I think I was scrolling through facebook and I came across this video on the props that another magician uses for strolling at a fair:
There’s a lot of stuff in this that I disagree with, but the first thing is what he says he wears. He says his costume (whatever you wear while performing is a costume) is a t shirt and cargo shorts. I’m someone who is pretty dressed down compared to most magicians, but I don’t think I would perform in a Tshirt and shorts.
The other thing that I don’t agree with is how much material the he’s taking. I should say that I don’t agree with it “for me”. You really don’t need that many props, you’re doing roving, not a formal 22 minute magic castle close up set.
Here’s the props for my roving set:
That’s a 20 minute set if I wanted to do it as a long chunk, however I normally wouldn’t do it that way. Normally I’d do it as a 5-10 minute set. There’s a lot of variety in what you see there. Obviously there’s a lot that I can do with the deck of cards, then there’s the linking pins and finally the wallet. The wallet is a card to wallet, but inside it I have my Splitting Image trick, and a bunch of business cards that I can do mentalism with.
That’s the core set, then if I’m working on something new, I will add that to my those props. The whole works will fit into my two front pockets. Just because you have a ton of pocket space, it doesn’t mean you need to fill them with tricks!
Very frequently magicians will post in social media groups that they don’t understand why people want to show them magic tricks. I’ve got no problem with that, and unless it’s at a totally inappropriate time, like in the middle of a formal show, it let them.
I think the reason for this is that magicians have ego problems and they can’t let the spotlight on someone else. Usually it’s a trick like the 21 card trick and it won’t remotely step on anything you’re doing. You can get some great moments out of it, like immediately forcing the card they failed to find if the trick doesn’t work. The key to doing something like that, is acting like it just happened, so it doesn’t look like you’re one upping the person.
I’ve seen some crazy things that I never expecting, like a old guy that did a perfect tabled faro shuffle with my old beat up deck of cards! I then spent the next half an hour with him teaching me the basics of how to do it. Or this guy:
That guy also taught me the basics of ripping a deck of cards in half, and with the help of my friend Todd Gardner who is a strong man I can now rip a deck of cards in half!
Your job is to be an ambassador for the event you’re working, and with that in mind I almost always say YES when someone offers to do a trick!
I woke up today to a great review of my Out For Beers trick!
I really love this trick, the play on words gag really works with my personality. I also think the trick works better than most of the Out to Lunch style tricks because it starts as a gag that is motivated. The trick sneaks up on the audience, which make it even more amazing!
This trick has been a huge hit at the booking confrences I’ve been at over the last few months and has driven a lot of traffic to my tradeshow booth and gotten me a lot of work. Get yours now!
The amount of magicians that complain when people want to show them a magic trick is staggering. I don’t get it, why not let the person show you? The person will be the star for a minute, and I think that’s where the problem is, most magicians have a ego that won’t let them step away and let someone else into the spotlight.
At a gig the other night a someone wanted to show me a trick and I say “yes”.
They did the trick with the glide where at the end the slap the cards out of your hand and one card is left in your hand and it’s the selected card. When I let her do it, she nailed it! That’s going to be one of the memories from the party for the dozen people that say it, and something they’ll talk about longer than my roving set.
I’m not saying you should 100% always let the person show you the trick. There are times when it’s inappropriate, like in the middle of a ticketed formal show. but if you’re roving or after a show, why not? It’s not going to hurt anything.
There’s an old piece of advice that (usually older) magicians give newer magicians. That is, “you only need to know 8 tricks” and that you should know those tricks inside and out. While that advice may have be relevant over 100 years ago when it was originally given. I think the story was a kid said to Thurston that he knew over 100 tricks and Thurston replied, “I only know seven” or something like that.
Here’s the problem with that advice, look at every modern successful magician, they all know and do more than seven or eight tricks.
Now let’s apply that to the average magician. Yesterday I performed at a company party for people in healthcare. I was hired for an hour of roving magic, and normally I’ll do the same 5ish minute set over and over for the hour. However, this party spanned several hours and the worker came to it when they were free. When I was there the first 30 mins was busy, but the final 30 mins was just about 8 people (who had seen my set in the first 30 minutes of the party). If I only knew seven or eight tricks, I’d be screwed. However, I have a big toolbox of sleights and tricks, I was able to pull out some things I don’t normally do and to improvise.
In the picture above I’m doing Jack Carpenter’s Mysterious from the book Modus Operandi. This is a trick I’ve done since I was a teenager, but it’s not in my roving set because it uses a table, and some specific cards. When I do roving magic, my deck loses cards very quickly, so I can’t always guarantee that I have the needed cards.
The moral of the story is to fill your tool box, if all you have is a 3/8 inch wrench and a hammer in it, you’re in trouble if you need a phillips screwdriver!
As I’ve gotten older and deeper into my career, I’m learning to take more days off…more days when I could be earning a lot of money. A friend of mine who is a magician invited me to his company’s Christmas party and there was a magician there. It was James Donahue, who I know from the social media, and I’ve made a prop for him in the past, but never met in person.
It was great to see him work for actual people.
Something I always say is that if you want to really work an industry you need to be a consumer of that industry. What I mean by that is it really helps if you can see what your show looks like form the attendee’s perspective.
Every now and then, taking a night off and seeing someone else do what you would normally be paid to do is a great chance to learn a lot!
One thing that I’m always looking for a games (legit or not) that I can play with people when I’m doing roving magic. For longer gigs, or events when it’s slow when I’m scheduled to rove, being able play a game is a great way to create energy beyond my roving magic set.
Recently I picked up Cover The Spot by Ian Kendall. This is the classic carnival game of the same name. The nice thing about this version over the traditional carnival game is that it’s simply 6 disks and not a large board with 5 disks. It’s portability is a huge plus for me!
The instructions are clear and Ian gives strategies for for different scenarios that may come up. This isn’t a “self working” thing, it will take some work to learn to do it correctly and consistently, but that’s a good thing. If it was easy to do, it’d be easy for your audience to do. Don’t misinterpret what I mean by it not being easy to do, it’s easy to do…once you practice a little bit. It’s not hard to do.
Unfortunately it’ll be a couple of weeks before I can get to try it for an audience, but I’m excited for when I get to try!
This week performing at the fair, we’re not required to wear masks when we’re performing. That’s great, however I found for my roving magic, people were more receptive when I was wearing a mask. I think it shows respect for them as people that walking up unmasked and assuming they are OK with that doesn’t.
One thing I’ve noticed when performing with a mask is that my whole face is still animated. You can’t see much of it, but I think it adds to the overall energy when I perform. That and it will be automatic to do in the future when I’m not wearing a mask.
When I was first starting out performing and I had a gig, that would literally eat up my whole day. From packing for it, to travel and performing, even for a local gig. Then as I got more confident in my show, it got much faster, I knew everything was in my case, and didn’t need to double check anything. I was also a lot more confident and had more experience as a performer, so that if a prop was missing or whatever, I could still make it happen.
I’m heading out to my first fair contract in about 18 months and it’s an out of town 10 day contract. Another challenge on top of not having performed at a fair in a year and a half is the scope of work I’m doing. I’m pretty much doing whatever they want me to do. I know I’m doing some stage shows, stage MCing and some roving. Once again, this wouldn’t have been an issue in 2019, but it’s a lot of stuff to figure out how to pack.
So why not do it how I did it a couple of summers ago?
Well, every summer I work on a lot of new material at fairs, so the packing of the show will be different than it was before. Also I’m not sure the level of contact, or social distancing that people will be comfortable with. One of my routines a couple summers ago was an 8 minute bit where someone fed me marshmallows, and that’s something I probably can’t do for a little while. Sure I could get someone on stage and ask them to do it, and they probably would…but I’m worried it would be “cringy” for people watching it. I don’t want that.
I’m going to spend a day stressing out on how I’m going to pack the show, then hopefully the next contract will be much easier!!!
When I do roving magic my main tool is a regular deck of cards. The reason for that is you can do a lot just a deck of cards. Also they are larger than a rubber band or a coin and when someone walks by they know that you are doing magic tricks. When doing … Continue reading “Something Special…”
When I do roving magic my main tool is a regular deck of cards. The reason for that is you can do a lot just a deck of cards. Also they are larger than a rubber band or a coin and when someone walks by they know that you are doing magic tricks.
When doing roving magic I also try to pack one other thing to perform that’s special. Something that’s fairly unique, so something that they wouldn’t see another magician typically do. Frequently this is the Linking Pins or something I’m working on that uses a unique prop. I save this for special groups that fun to work for.
Last night at a roving gig in addition to my normal card set, I did a trick with a nut and a bolt. Basically the nut and bolt unscrew while covered by a cup, then you repeat it. It’s a great trick and something that I love doing, but more importantly, it feels special. People really seem to dig the special trick, and can feel that it’s not something from your normal set.