How do you reply to "How did you do that?"

Dec 10, 2013
12
0
Kansas
I will be the first to say that some of my performances have been fairly rough around the edges. I often stumble over my wording as any new performer would. Although every now and then when I am able to pull off a decent trick and blow some minds. I can never seem to find a good answer to the question "How did you do that?!" which is kind of a problem haha I've seen many people respond simply with "Magic." but to me that always seems kind of dull and cheesy. If I have more impressive effects I was planning on showing anyway, I like to use their question to segway into the next effect by saying something along the lines of "Oh well if you think thats cool, check this out!" and then going on with my performance. But often that isn't the case. So what do you respond with? Do you have any suggestions for things I could say without sounding ridiculous? Thanks in advanced!!
 
Apr 20, 2014
87
3
I usually find a way to imply that i can't/wont tell them in a joking way and then move on. for example, if i snapped to make the magic happen, and then after they ask about how i did it, i would jokingly say " it's all in the snap" , but smile and say it in a way that says im being sarcastic and thats obviously not how its done, and then they usually leave it alone. If that doesnt work i just straight up say i cant tell them, or like you said before i'll just kind of jump straight into something else, or change the subject.
 

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,739
2,854
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this question is asked a lot and you can find a lot of answers just by searching for it on various forums.

That being said, my answer has evolved a bit more since the last time I actually wrote it out.

First off - you need to learn the difference between, "How did you do that?" and "How did you do that!"

The first one is a genuine question, the second one is pure reaction and they're not actually asking you. They just don't know what else to say. It's basically just their mind thinking, "How did he do that? How is that possible?" and it falling out of their mouth.

Now, as for people genuinely wanting to know. In my experience the people who really want to know how you did it are either a) Very curious or b) not engaged enough to enjoy the performance.

If they're just really curious then that's not a problem. You've piqued their interest and they are just wondering how it was done. A lot of times if you just smile and don't answer, they'll assume you can't tell them anyway.

But if you've failed to engage them then that's on you. Then it's time to examine the performance and see what part of the performance is making knowing the secret more valuable to them than enjoying the performance. Are you challenging them? Are you showing off your own skills? Do your tricks make them the sucker?

Another easy way to avoid this problem entirely is to use a presentation that seems to explain the method being used in a way that is plausible. Don't underestimate your audience's intelligence. If you say you're just magically making a card jump from one place to the next, they likely won't believe you and they'll think it's a good trick, but a trick none the less. Ironically, in those situations it's often better to give no explanation at all, but that's beside the point.

This is where character building is important. You need to come up with presentations that explain just enough to make it plausible, and also are congruent with how you perform. The easy way to sum that up is: Spiderman can't fly.
 

Mike.Hankins

creator / <a href="http://www.theory11.com/tricks/
Nov 21, 2009
435
0
Sacramento, Cali
I will be the first to say that some of my performances have been fairly rough around the edges. I often stumble over my wording as any new performer would. Although every now and then when I am able to pull off a decent trick and blow some minds. I can never seem to find a good answer to the question "How did you do that?!" which is kind of a problem haha I've seen many people respond simply with "Magic." but to me that always seems kind of dull and cheesy. If I have more impressive effects I was planning on showing anyway, I like to use their question to segway into the next effect by saying something along the lines of "Oh well if you think thats cool, check this out!" and then going on with my performance. But often that isn't the case. So what do you respond with? Do you have any suggestions for things I could say without sounding ridiculous? Thanks in advanced!!

I think your chosen answer has a lot to do with the type of character you are portraying yourself to be.

Take for example Eugene Burger. He has this little box (now a book-looking box) that holds his cards, a candle, and matches. (Among other items.)

As he opens the box, people generally try to peek into the box. He then says "Don't look into the magic box or your eyes will fall out." Just from the way he looks, talks and acts, he can get away with that.

So how does this relate?

Well, I spent many many years performing bar magic. I was an entertainer. I used comedy and magic together. I didn't present "magical powers". I worked 3-4 nights a week doing 2 shows a night, both 45 min long. I performed maybe 5 effects during that time, because most of my time was spent building rapport with the customers, making them WANT to see more. So when someone asked me "How did you do that?", It was simple for me to say "Years of practice. Years of studying books."

I was slammed on the Cafe for saying that. I am still not sure why.

There have been nights when myself and a few magic buds went out on the town with the idea that we were going to announce the move we were doing, WHEN we were doing it, to see if the laymen could even catch on. NOPE. Not once. "Ok, place your card right back here please. Now, I am going to execute a classic pass and let me ask you this..." (Then move on to the rest of the effect.)

There was a guy who used to come in every Friday to see me perform magic and one time he grabbed me after the show, took me aside and told me that he was really interested in learning magic. Now could I have been a D**k and told him that he couldn't learn what I know because it's real magic? (Let's face it, we live in a world where ANYTHING is but a mere Google search away. Now 100 years ago? Yes. Much easier to convince someone that what you were doing was purely magical.

So back to the story. I showed him an old copy of Royal Road and told him where to buy it. If he was serious he would bring back the book. I didn't see that guy again for months. He comes back in WITH book in tow, and shows me where in the book he is at; that he had been studying a lot.

Years later, he is still a good friend and pretty damn proficient with his gambling sleights.

To me, using cliched lines to respond to someone asking how you did that is a cop out for not knowing who your character is.

It worked for ME to explain that I learned from studying books and devoted most of my free time to just plain ole' practicing. For someone else, it might be better to respond with something along the lines of the dark arts, or maybe in prison. It just all depends on who your character is...
 
Jan 1, 2009
2,249
3
Back in Time
Depends on HOW they stated the question.

"Can you tell me how you did that?" means they actually want to know. While "How did you do that!?" is just an expression of shock and they don't really want to know the answer. So something a long of the lines of "I know. It's Impossible isn't it!" would work well.
 
Some great points have already been made. And this has come up time and time again so you can just search it.

That said one of my favorite lines is from Psych " how did I do that? I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you and unfortunately my license to kill has been revoked, I'd tell you why but then I'd have to kill you which I can't do since my license to kill has been revoked"
 

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,739
2,854
I think your chosen answer has a lot to do with the type of character you are portraying yourself to be. ...

Well, I spent many many years performing bar magic. I was an entertainer. I used comedy and magic together. I didn't present "magical powers". I worked 3-4 nights a week doing 2 shows a night, both 45 min long. I performed maybe 5 effects during that time, because most of my time was spent building rapport with the customers, making them WANT to see more. So when someone asked me "How did you do that?", It was simple for me to say "Years of practice. Years of studying books."

There was a guy who used to come in every Friday to see me perform magic and one time he grabbed me after the show, took me aside and told me that he was really interested in learning magic. Now could I have been a D**k and told him that he couldn't learn what I know because it's real magic? (Let's face it, we live in a world where ANYTHING is but a mere Google search away. Now 100 years ago? Yes. Much easier to convince someone that what you were doing was purely magical.

...

To me, using cliched lines to respond to someone asking how you did that is a cop out for not knowing who your character is.

It worked for ME to explain that I learned from studying books and devoted most of my free time to just plain ole' practicing. For someone else, it might be better to respond with something along the lines of the dark arts, or maybe in prison. It just all depends on who your character is...

Some excellent points there. I don't see anything wrong with "study and practice" even if you're going a mystical route. Think of the stereotypical "Wizard" archetype - old guy, in a huge library, studying arcane knowledge. Harry Potter had to go through school, why not us?

I never worry about tipping where I learned things, because my skills are not so simple that someone can just Google them and show me up the next day. If they want to take the years to hone the skills, more power to them. I'm also fairly honest and straight forward in my performances - I try to genuinely do what I claim to be doing. Sometimes it's metaphoric, but the more I delve into the older, more bizarre skills, the more honest my performances become.
 
Jul 1, 2013
15
1
Italy
You can explain that you simply exploited a "weakness" of the human body, saying that the hand is faster than the eye.
 
May 21, 2014
127
6
Staunton, VA
Some excellent points there. I don't see anything wrong with "study and practice" even if you're going a mystical route. Think of the stereotypical "Wizard" archetype - old guy, in a huge library, studying arcane knowledge. Harry Potter had to go through school, why not us?

I never worry about tipping where I learned things, because my skills are not so simple that someone can just Google them and show me up the next day. If they want to take the years to hone the skills, more power to them. I'm also fairly honest and straight forward in my performances - I try to genuinely do what I claim to be doing. Sometimes it's metaphoric, but the more I delve into the older, more bizarre skills, the more honest my performances become.

This is pretty much the approach I take. When people ask me this question, I say some version of one of 2 things usually:

1. Ancient Wizard Secrets
2. Hours and hours of study and/or practice

Both of these answers are basically true, and most people are satisfied with them.
 
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