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.
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.
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.
At my gig this month, I’m really trying to streamline my show and what props I’m lugging around. I have way more stuff than I need in my table. However I also noticed that for the coin trick that I do, the coins right now lay in a stack on my table bin. I think it would be easier to have them in a vertical stack. They’ll take up less space and be easier to grab. I also am playing with a bit where I need to grab some confetti from my case. An easy way would be to have a little holder that attaches to the side of the case.
This is where 3D printing comes in handy. It took me about 5 minutes to design the two holders:
It took about an hour for the two holders to print, and I’m good to go! 5 minutes of active work and here’s what I ended up with:
It’s little things like this, that if I had to make from “found materials” it would have taken me more that five minutes to make. This is why I’m such a fan and suggest to everyone that they learn to 3D print!
I’m was home for a day and in the mail that had been accumulating was a book called Bingo Bango by Jeff Stone. It’s a book about the classic practical joke item that makes a loud bang and surprises people.
The book is a fun read and has over 100 things you can do with the Bingo Device. There are jokes, magic tricks, gags and more.
What surprise me was that apparently at some point I had helped Jeff figure out some of the history of the is joke. I know a bit about about, when I used to work at Market Magic Shop in Seattle, I sold a ton of them. They came in many different forms, sometimes hidden in books, or pens, or even on that is held on your hand like a joy buzzer.
It was very sweet of Jeff to send me a book, and he wrote me a nice note as well:
This is a fun book, and if you’re into practical jokes it’s great! Another fun thing about this book is to see how brainstorming on one idea can lead to soo many different ideas!
At the end of the day yesterday, I mentioned to my contact in the event production that having all tables up front isn’t really conducive to doing a show. It may work for more ambient things like music, but not for an interactive show that people need to pay attention to. I also mentioned the giant speakers on stage, and how the took out usable performing area. Their 16 foot wide stage, only had 8 feet of usable space. I think showing them this picture of a band on that stage helped get my point across:
The poor keyboard player was buried in the behind the speaker. I was told the the speakers wouldn’t move, and I’ll need to figure out how to work around them. In a compromise, if I figured out how to do my show with the speakers onstage, they would give me some benches up front and take out the front two tables.
To my surprise, this is what I walked into this morning:
The benches made a world of difference! It gives me a place for my anchor crowd to sit. Once I have that group, I can win over the people with their backs to me at the tables…or I can walk those people as they’ll realize that sitting and chatting at the tables isn’t easy during my show. Once I walk the people that don’t want to watch my show, I can fill the space with people who do.
I’m hoping that people will see that I was right about the benches and maybe think my idea with moving the speakers (somehow) has some merit. I’ll revisit that conversation with production later in the week.