Help on a Beginner's Routine

Discussion in 'Magic Forum' started by kennethcmerrill, Dec 29, 2019.

  1. Hey all,

    I've been into magic for a long time, and dabbled seriously off and on for years now. I've caught some spare time the last few months and have started to get back into it. I have an idea for a routine that I want to flesh out, but something just isn't feeling quite right, and I wanted to present what I have so far, for feedback. I really appreciate your time and thoughts! A quick note: I'm super rusty on everything, so I'm going with some easy effects so I can focus on the story and not worry about the mechanics as much.

    Bad Luck: a demonstration

    I step in front of the audience carrying three decks of cards and a die. The die and two decks are set on a table, one deck is set off to the side somewhere in plain view.

    Hello everyone! My name is Kenneth, and I am one of the most unlucky people I know. For example, last summer I spent $2000 rebuilding the engine in my car because of an oil leak. I took a road trip to Idaho and replaced the tires for $500 because they had worn out, and two days later my hybrid battery died about 40 min from anywhere--with two kids in the back seat! The battery is a $4000 replacement for a car that's worth $3000. At that point I just said, 'screw it,' and traded in for a nice new car--which got a flat tire in the first week.

    I would never wish my kind of bad luck on anyone, but it does have one silver lining: with it, I'm able to perform minor miracles! In order to show you what I mean, I'll need to borrow one of the luckiest people from the audience. To determine this, I want everyone to think of a number between one and six and then hold your fingers up for that number.

    I pick up the die, give it a shake, and role it.

    Two! Where are my two's at? What's your name ma'am? Aubrey? Will you please join me over here Aubrey? Everybody give her a hand!

    Now you see here we have two decks. The first thing we need to do is give each deck a shuffle. You shuffle yours, I'll shuffle mine. Now just to make sure there isn't any funny business, let's trade. Now listen carefully there are two things that have to happen in order for this to work. First, you need to do everything exactly as I do it, ok? Second, we needs to raise the stakes.

    I turn toward the audience.

    You see, bad luck never strikes when there's nothing at stake. You never lose your wallet when you have all the time in the world. And similarly, good luck always manifests in some unexpected benefit. So to really make this happen, something of mine needs to be on the line that Aubrey could unexpectedly benefit from.

    I reach into my wallet and pull out a dollar bill.

    Here it is--a dollar bill. It's a small stake, but I'm hoping between my bad luck and Aubrey's good luck, things will still shake out.

    The first thing we do, is you and I both cut our decks like this. Now look at the card that you cut to; show the audience but not me. Put that on top of the other pile and complete the cut. Perfect. Now let me take your deck, and you'll take mine, and we're actually going to look through the cards, find the card that each one of us just cut to, and pull it out. So here I have the card that I cut to. And there's yours--yeah just like that, hold it close to your chest so I don't see it yet.

    We both cut the cards completely at random. We've both got the cards we cut to right here against our chests. The odds of these two being the same card are literally 1 in 52, and yet...

    I turn my card to face the audience and motion for Aubrey to do the same.

    THEY MATCH! It worked! Even for a dollar, luck steps in. It's amazing.

    BUT. You might say to yourself, "This proves nothing! There's nothing here that a little sleight of hand can't do." To which I say, au contraire! We've barely scratched the surface of luck's vindictive capabilities. Let's raise the stakes.

    I have a fresh deck of cards here--it's been in plain sight this whole time; I haven't touched it. This morning, setting up for this unlucky eventuality, I made a prediction. I took one of the cards in this deck, turned it upside-down, and put it back in the deck. Aubrey, if you can successfully name the card that is upside-down in this deck, then you get the keys to my car.

    I place my car keys on the table.

    You have a 1 in 52 shot, so maybe take a second to think... Now if you please, state the card you thought of, for everyone to hear. The Eight of Hearts?

    I pull the cards from the box and begin to fan through them.

    I'll handle these gently and openly so you can see there is no sleight of hand involved, and here it is the only reversed card in the entire deck. Aubrey, would you please take that for me and show the audience? The Eight of Hearts!

    Bravo, well done Aubrey. I'll tell you what, I can only imagine what it's like living on the good side of the luck spectrum. For a guy like me, there's honestly only one thing to do: trick bad luck with some good old sleight of hand... Here are my car keys, as promised. Let me know how that hybrid battery repair goes!

    Thank you everyone!
  2. I like it, I'm just spitballing here but at first glance maybe a bit too much on the set up to how much bad luck you have. But on 2nd thought it's also a tie in to your assistant winning your car keys at the end. Let me think some more on this.

    The odds of these two being the same card are literally 1 in 52, and yet... I'm not a big math guy but with two decks wouldn't the odds be 1 in 52x52=2704. I know this is nitpicking
  3. Kenneth:

    I like where you are going with this, but you have tried to cram too much into the routine. Faulkner said, β€œIn writing, you must kill all your darlings.” My apologies in advance for what I'm about to do to some of your darlings with my metaphorical chainsaw.

    For starters, get rid of the rolling the die. It doesn't contribute to the magic. Simply ask, "Is there anyone out there that has had some good luck lately?" Then, pick someone to assist you. Second, rather than making bets, make it into a game show - so the person isn't playing against you, but is playing to win. Third, the idea that your bad luck allows you to perform miracles is hard to understand -- delete that part. Fourth, streamline the presentation. I always go through and cut out any unnecessary words (my script below could use to be edited one more time for that). Fifth, add some interplay with the spectator (so that you, here and the audience smile). Sixth, the doing the cut to find the card would be difficult for the spectator, so I just had her select any card. Last, the references to sleight of hand take away from the magic and make the audience think that what you are doing is... well... sleight of hand.

    Here is how I would do it [everything the spectator says is in "quotes"]:

    Change of Luck

    I step in front of the audience carrying three decks of card and two envelopes. One envelope says "PRIZE" and the other says "GRAND PRIZE." The three decks and two envelopes are set on a single table in plain view.

    Have you ever known someone who is really lucky? That's not me. Last summer, my car got an oil leak. I spent $2000 rebuilding the engine to fix it. I then wore out the tires taking a road trip to Idaho. Four new tires was another $500. Two days later my hybrid battery died, in the middle of nowhere, with two screaming kids in the back seat. I brought it to the dealer and they told me that it would cost four grand to replace the battery. The car's barely worth three grand, even with the new tires. I decided to buy a new car - which, of course, got a flat tire the next day.

    Is there anyone out there in the audience that has better luck than me? Actually, I suspect all of you have better luck, but you smiled when I asked. Could you come up here and help me out?

    Begin clapping as spectator approaches the stage.

    What's your name? "Aubrey." Thank you Aubrey for helping me out. Do you feel like you're going to get lucky tonight... I mean, let me rephrase that... do you feel lucky tonight?
    [I could pull that line off as almost being a mistake, but feel free to just ask the last question if that isn't your style]. "Uh, maybe." Well, I hope you have a little bit of luck because we are going to have a couple of contests with some astonishing prizes if you win.

    This first contest is easy. You just have to do the everything I do and we will see if we both get to the same result.

    Hand the spectator a deck of cards and take one for yourself.

    You have to do everything I do and say everything I say. Got it?
    [If necessary use facial expressions and body language so that she understands that she is supposed to say what you just said] "Got it." I'm doing what is called an overhand shuffle. [Begin an overhand shuffle and again use your facial expressions and body language to get her to understand that she is supposed to say what you said and begin shuffling] "I'm doing what is called an overhand shuffle." [Once you are done shuffling] Now, I'm doing what is called a riffle shuffle. [Do a riffle shuffle and have her do the same] "Now, I'm doing what is called a riffle shuffle." [When you are done, extend out your hand with your deck of cards with it] I want you to take my deck of cards. "I want you to take my deck of cards." [Take the deck from her hand]. Thank you, Aubrey. [Hopefully, she says...] "Thank you, Aubrey." [Pause here as if you are going to correct her by saying your name isn't Aubrey and then act as if you thought about it and decided just to proceed with the trick because it would have gotten too confusing].

    I'm going to pick a card out of the middle of the deck and commit it to memory. "I'm going to pick a card out of the middle of the deck and commit it to memory." I'm going to put the card I memorized on the top of the deck... "I'm going to put the card I memorized on the top of the deck..." and then cut the deck to lose the card somewhere in the middle of the deck. "and then cut the deck to lose the card somewhere in the middle of the deck." I'm going to give you my deck of cards. "I'm going to give you my deck of cards." Thank you, Aubrey. "Thank you, Aubrey." [pause for a moment, smile and then continue]. Now, I want you to find the card you memorized in that deck while I find the card I memorized in this deck. "Now, I want you to find the card you memorized in that deck while I find the card I memorized in this deck." I've found my card. "I've found my card." You can stop repeating what I said. [It is really funny if they repeat that line... if they do, smile and continue]

    [Turn to the audience] Ladies and gentlemen, Aubrey and I have each selected a card out of a completely shuffled deck. The odds of it being the same card are... um... what's 52 times 52... um, two thousand, seven hundred and... eight... no four, two thousand, seven hundred and four to 1. For those cards to match, it is going to take a lot of luck on Aubrey's part. But if Aubrey is lucky, she will win the prize in this envelope. [Hold up envelope]. [Aside to audience] If not, it is probably because of my bad luck.

    Aubrey, please say out loud what your card is and show it to the audience. "Ten of Diamonds."[Look at your card expressionless, look at Aubrey and then again at your card]. Ladies and gentlemen, it appears that Aubrey did get lucky tonight...[as you turn the card around] Ladies and gentlemen, the Ten of Diamonds. [this should cue applause, but if not you can gesture to Aubrey and start clapping for her]

    Aubrey, for your prize you receive
    [open envelope] a lucky $2 bill. This is actually the first $2 I made in magic and, well, I didn't think you would win, but you can have this... it didn't actually give me much luck at all.

    Now Aubrey, you get to play for the grand prize. It is very simply, you just have to read my mind. Do you think you can do that?
    [continue before waiting for response] of course you can. Before the show, I took one of the cards in this deck and turned it upside-down. I'm going to think of that card right now and if you can successfully name the card that is upside-down in this deck, then you get the prize in this envelope.

    Are you ready? I'm going to focus on the name of the card and when you have it, say it out loud for everyone to hear. "The Eight of Hearts?" I'm rooting for you and I hope you got it, because to be honest with you, I've actually forgotten which card I turned upside down.

    I pull the cards from the box and begin to fan through them.

    There is only one reversed card in the entire deck. Aubrey, would you please take that for me. Take a look at it and tell me what you think? [after she reacts] Aubrey, turn the card around and show the audience. Ladies and gentlemen, the Eight of Hearts!
    [this should cue applause, but if not you can gesture to Aubrey and start clapping for her]

    I can only imagine what it's like having good luck like you. Would you like to see what you've won?
    [Open Envelope] You've won a new car... or at least it will be new to you. [Show two documents] Here is the title to my hybrid along with the $4,000 repair bill from the garage.

    Aubrey, I wouldn't wish that car on anyone. You can keep the $2 bill and the grand prize is a big round of applause for bringing us all some good luck.

    Thank you everyone!
  4. First off, @kennethcmerrill, I really like the ideas behind the presentation. @RealityOne, I always enjoy reading the scripts you write. It's amazing to see all the work and thought you put into making them what they are.
    However, there are a few points I don't like all that much:

    Number one: Cut the riffle shuffle (ugh, sorry about the pun). I know I shouldn't be learning from YouTube, but one thing I've learned from watching magicians perform: The spectator can't riffle shuffle. And even if most people in the room could do it, with your luck you'll get the one person who can't.

    Number two: In the spirit of killing the babies, I find the say-and-repeat pattern to be a little bit confusing. Is it really necessary in the beginning? Sure, it might get a good laugh from the audience, but I think it'll just make things all the more awkward for "Aubrey". She'll be cursing her luck already for having to be the helper on-stage (at least, it would be that way here in Germany; it might be that the culture in the US is different), and repeating the lines that aren't really necessary for her to repeat ("Thank you, Aubrey") might just add to her embarassment and awkwardness. Would it be possible to introduce the repeat-pattern only where it gets necessary?

    I really like this ending, because it gets rid of a question I had after reading the original script: How in the world are you going to get those keys back?
  5. That's interesting. I've actually found that most people can't do an overhand shuffle. I did think that the riffle shuffle without a table might be hard for some people. You could substitute a weave shuffle (just pushing the two halves of the deck together) or a cut.

    If you have the right performer and the right spectator, the performer could do a riffle shuffle with a bridge finish and see what the spectator does. Presented correctly, the joke is on the magician and not the spectator. However, I can see how that could embarrass the wrong spectator or if performed as a "look at what I can do and you can't."

    It is a bit cumbersome and could be shortened. Maybe replace this:

    With this:

    I'm going to shuffle the cards and then give them a cut. "I'm going to shuffle the cards and then give them a cut."
    And this:

    With this:

    I'm going to pick a card, memorize it and put it on top of the deck. "I'm going to pick a card, memorize it and put it on top of the deck."

    I'm big on not embarrassing people who come up to assist a magician on stage. I can't stand magicians that do that. Part of not embarrassing people is the magician's character. My character is a bit playful and a bit mischievous. I convey to the assistant "come on up here and we are going to have some fun." The ask is to come up an help me out and once she is on stage, I thank her for helping me out. The "get lucky" line would be dependent on the spectator (I wouldn't use if she was shy or nervous) and the audience (wouldn't use if there were kids). Part of making an assistant feel comfortable is where the magic comes from. With my character, the magic just happens... it isn't me doing something. The way this routine is structured, the spectator is just as responsible for the magic as me... and they are the one who gets the applause. Finally, this shouldn't be a first effect... you need an effect with a presentation that establishes your character and builds up the audiences' trust before it

    Repeating the "Thank you, Aubrey" line is up to her. She can just say "thank you" or she can say "thank you, Aubrey" and SHE gets the laughs from the audience. What the performer does after that is to get a second set of laughs which are directed at him not knowing what to do. The key is that the performer has to say "Thank you, Aubrey" as if it wasn't planned but it just came out. This effectively turns around the typical dynamic ("hold out your hand... no the clean hand") where the joke is on the assistant.
  6. I think a simple cut might be best. The weave shuffle has some potential for creating a (potenially embarrassing) hold-up in the flow of the routine, as the spectator, not used to this kind of shuffling (worst-case), fumbles with the cards and they end up spread out (but thoroughly shuffled!) on the floor.

    How would this have to be presented?

    I like this shortened version a lot better.

    Point taken. If you can pull it off and present your character as somebody others are comfortable around this will work well.
  7. Magician: I'm going to shuffle the cards.

    Assistant: I'm going to shuffle the cards.

    [Magician shuffles, bridges, triple cuts, does seven faces of Sybil, and smiles at assistant].

    Magician: In my own unique way....​

    This allows the assistant to shuffle any way they want to and gets a laugh.
  8. First of all, thank all three of you so much for your input and thoughts on this. Especially you, @RealityOne, for putting in the time to write out the script like that. I'm amazed at how smooth your writing is, and I could see it all playing out very well in my mind.

    I really appreciate detailed and honest critiques like this, and as someone that works in the creative industry I'm very familiar with "killing your babies." I think you're totally right about all the setup. It's really long and drawn out--the dice thing is totally unnecessary. I think I will even shorten the car story and just sum it all up in a few sentences without as many numbers. Also, really good point about referencing sleight of hand. I think I'll toss that too. And yes, I definitely need to work on interplay with the volunteer--you nailed it there.

    One thing I want to push back on a little and maybe see where it could go is the whole bad luck thing. I agree with you that as it's presented right now it's a little hard to understand, but here's where I'm coming from:

    I've always wanted to tell a story where the magic "worked" because of luck (not powers, skill, psychology, etc). I also think most magicians are the hero of the stories they tell, and I like the idea of a story where the magician is the unfortunate victim of something--he's not totally in control of the situation. And on top of that, it plays to the human habit of telling everyone what bad luck we've had ("Can you believe I got a flat tire today?!")--it's almost like a contest sometimes.

    I think your whole presentation is really killer. I also think I'm up for the challenge of re-scripting the bad luck aspect of mine and seeing if there's a way to make it simple and entertaining.
  9. I like the idea, but I'm not sure that this is the effect for it. The discongruence here is that in this effect you are not a player. I get that putting up the dollar and then the car make you have skin in the game, but the problem is that there is no upside for you. No chance for you to have good luck.

    My suggestion is to follow this with an effect where you are a player and you have bad luck. The first thing that came to mind is Woody Aragon's Blessed Poker (where one person wins successive poker hands no matter what choices they make) -- played so that the spectator is the lucky one and you are unlucky. Follow that by a magician in trouble effect like McCombical Deck where it looks like you are really unlucky but in the end your luck turns around.
  10. Ah! A very good point. I'll look into those effects and see what they look like. I may also have something I'm familiar with that could be used to similar avail. Thanks again for your insights!

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