Improve Your Mind: Contest Details!

The Third Place Essay

Entertainment: Interesting Stuff Really
By: Foolzsight

Think of a really bad movie you’ve seen. Now think of why it was bad. Were the characters bland? Was the story line illogical? Did the ending ruin the rest of the movie? Whatever the reason, it failed to entertain you in a way that you had expected. Think of the last magic trick or routine you saw. Did it grab and retain your interest? Does your magic entertain the people you perform for? I’m going to show you how different aspects of magic can both enhance and detract from the overall entertainment value of any given production by answering the question ‘What is entertainment?’

Entertainment starts when you take interest in something and then that something holds your interest as it unfolds and eventually concludes. Anything from stories being told, magic being presented or a movie you go to watch is considered entertainment. I like epic movies, so epic movies usually entertain me. I also like horror movies, though horror movies let me down more often than action movies. I think the reason horror movies let me down is the way most of them pan out. I’m a fan of surprise endings and complex story lines. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good bloody mess every once in a while; who doesn’t love watching Jason Voorhees slash his victims to bits out of pure vengeance? But what I do hate is being able to predict the ending less than half way into the movie.

What does this have to do with magic? The same reasons why I like certain movies are the same reasons why magic entertains me. Sleight of hand work grabs my attention because it’s what I enjoy doing personally. Any other form of magic grabs my interest because it is magic. However, just having an interest doesn’t mean everything magical entertains me. Upbeat, natural performances hold my interest longer than drawn out boring routines. We’ve all seen, and probably performed, the 21 card trick, three rows face up…it’s long and drawn out, not magical, and every other spectator wants to show it to you. It doesn’t lack entertainment because we’ve seen it before; it lacks entertainment because it’s a crappy trick. When someone says ‘I know a magic trick’, many people give their attention. When it turns out to be a horrible trick or even worse, a good trick performed by a horrible magician, people get bored and stop paying attention.

Henry Hay makes an observation most people overlook in his book, The Amateur Magician’s Handbook, by pointing out, “Interest is not the same as attention. Attention is a simple response to a stimulus… a loud bang…Interest is selective, an expenditure of energy by the interested party. You, the performer, can never command it, only invite it.” So you can get attention with flourishing, flash paper or a loud bang. What next? This is where most performances either flourish and entertain or flop and lose an entire audience. Entertainment is more than stealing attention; it is the holding of interest over a period of time, which is something a lot of people never realize. How long? Well, how long is your act? If you have a 5 minute routine, then you need to create interest and then hold it for 5 or 6 minutes. If you’re being hired for a 30 minute show, then you need to hold interest for 30 minutes. A more important question is, how in the hell do you get someone’s interest in the first place?
Well, you can start by introducing yourself, getting to know your audience and inviting them to take interest in what you do. This strategy of building interest is also known as building rapport. You could also have presentations that deal with topics people care about; even if the reason you started talking about the World Poker Tour is to show your brand new gambling demonstration, you’ve got their attention and built an interest. Another way you could easily build rapport is while showing a trick, if you’re a social person, or you building it before and steering the conversation into something you just happen to be able to demonstrate, as already stated. However, something you should take into consideration is that you should be interesting without magic. If you can entertain people without your magic, doing it with magic will be easier and more natural.

So you got their attention by saying hello, introduced yourself and built a solid rapport to continue with. Now you have to decide what is actually entertaining. Which tricks? Which presentations? What actually entertains people? Well, you’re a person, what entertains you? I personally enjoy all magic, from the classic dove routines and close up magic all the way up to stage illusions. With that said, I can’t stand stupid magic. Stupid magic is anything that doesn’t ‘fit’. This could be anything from inconsistency over the course of one trick, a mind reading prediction that ends in you changing the card into a different one, or an inconsistent performer, someone who claims to be a mentalist and then does a gambling demonstration. Anything that falls into this category is not only stupid, as I said, it also fails to entertain.

When being entertained, I shouldn’t be thinking of what’s going wrong, what I don’t like about a certain performance, and I shouldn’t be disinterested at any point. What I should be is lost within the presentation, movie, or play. I think anything that can make me forget about what’s going on around me is entertainment. Even the little things, from good conversation to reading a good book when you probably have studying to do, watching a movie even though it costs $10 per ticket, or writing an essay for a contest when you should be cleaning the apartment…right, moving on. In a sentence: Entertainment is anything that can draw you in, keep your focus, and in the end gives you some measure of joy.
Nov 20, 2007
Sydney, Australia
So, I checked my email about half an hour ago, very nervously, expecting to find, of all things, an angry email from an ex-girlfriend @.@

Instead, I found this, and it's made my day. Special thanks go to the judges, Doug, reverhart, Morg, and especially Will Draven for coordinating everything, and to everyone who donated prizes - Dee in particular, and also Shane and Theory11.

Also congrats to foolzsight and NJIllusionist3

And thanks everyone :)
Sep 1, 2007
Belgrade, Serbia
Congratulation guys, you deserved it.
Also congratulation to William for organizing this contest, and to all of the judges and sponsors.

Aug 4, 2009
those were all great reads and practical insight into entertainment and the mind of the entertainer.

Thanks for writing them, and congratulations!

Mine was just a last minute promise-keeper.. it was awful, especially compared to these
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