Saturday, May 31, 2014

Be on time!

This is more of a general rant, but it applies to magicians as well. Why can't be people on time? Seriously. Always there is a delay.

Let's back up a bit. I've been to many appointments in my life. Some I set up, some have been set up by others. I tend to be punctual. Really punctual. It's kind of my thing. However it seems to be not the thing of the majority of people. In certain situation this is of little consequence. Like meeting up with friends. No big deal, you just wait 5 more minutes until the other one arrives. But in some situations arriving on time is crucial. Neither because everything would come to a grinding halt if one is not on time, nor because people are forced to wait. No it is because people think less of you and you come across as extremely unprofessional.

Magic related example. Two magicians were booked to this pretty big corporate gig. Walk around magic. I was one of the two. I was on time. I spoke to the manager who explained what he wanted and all of usual. My "co-worker" whom I've never met until that point wasn't there during the meeting. He was stuck in traffic, according to his story.

It made even me look unprofessional, as it made magicians look unprofessional.

Well stuck in traffic, that can happen to anyone I hear you say? Yes! That is why you take that into consideration when you make up your schedule and leave earlier.

He finally arrived, just in the nick of time, as the event was about to begin. So I briefed that magician. I watched him work (that little time that I had) and he was really good. Really good. He put me to shame. Yet the follow up gig - and there always is a follow up gig - I was booked instead of him. I wonder why! My fee wasn't lower than his.

I guess this constant struggle with time comes from the inability to assume the correct duration of any given action while planning.

Crossing the street, just to the next stop light, then passing the street and going into the bakery. I actually measured the time it takes me to do that. Amazing 60 seconds, what seems like a 10 second thing. I actually asked a few of my friends what they assume the time would be for the same thing. And they all said half a minute or so. They were off by 50%....

I sound like a freaking obsessive freak here. In a way I am. But if such a simple task as crossing the street is grossly misjudged, then how much of a discrepancy happens when planning a trip to a gig and arriving at an agreed upon time?

If you struggle with being on time I have a tip. Estimate how much time you need, then add 50%. If you think the trip will take an hour, then it will take 90 minutes.

Rant over.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


What is up with those trailers nowadays?

The music is way too much. Explain yourself!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

To all ye old folk who do ye olde Card Rise from the block!

Consider the idea a gift. Force anything, then pretend to draw. Turn over the wrong image and then add details to make a "smart phone" out of it. Then wipe a bit around to prove it is fully functional and then pull up the screen with the correct forced item.

And then rip off the sheet proving that it is just a drawing and let them keep the paper. Part of the result could also be your phone number!

Just saying!

No need to thank me!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Your own spin!

Maybe last post came across as me thinking that the failure lies with not crediting the creator of the magic trick. No! In a performance you don't credit the creators. The performance is about you.

However... if you do any TV work, or any work actually, I think you need to do your own material. It's okay to use classics but you better put your own spin on it. And making it your own doesn't mean it is your own thing, when you perform it.

And in that regard many fail. Here is my theory: If you see someones routine that is for sale. And you can imagine doing that routine yourself without any changes, then your character is either undefined or very, very bland.

Changes have to happen. Be it premise, plot, patter or method!

And just in case you have a problem figuring out what the four things mean:

  • A premise is an assumption that something is true. For example: Coins can be hung in the air invisibly on sky hooks.
  • A plot is what happens, within the premise that is set up. For example: one coin will be hung on the right, one on the left side. Then they are picked up again and become visible again.
  • Patter is what you say. Preferably it states why you are doing it. For example: "Hanging them there is the best way to protect yourself from thievery!"
  • Method is the thing that magicians are obsessed with.
So if you change the color of the handkerchief you vanish from red to blue, you are not changing any of the four points, ergo you change nothing of value. 

Changing the premise can often do great things about a routine. Maybe the cards are not switched, but change into one another. If that is the premise, an ambitious card becomes a totally different trick. As the card does not jump to the top, but the top card will turn into the spectators card. For whatever reasons.

Changing the plot does change everything up as well. Imagine the card not going to the top every time, but instead it sinks to the bottom and eventually even further down through the table. Just changing the direction of the effect logically dictated the climax. So it is no longer an ambitious card, but maybe a shy card....

That brings us to the change of patter. What if the card really is shy. And tries to get away. "You signed the card, that makes the card feel embarrassed a bit. The card tries to get away."

And finally changing the method is what magicians love to do most. So instead of a DL as the main modus operandi we use the glide.... wow, what an accomplishment!

Of course whatever element you change you change to fit your character. And that requires to have a defined character to begin with.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Deflect by Skulkor

Skulkor has releases Deflect. I saw the trailer. My initial thought: "What the hell is that thing? Bullshit!" and I thought I was done with it.

Turns out the WPR gives that a high rating. My second thought: "Well it's WPR, both guys are magicians who have no concept of good magic!" and I thought I was done with it.

At the Green Monster "This looks awesome.", "This has me curious."

Are you guys retarded or what? This is shit. Seriously! Try to follow my train of thought! So you have a card box and a marker. Alright, so write something on the box? Really? How the hell do these objects relate to one another? Not at all!

The effect (something written changes) is good in itself, as the effect could lend to meaningful magic. But no, it is yet another card thing. This has no reason to be. Why not write the gibberish on a business card and then change that to the correct prediction? Oh yeah, because of the method. That doesn't fucking matter. So let me give you the inner monologue the magician has to go through:

"So you picked a card, let me write down the name of your card. Let's see, what could I possibly use as a surface to write on? Oh yeah, this box of cards is great. How about writing it on the narrow side, so it is only visible for just a few people? Yeah that's great. It's not like I got the option of writing on the bigger side of the box, or on some cards, or business cards, or not at all."

Can you see it now? Probably not, because you are retarded. You got Skulkor-Syndrome. Let me explain. When you see a trick and you are fooled, you instantly think it is great and good and the second coming of Dai Vernon. If it uses props you already use you come instantly and spurt your magic sauce all over the Internet, by posting stuff like "I ordered it and it shipped". The cause for Skulkor-Syndrome is kinda unknown. Research suggests, that not being a worker will cause it.

Let me get serious for a moment: I don't see this going into the repertoire of working magicians. They can do stronger stuff and more logical stuff without even breaking a sweat. Since whatever the gibberish turns into is forced anyway, you can actually prepare some business cards and have them stacked in your stock of business cards.

So here is a possible trick, just to get this post a bit more on the constructive side. Draw animals on the back of some of your business cards. Common animals that are likely to be named. Have them in a known order on the bottom of the stock. The bottom card is a "general animal".

Get out business cards. Show the top few and don't make a big deal of it. Turn the stock around so the backside is towards yourself. Ask a few to think of an animal. Pretend to read their minds and pretend to draw. Put the business card with the "general animal" on the table or a spectators hand with the drawing side down. Have the animal named, and instantly cull the correct one to the bottom of the stack you are holding. Ask them to turn over the prediction. Let the gag play out and then take back the card "I'm not a great artist, but I am right, I swear!" place the card on the bottom of the stack and you are basically ready for any double lift based change. And you have a business card to hand out.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How to actually get things done PART IX

So how do you run a close up magic theater? There are tons of little things. Like cleaning the rooms, the toilet, the outside. Keeping the window nice and clean, making sure to have enough drinks, toilet paper and tickets. Keeping the stock of take away flyers up to date and so on. Tons of things.... so where to start. First let's talk about Location.

I live in Kiel. A city in the very North of Germany. The theater however is in Lübeck, a city 80 kilometers more to the south. That is about 50 miles for those few readers who live in a country with no superior metric system. So whenever there is a "theater day" we drive down there and back. And the reason is simple. Kiel is ugly as Hell. Nope, Hell is actually much, much beautiful. Kiel has been a nice city in the past, but then WWII came and went and left a bomb crater. So they build all sorts of buildings after 1945. With no thinking about looks and design. The result is a mess.

Lübeck however was spared a bombing (for the most part) so it still looks old and cool. Walking along those narrow streets gives you a feeling of nostalgia and belonging. It's weird. The city's roots date back to 748. Yep that old. So there is history and somehow a magic vibe is in the air. Also lots of tourists and the fact that the old city center is on an island.

It is in close proximity to Hamburg and two federal subdivisions, enlarging the pool of possible guests. So we knew very early on that the city we wanted was Lübeck. We also knew we wanted a place in the old city center on the island. Best would be a prestigious street. And yeah we got that. Even if it means we have to drive more than 300 kilometers per week.

It took us over two years to get the location. Some where not on the main streets, some way too expensive, some way too small and some other... we would have had way too much to renovate.

The place we got used to be a gallery, before that a tailor, before that a shoemaker, before that a spinning works and everything before that is lost in history. The building itself is relatively young. About 300 years old. It has been rebuild 150 years ago. But the cellar is still in the original condition. The cellar is connected to some tunneling network, that has been used to smuggle stuff. Pretty cool. But those tunnels are now used for waste water disposal.

There is way more to tell about the place, but let's talk about the next big issue. The price of the tickets and all of the other stuff.

More in Part X

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How to actually get things done PART VIII

After the Cups and Balls I do my trailer bit, which I wrote about earlier. After that follow the second part of the prediction. I get out a box, clearly labelled "end time generator" And from the box I dump out a few cards. Blank cards, but on each there is a scenario written and drawn on. "Zombies", "Godzilla", "Global Warming", "Nuclear Winter", "Kraken", "Robots", "The Grim Reaper", "Aliens", "Boredom", "Sun Exploding", "Mutation", "Comet", "Volcanic Eruption" and many more.... The spectator/prophet "chooses" one. The method of our demise is then noted.

Then it is time to open the envelope I gave to the spectator earlier. It is opened and two pieces of folded paper fall out. First one is picked up by the spectator and opened. It openly predicts the method. Then the other piece of paper is opened up and inside written with big marker the freely chosen date of the doomsday.

This gets a strong reaction. Especially compared to all the magic they have see. It connects the first part of the show with the second part and makes the whole thing tied together in a way that the audience perceives the show not as a bunch of tricks string together, but as a whole construct.

Earlier I told the audience about the stages of magic, claiming that mentalism is the highest stage. Now we are logically there. It feels like the show has been building up to that. Give the audience a nice round feel. I continue this by doing a little bit of even more mentalism, which is totally hands off. A great contrast to the previous stuff.

This contrast has a few reasons to be there. First: It is a contrast, therefore more memorable. Second: It enhances my character, makes the audience feel that there is more than all the finger flicking. Third: It varies the act, giving people who expected mentalism said mentalism.

Then follows the the book test which finishes the show. It's strong, it has great jokes and leaves the audience with a bit of real mystery, as it cannot be explained by "dexterity".

Then comes the encore piece with the finger and the rabbit, which I described earlier. It's a pure comedy piece, designed to tie up all the loose ends. It is great in the end, because I could not follow up the book test with an even stronger piece of magic/mentalism. Because if I did, why the hell is it not in the show?

So that is my main "comedy" show. It's full of magic and surprises. But let's not talk about that show anymore and focus more on the business aspect of running a small theater. How does the booking work, the calculation of the ticket prices, what about taxes, drinks, snacks, wardrobe and all of the other stuff that has very little to do with the magic?

More in Part IX

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Remember Mentalism Peyman?

Of course you do, being a faithful reader and such. If not, let me get you up to date:

Mentalism Peyman is a self proclaimed mentalist and illusionist, selling tricks and ripping off copyrighted material. Just follow the link and see the wonderful videos that back up my point.

I almost forgot about him, until I got a newsletter by a German magic dealer who advertises a product that features said wannabe performer with the charismatic aura and confused look of a guinea pig that has been thrown against a brick wall.

It's a levitation called Power Levitiation 1. And as expected it looks like shit, but that is just my personal opinion. But see for yourself! This is official demo video:

Think about it! This gem in levitation system costs more than 2000 dollars, but they cannot invest in a proper video? Hell, even HD? This gives you a little bit of a clue how much the costumer is valued. And btw. It looks hella uncomfortable for the person levitating. If I would be bending backwards like that I would be in pain. This version is even worse:

It always feels like magic is used for even less than base motifs.

Friday, May 2, 2014

How to actually get things done PART VII

The first part of the show had this running gag of a bill getting bigger and bigger. That was a trick that connected the tricks. In the second part of the show the running theme is the supposed selling of a new magic prop, called "The Thing".

The Thing is great. It can teleport, copy, transmogrify and all sorts of things. It is made up of a phoenix feather, parts of the true death star, was forged in Mount Doom and runs on three triple A batteries.

I tell the story of the four stages of magic. It starts with the magic kit stage. Then follows the library stage (nowadays substituted by the YouTube stage), then the actual practice stage, followed by the oh so esoteric mentalism stage. (thereby foreshadowing the end of the show) But now we can go back to the magic kit stage as The Thing does all the work. What work? let me show you!

Then I move into my sponge ball routine. Which is very basic actually. It ends in a classic way. A ball travels from one hand to the spectators hand. The only difference... the hand that the ball vanishes from is NOT my own hand. It's a spectator's hand. Yes, after I placed "ONE" ball in the spectators hand I pick up the remaining ball and fake placing it into another spectators hand, who is instant stooged to play along. That stooge still gets a magic moment as he/she has no idea how the ball ends up in the second spectators hand. I've never seen anybody do that and I claim ownership of that with the end of this sentence. *insertevillaughhere*

The actual magic phase is done using TheThing. Which is hilarious. The fart sounds bring down the level so low, that the actual magic hits so much harder in contrast. People dig that. This just highlights the before mentioned "teleportation" function. "And you can get that too, for just 24,95 €"

Next would be the "copy" function... which leads into the Ring in the box routine. It has all sorts of jokes, but the basic premise is, that I borrow a ring claiming I can make a copy of it. And it works, but in the process the original ring gets lost. The spectator gets to choose between the cheap copy or the box "that contains the wonders of the universe" Once they go for the box, the ring transforms into the key, that is needed to open the box. Inside they find the ring. It's a solid routine that I have done for many, many years. "Mind you that the copy function worked perfectly, it is that the original got lost. So you can get The Thing for just 24,95 € we sell then after the show!" That last line, aside from being serves a purpose, which will become clear in a moment.

Then the card trick. I won't go into detail, as it is not my routine, but here is premise. The Thing can actually prep a spectator to not being able to do a mistake. To proof that wondrous claim a card trick is done. Card is picked, then lost. The spectator himself find the card using dice. It is an extremely powerful routine and it is self working yeah.... after that trick I do that line "Now imagine we use The Thing in the context of getting lottery numbers.... Oh yeah we sell this.... for 24,95 €.... as well as gift certificates." Now you see what this has been leading up to. Some advertisement, reminding the audience that they could actually buy gift certificates for friends and family. It's a pretty cheesy reminder, but in a funny context. And why not? People are having fun at that point... and now they mentally connect the idea of a possible gift certificate with the fun they are having. As a matter of fact we do sell gift certificates after the show and we sell way more than the time I didn't use the line.

Following, the Cups and Balls, as a final proof of The Thing. This time teleportation, copying and transmogrification will be combined in one great demonstration. I do the entire routine, ending with four steel balls from two cups and close with the following line: "I told you in the beginning that this trick is old. And in the past it used to be done on the street. Right after the show the performer would go through the crowd selling all sorts of wondrous gadgets for the cheap, cheap price of 24,95!" which gets a laugh "Not today, you get a fifth ball" as I lift the cup again and reveal yet another load, but way to big to actually fit in the cup. This feels like whipping up the applause even more.

Now we are moving closer and closer to the end!

More in Part VIII

Thursday, May 1, 2014

How to actually get things done PART VI

The second part of the show is structured around a prop. I call it "The Thing"... no not the Bill Abbott product. Basically it's a gadget gun from a toy store. It makes fart sounds. But that is secondary.

Oh I forgot to mention. Part of the Doc Eason routine that ended the first part is patter that consists of all puns. And prior to that I say that there a three types of humor. Way up would be the intelligent situational humor, then way, way lower would be TV comedy and then even lower would be puns.... "And if you had to add an even lower one it would be fart humor."

Then follows the pun routine. Back to the second part of the show: As soon as the fart gun makes the fart sounds you can see the merry go round of themes. But how is the gun being used? Well like a magic wand. But first here are the tricks:

Warm Up
Sponge Balls
Ring to Box
Finding a Card using Dice
The Cups and Balls
The second part of the Prediction about the End of the World
A little bit of Mentalism
A Book Test

As you can see two things are a little bit weird. Advertisement? A Trailer?

Yeah before I go on with the show itself let me explain both things. I never see any theater doing this, sometimes comedy clubs do this. I tell my audience, that if they like the show they can help us out by writing something in our guest book, liking us on Facebook and telling their friends about it. I do all of that with some funny patter, but with a sense of seriousness. This is direct marketing. And this usually is not part of an act. But I run a business here, so I do that bit. And it works well. Well all know that word of mouth is the best advertisement you can have. It's free and full of "testimonials". Think about it. At that point in the show people like me already, they would gladly help to let me continue. They are having fun, and they are about to have some more fun. And in the middle of that some advertisement. It's perfect timing.

And then the trailer. This I have not seen anybody do, but I think it solves so many issues at once. Let me tell you what it is first. The trailer is a trick from the other shows. First: it redeems me doing that advertisement. Second: it creates real interest about the other shows they are missing. Third: It feels like they are getting a bonus, more than they paid for, which is always good. Fourth: It makes the show longer without doing any actual work. Fifth: In theory it is bad to have duplicate tricks in different shows. But here I get to show a highlight from the other show, giving them a strong piece of magic that actually is a duplicate and there is a reason to do it. Sixth: It expands on my character. It tells the audience, that there is more to me than just this flavor of a show.

Back to the fart gun!

More in Part VII