If you’ve seen my magic lecture you’ve heard my favorite quote, which is essentially what my lecture is about. If you haven’t, here’s the quote:
Go past crowd pleasing and into real comedy…
He says it on Tom Papa’s podcast, it’s a great interview and you should listen to it. In my lecture I use the quote not just for comedy, but for magic. Sponge balls are crowd pleasing, how do you go past that and get into real magic?
Let’s get back to what I’m writing this post about. Someone in a magic forum had posted a picture of the nest of wands comedy prop that was broken.
If you’re not familiar with the Nesting Wands trick you have large diameter wand and smaller wands keep coming out of it. If you’re not familiar with the prop, here’s it in action:
The sets that are common in the USA have one end that’s sealed, and the person who wrote the Facebook post thought that they were broken and need to be fixed. For me whenever a prop breaks, I look at it as a chance to p lay with the prop and figure out things that may not have been possible before. I’ve had a bunch of cool things come out of props breaking and getting a new view of them.
When I was younger and did magic shows at kids birthday parties, I used this prop. However the set I had were made by Tops Magic in Europe. Most people in the USA didn’t like this set of Nesting Wands because they were open at both ends. I loved them because there was a lot more you could do with them. Here’s some ideas:
When the kid tries to “one up you” and restack them, they will fall out the other end.
You renest them and they all fall onto the floor.
You renest them and they slide out the other end and land in your case, but you don’t notice that. Then once they are all in your case, you look at the wand in your hand and see it’s empty. You then look around for where they went.
When the kid hands them back to you, you drop them all over the floor. You pick up the biggest wand and ask the kid to hand you another wand. They do, you put it into the wand in your hand and it just falls out the bottom ( you don’t notice that) and have the kid keep handing you wands and they keep falling through. Repeat till it’s not funny and at that point start holding the wands in with your finger at the bottom. Once they are all nested, let them drop out and onto the floor!
Look a prop breaking as an opportunity to do something creative and new with the prop. Sometimes you’ll just have a broken prop…other times you’ll have gold!
Something about magic that I’ve never understood is magicians complaining about people exposing magic secrets. I’m not into secrets, but will use people exposing things to prove a point. Honestly, no one is searching out the secrets to magic tricks.
Fast forward to now, when everyone is giving away a free online lecture. The International Brotherhood of Magicians is having an daily lecture, as well as pretty much everyone else. Here’s the thing, no one has a barrier to entry. It’s all free, and open to anyone. Unfortunately, it’s all potential exposure.
Here’s my issue, when the IBM is against exposure, why are they freely giving out the secrets to tricks? There’s no barrier to entry, anyone can watch these videos. I’m going to restate my position that exposure really doesn’t hurt magic. You can’t take it both ways, if you dislike exposure and like these lectures, you need to reevaluate your position on exposure.
think about it, is there a test to watch a lecture in person? The only test is if you have $20 for the ticket. Same with all magic, there really are no barriers between the general public and magic secrets.
When I had six weeks of work cancel, I decided I was going to grow out my facial hair until my next paid show. Unfortunately that happened the other night, and I’ll never know what my full quarantine mustache could have been. The plus side is that I did a paid gig!
At the time the show was booked, it was a 10 min spot in a cabaret show with the audience’s chairs spaced out to meet “social distancing guidelines”. Then my county added restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people and an audience wasn’t a viable option. The producer adapted and decided to do a streaming show, so we performed live at the venue for people who watched online. Then the state added more restrictions and the hosts of the show did their part live at the venue and all the performers did their acts from home, and they were prerecorded.
The nice thing about recording my set is that I could do it twice and take the better version. I cheated it a little bit and recorded each run through with two cameras, so that using camera changes I could mix the two recordings.
The downside of recording a set by yourself is there’s no audience feedback. It’s very strange, and I think I could get used to it, but it would be my last choice in ways to perform. You either end up plowing through material, or taking long pauses that are awkward.
If I had more time to plan, and not a day to shift from a venue to the corner of my office with a backdrop thrown up, I would have approached it a bit differently. I probably would have dusted off the cups and balls and done that in my set. That’s a 5 min set that doesn’t need audience interaction. I would also have planned some more visual quick things that aren’t as good in a live setting, but work on video.
Something that I’ve never really liked is when magicians sell their magic products on their performer websites. To me it just feels like it’s taking away focus from what your performance website is all about. While you can make money from magic product, it’s usually far less than your show fee. Personally I’ve never and don’t plan on selling magic on my main website at www.LouieFoxx.com, which is just for my show.
A good example of why I don’t like this is the magician Kevin James website. If you’re a fan and go there, you can figure out a lot of “secrets” by visiting his online store. I also think that the majority of the people who visit his site aren’t people who would book him, it’s more of a “catch all” website. The purpose of the site isn’t to book gigs, but to offer all things Kevin James. For me that’s not the purpose of my main website.
**Note: I’m a huge fan of Kevin James as a performer and magic creator**
You may have noticed a couple of changes to this blog. First of all it’s got a new look, and it’s slightly easier to navigate. Apparently I was on an old server and was limited with some of the stuff I could do. With my newfound free time I moved the blog to a new server and added a magic products page to the blog. What’s nice about having it here is that it doesn’t really conflict with the intent of the blog intended readers.
One of the worst reasons to keep trying to do a trick is because you are in love with the method. I’ve got a trick in my show that I love the method more than the audience loves the trick. I think the trick has something going for it, it’s just a matter of figuring out what that is.
The reason that I’m still trying to make Silk Thru Coathanger work:
I’ve written about this trick a lot on this blog, and it’s still a work in progress. If I was rating my routine for it, I’d give it the grade of C. However a while ago I added a move, took out a move and rearranged the sequence. Those changes moved it up from a D to a C. I’d be really happy if I could get it up to a B.
Recently I did some workshopped it with some other performers and we came up with some ideas for how to frame it. We’ll see how those play…
Frequently I’m amazed when newer performers mention they have a 60 minute show. That’s a long time to do a show, I’m calling BS on a lot of them. They may have 60 mins of material, but usually it’s not a 60 minute show. I’ve got tons of material and have been been in magic a long time, but barely have a 60 min show.
What’s the difference between material and a show? Material is what you can do, but a show has texture and flow.
So, how do you put together a show? I start by writing out a set list, a list of tricks and how long they run. After the name of the trick, I write how long the routine runs and an “A” or and “S”. The “A” means someone from the audience helps me onstage and the “S” means that it’s done solo, with just me onstage. Sure there are tricks where I’m the only one onstage, but I use someone from the audience who stays seated, I consider those tricks to be solo tricks.
First I arrange it set list of the routines that I want to do. Here’s an example of what a short show set list would look like:
cup – 2 mins – S
hoop – 3 mins – S
Card to Pocket – 5 mins – A
Whip -6 mins – A
Straight Suit- 6 mins – A /S (This uses someone on stage, but they return to their seat about halfway thru the routine)
The next thing I do is try to arrange them into an order that alternates solo and audience. Here’s what the revised list would might look like:
cup – 2 mins – S
Card to Pocket – 5 mins – A
hoop – 3 mins – S
Whip -6 mins – A
Straight Suit- 6 mins – A /S
Next I look at the type of trick, luckily this particular set let isn’t super magic heavy, it’s more skill demonstrations which makes the next part easier. The goal is to no have two of the same type of effect next to each other. So if I had a “Bill To Lemon” in the list, I’d try to not put it next to “Card To Pocket” as both are teleportation type tricks.
Personally I have no problem putting things with similar props next to each other. For example I could put Card to Pocket and Tossed Out Deck next to each other. The effects are different and they both add different textures to the show.
That’s a general outline of how I put together a set list for a show. There are other factors that come into play. For example some tricks work better deeper into the show once the audience gets to know you, and so me tricks are openers or closers. In the set list above my two routines that use the audience are the Card To Pocket and the Whip routine. In theory I could swap the two tricks positions, however the whip is a big build up and it works better when the audience knows me. The card to pocket has a lot more magic that happens and works better for an audience that’s just getting to know me. Other considerations is how messy a trick is, or if it needs to be preset.
Once you have your set list, you can start to work on the flow of the show. You can then reveal things about yourself, add in call backs or put in something to tie it all together to start creating a show.
One of the silver linings of the current “social distancing” is that I’m able to get work on some of my back burner projects, things that I aren’t a priority, but would like to get done. In the past, I have made a couple of giant shells for the three shell game out of a resin, but used a casting method to where the shells weren’t uniform. I’ve wanted to make a set where the shells inside and out were more uniform.
Yesterday I 3D printed a giant shell which will be the original that the other shells will be made from.
The next step is to make a silicone mold and cast them in resin. I’ll probably put a magnet in them so that they handle more like a chop cup than a shell game set.
Right now we’ve all found ourselves with a lot of extra time. I’ve been using mine to try to catch my “Great White Whale” of tricks I’ve always wanted to create. This trick has been in my head for over a decade and a lot of things had to come together to for it to happen.
Here’s the trick, and be sure to watch the whole thing:
I’ve been fascinated by the idea of using a nested replicas of the main prop as a final load ever since I read Gary Oullett’s cups and balls routine in his Fulminations column in Genii magazine. Then about 10 or 15 years ago I thought about applying it to the shell game. The hurdle was getting shells to nest and enough of them.
Then the breakthrough came when I got a 3D printer. I could print the shells, however the problem was they didn’t look like shells. They looked like plastic things that kinda looked like walnut shells. A friend of mine sent me a link of how to make molds and I tried to learn off of youtube videos with limited success. I ended up taking a 4 hour class on making molds and resin casting that really helped speed up the learning curve.
I kept making baby steps to get towards the end result and finally got there. I’m not done yet, ideally in the future I’ll have some shells that look a little bit better, but for now I have a workable version of the trick!
When someone puts out a magic trick, there are two ways the creator does it. One is how they do it and the other is a dumbed down version for people who don’t want to practice. Personally when I put out a product, I put out what I actually do and use (at the time of putting it out). That way it’s a release that I know inside and out.
A great trick that came out a few years ago, but has mixed reviews is called Split.
The effect is you have a twenty dollar bill and it visually rips into two ten dollar bills. This is a great trick, but the main complaint I saw was the gimmick was obvious. The problem that people weren’t able to see past was that it was designed to be done with non-US currency. The money in other countries is more colorful and the designs hide the gimmick better.
For me it took about a minute of looking at the gimmick to solve the problem. Here’s my gimmick:
Basically I moved the gimmick from the middle of the bill to the edges. There’s a lot more printing to hide it on a US bill.
Then there was a corner of the old bill that was slightly visible when I was doing mirror practice. I covered it with the corner of a bill that matched what it should be. This was a small thing that really wasn’t an issue, it just sorta bugged me.
When you get a trick and you think it doesn’t work, before you write a bad review, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Was the trick designed with European money, or created by someone that’s left handed, or whatever. You many not work exactly as the creator, and you need to be able to adjust.
Right now I’m reading the bookFASDIU 2 by Paul W. Cummins. FASDIU stands for From A Shuffled Deck In Use. The material in this book is all on things using a deck with no set up and no gaffs. I’m really liking the book so far much of the material is the kind of magic I like to do.
I really like the first trick in the book, however this blog post is about the trick called A Total Triumph which is based on a Steve Reynolds trick. In this trick right before the reveal of all the cards going the same direction except for the selected card, you need to get rid of a reversed card on top of the deck. I thought that the old “drop the deck and the top card flips over” thing would solve this.
Here’s a quick demo used in a different context of the idea:
The move makes more sense in the context of the A Total Triumph trick. I’m unaware of anyone using this move to clean up a reversed card in a deck. I think it’s interesting to use a card reveal as a clean up.