Informal Virtual Performing…

I’m trying to be more proactive about performing when I don’t have shows on the schedule. The last couple of weeks I’ve popped into some virtual magic open mics. When I do these open mics my set up is a lot simpler than when I do a more formal show.

The nice thing about performing in my kitchen is that I can put Post It Notes on the fridge to remind me of lines or things to do.

When I do more formal shows with the virtual studio set up, I have notes taped to my lights and camera. This is a great way to remember new lines, or names of people to thank. For in-person shows I put notes behind monitor speakers or inside my case.

Trying new material is something I live for, so it’s nice to have little things I can do to make it easier!

Magician vs Juggler…

Yesterday I was chatting with a couple of jugglers and it’s interesting how different magicians and jugglers think. We were talking about a specific trick one the jugglers used to do. I came up with an idea that built upon their idea. My idea was that you put a bottle of soda on the floor, and you stand on a rola bola while holding a Mentos candy in your mouth. You drop the mentos into the coke bottle while standing on the rola bola and it fizzes everywhere.

The jugglers mentioned how hard it would be, and I told them how I would gimmick it. I don’t know if it would work but I have a method. First I’d widen the mouth of the bottle a little bit. Then I’d cut a hole in the bottle and run a thread through it. If the thread was on a thread reel, so it kept the line tight, it would hopefully pull it into the mouth of the bottle.

That’s a method that should work…I don’t know if I’m going to spend the time to try to make it work It’d be a good social media video, now sure how good it’d be in a live show it’s messy as hell. Feel free to give it a try and send me the video!


Spoon and Fork Transposition

Every now and then I end up with a trick that I like, but it doesn’t have a place in the show. These tricks end up in the preshow section of my show until I either come up with a routine for them, or give up on trying to figure out a way to fit them in show. The spoon and fork transposition is something that’s a great trick, but stayed in the preshow part of the show for years.

I finally fleshed out the routine a little bit, so it was more than a quick trick. It’ s a two phase routine, with an ending. Recently I tried it at a virtual magic open mic and it went well:

One thing I didn’t think about was the “hips gag”, I don’t think it played virtually. One of the problems was I was sitting, which I really should have realized before I started. Sometimes little things slip, that end up being a much larger problem that you’d think they would be. At least I now know for future gigs!


Studio Promo Videos…

I’m thinking about updating my promo video and was watching some other magician’s promo videos this morning. One thing I noticed that I don’t like, however I’m not sure if anyone else notices or not are videos that don’t show the performer in front of a crowd. Here’s one I found from a magician named Alfred, who from the video has great technical skills, however there’s no audience:

What that says to me is the person doesn’t do many shows, I could be wrong. I honestly don’t know if that’s what a booker sees?

I also don’t know how I feel about “studio” shots in a promo video. I understand that a lot of the time it can be the only way to get a certain piece of video, like a close up that wouldn’t really be possible without really annoying the audience. I can usually tell when a studio shot is mixed in with live shots, the energy feels different.

I guess my feelings on promo videos that don’t show actual performances clips is that they aren’t for me.

The Moisture Festival Podcast – Steve The Pretty Good

 In this episode we make our first house call and interview the hilarious Steve Hamilton.

We chat with Steve in his home and learn about how he went from saving lives as a paramedic to making people laugh with his comedy and magic at events all over the world. We hear how he quit his job to pursue his dreams and how his family responded to that decision. A fun interview with hilarious stories about bad gigs and we hear about how he has not only performed at the Moisture Festival, but volunteered also. A great glimpse into the hilarious career of Steve the Pretty Good. 

Coffee Messiah

When I was in my late 18-20 years old and living in Seattle there weren’t a lot of places to figure out how to perform outside of family shows. At the time the Washington State had very restrictive liquor laws which prohibited me from performing at a lot of venues that had open mics until I was 21 years old. One day I noticed an ad in Seattle’s alternative newspaper for open mic that was at 2:30am!

It was at a place called Coffee Messiah

I started going out to the open mic and had a blast. It was a drag show, strange performance art show and an anything goes show. I wasn’t a “regular” there, but did perform there a lot! This was probably the most supportive community of performers that I’ve ever encountered. This may have led to why I’m soo open, encouraging and helpful to other performers.

Coffee Messiah was a place for me to try to find my voice or style as a performer. It would be years before I started to figure out what my style was, but having a place to play around and do it was great.

One of my favorite memories was that at the time I had a Zig Zag illusion and one of the drag queens wanted to be cut up. They came over to my apartment and we practiced a bit. Then when it came to show time the next week, I put them into the box, and when I put the upper blade it, it wouldn’t got all the way through. Well, we had neglected to practice in costume and their fake boob got stuck in the way of the blade and we couldn’t get it out of the way! Eventually after a lot of wiggling we got the blade through and completed the illusion!

Sadly Coffee Messiah has been closed for years, but I stumbled upon a video the owner talking about the venue:

Having a place like this to create art was a blessing to me, and helped form who I am as an artist.


Bad Shows…

One thing I can’t stand are magicians who say they always “kill” at their shows. I’m sure there are people that do crush is from the audience’s perspective all the time, but did they honestly and artistically think they did their best every show?

I’ve done shows where at the end I get a standing ovation, and think to myself, “really, that show wasn’t that good”. I’m not saying the audience is wrong to show their appreciation, I’m saying the performer should honestly look at each show. Could you as a performer have done better?

Personally I learn more about doing bad shows that I do from crushing it. You learn or try to learn why things that normally work didn’t. Was it you, was it the audience, was it the situation or a combination of all of them? Then you need to figure out how to make it not happen again, or at least reduce the risk or amount of reasons why the show was bad.

I’m not saying you should go out and do bad show intentionally as a learning tool…but you can learn things by going to an open mic at taking drastic risks with your show. Sometimes something you think would turn off an audience connects…sometimes it doesn’t.

Take some risks…it’s art, not brain surgery.

Put the Bird in Birdcage…

It seems the Vanishing Birdcage is getting more and more popular right now, and I think it’s because there are some more cage options on the market right now than there were 5 years ago. I personally love the trick and have for years. The thing about the trick that I think easily gets forgotten is that you need to have a bird, or something in the cage.

That’s where Billy McComb‘s routine with the mouse really shines. It gives a purpose for the cage and puts focus on the cage. In the later Tommy Wonder videos of him doing the vanishing birdcage, it’s an empty cage that disappears. There is a video out there of an early version of Tommy doing it where he does it under a see through cloth, however the cage has a “mouse” in it.

In my routine it’s about the bird, here’s the very end of it:

When the bird is the focal point of the routine and not the cage, the take the audiences focus away from the funky looking cage. If all they have to look at is the cage, it’s easy for them to quickly realize it’s a trick cage.

I use a Nielsen Magic Latex Canary, and I’ve kinda been hoarding them. Whenever I see them at a magic swap meet, I buy them, or when I’m ordering some other trick from a place that sells them, I’ll add one into my order. The canaries are pretty cheap at $10, however, they won’t be around forever. I figure as long as I use them, might as well have them around.


Covering the Briefcase Show…

The briefcase show made a little bit of progress yesterday. One thing thing a while ago my ship agent mentioned to me is that he doesn’t like the look of a case onstage. That was reinforced the first year I did Masters of Illusion, are also opposed to the look to having a case sitting on the stage. One thing that both my agent and Masters of Illusion agreed on was that having the case draped is acceptable.

With that in mind, I looked at my case and noticed how beat up it is and decided it definitely needs a cover.

It’s a simple matter to take a bit of black cloth and sew some loops into it so that it can hang off the top of the briefcase.

It’s a very simple solution that only costs a few bucks, but it really does make it look much better. I’ve still got a lot that needs to be done before the briefcase show is ready.


Twisting the Aces…

A couple of weeks ago I posted a method for doing an Elmsley style false count that hid the second card from the top (you can learn this false count here) that I came up with on a long flight. Unfortunately, this count isn’t particularly useful and doesn’t have much of an advantage over a normal Elmsley Count.

Well, last week I was on another long flight from New York to Seattle and I was playing with the false count that hides the second card and I came up with a trick with it. It’s Twisting the Aces, but it has one advantage over the original Dai Vernon version and that’s that it all four counts look the same, so you don’t have to openly turn over the ace of clubs or do that weird strip out of one of the red aces and then flip over a few cards.

You start with the four aces (could be any order) face down in your left hand.

  1. Triple turn over to show the “top card”.
  2. Kill your wrist and turn just the top card over.
    -The position of the cards are: face down – face up – face up – face down
  3. Do the “Thru the Fist Flourish”, but don’t flip over the packet.
  4. Do the Second From the Top Elmsley and this will show the first face up ace.
  5. Do the “Thru the Fist Flourish”, but don’t flip over the packet.
  6. Do a regular Elmsley and this will show the second face up ace.
    -The position of the cards are: face down – face up – face down – face up
  7. Do the “Thru the Fist Flourish”, and secretly flip over the packet.
  8. Do the Second From the Top Elmsley and this will show the third face up ace.
  9. Do the “Thru the Fist Flourish”, but don’t flip over the packet.
  10. Do the Second From the Top Elmsley and this will show the fourth face up ace. As you do the count, leave the final ace out jogged.
  11. Strip out the final ace and put it on top of the packet face up
  12. Half pass the bottom card as you spread out the packet to show the three face down bottom cards (this is the Asher Twist move)

The main problem with the above version of Twisting the Aces is that it’s soo much harder than doing the Vernon version. Honestly, I don’t know if this is better than the original Twisting the Aces, maybe the variation in procedure makes that trick more watchable from the audience perspective?