Vertical Three Shell Game

Last night I was playing with a set of mini cups and balls that I have. This particular set was made by Leo Smesters. These are a great little set, however honestly I don’t have much of a use for them. When I originally bought them I had an idea, but haven’t done much with them.

I had the idea of doing a vertical three shell game. The ball would switch places vertically while the cups were stacked. Here’s a quick video of the basic idea:

There’s a little bit more to the full idea I have. Right now the cups are ungimmicked and they will stay that way. However the balls have magnets in them and they stick to each other through the cup. So the cups can sort of function like a chop cup or regular cup depending on the positions of the two balls.

My idea is to have one ball with a very strong magnet in it and then two others with smaller magnets in them. The audience is only aware of one ball. You will steal the ball with the strong magnet and use that magnet like you would a use thumbtip with a magnet inside of it. That will give much more options with what you can do with the cups.

Now I just need to make the balls…

To Keep or to Delete…

Something I try to be aware of is the content of my show and how it relates to the current world. An example of this is trying to stay about from politically charged topics, and not gendering people. I’ll be 100% honest that I struggle with not assuming someone’s gender, I’m getting better about it. The thing is I’m not just pretending it’s not a thing, I’m actively trying. Just breaking 40 years of habit is tough.

Right now I’m having a struggle with a line in my show where I say:
“…it gives you the illusion of choice…like voting”
The original intent with that line was my opinion on the electoral system. However with the political challenges the USA has faced in the last six months I can see how that line now carries very heavy political baggage.

Do I keep it or drop it?

Here’s the thing, it’s not a huge line in the routine or show. So dropping it won’t hurt the show. Also, it’s a probably pretty easy to write something to fit that format, just change “voting” to something else.

It comes down to how bad do I want to defend the punchline if someone gets upset at it? It’s not a joke or bit I would fight really hard for. There are other edgy jokes that I definitely would fight for, this just isn’t one of them.

Moving forward, I’ll probably drop the line, or rewrite it and a few years from now it may make it back into the show…

How To Work On Your Show

One thing that I think is never taught to magicians is how to work on your show. Most magicians have no idea how to do this…I didn’t for the longest time. This week 5 years ago I drove from Seattle to Nebraska to do an 8 week school assembly tour.

The pay was garbage, but that’s not why I took the tour. They had me doing three to four shows a day, five days a week, and that’s why I took the gig. I left Seattle with some rough ideas for what the show would be like, but no established routines, just some props.

Let me stop and say that this really isn’t a good way to approach a tour. I took the gig specifically to generate material. For what it paid, I wasn’t going my tried and true material. That’s said, I did have an idea of tricks that I wanted to do, I just hadn’t really done them in a show context before.

For example, this is where I learned to do my multiplying billiard ball routine. It started out using a shell, but due to the wide angles of a school gym, it morphed to a no shell routine. I dropped a lot of material and added a lot on that tour.

OK, so how do you work on a show?

For this tour I recorded at least one show a day. Then I got back to the hotel and watched at least one show’s recording from that day. I took notes and wrote jokes every night. That’s a crap ton of watching yourself, but you get good really quick. Every night I would have several actionable things to not do in my show as well as several new jokes or bits to try the next day.

That’s how you work on a show. Record every shows (or at least one if doing multiple a day) and actually watch it with a critical eye. Write notes for what you like and don’t like. Then watch it again and write new material to add.

Pretty simple?

Yes.

However, it’s work and it’s a pain to do. When you’re on the road by yourself it’s much easier to do than when you’re at home with your family, or whatever home based distractions you have.

You need to sit down and actually watch your previous performances. It’s amazing how many shows you thought were amazing are pretty cringy when they are taken out of “the moment”.

More Table Modifications…

In a continuing effort to use my virtual performing space wisely, I added a little bit more to the shelf below my working surface.

The four ball holders on the left are new, along with the coil holder. This also eliminates a couple of body loads that would have been in my in person show. There are still a few prop holders that need to be added, however it’s just a matter of time to design and print them.

Back at it!

The in person show went well, and it’s good to have a full show under my belt! It was sold out at just over 200 people and it was a fundraiser for a venue that had been closed due to the pandemic.

I’m glad I spent the time working on my show and relearning it at home, versus on stage. There were a few moments where I hadn’t foreseen how things would play out socially distant and needed the brain power freed up by having some muscle memory of the show.

Everyone says “it’s like riding a bicycle” and it sort of is, but I was still remember bits each time I practiced!

More Practicing…

It’s kinda strange getting back to work. I’ve been practicing all week and got into the city I’m performing in last night and spent the night practicing. Today’s agenda is more practicing. Luckily this hotel has some space to set up the show.

Running the show as much as I have the last week is really helping my lines come back to me more automatically.

I think that’s one of the things that separates more seasoned performers from newer ones is that they know their show soo well they don’t need to think. That frees up brain computing space to deal with ad libs, paying attention to what’s happening in the room or fixing any problems that arise.

Hybrid Shows…

Last night I performed at a hybrid in person / virtual show. The in person aspect of it was interesting as it was a socially distant, outdoor event in tents…oh, the show took place at the tail end of a snowstorm, so it was cold out! I was performing indoors with a an open roll up door in front of me. I could see one table, the rest were in tents watching on a projection screen which was showing what was on the zoom feed.



It was a very interesting experience. The camera was over my left shoulder and the audience in front of me. The challenge was where to play to. I chose to mostly play to the camera as that’s where the majority of the audience’s viewpoint was from. It’s very strange to no play to the only group of humans you can see. I didn’t ignore the one table I could see, but did most of my talking to the camera.

Going forward, I think ticketed, in person shows are going to have to do this hybrid approach to make any money if they physical audience has to be socially distant. How you will approach this scenario is something to start thinking about now…

Dusting off the Cobwebs…

Somedays you feel like a beginner. Today I’m heading out to do a no contact, outdoor, socially distant show for a kids birthday party. I haven’t really done birthdays for years, so this isn’t something I have solid “muscle memory” of doing.

This show has me super stressed out. I took it to help me knock off the cobwebs from having not performed in person much for the last 10 months. I’ve checked and recheck my case for all of my props, run the show dozens of times. Stuff I really haven’t done for my normal show in years. I know the props, I know they are in the case, and I know what to do if something breaks or is missing. More importantly, I know how long the show will run. With this birthday show, I have a guess how long the show will run, but not as good of an idea as I would with shows I normally do. I did pack some filler just in case…

I’ll let you know tomorrow how the show went.

First Draft For the Pail…

Yesterday’s blog post was about getting a Himber Pail, a prop I’ve been chasing for years and trying to figure out how to use it within my show. Last night I sat down and starting writing some ideas. Here’s what I wrote last night:


When I was a teenager I saw the most amazing magic trick, and the magician taught me to do it. I’ve been doing it ever since…so for 3 years. If it was on the mount rushmore of the greatest magic tricks, it’d be 17 miles down the road at Crazy horse…because he let me use it.  

I bring you the milk bucket trick!

Did you know most asians are lactose intolerant?  Shouldn’t surprise you, how many do you remember on the Got Milk posters in your elementary school gym?

Show got milk posters

Nope nope nope… Michelle kwan … that’s it.  start hashtag #gotMilkSoWhite

I should mention that I used to be lactose intolerant.  But now, I’ll drink white and chocolate milk.


Pour milk 

Oh shoot, I messed up the trick…I forgot to put in the bottom

Hand thru bucket and show it empty

Let’s do the trick in reverse…

Lift the bucket like you are going to pour its contents into the bottle.   Contine flipping so its upside down and pour milk into the bottom. 

And that’s the greatest trick I’ve ever seen!


That’s not the very good, but it’s as start. I took action by actually writing, and that’s the first step. Waiting for something to just pop into my head randomly, isn’t an effective way to come up with a routine.

It’s interesting that the routine I wrote ended up having a them. When writing it was just some jokes I wrote around the hook of “the greatest magic trick I’ve seen” and the props , but the bit turned out to be a piece about racism. It’s not something I’d probably do in my show, but it’s a start.

What I do like is the “do it in reverse” part which motivates the pouring of the milk onto the bottom of the pail. I think that’s the keeper out of my first try to figure out what to do with the Himber Pail.

A Magic Sophie’s Choice…

Well I just had a realization that kinda sucks. It just hit me that the Coins to Glass that I’ve been working on and my CeeLo trick are essentially the same trick. Three objects disappear one at a time and reappear under a cup. Sure, both routines had different textures, one the objects visually appear and the other has the two jumbo loads, but they are the same trick.

Now here’s the choice I have to make. Do I try to separate them within the show, or use one as an “A” Show and the other as a “B” show routine.

I’m thinking about trying to put some time between them. If you think about it, I’ve seen several jugglers essentially do the same routine with different props. They do balls, then rings, then clubs, but it’s the same format. Three, then four, then five and maybe seven. It’s really the same trick with a different prop.

Honestly, if they are 10-15 mins apart in the show, I don’t think anyone will notice. However, it’s probably good for me to do one or the other and not both. I can replace one or them with something else I’m working on.