Age...handicap?

Jun 1, 2009
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6
I'm 19, and have been really into doing magic for about 3 1/2 to 4 years now. I perform two times weekly at a local pizza parlor, doing magic and balloon animals for the guests. At first, I had no problem going up to people and performing since I didn't have the balloons in my arsenal yet. After I began making them, though, I started performing less and less for the adults who visit the restaurant. I still do, but not as often.

I began having a thought about what goes through their minds when I walk up. If it's anywhere from 16 to 25 or so, it goes over great since I'm more in their "peer age group." Adults over 30 though always seem intimidating to me. It there is a couple in their mid 30s or 40s, I'm really hesitant to go over there, simply because they are both sitting there with depressed, blank faces (which seems like the best person to do magic for, right? Cheer them up a bit and whatnot.) but I just get the feeling when I approach, in their heads they are like "who the hell is this kid?" I'm so much younger than them, I don't feel like they take me seriously. Even during the performance, I haven't gotten the same reactions I get from the younger crowd.

Am I doing something wrong, or is it just that my age is handicapping me a little here? Do older adults really want to be entertained by someone half their age? I just can't seem to get a reading on these people. Any help is greatly appreciated, thanks!
 
I work as a club bouncer(doorman) ... and telling somebody they can't come in, or asking them to leave used to be a big problem because i'm only 21 and they were sometimes much older than me.

I borrowed techniques from my magic experience to help me through. The reason you get great reactions from people your age is because you can relate to them and build rapport without knowing. Earning a mutual respect.

Common ground with an older generation and a passive introduction will often get you the attention that you crave. I do a lot of strolling close-up magic, and if someone is 35-40+ I always introduce myself and in an extremely polite manner ( way more polite than I am usually ) .. i take a seat next to them ... even if I have to see them one by one. For some reason I always announce that I'm free aswell. I used to get people saying no when I worked in a wine bar, as they thought they had to pay for it. So if it's a pizza parlour, explain that they've hired you to perform free magic while they wait. It helps for them to embrace your presence at their table. Or if it's a wedding say <brides name> & <Grooms name> have hired me to perform etc etc.

I tend to start with two card monte and my patter is searching for some common ground. " Do you remember the game 'find the lady' from when you were a slightly younger".
Or for middle-aged men .. I put a gambling spin on it. "Gentlemen, do any of you gamble?" (this is also a great way to get tips).

Finding any common ground will instantly get them to be comfortable in what you're showing them..... but material is just as important as approach.

For 16 - 25 year olds - I perform tricks with cards, iphones, coins etc Literally anything. It's my age group, and i'm comfortable that they will react to whatever I perform.

For the middle-aged men and women - I lean towards gambling demonstrations and mind reading (maybe their pin number or a thought of loved one)

For older than 50+ - It's always card tricks or coin tricks with minimal interaction, as most of them will shy away from seeing anything at all if they have to sign cards, hold coins etc..... So table triumph, Acaan or things like Reset tend to get you the enthusiasm and applause that you crave.
 
Jun 1, 2009
1,068
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Great reply Geraint, thanks! I guess I need to look at what material I have and how I play it to what type of audiences. I feel like with older people you need to do something to absolutely blow them away (Like Note by Matt Sconce or something) to show you aren't "just another punk kid" and prove you are legitimate.
 
Instead of what you think is the most impressive effect, I believe it's best to think about what may be impressive for your audience. Note for instance... is a middle-aged man going to be happy with you crossing the touch and personal space barrier when he's out for a meal.

You know they've got money on them as they're buying pizza... so borrow a note and perform a bill change, or get them to write their pin on a folded card, get a peak and reveal their pin number as a mentalism effect. Perform anniversary waltz with yours and their signature and change your patter to talk about identity theft and how signatures can be copied etc.

I've done Fate ( my effect on the wire ) for a 43 year old man that I worked with, and he smiled and said " bloody hell, that was great "
Then on the same night I did it for a group of people my age and they went bat-**** crazy, screaming and jumping around.
Then the older guy wanted to see something else later in the night, so I showed him two card monte, he remembered the old 3 card monte game from Blackpool (a beach destination from most peoples lives/childhoods, here in the UK), my patter was progressive, we bet for 1p, 50p, then £1 .... or if you live in the US. A penny, a quarter and a dollar, would be sorta the same.
By the time it came for him betting the £1 and him turning over the two aces in his hand, that were now queens he was blown away... then I palmed off the aces and revealed them from under his drink. (The late JC Wagner specialty)..... that was like 2 months ago, and he's still telling everyone how amazing it was.

You see my point? ( I hope this helps you come to a decision on what material you think is suitable for what type of audience member ).
 
Jun 1, 2009
1,068
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Geraint: Ok, I see now what you mean. I'll definitely see what I can come up with with the material I have, thanks!

Visual: I'll think on that one.

Thanks for the advice guys, really appreciate it!
 

Pete Pridanonda

Elite Member
Jun 13, 2009
402
35
From my experiences, the older age groups enjoy less visual magic but rather something that they can relate to or some kind of mentalism effect. Think about the olden days before the internet where magic is usually done in an intimate setting either on a table or for a group of people. That's the kind of magic they like to see in my opinion.
 

D@n

Oct 11, 2011
104
1
I just got back from my strolling job at the restaurant I work at five minutes ago, and I turned sixteen in November. I think being younger helps more than it hurts. If you are polite and confident towards older audiences I think you will garner more respect than if you were their age.
Dan
 
Jun 1, 2009
1,068
6
Friend request sent Geraint, thanks!

Pete: Understood, I don't think they're a huge fan of the flashy stuff, but rather things that have more content, meaning, and substance.
 

RickEverhart

forum moderator / t11
Moderator
Sep 14, 2008
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Lots of good points brought up gentleman.
I think age does play a little bit of a factor when someone who is a teen magician is approaching a group of adults (age 30 and up) because as you walk towards that table...in your mind you are wondering..."Are they going to laugh at me and think I'm just a little kid with some tricks? What if I mess up? Are they just going to continue drinking and blow me off?" It seems like a risky situation and could potentially be embarrassing should you fail.

You have to get past that point and realize that most of them have probably not seen a close up magician before. You need to be full of confidence (not cocky) as if you have done it a million times (even if you are scared crapless on the inside). Even if you do have an effect go wrong, it doesn't matter, we are all human. In my 90 minute gig last night I had 2 effects that I botched up. It happens and you move on to the next effect. People just want to be entertained and have fun. It's not the end of the world.

Your material should fit the audience demographics. Make the patter and effect meaningful and unforgettable to that person. Learn to interact with the spectators. Ask where they work. If they are done with their Christmas shopping...blah blah blah. They need to get a chance to see that you are a person not a performing monkey.

Be overly polite and courteous. Think about your body language and the words that you use when you are performing for different age ranges. You wouldn't go up to a table of adults in their 50's and perform and say "epic fail" at some point in your patter because they would have no clue what you mean. Ha ha.

I can't say that I've been in your shoes because I haven't. I didn't get serious in this business until I was 30 and am now 33.
 
Jun 1, 2009
1,068
6
Lots of good points brought up gentleman.
I think age does play a little bit of a factor when someone who is a teen magician is approaching a group of adults (age 30 and up) because as you walk towards that table...in your mind you are wondering..."Are they going to laugh at me and think I'm just a little kid with some tricks? What if I mess up? Are they just going to continue drinking and blow me off?" It seems like a risky situation and could potentially be embarrassing should you fail.

You have to get past that point and realize that most of them have probably not seen a close up magician before. You need to be full of confidence (not cocky) as if you have done it a million times (even if you are scared crapless on the inside). Even if you do have an effect go wrong, it doesn't matter, we are all human. In my 90 minute gig last night I had 2 effects that I botched up. It happens and you move on to the next effect. People just want to be entertained and have fun. It's not the end of the world.

Your material should fit the audience demographics. Make the patter and effect meaningful and unforgettable to that person. Learn to interact with the spectators. Ask where they work. If they are done with their Christmas shopping...blah blah blah. They need to get a chance to see that you are a person not a performing monkey.

Be overly polite and courteous. Think about your body language and the words that you use when you are performing for different age ranges. You wouldn't go up to a table of adults in their 50's and perform and say "epic fail" at some point in your patter because they would have no clue what you mean. Ha ha.

I can't say that I've been in your shoes because I haven't. I didn't get serious in this business until I was 30 and am now 33.

Wow only 3 years and you're booking gigs on a regular basis? I WANT THAAAAAAT
Ok enough whining haha. That's some great advice Rick, thanks. I'm definitely taking all this to heart. I'm looking back through the DVDs I got in the Penguin deal and finding the ones I can add fairly soon to my arsenal, I did Self Tying Shoelaces this weekend and it KILLED. I think Puncture 2.0 is next, that has a universal appeal because it's money.
 

RickEverhart

forum moderator / t11
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Sep 14, 2008
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I've been into magic 12 years Jacob...just never really started getting into the paid performances until about 3 years ago. It will come with time. My biggest thing that helps is networking. Because I am a school teacher, wrestling coach, Eagle Scout, go to church, I'm constantly meeting and talking to people and seeing who has events or things that I can "get myself into".
 
Jun 1, 2009
1,068
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I've been into magic 12 years Jacob...just never really started getting into the paid performances until about 3 years ago. It will come with time. My biggest thing that helps is networking. Because I am a school teacher, wrestling coach, Eagle Scout, go to church, I'm constantly meeting and talking to people and seeing who has events or things that I can "get myself into".

Haha my bad, sorry. Yeah I need to get me a little notebook and put people's names in it who are interested in hiring me, that way I can call or email them to confirm and such.
 

RickEverhart

forum moderator / t11
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Sep 14, 2008
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Also...keep an index card or some type of filing system of who the client is, when you performed there, and what effects you performed because if you get called back 2 years later...that business or client does not need to see the exact same show again. You should have new material for the most part.
 
Jun 1, 2009
1,068
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Also...keep an index card or some type of filing system of who the client is, when you performed there, and what effects you performed because if you get called back 2 years later...that business or client does not need to see the exact same show again. You should have new material for the most part.

Understood, thanks!
 

RealityOne

Moderator
Nov 1, 2009
3,578
3,849
New Jersey
Everyone has to stop calling people over 40 old. We're not yet on social security and not quite ready for the old age home :cool:

I suspect most people my age go out to eat for two reasons -- we're too freaking tired from everything else in our lives to cook dinner that night OR we're trying to "get away" from the rest of the stress in life. Hence, the "blank, depressed faces." My first reaction when anyone approaches my table when I'm eating out (including the waiter who is asking "is everything ok?") is "leave me alone." Chances are that whoever is approaching the table is interrupting a conversation between my wife and me.

So here is the key... you have somewhere around 30 seconds to draw me in before I start giving you the "would you please leave me alone" look. So how do you draw me in?

1. Look and act professional. Your outfit needs to be a step above or equal to what I'm wearing. You can't be sloppy (not that you would be). Be clean and neat. You need to have good posture and be confident. You are doing a job and you have to project that you know what you are doing.

2. Ask a question that will elicit a "Yes" answer. "Have you ordered your food yet?" (the answer should be yes because that is the best time to perform). Answering yes to a question makes a person like you.

3. Respond - "I'm glad to see [insert waitress or waiter's name] is taking good care of you." Notice how by calling the waiter or waitress by name it personalizes the conversation. The question, answer and response establishes you as someone "in the know." You've shown them that you are part of the staff and that you care if they are being taken care of.

4. Introduction - "I'm [your name] and I'm the staff magician. My job is to entertain you while your food is being prepared." By introducing yourself as THE MAGICIAN that adds to your credibility. You no longer are that annoying kid with a deck of cards, but you are someone that the restaurant thinks is good enough to hire to entertain the customers. By saying it is your job it conveys that there is no charge.

5. Transition - Here is where the what you say needs to relate to the effect, relate to your spectators and relate to you. If you are opening with cards maybe something like this, "Do you play cards?" They respond, hopefully yes. "I loved to play cards as a kid, but I would always lose... until my 80 year old grandmother taught me how to cheat..." This has them thinking about playing cards and when they were a kid (the best way to get adults into magic is to bring them back to their childhood). The line about the grandmother will get a chuckle. Grandmothers are supposed to be sweet and nurturing, not teaching their grandchildren how to cheat at cards. With a like like this, you draw them away from what they are doing and into your magic. They have stopped thinking about work, their kids and their stresses and are now thinking about their childhood and their grandmother. The subtle humor will get them smiling and make them want to hear more.

6. Make the presentation personal and make it meaningful and then astonish the heck out of them with the power of your magic.

I'd be glad to help you develop the presentation for any of the effects you want to perform.

You know they've got money on them as they're buying pizza... so borrow a note and perform a bill change, or get them to write their pin on a folded card, get a peak and reveal their pin number as a mentalism effect. Perform anniversary waltz with yours and their signature and change your patter to talk about identity theft and how signatures can be copied etc.

I would avoid borrowing a bill as an opener. My reaction would be, "OK, this guy is trying to get a tip and he hasn't done anything."

You have to be freaking crazy to ask an adult to write down a pin number or to do anything with a presentation about identity theft -- the only worse patter would be about having a colonoscopy. Magic should take you away from your worries. Also, that presentation would make the spectators view you as a con man. I wouldn't react real well to any of those effects.
 
Dec 18, 2007
1,610
13
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Northampton, MA - USA
R1 has more or less hit the nail on the head but in reading your original post I'm also picking up on some hesitation on your part -- doubt that you can satisfy the older customers as much as you do the younger crew. Let me put it this way, I was working in Playboy clubs at 19 and 20 and the majority of the patrons were well over 30. They loved me, I always made excellent tips from them and they were always introducing me to people that could (and did) get me more and more work. So don't fear that 30+ element, make them your friends. . . if you stick with the 16-25 group you WILL go hungry and worse, you will encounter some of the worse hecklers you could ask for.
 
I would avoid borrowing a bill as an opener. My reaction would be, "OK, this guy is trying to get a tip and he hasn't done anything."

^ Maybe that's your reaction as a magician, knowing that magicians get tipped etc. Over here a magician in a restaurant is a rare thing, and once they know you're doing a magic trick, most people are happy to get involved and lend you items. If spectators never gave personal objects like money, phones and rings... magic wouldn't be the same.


You have to be freaking crazy to ask an adult to write down a pin number or to do anything with a presentation about identity theft -- the only worse patter would be about having a colonoscopy. Magic should take you away from your worries. Also, that presentation would make the spectators view you as a con man. I wouldn't react real well to any of those effects.

I am an adult, so asking 'adults' for things is fine with me.
Also, I give people an alternative if they don't want to write down their pin number by saying " and if you're uncomfortable with that, then just write any 4 digit number down, maybe the last 4 digits of your telephone number, or the month and day of your birth in 4-digit format, making sure that I can't see it "
I've never had anyone refuse to participate and most people often write their pin. As they know it's useless without their bank card

Also Signatures moving on cards with the patter of identity theft is taken from a presentation I developed for the Police, when they hired my performing arts class to teach people about the risks of Identity theft.
The joker plays the role of the thief in the pack, and their signature gets stolen of their selection by the joker.

The demonstration is visual and fun, and at no point has anyone ever said anything serious, gone home to change their locks or shown concern in signing playing cards, and i've had people putting their signature on playing cards for 5 years.
Magicians always perform tricks with signed playing cards.
 
Jun 1, 2009
1,068
6
Lots of great advice here guys, I'm taking it all in like a sponge.
Reality: I appreciate you giving me a perspective from the potential audience, that helps clears things up for me. I'll probably PM you later on about some ideas I have.
Craig: I see what you mean, it's all about the confidence you bring. People appreciate skill and art, it shouldn't matter if the performer is older, younger, or the same age as them.

I definitely have a lot of ideas flowing here, thanks a ton guys!
 
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