Entertainment through subterfuge - Problem?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Tookeyswindle, Oct 16, 2012.

  1. Hello there,

    I am creating this thread as I have encountered a problem of sorts which has stopped me performing one of my favourite hobbies; magic.

    The problem is one not addressed commonly and is something we all deal with every time we approach anyone with the intent of performing magic. This issue is something never directly dealt with as it is(even I, myself seem to be taking an age to get to the point) and this is; lying.

    Call it what you may, lying is what we do and its what creates the ever impressive feats being performed on stages, street corners and in bars all over the world. It is the very thing that is magic.

    Herein lies my problem.

    Some of my favourite times of my life have been performing magic for complete strangers for little more than a drink to whet my whistle, however, some of the worst times of my life have been performing magic for complete strangers with the whistle being blown and the charade falling apart. My discomfort came not from a sense of failure at accomplishing magic, but a realisation that everything we as a group had engaged in, all built up excitement and joy, was nothing more than a pack of lies.

    During a particularly dismal Sunday night in a local bar entertaining the familiar patrons with several psychological card tricks and some hypnosis; everything fell apart in front of me. Whilst performing a version of OOTW the illusion was revealed for the smoke and mirrors that it is within mere moments of the trick getting started. A great sense of uncomfortable shame filled the bar. The room looked awkwardly at its feet feeling cheated. The little renown I had sank like a stone in the sea.

    I went home and shrugged it off. It was no biggy. This had happened before and I'd come back from far worse. Unfortunately, the repercussions this would have on me as a performer were, at this time, completely unknown. It was only the next time I went out to perform(I only ever perform at parties and bars, I don't do gigs) that the true revelation of the feeling of that gloomy Sunday was to be found.

    I couldn't do it.

    No matter how much people asked, no matter what they offered, no matter what amount of violence would occur due to my lack of enthusiasm I could not even pull the deck of cards out that I had with me for the sole purpose of performing tricks with.

    Anxiety filled my every pore as I battled with my own mind at this dilemma. These people wanted the entertainment they had heard of through others or experienced themselves at one point whilst in my company, but I could not face the idea of lying to these people. I could not let them think that I was something I'm not.

    This lead me into a strange existential thought that my entire life was this. Everything I wanted in life was a mimic of a thought, an idea. Happiness lay in an ethereal state and all we do is try to replicate this in reality. If this is the case could I ever be happy? Could I ever be sad? Could I ever be anything at all?

    These thoughts troubled me for about a year, during which time I stopped performing entirely and devoted my time to other hobbies such as cardistry and flourishing, but only so as a past time of the hands(I am an incessant fidget). Then, last Friday I went to a friends party and sat drinking round the table with a few friends and noticed a pack of cards laying idly on the table. Without thought I picked them up and started doing a few cuts and shuffles. Being inclined to order, I unknowingly found myself half way through Lennart Greens angle separation when a beautiful young girl asked me if I knew any card tricks. Before I could open my mouth to answer my friends piped in with various tales of wonderment of confused memories of several different tricks all condensed to one unfathomable puzzle of wizardry. As she sat there bright eyed with a huge smile on her face I knew I had to do something. So, immediately I set out on OOTW using the Dunn deal and a heavy helping of cold reading mixed in for good measure and soon found myself to be enjoying myself. More importantly, so was she. I continued with another trick, during which she laughed out loud, held her hands to her mouth in disbelief and astonishment. This was great. I was performing again, the parties attention had turned to the table where this man was performing magic, reading minds and even allowing others to have magical powers with cards. Alas, this feeling didn't last too long.

    As I awoke the next day I pondered on the impression I made to that girl. Yes, she was happy. She had enjoyed her night and some things she had never seen before. But, I knew that it was all a lie, a hoax. It was not so much the idea that her ignorance had bought her bliss that caused a problem, but the fact that she thought I was something that I'm not. My persona as far as she saw was not the true me(if there to be such a thing).

    And, now, here I am. Eager to bring entertainment and joy but terrified of the lie that it rides in on. This clash of differences is getting to me now, I can't stop thinking about performing but I can't deal with the guilt.

    Has anyone had any similar problems to this? Has anyone any advice? Help me Theory11, you're my only hope...
  2. Deep post! It's nice to see something other than "whats the best...?" on these forums. For me, magic is a way of entertaining myself and my friends. I know that the tricks I'm doing are often riddled with lies, but the lies have no consequence apart from the effect they have on the audiences perception of the tricks. Outside of magic I'm an honest person who strives to live a life of integrity. I know who I am, and that gives me the confidence to go out and perform without paying too much attention to the lies I'm telling, because at the end of the day it doesn't change how people see me as a person. I may have just astonished them with trickery, but they know it's trickery, I know it's trickery and as long as I don't let that trickery bleed over into my daily life to the point where I'm lying about more important things than the "fact" that your card is lost, then I'm ok.

    As far as the impression you made on the girl, I can confidently say that she will remember that experience for a long time. I have people who I've performed for who remember things I did years ago. The tricks are just a means of connecting with people. If I've done a few tricks for people, I usually put the cards (or whatever prop I was using) away and try to connect with them on other levels. This is especially true with people I'm likely to see often and have a chance to be friends with. This way we get to know each other as people, not just as magician and spectator. If I can engage those around me in a conversation unrelated to my performance, then I can get to know them.

    You also mentioned that the persona she saw wasn't the true you. The question then is, who are you? And in particular, who are you apart from magic? I've wrestled with that, and I still struggle with it sometimes. What I know is this. When I'm doing magic, I'm doing it because I enjoy making people happy. I also know that when I'm performing I'm pretty much the same guy I am when I'm not performing, except that at the moment, I'm the expert on the subject at hand, and that allows me to talk with the audience about something that everyone is experiencing. Often I don't have much input on the discussion topics of my peers because I choose to not get involved in the things they are involved in, mainly because I'm not interested in those things enough to spend money on them. Magic is a nice break from that.

    One last thing, and I'm going to go deep here, so please understand that this is just what I could discern from this post, and if I'm wrong, I'm sorry. It sounds like you are searching for significance in life, and for a while magic provided that, but then your world got turned upside-down by a simple failed trick and you realized that magic wasn't what you thought it was. I found significance through my faith in Jesus Christ, but if that isn't appealing to you, that's fine. I also am aware that on this forum religion and magic don't mix, so I'll leave the topic of religion there and ask you to PM me if you want to know more.
  3. I understand with what you are saying.


    Just as YRAMAgicMan said, I take my faith very seriously also. (thats another topic)

    Let me put a few things in perspective my friend:

    Yes it is a lie. What is it called? Can you answer that question? A magic trick. No matter what we say, psychological reading, magic, mentalism, misdirections, suggestion. (My God, I sound a lot like Derren Brown) but anyways. YOU have to realize that you are a magician. A MAGICIAN'S performance style is to do a MAGIC TRICK. The word trick is a deception, YES! But be mindful that when you are telling someone you are going to do a magic trick or that you are a magician, they know before hand that its what? A LIE! A TRICK! So you are not decieving them in theory. You are deceiving their peception. Not their belief systems or morals.


    When Robert Englund plays Freddy Kruger, He's not going to tell he's an actor. YOU KNOW he's an actor, playing the part of a DEMON. That doesn't make Robert Englund a Demon. He's literally playing A ROLE well enough to ENTERTAIN you. If you are amazed, scared, or just plain bored while watching that film, you walk away knowing that Freddy Kruger is a character that Robert Englund plays ON SCREEN.

    Take Criss Angel: He's Cristopher Sarantakos (did I spell it right?) playing the part of a deception artist (magician, Criss Angel) If you watched his show, he does give a disclaimer to everyone before the show comes on. YOU DON'T have to do that, as I think Angel motivation is to further build himself up. HOWEVER, you can give a disclaimer if you feel comofortable doing so. Then YOUR AUDIENCE will know that you are going to TRICK THEM. They will know before hand its just an ILLUSION, which is often short for cinematic optical illusion. (True Story) YOU ARE AN ACTOR AND THATS ALL YOU WILL EVER BE. You can't make people dissappear, (Unless you are in the Mafia). You can't levitate, read minds, walk on water without a deceptive method to create that cinematic optical illusion. If you can, let me manage you. Haha.

    I hope I shedded a bit of light on what a magician and magic tricks are. We find ourselves messing with our own minds when we overthink. I've said it to people all the time and i'll say this to you: The grandest tricks are the ones that our own minds play....

    If you feel that this is still betraying your FAITH, then maybe you should give it up. Maybe magic isn't who YOU TRULY ARE....ONLY YOU can answer that....
  4. I've seen a fair handful of talented souls destroy themselves with this sort of thinking and then too, I've watched people like Jerry Andrus, who went out of his way to not lie in the least, devastate folks. . . If Jerry were to do a double-lift he's say something along the lines of "It appears that we have your card here and we are placing it deep into the deck". . .

    The thing is, you fell in love with a craft that is based entirely on deception and it was "her" deception that lured you into her world; Magic is a dangerous mistress because of this. However, the "lie" only becomes a "sin" when you misuse it. If you go out and start employing your cardistry skills for the same of taking advantage of backroom gamblers, THEN you are becoming a moral problem who, from my perspective at least, deserves the pummeling his gambling victims will give him once he's found out. . . which rarely takes more than a couple of weeks and frequently, less than a few hands.

    There are people like me that create massive lies in that what we do depends upon how the public perceives what we are and do. To be a "Psychic Entertainer" I have to rely on my contributions as a speaker, teach and writing contributor to magazines catering to the New Age type market. There's a lot of us within Mentalism that cross that line and we're ok with it because we know that we aren't going to take wrongful advantage of others, hustle them by pronouncing curses or make them think we can contact Auntie Maude, etc. There are those that won't come that far and then too, we have those that take it further and abuse it. BUT THAT IS THEIR SIN, NOT MINE! Same goes for you, if you aren't abusing the "power" the public lends to you, then you're not in the wrong. "They" know you are using skill, linguistics and B.S. in order to amuse them and they're ok with it. . . accept that fact and you'll have no reason to beat yourself up when it comes to this "issue".

    If you are a morally focused and responsible human being (which it would seem, given your dilemma) you have nothing to worry about in that you will not allow yourself to go beyond a given point when it comes to "the deception". If this weren't your nature and you saw everyone in the world as a mark to be had, magic would be just one more tool in your arsenal in that you will use any skill or vocation to gain that advantage.

    Get comfortable being YOU and appreciating the goodness and higher sense of morality within yourself and this "problem" will fade away. You'll realize that magic is a gift through which you are empowered to serve as a teacher & healer -- all of entertainment & theater hosts this "Magick".

    The other nugget to chew on is what the Lord Buddha taught so long ago; "All of life is an Illusion"
  5. well spoken Craig...i totally agree MAN!!!
  6. Take a deep breath and realize that beyond our little bubble of the magic world, laymen don't usually see magic as this like super mystical, serious thing. Of course some people may think magic is the real thing but most of those people are easy to pick out and you should deal with them separately.

    But so what if you're not really doing exactly what you say you're doing? The audience WANTS you to create an illusion for them! They're expecting you to lie a little bit and do some things that they're unaware of so that the illusion is sustained! That is just the way of this art. Magic itself is creating a little moment where something is not really as it seems: a lie. Is it wrong, though? No, unless you're misusing it. I suggest you go watch the trailer for True Astonishments (something I do when I want to be inspired) and look at the reactions those audience's are having to the magic. Laughing, joy, surprise, wonder. If you think lying about a card being on top is so bad that it overrules all of these good feelings then I'm not sure what to say. And of course none of us like to have our illusions fall apart, just like no singer likes to have their voice crack or a dancer miss a step but it happens—whether you're David Copperfield or a kid just getting into magic. Messing up in front of an audience can be embarrassing...I know the feeling.

    A personal story about messing up. A couple of years ago I planned to perform this routine from Apocalypse called "The Really(?) Wrapped Deck" in my school's talent show. I dressed up the effect and made it a comedy routine. Long story short, I was reaching into a guy's pocket with a latex glove on trying to find a card in a deck wrapped with aluminum foil and rubber bands. I had practiced the effect over and over, and I truly did not believe that it could go wrong. Well, lo and behold, when I triumphantly plucked the card out of his pocket, I realized it was not the correct one. Of course, I could've just deflated on stage and walloped in my disappointment because the trick didn't work out BUT instead I admitted something had gone wrong, laughed about it and said, "Ah what the heck, let's try it again!" After two failed tries I said, "well that's a bit unfortunate we went through all that and we didn't even find your card, isn't it! See I told you it was hard! Now if I were a real magician I could fix this situation...but unfortunately I'm not a real magician." and with that I held the two cards up in the air and threw them into the audience. I thanked my volunteer and the audience and everyone still loved it! People loved how honest I had been about the situation and didn't even seem to care that the trick had gone wrong. They had so much fun throughout the performance that it didn't really matter.

    Change your perspective, step back from your own world, and realize that magic isn't THAT big of a deal. Don't get me wrong, I love magic, and I agree that it can have a huge effect on people, however messing up a performance is not the end of the world. I've been through it, and anybody who has been in magic for more than a month has felt the same thing you're feeling. Don't feel bad, be honest when you've messed up, laugh it off and move on. Hope some of that helps you!
  7. Firstly; thanks for taking the time to read through my story. Its quite a strange problem of a philosophical conundrum that I feel has had been set onto a clearer path of thought thanks to all of your replies and insights. I honestly value you guys taking the time to help me through this 'issue'.

    Secondly; My issue is not one of 'faith'. To be honest I would struggle to call myself anything more than agnostic(I hold a view that fervent belief without conclusive evidence, be it in 'something' or 'nothing' is simply blind faith either way. This discussion is best saved for another forum for another time, maybe?). Personal moral values created upon me by my surroundings and myself are the issue at hand. This has nothing to do with worrying about a spanking in an 'afterlife'. And, quickly picking up on what Craig said with his quote from the Buddha; Buddhism also believes that karma is neither good nor bad just is, I have actually attended a local Buddhist centre recently with my personal queries about the Dharma of the Buddha and whether or not it actually holds any values and also as to whether the enlightened state would need for good or bad if everything just is. Again, these discussions have no place here. Feel free to PM me if you wish to discuss philosophy, psychology, physics or all three. I would be happy to while away the hours chewing the fat of these topics with you.

    Thirdly; thank you again. I think I have been addressing my approach to magic with too much confusion over trivial facts which I now feel were of no necessity anyway. I now understand that my magic need not be a lie if I present it through myself rather than 'becoming the magician'. My fear with the idea that we are all actors playing the parts of magicians worried me with the that upon meeting people and demonstrating my illusions people would(and they did...) believe me to be able to speak to their dead relatives or hold some otherworldly power that I could grasp at my pleasure and whim. This is obviously not true, and therefore this impression to be left on someone left me feeling hollow and empty like some form of vacant branded packaging. As Craig also mentioned about Jerry Andrus(who prior to this conversation I was completely unaware of) approaching magic with clever word play to not have to lie to the audience. Whilst finding some comfort in the idea that I could be honest with the audience whilst performing, I still find this route to be a little misleading, although I think the idea itself could be taken further. I guess at heart I strive for the same thing we all do, real magic. And, I'm not talking about feelings or the atmosphere of the situation. I'm talking real magic, creating smoke from thin air, telepathy, levitation, the whole shebang. As you mentioned about True Astonishments, Mayniac, I absolutely love Pauls approach to magic and his childlike obsession with the art and the joy he gives to others through this. The Dunn deal(I believe vol. 7 of TA?) is still to this day one of the only few tricks I perform due to an ever so simple point. When at the end of the trick I am asked, 'how did you do that?' I can confidently and honestly reply, 'I didn't, you did'. But, I digress. I guess I need not try to be a magician, but merely be me doing magic. As suggested, a simple disclaimer may suffice before showing a trick. It may also offer a certain honesty to my dishonesty, such as, if I inform you that; this is a game or puzzle, a logically counter intuitive operation designed for your personal amusement. If you catch me out, you can hold your head high and revel in the fact that you clearly are a clever git, if you don't then you can hold your jaw in amazement like the rest of us, who just don't get it. More like a normal person, shall we say? I guess this would suit my slightly mischievous nature whilst allowing me to lie as it is been designed as part of the pretence of the performance and allowing for the failure of the trick to be a 'win' for the spectator too. Expecting everyone to understand that a trick is a lie, is letting yourself off too easy, I feel. I fear that I may be wandering towards paradoxical queries along the lines of finding the lie or the truth from the following statement, which is, 'this statement is false', but I shall rest before we do.

    Anyway, I thank you all kindly a third time for taking the time to listen and help. If anyone here wants to talk further about any of the points anyone has raised in this thread then please message me. I don't have much outlet for these trails of thought, living in a small Welsh town is wonderful for scenery but not so often for conversation. YRAMagicMan, Cedric, craig and Mayniac you have helped me find a new way along this beautiful road. If I am ever to be fortunate to meet any of yourselves at any point in my life I'll buy you a drink and show you a trick.
  8. A bit late to this show, but I thought I'd chime in. There's an easy way to avoid feeling like you're lying, and that is simply not to lie. The easiest way I know of not to lie while doing magic is to take the patter away from what you're doing. If you're not saying that you're putting the card in the middle of the deck, then you're not lying. And further, they can see that out looks like you're putting the card in the middle, why are you telling them?

    We put too much emphasis on the trick, not enough on the effect. Use the trick to illustrate a point and you'll never have to lie.
  9. Glad I could be of service. :) I hope you find performing magic and amazing those around you enjoyable again.
  10. No problem, man! Any way I can help someone else fully enjoy this wonderful art we call magic, the better!
  11. This thread was a very interesting read. Pity I didn't get in early enough to valuably contribute, however, after taking in all that everyone has said, it seems the answer simply is to re-evaluate and just do it. I guess sometimes we forget how easy it is, but watching Blaine's street magic specials again will always fix it :)
  12. It's cute how magicians take themselves so damn seriously. Just embrace the fact that magician is merely a fancy term for "professional liar." We're actors. What, you didn't actually think that Lawrence Olivier was a Roman aristocrat or a former Nazi, did you? That Marlon Brando actually did run a cult in the Vietnam jungles?
  13. It is a profession for a lot of people.
  14. As a completely honest person (believe it or not) I have thought about this as well. It doesn't tear at me as it seems to do to you, but I have altered patter to say something misleading rather than blatantly false. For instance in an ACR you might turn a double then say, "We'll take your card and place it in the middle" where you could substitute the "top card" or even just place "the" card in the middle.

    I think the actor comparison (while may be overstated sometimes) makes perfect sense in this situation, watching a great actor can make you really feel that they are what they're portraying, even when you know it's not the case. There's always the idea that people want to be fooled, but I like to think of it in terms that people really want to be entertained and have fun. For that reason they will let themselves believe things which are unbelievable and it wouldn't be fair really to deprive them of that. It takes two to tango right? So you have to meet the audience in the middle, they have to go out on a limb a bit and you have to stretch the truth a bit. Not sure if any of that helps, but really hope you can get back into it, people clearly enjoy your performance from what you say and it would be a shame for that to stop. Good luck whatever you choose to do!
  15. Lots of ideas in here already. I really enjoyed Steve Cohen's last podcast, and he talks about how for him he creates a fantasy, and invites people to suspend their disbelief in magic and enjoy the fantasy. I think this is a beautiful way to look at our craft.

    Much like writing a book and inviting others to read it and imagine themselves as part of the journey. I like that insight.

    Not my thoughts, but one I find myself wanting to adopt.
  16. You want to develop that thought?
  17. Well thats the reason why its taken seriously, not the case for the OP but one day your either doing it as your job or just as something you love to do, and suddenly you can't do it anymore.
  18. There are a lot of professional actors in the world. They don't seem to have a problem basing their entire careers on lying to millions of people around the world. Why do magicians have this problem? It's because we take ourselves too goddamn seriously. There is a difference between "dedication and discipline" taking yourself seriously and "pretentious self-important douchebag" taking yourself seriously. Guess which side of the spectrum magicians most often lean uncomfortably toward? Magicians like to view themselves as the caretakers of an ancient mystic art, the gatekeepers to a realm of imagination. :rolleyes: You're doing card tricks at a Jimmy Buffet restaurant. Relax.

    I've done a lot of shows that I'm quite proud of. I worked hard on them, differentiated myself, built up a personal style, and a distinctive persona. But I don't kid myself into thinking I'm putting on a one-man production of Tennessee Williams.
  19. While I appreciate the opinions being presented here, I feel that there is a flaw in the analogy of the actor and magician being as one.

    When De Niro plays the part of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, we know that this is an actor portraying a character. There is something that generally helps this, which is the fact his real name is on the poster, the DVD case, and even in the credits of the actual film.
    Magician is not a character, unless we wish to discuss Jungian archetypal characters, which given the examples used I presume we don't. There is a huge difference in being known to act and acting without trying to be noticed. I don't know if you would go into a party and say, 'hey, I'm John Smith and tonight I will be playing the part of Impressivo the card wielding magician.' or if you attend as the magician and that is who you are from the off to the end.

    When I ask a person to pick a card and I am going to read their card from their mind using psychological techniques, recognising facial movements and tells, they must not say a word; at the end of this it doesn't look like a magic trick. It looks like I am reading their unconscious movements(which secretly I am trying to do, although of course I know the card they pick before they pick it). So, forgive me if I'm coming over a little pretentious here, but when all of your friends and family think you have a strange sixth sense to read a person it kind of sticks with you. There are people who generally have a fear of making eye contact with me, unfortunately not through coy shyness to my handsome looks, but because they believe I will be able to take control of their mind(ironically, these people make good subjects for hypnotism). I like to perform magic in the realm of the slightly believable, given that we live in an age where psychoanalysis and analytical psychology are well accepted methods of understanding the mind, I present my magic as such. Of course its just a load of old woolly-guff, I have lucked my way through challenges of a purely thought of card(no writing on slips or any such shenanigans) but I would say there is more cold-reading and clever employment of other language tricks than science.

    We may go to see a film that Philip Seymour Hoffman is in because he generally is a good actor. We suspend belief but still have firm anchors in realities shore. We know that this is made up. Its not real. When we see a man apparently using psychological technique to acquire information he shouldn't know, a different sea is being traversed. It's far easier to believe that psychology has got that good and we just simply don't know enough about the given topic than it be clever mathematics or sleight of hand(A good friend of mine is a professional psychologist and falls for it all). It's also immediately relatable as we can remember times when we knew a certain person was lying or hiding something. What's to say that there isn't a true science behind this?

    I will try and further explain my initial problem in simpler terms. I don't like the false impression that I can read a person or make them think certain things when I in general am more than likely no better than anyone else at this, but this is where I find magic to be far greater in its impact on modern audiences.

    As far as I can see, there are four options...

    1. Ignore this, the entertainment and enjoyment of the audience is worth the guilt of lying and having a false reputation.
    2. Perform only non-psychologically geared sleight of hand magic(which I thoroughly enjoy but find it less fulfilling for the audience) and tell the audience, 'its all sleight of hand, misdirection and cheating'
    3. Perform psychologically geared tricks which allow for honesty(not entirely of course, lets not be silly now)
    4. Give up magic altogether

    I already feel my mind has been freed of this guilt slightly by my new workings on my approach to magic thanks to the helpful comments in this thread, I merely wanted to point out that there is a huge difference between actors and magicians, there are incredible similarities also but to say one is the other is as to call a bagel a doughnut. I will leave for yourselves to decide who is which delicious food item but ask for metaphors about empty centres to be left well alone.
  20. #20 RealityOne, Oct 20, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2012
    Something here seems contradictory... today's post:

    but rewind to February 2011

    Maybe you should take your own advice.

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