Is Good Enough Really Enough?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by William Draven, May 17, 2010.

  1. Earlier this week I was having a conversation with a good friend and mentor of mine Paul Draper who was talking about magicians today and their study habits. During this conversation Paul said something that I took note of, and after meditating on it for a couple of days I wanted to share it with you here because I think there's a lesson that should be learned by everyone.

    Paul has said (and I'm paraphrasing) "The problem with magicians (and mentalist) today is that they go out buy a trick, learn it, and say 'Good enough.' They go out perform it for someone, and get the reaction they were looking for which further reinforces their belief that the effect is 'good enough.' No one really sits down anymore, and learns the effect, writes their own patter, figures out their own presentation, and understands why this trick would work for them. We've gotten lazy, in that just learning the effect to get the reaction has become 'good enough' for us as magicians. Our priorities are wrong. Of course we're going to get good reactions, that's why we're magicians. If we didn't get the reactions we wanted we wouldn't be doing this very long. Instead of learning a trick and that being 'good enough' for us, we should be creating a stronger presentation for those tricks."

    Wow. There's a college education in performance arts for you right there. You could write a thesis on that, but Paul is right. How many of us buy a trick, get it home, learn it, and then the learning process stops there. There is no after thought. There is no, how does this effect fit in with who I am, and what I do. Why should my audience really care about this effect? Do I REALLY need to prove once again that I can make a card disappear from the deck only to reappear inside someone's shoe? How is that any different from when I made it appear in my wallet, or behind that pane of glass? Is the presentation that comes with the trick really the best presentation for my character? Is it the best presentation for the specific effect? Is that already mentioned presentation really the best kind of presentation that I can give as a performer?

    I'd like to open this up for discussion. How does this post make you feel? What can you take from this and apply to your own magic? Balls in your court.
  2. I will say that I am definitely guilty of this most of the time, but there are some effects that I really dive into and keep making them better than just "good enough".

    Too many times I have bought something...not received the mind blowing reaction that I thought would come and then pitch the item into the top drawer...reflecting on how much I just spent on the piece of garbage....ha ha.

    This is mainly how my first few years of magic went.

    Then I began to realize that it wasn't the "piece of garbage" in the top drawer's fault and that it was my presentation and not making it fit my routine.
  3. I think that this is all a process thing. Its ok if people buy trick, learn the patter and perform it. It help to build confidence. Im sure that every great magicien stated with trick presented like they saw it performed. Over time, if you perfome enought you will find that some effect will not fit you well and go back to the one that you liked the most. still over time you will see effect that you will be able to addapt with the technique that you have learned in your journey and make classic effect fit your own personnality. This process involve probably a couple of year off magic and I think that a lot off people get bored of magic and stop before they get to the point of modling trick to there style.
    See, like in most dicipline there are always a lot of beginner less intermediaire and less professional That's may be why we have the impression that most magicien perform only trick the way it was originaly tought without personalisation of it.

    Sorry Im french, my grammar suck.
  4. Ah, i too have thought about the phenomena and i've come to the conclusion that you can't get people away from this. The video era has made an immense impact on the way an effect is taught and by all means, why should i even think about something.

    There will always be people who disagree with you and say that been given the patter they can concentrate on other stuff.
    You can see every little nuance of the whole effect with your eyes and people tend to remember the exact movements and sayings in the DVD due to them watching it over and over and over again. This settles the subconscious mind and gives it a pattern(oo the conscious and sub- minds love patterns) so every time you visit the effect you are taken to that pattern which is the effect being performed on the DVD.

    I've long forgotten DVD's by now and due to my extreme budget cuts im really making the most of what i have. But i love my online resources, old 20th century magazines such as The Jinx are just jam packed with METHODS, which gives me the chance to really just sit down and look at what the effect means and wants to give to the spectators.

    And i come right back to this: Books are always better than DVD's PERIOD.

    Anyway it's every performers own choice of how they perform something. It's their choice but it's the lack of KNOWLEDGE that people have, that brings them to the mediocre way of performing something, one for one from a DVD.

    So my moral, rather than popping by the occasional instructional book, get online and read about the greats and read about magic. Really spices up your knowledge and helps you get around ;). Also we just have to keep posting these kinds of topics so people can really see that this is the way to go. My eyes were opened by a topic like this, it might do the same for someone else.

  5. I think that we all do that at a certain point...

    I used to do it and I was proud when somebody asked me how many tricks I did and I happily respond that around 50

    now I only use like 20...since these are the ones that I really use and adapt to my persona...the ones I really make my own with patter and presentation...
  6. For me I often use very basic patter when first trying out a new effect. Once I get comfortable with the basic handling/gimmick/sleights and presentation, then I start calibrating myself with the effect and thinking, "OK, now that I'm comfortable performing it and know I'm going to use this, how can I make it fit me the way it needs to?" Then I start changing the patter, sometimes the sleights or handling, and fine tuning how to make the effect fit my own mannerisms.

    So for me I don't sit down and work it all out ahead of time before I take an effect out for a spin. I get the effect down to performance level then get out and start performing it as soon as possible so I can really start evaluating the effect and my performance of it, and then work from there.
  7. Will, If you are talking about a concencus then fine....You are defintately right, even with some professionals...

    If you mean every single magician, I for one, rarely perform and effect until i have changed it to fit me in some form....wethers it patter, or even taking the whole thing apart just to acheive something else.....

    Then there's some effect that have been drained to the last drop. You can't do it no better. So you have to do is close to the original performer. The ACR has been tapped in so much, that its almost humanly impossible to add to that. Thats when you have to start thinking outside of the box till u change what you are doing. Guess what, you no longer have an ACR, it something different...

    I feel that i'm somewhat cheating if i go out and perform something as the orginal. I have pride to the fact that when i do an effect someone else does, i try my best to do it better. Wether or not i achieve that. I always try just that.

    With that being said, i do find myself now going back to the basics and see how gross or crude i can make it to fit my style....Seeing that my character is one of a loner, a slight outcast. So the element of surprise is very important to me. Which means I must give the audience something they haven't seen. Or something that Criss Angel hasn't pushed to the limit with his camerawork.
  8. Haha. I laughed out loud at that. I really don't perform something without changing it to fit my persona, which is a dark style of magic and mental magic. I don't buy something that doesn't fit my style. For example, I won't buy a TNR dvd or something like that that doesn't fit. So if I find something I like I always try to make it my own.
  9. A+B=Pie LOGIC

    Anyway, I do buy tricks and learn it and use the stalk patter and presentation that comes with it regardless of my performing character. However, that doesn't mean it stays that way. I kind of go through a trial with the effect. Asking myself does the trick look magical or does it look like I have crafty hands? Is there a lot set up like an entire deck stack? Most of all, is it a good trick?

    If the effect passes my questions I set out, I then yank them off of my performing rep. and sit down and figure out the scripting of the effect. I do not mean scripting as in what I say, but everything, everything being: timing, movements, patter, body language, subtext.

    Once that is done, it gets practiced until I have it down enough that everything become muscle memory. Only then do I start performing it again to the public.

    It really helps to have a journal cause unfortunately I have an over creative mind and hop from one idea to another and become easily bored with things. Not saying I get bored because they are bad ideas oh no no no. I get bored because I can't find a solution to the idea, the solution I have doesn't have the technology available yet or I simply loose interest and go off to do something else. Having a journal keeps me organized and the option to run through my thoughts and possibly finish the unfinished, catch my drift?

    For people who like to know more about presentation and the sort, I recommend Eugene Burger's "Magical Voyages" Awesome three dvd set with much theory behind the presentation of magic. On top of that I recommend everything by Mr. Burger simply because I think he is pretty darn brilliant. Also if you are even more interested in presentation and magic may I suggest, You look up Barrie Richardson?

    If you are not wanting to spend money, check online forums such as the posts made by Will. Don't be afraid to branch away from E, T11 or the penguin forums to find useful information about the presentation of magic. Just be prepared to sift through some crap.
  10. Paul Daniels gives some great advice on creativity. I like his idea of buying a trick, than WITHOUT READING THE INSTRUCTIONS, try & figure out how it works by yourself, & in some cases, u might come up a unique variation, if not a differnt trick entirely. That way,u dont go into it with set rules of how 2 perform it. & try coming up with patter ideas BEFORE reading the supplied patter, that way u go into it with more of an open creative mind from the start. Also thiink about other props u could use in conjuction with the effect that the creators didnt originally have in mind.
  11. I do that more often nowadays.

    But Draven, you said that the trick should fit your persona in some way; what if I'm a mentalist but want to perform effects such as Angle Zero or Gum? Those are just magic effects, and visual enough to be considered Tricks, rather than mentalism. Does that mean I can't perform these tricks that I love, because I'm a mentalist, and those tricks are more made to fit magicians' personas?
  12. Well I'm a Bizarre and Geek performer but does that mean I can't do Triumph?

    Of course not. Building a reputation for being a magician is branding yourself. Just because you perform a certain genre of magic doesn't mean you should ignore everything else.

    You're going to find a lot of opportunities to perform miracles for people outside of your normal show environment. These are golden opportunities to try new material, or perform effects that don't fit well into your main act.

    I do believe though, that unless it makes sense for your character or show theme that you shouldn't perform something like Gum or Angle Zero in your main mentalism act because it doesn't normally belong. That would be like me doing Hippity Hop Rabbits (which is a kids effect) during the middle of my geek act after I'm done driving a nail into my skull, and just before I swallow a bunch of razor blades.
  13. Thank you for clearing things up.

    And I totally agree with your point mentioned; I would not think about performing Gum or Angle Zero in my act, if I ever have one. I am just a casual mentalist for my classmates, so these effects would not clash with their overall perception of me as a mentalist.

  14. I go through every aspect of a trick and/or routine. I talk to my self in my room in front of the mirror until my parents think I am a schitzo. I do not write my patter down but I definitely talk to my invisible audience and go through the patter and the motions that are needed for ANY audience. Because all audiences are different.

    Thank you for the good topic Draven.
  15. I think the major problem is that magicians spend too much time worried about new methods to do the same tried and true effects. Magicians don't worry about what it's going to look like from the spectators point of view as well as acting like their own heckler.

    Then we don't worry about adding our words, our own timing, etc.

    Magicians don't study other arts such as acting, directing, video editing, musicians, comedians, etc. We spend so much time focused on other magicians studying their tricks and their methods and a little on their presentation that we fail to realize that magic is a performance. We may study their presentation but then we use their presentation for our performance and it doesn't work. Houdini once said, "It's not the trick, it's the magician."

    When I was first starting out, and I have been doing magic for 10 years now, I would learn anything and everything. I was doing new tricks every hour. I knew up to 1,000 tricks and constantly performed them. I changed my tricks so much. However, in the past year I've really hunkered down and took those 9 years of performing and studied my videos and found out what worked and why. Not the trick themselves but the patter that I used, the gestures I made, the way I stood, etc. All that matters more so than the trick itself. What magicians fail to realize that if you perform properly misdirection pretty much solves itself, so then you're left free to do whatever you want to do when it comes to what you say and do.

    I've developed a routine of 5-10 effects that I can perform at a moment's notice. I've picked the effects because they help relay the message that I used in my shows. I use the words as my performance and the effects as a metaphor to show what I'm talking about. The same way a speaker will use powerpoint slides and videos to illustrate his/her ideas and points is the same way I use my tricks. I quote that I read some time ago, "Amateur magicians change their tricks, professional magicians change their audiences."

    I'll still try out new effects to see if they fit into my style and personality but I try them out on the streets first with different patter and mixed in with different tricks in different orders. This way I find out what works and what doesn't and if a trick fits me or not. My fiance is my best critic and helps keep me in line to save me a lot of embarrassment in the real world, for her I owe a lot of thanks.

    This is just my insight. I don't know it all, but these are things I have learned. I have enjoyed reading the other people's posts as it has helped me as well. Also, I'm a sponge for new ideas or jokes. So if something works in casual conversations that I say then I'll see if I can incorporate it into my act, if it fails then I leave it out. Never force anything into your act. Just be yourself and you'll amaze more people than trying to be Daniel Garcia, Wayne Houchin, Daniel Madison, Bill Malone, Harry Blackstone, David Copperfield, etc.

    If you still need more advice, I'm sure there's an app for that.

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