In my Drawing in Ball of Yarn routine, there’s a middle phase that’s a mismade bill. I’ve been having trouble with the the mismade bill part. The bill part was essentially my 13 sided bill routine that I do close up. Here’s what that looks like:
The mismade bill phase was too long for it’s spot in the show and I dropped it for a few weeks. Then I added it back in with a little change, I’m using a Quadraflex style mismade will that has the four quarters.
The routine for the mismade bill part of the routine is simple. I say, “I’ll fold your dollar four times.” then I do that and ask the kid, “do you know what that does…it turns it into four…” as I’m slowly unfolding it. For the last 30+ shows the kid has always replied, “dollars”. Then I say, “four dollars?! Have you seen the budget for this show? It turns it into four quarters!” Then I reveal the mismade bill.
I think this works a lot better because I keep dealing with the number four and it foreshadows what the audience is about to see and then at the reveal, it tells them what they are seeing.
I’m glad I put the mismade bill phase back into the routine and tried a different approach!
Last week when I was performing in Grand Island, Nebraska I met up with Nate Myers who is magician who lives there. We met up at the Perkins, and while I love jamming with magicians I prefer doing it at bars over restaurants. The main reason is that bars have a more casual feel and it’s less intrusive if someone has an idea they want to try on someone. Walking up to and chatting with random people is more common in a bar than in a restaurant.
That said, I’ll take jamming in a restaurant over not jamming any day!
As we were leaving the waitress asked to show her a magic trick. I grabbed 4 pennies out of the “need an penny” dish and did a quick trick:
I learned this trick as a kid from the Klutz Book of Magic. It’s a great impromptu coins across that can be done with pretty much any for small items that look the same. If you don’t know the trick, it’s totally worth tracking down that book and learning it, it’s a great trick to have in your brain for an impromptu situation.
There’s a term going around magic which is called “every day carry” and it refers to what you always have in your pockets. Typically this means whenever you leave the house, it’s in your pockets or on your person. This refers to props that you would use for spontaneous performances. I’m intentionally not using the word impromptu because that usually refers to magic using things you find around you at that moment.
When I host shows, have planned material for known stage delays, like when an act has props or rigging that needs to be set up and I’m aware that I’ll need to kill time.
Then there are unplanned stage delays. These are when a performer isn’t ready, rigging is taking longer than expected, or whatever. For these situations, on my person I always have a a bunch of material on me that I can instantly perform. this is my MC EDC:
I have material of varying lengths and most of the longer routines, like the color changing silks can be broken up into two shorter routines if needed.
If you are thinking of doing any stage hosting, you really should consider having at least a couple of tricks in your pocket that you can use for unplanned stage delays!
When I did an overnight flight on Quantas Airline, they gave us little fabric cases with a couple of toiletry items. I thought the case might be useful as a holder for some prop, so I kept it. They measure about 6.5 x 4.5 inches, but about half an inch on the short side isn’t really usable due to where the snap closure is located.
The goal was to put together an emergency show that could be performed close up or for a stand up venue like a black box theater (up to 100 seats). Everything used in the show has to be contained within the fabric case, so you can’t borrow anything from the venue or audience like a cup or dollar bill. The reason for that is you can’t 100% guarantee someone will have a dollar bill for your to borrow, or that the venue will have a clear pint glass.
Another condition is you must be able to perform with a corded mic in a stand. If I needed to use a hands free mic holder, that will need to fit into the fabric case.
Any props you normally carry on your person are bonus, and don’t count towards this. For example, if you normally have a set of B’wave cards in your wallet, you would need to put another one in the fabric case if you wanted to do it in this show.
Here’s what I came up with:
The props are:
Jumbo Linking Pins
4 Sheets of Tissue Paper
Business Cards (that are blank on one side)
White 9 inch silk
And here’s the show list:
Everything on the list are tricks/routines that I currently do or have done in the past. There’s no learning curve for these, I can grab the prop and immediately do the trick. I chose to add the production coil and throw coil as things to add production value to the show, so it doesn’t feel like things were cobbled together. The also add texture to the show, it’s not all flat props.
When putting together the list I also had to factor in not duplicating effects. For example, if I did gypsy thread and torn and restored tissue paper, they are essentially the same trick.
The premise is that this is an emergency set up, so it’s a show I’m forced to do, not a show that I want to do. Artistically, this isn’t necessarily my current voice, but it’ll get me through the emergency situation.
Earlier this week I was at a tradeshow and one of the tricks that I was doing in the tradeshow booth was my ending to ambitious card where I peel off the face of the card that they’ve marked and stick to to the person. I call this Full Face Peel.
The nice thing about this trick is that it’s a very different moment from most card tricks, but then the people walk around all day wearing my cards and people ask them about the cards and it brings traffic to the booth I’m at!
Magic Giveaways Should Tell a Story
Little visual things like this that people walk around with or things that they can keep and show people are things I love doing. Before you think that handing someone a card that’s simply signed, it’s not something they can show someone that tells an interesting story. With just a signed card they’d say, “I wrote my name on the card and he did a card trick with it“, which is OK, but with peeling off the face and sticking to them, it allows the to keep one of the magic moments. Or when I do mismade bill, I leave them with the bill and they can show people that (this gets me a ton of work!).
One of my favorite every day carry magic trick is my Splitting Image mismade bill routine. It fits in my wallet and takes up the space of two one dollar bills. Aside from that it just needs a borrowed cellphone with a camera. It’s a great routine that’s easy to do at a moments notice.
Here’s what it looks like:
It looks like Hocus-Pocus has them on sale right now for $32, which is a great deal! If you’re interested in getting my Splitting Image trick, order from them now, I don’t know how long the sale will last!
In the past I’ve written about trying to make little sizzle reels for events that I’m performing at. I really started doing this with virtual shows as it’s really easy to as it’s already being done for a camera. Most of the ones I’ve been doing recently are videos of me doing close up magic. This is my first one of the stage show that I do for fairs.
Now that I have a template of what to show, it’s shouldn’t be too hard for me to do them for future fairs. I know the things to show, and can spend more energy on the look out for more spontaneous things that get caught on video.
One thing that has always bugged me are magicians that won’t do magic for people they run into who ask them to “show a trick“. There thinking is that no one else in any profession gets asked to work. That’s simply not true. Lawyers get asked legal questions, doctors get asked for medical advice, it’s not unique to magicians. It’s unique to professions that have “secret knowledge“. What I mean by that is they have knowledge or understand things that the average person doesn’t.
Looking back in time, all of the great magicians a hundred years ago made reputations doing impromptu magic. Max Malini biting the buttons off of coats or Hermann who pulled the coins out of rolls or eggs at the market. I think most magicians hesitancy is they lack the technical skills and knowledge of tricks to “do a trick” at a moments notice. I’m a huge fan of always having a trick on you. You don’t have to do it, but sometimes it makes a huge difference having something always ready.
The other night someone at the bar where I was having dinner recognized me from my show earlier in the day. They told the bartender that I was a magician and he asked if I could show him a trick. I asked if the bar had a deck of cards, and they didn’t. He handed me a pen and asked if I could do a trick with that, so I swallowed the pen by lapping it. Then I did my Splitting Image (mismade bill) trick, which was a solid end to my “impromptu” performance.
Not relying on what you can find around you, but having something on you that you are guaranteed to kill with is a huge advantage. Planning ahead and keeping a few tricks in your wallet makes a huge difference! -Louie
One thing that you do when you perform at a lot of events is “media”. This is when you get up super early in the morning to entertain the local morning news or visit a radio station. Later last night I was called to do media this morning, and all of my gear was at the fairgrounds and that was about half an hour out of the way from where I was going. I really didn’t want to get up any earlier than I had to.
I had a deck of cards and a sharpie in my car, so I was confident I could make it happen with just that. In my wallet I have short show that’s always ready to go. Having this on me at all times has saved my butt on my occasions, and opened some doors.
One of the tricks in my impromptu wallet show is my mismade bill routine that I call Splitting Image. The picture below is the finale of this routine!
The effect is you take a picture of them holding a regular dollar bill with their phone, then you rip it in half. You restore the bill, but backwards…then the picture on their phone now has the bill in the mismade condition!
What I like is that this trick doesn’t rely on technology, so there’s no apps to use, it’s just the camera on their phone. It’s low tech, and 100% reliable!
If you don’t have a wallet show, you really should…or at least think about it and what you could do with just the stuff that’s in your wallet. -Louie
In my stage show I use a mismade bill that just has one seam of the bill on each side.
Most magician’s use the mismade bill that has two seams:
I think the single seam is easier to visually process from the audience and at a distance. I decided to do some testing at the fair that I’m performing at and I’m getting bigger reactions and faster reactions from the bill with a single seam than with two seams.
It’s such a small thing, and in many context’s you may want to use the two seam bill, like if you are tearing a bill into quarter, of course it makes sense to use the bill with two pieces. In my routine, I turn the bill inside out, so there’s no tearing.
The important thing is to try new things and see if maybe you can get a better reaction doing something slightly different.