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 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.
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.
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 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.
Sometimes you get to a gig and you realize you are going to work. When I got to this show to load in and saw the stage, I knew it was going to be a long run! Here’s the view of the stage from the front:
The stage is probably 12 feet wide and 16 feet deep. Then about 7 or 8 feet of the front of the stage is taken up by the speakers. Then the monitors make it impossible to play close to the edge of the stage for maximum visibility. The monitors will force me to play back, and the problem with that is that is the now the tall speakers become visual obstructions for people trying to watch the show if they aren’t seated in the center of the audience.
Now let’s flip the view around and look at the audience from the stage:
The audience is seated at round tables. That’s horrible for a show. You’ll notice that the chairs closest to the stage actually are facing away the from the stage. So the people with the best seats have their backs to me!
Some gigs I feel like my show is being set up to fail. My plan is to ask for more chairs to fill the front, then either ask for the speakers to be moved to the back of the stage, or do the show on the ground in front of the speakers. It’s going to piss off the sound guy, but it’s really the only option with what they’ve given me.
The picture below is from back in 2017, I had an idea to use a foam hand for a trick.
The idea was inspired by a math based trick in a Jim Steinmeyer book. The problem I faced in the trick was giving clear instructions. I tabled the trick shortly after I started doing it in 2017. Then shortly before the pandemic hit in 2020, I reread in Gary Oulette‘s book of his columns in Genii magazine called Fulminations about the challenges David Copperfield had to get through when giving instructions for his “touch the TV screen” tricks. The instructions had to be clear, even for the biggest idiot.
Then the pandemic hit and I started playing with some tricks that used counting on a hand, and went out and remade my foam hand. I never used the foam hand in a show, because in a virtual show my hand plays big.
Right now I’m cleaning up and downsizing the props I have, and I came across the giant foam hand. It’s sort of gimmicked, or at least altered so that I can bend the fingers down and they stay down. In a couple of days I head to Arizona for a month long gig and I think I’m going to take the hand with me and try to figure out the routine.
One thing I think it lacked was an ending. It needs a good way to reveal that they are all touching the same finger. When I made the last foam hand, I also bought a foam hand that just has the pointer finger up. The challenge was how to reveal this. I was playing with it and essentially found a pull the giant hand off my hand to reveal my hand is holding a giant foam hand with just the index finger up!
Now I have a moment to punctuate the reveal of everyone on the same finger.
It’s still got a challenge. Am I going to do the trick looking at the audience or not? Traditionally in this type of trick you don’t look at the audience, however I’m not sure I want to do that. You lose a lot of control by not looking AND you can’t keep an eye on people doing the procedure.
I think I can solve this by having my instructions fixed. By “fixed” I mean something that I can’t change. It could be a recording, like in the Banana Bandana style of trick. I really don’t like performing to a recorded track, it takes away a lot of what makes a live show fun. I think I may make a flap card, that has a five on one side. You turn it over and it has a three on the back side. Then when you turn it over again, the five has changed to a one. That gives the audience something interesting during the boring counting procedure. I also think going from five to three to one, makes the counting easier as it’s getting simpler each time.
I’ll have some playing to do, but luckily I’ll have a monthlong venue to try them out!
The vanishing bird cage that I won at the recent Potter and Potter auction showed up! The description said they thought it was from the 1930’s, I think it’s a little bit later than than, but it’s really hard to say.
The cage is 5 inches by 4 inches and 4 inches tall and made of brass. That makes this thing HEAVY! When you’re doing the vanishing bird cage, one of the things that you are fighting during the vanish is gravity. The weight of the cage doesn’t help you win that fight!
To put it in perspective, I have another cage of similar construction and dimensions.
The brass cage on the right is 337 grams or almost 3/4 of a pound! The cage on the left is 165 grams, that’s essentially half the weight of the brass cage. The cage on the left also collapses into a thinner profile. I suspect the brass cage was made as a DIY vanishing birdcage, and not something that was mass produced for sale to other magicians.
I’m glad to have added this to my collection, and gotten to compare it to something similar, but half the weight to really confirm my suspicion that weight does matter in a vanishing cage!
One of the issues I have with the Die Box magic trick is that I’m not sure what it is. It uses two very unusual props, a giant die and the strange box. Well, yesterday I was at a junk shop and found this box. It’s not a die box, but it sure as heck looks like one.
The shop owner didn’t know what it was for. Now that I’ve found something that looks like a die box, that’s not made for magic, it really doesn’t justify it as a prop.