Card Magic: Is it better to display prowess in cards?

Discussion in 'Magic Forum' started by slavedriver08, Feb 17, 2018.

  1. Will magic tricks be more convincing in the eyes of an audience if the magician impresses them with his expertise in handling cards or will clumsily handling the deck on purpose to falsely display inexperience in using cards during the trick surprise the audience more?
    Karo-K54 likes this.
  2. Interesting question. Card men have debated this question for many decades, and there are two schools of thought. Your particular question is directed toward two separate types of emotion: (1) What "impresses" and (2) what "surprises." And I think the answer as to which approach a magician takes depends on the emotion he/she is most trying to evoke.

    If the goal is to impress, then definitely skill in handling the cards, nice shuffles and cuts, flourishes and flashy moves and revelations will do that more than clumsy handling. Modern audiences are sophisticated and have been exposed to more magic through the media (internet, television, movies, etc.) than ever before. Most people know that our effects are not accomplished by real magic, and so they are impressed more by displays of skill when it comes to card magic. That is not to suggest that our effects should not be strong and blow them away; i am just speaking of the handling and display of technical prowess along the way.

    On the other hand, as far as "surprise" goes, I do think that the magician can certainly get that reaction more if they appear clumsy and unskilled, and then pull off an astonishing effect(s). But just once. When you think about it, once they see what you have done despite initially appearing clumsy, unskilled and inexperienced, that strategy will no longer work for subsequent effects. The jig is up and they know you were pretending, just acting to try to suck them in. They might even resent it, which can affect how they feel about you or react to follow-up tricks. So all in all, I believe that if you have the skill, don't try to falsely display clumsiness or inexperience - as the saying goes, "If you've got it, flaunt it!"
  3. If you show off a ton of skill, people will simply pass it over as "quick hands".

    Plus, it's kind of obnoxious sometimes, and unnatural. IMO the more subtle magic is, the harder it hits.
  4. The question is... what would your character do? If your character is a card hustler, then there would be skills. If your character is bumbling and clumsy, then your card handling would reflect your character. For me, my character handles cards simply and cleanly. Nothing that looks suspicious. Everything looks fair. And then... magic just happens.
  5. Yes, that is a good point. There are those magicians we've all seen who are like flourishing, springing, dribbling, and/or faro shuffling and cutting non-stop, and it's all up in your face and over the top. That's where it really loses something - the grace and beauty is sacrificed to showing off - and that does turn people off. Dai Vernon said that cards are "the poetry of magic." Nice flourishes, when tastefully used with restraint, in the course of an effect or in between effects, can be a thing of beauty and really enhance the experience for the spectator. Like spices in cooking - the right amount needs to be used or the dish can be spoiled. A nice pressure or giant fan here, a Charlier cut or waterfall shuffle over there, sometimes a pretty spread and turnover, and once in a while a spring can be spectacular for the audience to see. There's a happy medium, and finding it is part of the artistry of magic.
    DavidL11229 and Maaz Hasan like this.
  6. Actively pretending to be inexperienced and bumbling with cards requires more acting and is more difficult to pull off. Whether or not to go out of your way to appear skillful is up to you depending on the effect or your character as mentioned above. I will say that as a magician the spectators will already assume that you are good with cards, so there may not be much to be gained by trying to disguise that fact.
    Karo-K54 and Al e Cat Dabra like this.
  7. The magic will be more convincing if it looks more convincing, I don't think any applications of cardistry change that. It seems more like the most common consolation those magicians give themselves when they don't want to put inthe effort required to master a move in cardistry.
    Cardistry, or even the smallest of flourishes have never made my magic look too ''mechanical'' or ''manual'' or ''technical''...I have seen most (and some of the best) magic books say this as well,
    "Don't perform too many flourishes while performing magic. It takes away the wonder of magic."
    The only explanation I can offer is because cardistry and flourishes then were COMPLETELY different to the cardistry and flourishes now. Then, there would only be people springing cards or fanning we have the most amazing looking cuts, and if we as magicians don't utilise them just because we feel it takes away the wonder of magic, we are not being very fact today, a few flashy moves are kind of, I dunno, expected?

    I have never heard the opposite tho. I mean, you can choose to use cardistry or not, but doing something sloppily definitely does not aid the illusion (exceptions are there, but they are exceptions, so am excluding them).

    I wouldn't play poker with someone doing too many cardistry moves and multi-packet cuts. But I would love to see what a magician who does some sybil cuts or aerial moves with cards (moves that look flashy) can do to impress me (or surprise for that matter. Believe me, nobody thinks that just because you did the werm, it is kind of 'obvious' that you can make their card appear in a sealed packet or something).
  8. Well, it depends, and too much of both will ruin the trick. I think a few riffles and a few fans are OK, because they are practical flourishes, and they actually serve a purpose. Now, I'm not against the occasional sybil or spring, but a bit too much and you'll be considered by the audience as just "showing off" your skills instead of "performing" a magic trick. But you can use this "show off" attitude and follow it up with a 'screw up', which is a concept I learned from Jay Sankey. This way, people will be assured of the screw up, and they will be even more amazed when you show that it wasn't.
    As to the sloppiness, I like to keep it clean, because if you are sloppy, people won't take you too seriously. But if you do it sloppily in a comedic way, that can give a good effect. For example, check some of Lennart Green's performances. He's one of the most skilled magicians out there, and the way he tries to make it seem like he doesn't know what's happening and does everything sloppily is really fun. His joke that he isn't 100% sober is also one that you could steal. I consider you watch his performance on TED. It's his sloppiest performance.
  9. @Lord Magic - I think that performing cardistry with magic gives the audience the easy explanation of "skill" and showing off. It then puts your magic in that same context - a performance of skill or a look at what I can do.

    If you look at @Jason England's card handling it isn't show-offish, but has an elegant precision. He comes across as someone who knows what he is doing. Same with Roberto Giobbi. You know they have mastered their craft, but there is nothing that unnecessarily draws their attention to the way they handle their cards. It is like a magician having confidence but not coming across as cocky.


    The play there is that it looks like a mistake as opposed to ineptitude. If you oversell the ineptitude the audience either doesn't believe it or actually believes it -- neither is a good result.

    Lennart has a great character. However, having seen him perform live, it becomes a bit tiresome and implausible. The first effect, it is unexpected and amazing, the second effect is expected but still amazing because you were watching his chaos with cards more closely, the third and subsequent effects become just more of the same. At some point, his schtick overwhelms the effects because all of the effects start looking the same. Also, I'm pretty sure it isn't a joke.
    Karo-K54 and DominusDolorum like this.
  10. I know where you are coming from...whether cardistry in magic looks like show off or just like 'I am sharing with you something that looks cool' depends on the performer's persona more than the actual art, right? Just like it depends on the performer whether the trick is "Look, a card just vanished" or "Look, I vanished the card."

    There's no way to avoid the fact that cardistry IS remotely showing off because, well, there's no other outlet for it. If you learn skate-board tricks, you can only show them off to be honest.

    But whether that makes you look like a brat and makes your magic look too 'manual' or it makes you look like you know your way with cards but also makes it clear that it has no connection with the 'magic' part of your performance...that is something only a good persona can create.
  11. Nice theory.will try it out sometime :) :)

    However, I don't really feel Sankey has got an unbiased view of this matter. I mean, his cardistry is not that amazing at all and I fear that has a direct correlation with the fact that he thinks cardistry to be 'glorified fidget spinning'.
  12. Dai Vernon
    Ed Marlo
    Charlie Miller
    Frank Thompson
    John Scarne
    Ricky Jay
    Darwin Ortiz
    Larry Jennings
    Bruce Cervon
    Del Ray
    Brother John Hamman
    Derek Dingle
    Francis Carlyle
    Johnny Thompson
    Juan Tamariz
    R. Paul Wilson
    Derek Delgaudio
    Denis Behr
    Pit Hartling
    Alex Elmsley
    Tommy Wonder
    David Ben
    Jim Swain
    Ernest Earick
    Gene Maze
    Jack Carpenter
    Richard Turner
    Steve Forte
    Harry Lorayne
    Arturo de Ascanio
    Michael Skinner
    John Carney
    Roberto Giobbi
    John Bannon
    Eddie Fechter
    Fred Robinson
    Rene Lavand
    Allan Ackerman
    Tom Gagnon

    Remind me, which of these guys handles cards like an idiot?

  13. That's true; it's a mistake, not necessarily ineptitude.
    You're right, but Sankey has since apologised and actually taught a few cardistry moves like the butterfly cut on his channel.
    Can't be too sure..
    I think he actually drunk some in the middle of his FISM performance...
  14. I read this wrong at first. I thought you were saying yourself lmao
    Karo-K54 and Maaz Hasan like this.

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