This week I’m performing as an act in the World of Wonders Sideshow. One of the challenges for me is keeping my acts short. They have the 10 act format and each act is in the ballpark of about 3 minutes. Normally when I perform, I try to get as much time as possible out of a routine That’s the key to being a solo act that does a full show.
I’m working on cutting down a lot of the personality bits, it’s hard to figure out what jokes/bits to cut to keep the routine in the 10 act format.
I’m fighting the urge to simply do the bits as I normally do them and have them run 5 minutes. There was a time when I was younger where I wouldn’t have cut down the bits. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized you have to be a team player, but more than that, this is taking me out of my comfort zone. Maybe I could learn that a 5 minute bit in my show, is really an amazing 3 minute bit and I’ve diluted it by stretching it to 5 or 6 minutes.
I’m enjoying stepping out of my normal box and taking some risks!
Today I was messing around with adding stinger music to trick that didn’t get the final reaction I wanted. Stinger music is a short, usually upbeat musical tag that’s used to punctuate the end of a trick. I was really surprised at the effect it had on the trick. It took the trick from a mild response (much less than I thought it deserved) to a good response.
The two places I put it, one in a magic trick and one in a mentalism trick worked out great. The mentalism trick was where I think it really needs it, the effect is there, but it lingers in the audience’s heads. I need something to snap it out of their heads, and this may be the way.
Now for me the trick is to make it make sense. I don’t want to just blast music at the end of the trick. I think there needs to be music leading up to the stinger. This isn’t much of a problem, I just need to find music with lyrics that I can talk over.
I’m hoping to add a little bit more theatrical / production elements to the show. I’m trying to “level up” my show a little bit.
The big change to the initial changes I made is that originally I was using four keys with three spectators, with the idea that I none of them would win, and then I’m surprised when one of them wins. I’m now doing it with three keys and three spectators, so that one of them is going to win, and two lose. I think knowing that one is guaranteed to be a winner, and it’s a game takes some of the sting out of the two that don’t win.
The other change is the prize. I’m forcing the prize as a bar of soap. This prize is something funny, easy to travel with or acquire in any city and for some reason the kids who have won it seem to be excited about it!
I just ordered a box of hotel soap:
It’s pretty cheap, coming in at less than 50 cents per bar. I bought a box of fifty, so I’m kinda committed to doing this routine fifty times, unless it really starts falling flat with audiences.
About six month ago I came across a principle that would allow me to do a reverse three card monte, or I guess it’s technically a divination effect. I rip off three corners of a playing card, so two have indexes and one doesn’t. They are mixed up by a spectator with my back turned and I always know where the odd one is (non index corner). It’s a good puzzle, but not a good trick. It’s missing a lot, mostly an ending. I think it’s a good 3 am magic trick at a magician’s convention.
Here’s me doing it for another magician:
I’m not sure what I want to do with this. I’ve put some energy into trying to make it more than “you mix them and I tell you which one it is“, however I’m thinking that might be what it’s destined to be.
I just scored a big win yesterday! The clip that I use on the end of my personal take up reel that I use for the vanishing birdcage is something that was on a pull that was given to me more than 25 years ago! I’ve been trying to find another one for about 15 years and really haven’t had any luck.
The first challenge was figuring out what the clip was called. Trying to call manufacturers or distributers to ask for it is really hard if you don’t know what to ask for. And usually the guy that answers the phone doesn’t know their parts well enough for my description.
Once I managed to figure out what it was call, then next step was finding them. I found one on ebay, and after getting it, it was too big. This was an achievement, and I’ve confirmed someone is still making them, just not in the size I need. More hunting and phone calls followed and I learned the manufacturer still listed them their catalog in the smaller size I needed, but no distributor or retailer would special order them for me…not even when I offered to fill the minimum wholesale order and they could just tack a fee on top of that.
I continued to push forward trying to work directly with the manufacturer in Europe, but they only deal with people in certain industries, and magic isn’t one of them. This was a dead end, but I was still occasionally email the manufacturer, distributors, and retailers and get the same response.
That leads me to a few months ago when I noticed that the manufacturer had recently opened a warehouse in the USA! Unfortunately there was no phone number on their website, just a contact form. I sent a bunch over the last months and finally got a call back from them! It was a new salesman that was hired on and he happened to see my email and was intrigued by me using it for a magic trick.
After some chatting, he found a workaround to sell them to me as I’m not in an industry that they supply stuff to. Oh, then there was the problem that while the clip in the size I needed was listed in the catalog, they don’t make them any more. He talked to some people in the warehouse and they found a box of them. it was far less than their minimum order, but if I took them all he’d sell them to me…and of course I said YES!
So I’m now owner of a box of clip I use for the vanishing birdcage.
The moral of the story is to keep pushing ahead. When you are working on a trick, or trying to build a prop and you hit a wall, keep pushing forward*. Sure, you can put the project on the back burner for a bit, but you will usually eventually come up with the solution.
*Sometimes there are projects that after some point need to be abandoned.
The last week I’ve had a lot of people ask me if my Take Up Reel that I use for the vanishing birdcage trick works with an Abbott’s / Blackstone style vanishing birdcage. The answer is yes it does, I made a quick video that I’ve been sending to people who ask, here it is:
The cool thing about the Take Up Reel is that it can be used for more than just the vanishing birdcage, it can be used for any trick where you would use a wrist to wrist pull. If you want it to go up your sleeve and stay there, then it will work for that!
Last night I was playing with a set of mini cups and balls that I have. This particular set was made by Leo Smesters. These are a great little set, however honestly I don’t have much of a use for them. When I originally bought them I had an idea, but haven’t done much with them.
I had the idea of doing a vertical three shell game. The ball would switch places vertically while the cups were stacked. Here’s a quick video of the basic idea:
There’s a little bit more to the full idea I have. Right now the cups are ungimmicked and they will stay that way. However the balls have magnets in them and they stick to each other through the cup. So the cups can sort of function like a chop cup or regular cup depending on the positions of the two balls.
My idea is to have one ball with a very strong magnet in it and then two others with smaller magnets in them. The audience is only aware of one ball. You will steal the ball with the strong magnet and use that magnet like you would a use thumbtip with a magnet inside of it. That will give much more options with what you can do with the cups.
One of the things I’m always doing it trying to improve what I currently do. Right now in my virtual show I do a modified version of my Cee-Lo trick, which is a cup and dice routine. This ends with the production of two large dice. The large dice are 1 1/4 inches on each side. To give you some perspective, the picture below is one of the jumbo dice next to a regular die.
The reason that the trick uses 1 1/4 inch dice is that for a live, in person show, it makes the loading procedure work. The cup will hold two 1 1/2 inch dice, but the method where the spectator loads the cup for you doesn’t work well with a larger die.
I was cleaning up and found the old set of 1 1/2 inch dice I tried using for Cee-Lo. It hit me, since I’ve changed my loading procedure for virtual shows, and there are no spectators to handle the props, why not move to the larger size dice. To give you an idea of visually how much bigger they are, the pictures below are a 1 1/2 inch die next to a regular die and a 1 1/4 inch die.
That extra quarter inch makes it look massive! The nice thing about how I load the cups for live virtual shows is that the size of the die doesn’t really matter. I’m getting a little more visual impact for no extra work! I’m a fan of that.
Recently I started doing a torn and restored card with a postcard. When I started doing it I was using a old promo postcard that had my picture on it. Right now I’m using the idea of a “staycation” for the theme of the trick, so I had my daughter make me a postcard to use for the trick.
One of the things about this postcard that I learned from watching video of the old promo postcard is that the glossy coating makes it hard to see, it’s just a lot of glare. The current batch of postcards have a matte finish, that solves the glare problem.
The thing with creating tricks is that it’s fixing a lot of small problems really adds up to make the bigger picture better!