reveal this. I was playing with it and essentially found a pull the giant hand off my hand to reveal my hand is holding a giant foam hand with just the index finger up!
Now I have a moment to punctuate the reveal of everyone on the same finger.
It’s still got a challenge. Am I going to do the trick looking at the audience or not? Traditionally in this type of trick you don’t look at the audience, however I’m not sure I want to do that. You lose a lot of control by not looking AND you can’t keep an eye on people doing the procedure.
I think I can solve this by having my instructions fixed. By “fixed” I mean something that I can’t change. It could be a recording, like in the Banana Bandana style of trick. I really don’t like performing to a recorded track, it takes away a lot of what makes a live show fun. I think I may make a flap card, that has a five on one side. You turn it over and it has a three on the back side. Then when you turn it over again, the five has changed to a one. That gives the audience something interesting during the boring counting procedure. I also think going from five to three to one, makes the counting easier as it’s getting simpler each time.
I’ll have some playing to do, but luckily I’ll have a monthlong venue to try them out!
Yesterday I wrote about working on an interactive coin trick (read it here). This is the style of trick where the person (or group) follows your instructions and you predict where they end. My version has a physical trick kicker that ends with a vanish of all the coins that the audience isn’t holding.
Today I’m going to talk about the procedure that I’m using to force the coins. I came up with my own force sequence for this routine. If you’ve just read Jim Steinmeyer’s Impuzziblities books, they don’t really teach you how to create your own sequence. That’s OK as that’s not the purpose of those books.
The book Body Mentalism by Juan Pablo Ibanez really does a good job of laying out principle that will allow you to create your own sequences. Right now with these “do as I do” interactive style tricks being very popular, I really recommend you get the book to understand the principle. I think knowing why the forces work is good knowledge to have in your head…even if you don’t intend on creating your own sequences.
Okay, let’s get to the sequence I came up with for the trick. You lay out four coins in a row, two pennies and two nickels. They are in this order:
Penny – Nickel – Penny – Nickel
You have them touch any coin, then explain the “rules”. These are you will give them two things to spell, and they move one coin per letter. The first thing they spell is the name of the coin they are not touching. If they are touching a penny, they will spell N-I-C-K-E-L and if they are touching a nickel they will spell P-E-N-N-Y.
Now you have them spell the name of the coin that they are now touching. For example, if they are now touching the penny, they spell P-E-N-N-Y. The coin they are touching is now their new selected coin.
If they followed your instructions they will now be touching a nickel.
This sequence by itself isn’t very strong, but when you add the vanish of all the other coins, it becomes a pretty decent trick.
The Impuzziblities books are great, I’m into my second one and recognize some of the stuff from Jim Steinmeyer‘s other books that I have. It hit me last night why I wouldn’t do most of the material in the books. It’s pretty simple, they are too procedure heavy. Most of the tricks like if you just did the formula you’d get the same results. Jim in beginning of one of the books mentions they are puzzles, so I’m not knocking him or the books for that.
What they tricks in the books need is a physical effect to stick the trick. That takes it out of being a puzzle. Yes, it’s cool when the whole audience has the same card, or is holding up the same hand, but it isn’t an amazing magic trick.
Here’s an example I thought of last night:
There’s a coin trick in one of the Impuzziblities books where you have a row of four coins (dime, penny, nickel and quarter) on the table. Through a bit of procedure a coin is picked. You eliminate one (the quarter) by putting it into your right fist, leaving three coins on the table, one of which is the coin they are thinking of. Then a little bit more procedure and they are thinking of a new coin. You put the remaining coins into your fist with the quarter. You then open your hand and all the coins had disappeared except for the coin they are thinking of, which is the nickel. Your hands are complete empty aside from the nickel.
As far as method for the coins is pretty simple. Use a 21 cent trick coin set and you’ll need to switch the quarter with one of the nickel shells with a Bobo Switch from Modern Coin Magic. You do the switch very early on in the trick , you have a ton of time to ditch the quarter. You will need to tweak the trick a little bit from how Steinmeyer wrote it to force the nickel instead of the penny. Or you could do it as written and end with a dime and penny set, using a click pass get rid of the nickel and quarter.
I think adding the physical trick to the verbal instructions moves the trick a bit more from the puzzle side to the magic side.
For years I’ve been a huge fan of Jim Steinmeyer, I love his books. I remember reading his Afghan Bands routine in the first Magic Magazine that I ever bought, and have been a fan ever since.
For some reason, I’ve never bought or read his Impuzzibilites books. They’ve been out forever.
I just picked up a full set of the nine books and I’m having a good time reading them. One of the things I love about Jim’s books is that the routines are fleshed out, it’s not just how to do the trick.
What’s cool about Jim’s books is that 99% of the material I will never do. A lot of his stuff is too procedure heavy for my style, however it all inspires me. I makes me want to be better.
One of the best books on stand up magic as far as tricks go is Jim Steinmeyer’s The Conjuring Anthology. It’s full of mostly stand up style magic, there are other things in there as well, like stage illusions. This book is a tremendous resource.
Recently I was making a bunch of videos for a client and needed some inspiration. I was flipping through this book and there’s trick that uses confetti in it that’s caught my eye in the past. Essentially loose confetti turns into a full sheet of tissue paper.
I went out, got the stuff to build the prop and got two work on it.
The first thing that I noticed was that this trick is a great lead in to the torn and restored tissue. If you put the two tricks together you’ve got a 3-4 minute routine that takes up virtually no space in your case, or could easily be made in a hotel room.
I’m glad that the project I was working on had me go back and flip though that book. I also think that if I had played with that trick at another point in my life I may not have had the same results as I did.
Right now there’s a lot of interest in interactive magic tricks, where someone can follow along from their home, and the magic happens to them. There a principle that I was first introduced to in the trick Fingertip Mentalism from the book Nothing But Mystery by Jim Steinmeyer. Then I found the book Body Mentalism by Juan Pablo explains and explores the principle much more in depth.
Here’s a video I recently made using the principle:
Personally I like the idea of having people post a pic in the comments much more interactive than simply revealing where they are. Also I find a lot of humor in them posting their middle finger, but in my soul, I’m still a 12 year old boy.
Once you know how to do the math, it’s something that you can do anytime. What I like about it is the principle isn’t limited to “do as I do” type tricks. It’s handy to know things like this, it allows you to do some impromptu magic when you have nothing!