One of the tricks I’ve been working on, sort of on and off all summer is based on Alan Wong and Luca Volpe‘s The Key of Fate. I’m using their basic framework for the trick, but have changed the props a lot. I’m using totally different forces for the prizes and the method for forcing the winner. The basic effect is you predict the outcome of game and what prize the winner gets.
When I first started doing this I was using a larger piece of paper, but the paper got damaged and all I could find was a smaller piece of paper. The small piece was about 15×10 inches, so still fairly large. The trick wasn’t hitting, but due to my schedule I was having trouble finding time to hunt for bigger paper. The effect was playing just OK with the smaller paper and I was thinking of giving up on it. I was attributing the OK response to my performance. Then I had time to hunt down some giant paper, that’s 30×20 and rewrote the prediction.
Here’s the size comparison:
The new prediction is soo much bigger than the previous one. Much to my surprise, the trick is hitting soo much harder with the bigger paper than with the smaller paper. Sometimes it’s small changes that can make a huge impact to a routine.
Now I’m wishing I had done thing a long time ago, I would have gotten a lot more work on this routine done this summer.
In my continuing effort to get better at using a handheld mic, I went out to a comedy show to watch how comedians hold and use the mic. It also helped that a buddy of mine was in town headlining the show, so it was a good chance to say hi.
All of the comedians in the show used a handheld mic, it’s rare to see a comic use anything else other than a handheld. One thing that I noticed I was doing and they all did was they used the mic as a prop. Kinda like how a conductor uses a baton, it was used to emphasize things they were saying. When I started using the handheld mic earlier this month, I noticed I was a lot more expressive with my hands. Normally my hands wouldn’t really have a reason to be near my face, and the motions I make holding the mic would look strange without holding the mic.
One thing I need to do now is watch my show and figure out where I can clean it up the unnecessary moves in and out of the mic stand.
A fun little side bonus is setting up my show is fast now that I don’t have to deal with my wireless headset mic!
P.S. If you are want to learn to use, or get better with a handheld mic, I recommend Michael Kent’s video Microphone Management for Magicians! He does a great job covering pretty much all you need to know and it will save you some time.
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
On New Year’s Day of 2020 I saw Darren Brown’s show on Broadway in New York. It was a great show and during the intermission the guy next to me was looking at the program and mentioned there were a lot people listed in the credits for a magic show.
Somehow that guy’s comment popped back into my head and got me thinking about who I would have to credit for my show. Looking at the tricks in the show, I’m trying to name the creator of the trick, move or principle that I’m using. For example, I use a classic force, and while Reginald Scot is not the inventor, he’s the oldest reference I could find for the move. For the technical end of things I’m calling the creators “magic consultants”. Then I have a column for “writers” and my criteria is if the line didn’t come out of my head, then it has to be credited to someone else. If I know who wrote the line, then their name is listed as a “writer”. If I don’t know who wrote a line or created a trick, then I’m going to list them as “unknown” and for each unknown I list, it will have a number after it. This also applies for moves/tricks/routines. For example, let’s say I use 2 stock lines and a trick who I don’t know the inventor of, then it would be “unknown (1)”, “unknown (2)” and “unknown (3)” listed in the appropriate categories.
Here’s what my credits look like:
Ralph W. Hull
When you read my list, you’ll notice that Jim Steinmeyer is listed as a writer, not magic consultant. This is because I use a gag from his egg bag routine, in a different context. I’m using the joke, not magic routine.
This was a fun thing to do, and made me think about who has contributed to my show!
In thinking about the giant foam hand, the trick that I’ve been doing in my preshow where the audience follows along is a trick that will never move up to the main show. I don’t thing the “count along with me” type tricks where the audience follows your instructions are very deceptive. They are interesting novelties, but not very magical. They can be fun, and entertaining, but they lack magic.
It hit me that if you used a number force like Phil Smith’s Quinta, you get something that is a bit more deceptive. Quinta doesn’t use any math, it’s pretty straight forward, they name an number, you count across your finger tips and end up at the force finger. It’s soo much more fair than using math to force a finger. It think it would move this trick up into a “filler trick” or “MC trick“, I’m not sure if it would make it to the main show. It’d need a few good jokes and hook.
The nice thing is the props are visually large, you could get the whole audience counting, which would make it play even bigger. It also looks different from the traditional “pack small and play big” type of trick which are usually flat cards or silks.
I need to practice the Quinta a little bit before I try it out in my pre-preshow.
It drives me nuts when magicians complain about magic tricks being “knocked off” or “stolen”, but they didn’t take the most basic steps to protect them. It doesn’t take much to register a copyright on the art and instruction for whatever trick you are putting out.
Before you say it, I’m aware that in the USA your work is “copyrighted” the second you create it. The issue is that you can’t enforce that copyright without a registration number. Sure, you can send a “cease and desist” letter, but without a copyright registration, you really can’t legally enforce it.
Magician’s love to say that “show business” is two words and the business is important. It is, and it’s time for magicians to actually look into the business part when releasing tricks. If they did what businesses do and legally protect their intellectual property it really wouldn’t be an ethical issue. It’s pretty cut and dry.
It’s a business decision to not patent a trick that you are releasing due to the cost or time it takes to get a patent. That’s fine, but you have to live with that decision.
Recently I put out a trick called Out For Beers. This trick uses an original visual gag combined with the Out To Lunch Principle. I really like the gag, and wanted to protect it as it’s something that would be easy to knock off. For $65 in filing fees, I was able to copyright the gag. I’ve copyrighted stuff in the past, and it’s always taken 6-9 months, however somehow I got lucky and this one was process in less than a month!
What this certificate and registration number does is allow me to quickly force sites like Ebay or AliExpress to remove the knock off or unauthorized version of the trick from their websites. This doesn’t guarantee that my stuff won’t get knocked off, but it’s gives me a tool to fight people who are knocking off my stuff!
When it comes to prop management, I’m not the best, but I do have a system. All of my hand held props are in a bin on my table. I don’t do any performing on the table top, it all happens in my hands, so the table simply holds my props. Here’s a peek into my table top bin:
As things get used they either go back into their space in the bin if the trick is instantly reset at the completion of the trick. If the trick doesn’t reset, it goes into my case which is to my left and holds a two larger props I use. This system works well for me when doing three shows a day at fairs. It makes it easy for me to assess what tricks need to be reset and make sure nothing gets missed.
I’m sure there are better systems. I know some two person acts have the “assistant” bring out each routine and then remove the props at the end of the routines. The advantage of that is the show is getting packed up while the show is happening. I’ve used this system in the past when I’ve performed with my daughter. It’s a really nice way to do it, but it’s not something in can do in 90% of my shows.
What’s probably the most important thing is that you have a system of some sort to try to eliminate or shorten dead time while getting or putting away props. Sometimes a joke or interesting patter can fill this time. Other instances, simply having a prop that’s easy to grab is the best option.
I’m still working through using a handheld microphone in the show. There’s definitely a learning curve. I’m getting better at it, but it’s an uphill slog. I have a lot of points where I’m holding the mic in my hand, then put it in the stand for a moment, only to quickly remove it.
I really like how when I’m holding the mic in my hand, I’m a lot more expressive with my hands than when I’m wearing just a headset. I think holding the mic makes me more aware of what my hands are doing. It also puts a hand up near my face, so I can play more with motion that’s motivated.
As I get deeper into my show, I’m realizing that there’s going to be a lot of spaces where I’ll need to use the mic neck holder. That’s fine, I’ll need a joke to address it. Today I have to figure out how to do the reveal of the object in ball of yarn that’s the end of the longest routine in the show. I had to chunk this routine out into three bits to figure out the blocking, and today will be the third bit to figure out.
Having a gig where I’m doing 66 shows at all month is a great opportunity to work on new material. I’m still working on my idea for the Invisible Deck. It’s coming along. I’m now using Phoenix Large Index Cards. The bigger index makes it play a row or two further back.
One thing I’m realizing is that this trick is going to be limited to the size of room it can play. I’m going to need to figure out a way to scale the trick back up to either a Phoenix Parlour sized deck or a jumbo deck. It’s interesting how the process works, I had to shrink the trick to figure out why I need to enlarge it!
So why not just go back to using the Vernet 52 B’Wave?
The main reason is the routine I was doing required 3 jumbo decks and didn’t really have a routine for it. By changing the method, I ended up finding a presentational hook for the trick, which ultimately helps the routine. Yes, I could do my routine with the 52 B’Wave, but now that’d bump it up to travelling with four jumbo decks, and that’s a lot of weight in case for a card trick!
I think the method may end up being some sort of hybrid method, where the reveal deck is similar to the 52 B’Wave deck, but with different reveal cards, and reveal cards that aren’t gimmicked, so they can be shown more freely.
Another reason I’m playing with a different method is that there’s a sense of pride I have when I perform with original methods.
When I was first starting out performing in comedy clubs in the early 2000’s I had to use a wired handheld microphone. As I progress through my career, I switched to a wireless headset. I’m now playing with going back to being able to do my show with a wired handheld microphone. The main reason is that it’s logistically easy. I don’t need to travel with my own gear, and it also makes trying out new stuff and open mic’s much easier.
I’m performing all month doing three shows a day at a fair, and aside from working on some new material, I’m also trying to relearn to use a handheld microphone. My preshow right now is a stand up set of jokes, which runs about 7 minutes, and I’m now doing that all with the handheld mic. I’m still wearing my headset during this, but using the handheld.
Right now my goal is every day to move the handheld one bit further into the show. Right now, I have my preshow stand up set, my two new “preshow” tricks and then first actual trick in the show all done with the handheld. The next routine is really three tricks in one routine. I was dreading figuring out how to add the handheld microphone to it as parts of it are pretty physical. Then it hit me, I need to look at it as three tricks, not one routine. Once I broke it down that way, it’s much easier to start figuring out how to do it with a handheld microphone.
I was chatting with the sound engineer at my stage about what microphone to get and he suggested the Shure SM58S. This is the version of the Shure SM58, but it has an on/off switch which is something I want. Right now if I’m jumping back and forth between the headset and the handheld, I need that switch so that I’m not being picked up by both mics.
If you’ve never used a handheld, I suggest you learn how, it’ll be helpful the one time your headset dies right before showtime.