Magicians: Effects and Professionalism

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Bryant_Tsu, Apr 1, 2015.

  1. I recently saw a magician hired at a birthday party perform a trick from YouTube. While he performed it without messing up, I felt that his choice of effect wasn't super professional. The trick he performed was the card force / reveal from the beginning of Now You See Me.

    While there were some very minor tweaks (the card appeared on stage instead of on the side of a building, and no Monarchs were used) I felt that as a hired magician he should perform a trick that isn't easily available to laymen.

    As an mere magic enthusiast I could recreate the effect that he performed to the T. I think that if a magician is hired to do a show he or she should stray away from widespread free effects. If the professional's performance can be copied by a person with cellular data and one or two bicycle decks I think it discredits the magician.

    The way I see it it would be the same as taking an art class only to find out that the teacher is ripping the content from TV's Bob Ross. I think that for certain magicians different levels of effects should be performed. For enthusiasts all effects should be free to be performed. If all the enthusiast plans to do is to perform for friends and family no professional expectations are present.

    For street performers a mixture of effects are fine. Since performers aren't obligated to perform and thus make minor tips from passerby's there should be no issue if one of the laymen has seen one of the tricks once on YouTube. For professional magicians who are obligated and paid to perform I think the tricks used should be "protected" in the sense that it wouldn't be free of charge.

    By sticking to premium tricks, ones from magic books, or original effects a magician's routine would be bulletproof as laymen wouldn't be able to recreate the performance.

    To the professional magicians out there: What do you think about performing free effects for a job?
  2. Being a magician is all about amazing people. If you amaze people then it is worth them paying you know matter what trick you perform. They also will not know what to type in to find the effect as it may be from something quite complicated like a trick form NYSM. I think that do not worry what trick you perform as long as you get amazing reactions and carry on getting hired. If the spectators are happy, then you should be.
  3. An Ambitious Card Routine can be Googled and you'll find 278 links over 30 pages. I don't care if someone I show it to can search how it's done because the fact remains that while they may be able to duplicate the effect technically speaking, (after putting in the hours of practice, which they won't) they still don't have my showmanship with the particular ACR that I do.

    It's not about what effects you use, it's about how you perform those effects. A decent magician can make any typical "pick-a-card" effect interesting if the showmanship is there, although a 6 year old could do it. I've seen Bill Malone do several card routines where the method in and of itself isn't that spectacular, but his ability to perform it makes it completely entertaining and a joy to watch.

    Of course as magicians it's important that the people we're showing magic too are enjoying themselves in general, but even more so if those you are performing for are the ones paying you. You have a responsibility to give these people their money's worth, so as it has already been stated by Will, as long as they're having a good time then why should it matter what effect you're doing?

    If you're a professional magician and a spectator goes and finds out how you did ALL of your effects during a show, I can say with confidence that they won't be bumping you off gigs anytime soon, more like anytime "ever".

    || Steven
  4. I think tat this is something that really needs to be talked about in magic. I think that we as magicians underestimate our audiences. The vibe that I get from many magicians, mostly the older crowd, is that it doesn't matter if you perform a trick that can be found in a beginner book for the most part your audience won't care if your presentation is on point. I think that this is completely not true.

    Michael Ammar talks about performing crazy man's handcuffs for a group of high school kids. They immediately found a tutorial online and showed it to Ammar. His response was "Huh? Yep that's what I was doing". He performs that effect better than anyone and he couldn't get away with it.

    I love effects like sponge bunnies, the linking rings and ambitious card. I wonder, is performing these effects at a paid gig like a pianist performing chop sticks or hot cross buns? Could performing simple common magic be like hiring a guitarist and them playing nothing but stairway to heaven? I kind of think that we as professionals should avoid that which is readily available.

    In my view magic is at least 51% method. If the method is not sound, or fooling then there is no magic. If we fail to surprise our audiences we also fall short. In my opinion, our magic must be able to fool as many people as possible and surprise as many people as possible. Especially the magic enthusiast, those are the ones that will become our biggest fans.

    Finally, in talking about the effect he performed. I can think of five or six ways that he could have performed an effect that looks identical to the one on now you see me. Just because you saw a You Tube video explaining this effect doesn't mean that the method is even close. Also, this effect has been a mainstay in magic for years. David Blaine, Criss Angel and Cyril have all performed a version of this on TV. It might be that you are getting good enough that magic might stop fooling you more and more.
  5. Good thoughts. I feel that if I am providing entertainment, then it needs to be quality. You need two elements in full - presentation, and good material. There are some like Penn and Teller and the Amazing Jonathan who can reveal method and get away with it, because they make the material original to them (in large part using their presentation). However, it is too easy to do mediocre Goolgeable magic these days.

    That said there are many classic effects that can still be an excellent part of a show when presented well. (I'm thinking cups and ball effects, invisible deck etc.)

    However, if you do use something like the invisible deck, find a new way to do it! Use the deck differently, or a new presentation.

    Some things I use very similar to their original presentation, but are not free like you mentioned. I do a lot of work with teenagers and they are the worst for trying to Google stuff.
  6. Could it be said that that there needs to be a much larger emphasis on scripting and character building in the magic community? The stuff that doesn't require a prop, cards, or gimmicks.

    As stated earlier, Penn & Teller did a 'cups & balls' routines that was completely original to their style. Yes, 'cups & balls' can be replicated thanks to all the online tutorials, but having a solid character and scripting an original presentation makes a routine so much better than just endlessly practicing your 'pass' to perfection--only with the intent to look clever to a spectator.
    what's funny is that character building and scripting is what, I think, defines a good performance from a fantastic performance--and that's the sort of information that's out there in plain sight.
  7. I feel like making a new routine isn't enough even good scripting. If the audience knows what you are doing something may be lost. The way I see it, Penn and Teller's cups and balls is still magical because the method is as beautiful as the original trick. Even when we can see through the cups there are still things you miss and surprises to be had.

    I get this from friends and family who go see other magicians perform all the time. They say things like "Oh he wasn't that great, he did the spongy bunny trick I got in a magic kit as a kid." Or there's Pierce Morgan's reaction to Brett Daniel's Marilyn Monroe effect "Well, the trick was fine. It's an old trick." These kind of reactions dammage the magic, even if your presentation is as beautiful as Brett's presentation.

    I think this quote from Teller covers it best for me: "Now, don’t underestimate me, like the rest of the magicians of the world. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that I’ve never seen a set of linking rings before and I’ll be oh-so-stunned because you can “link” them. B***s***."
  8. If I've interpreted this correctly. The issue is a need for an attitude change for magicians towards an audience/spectators?
  9. Yes in the sense that the average layman could very well know how some common tricks are preformed. Since laymen have easier access to certain tricks, those tricks (in my opinion) shouldn't be preformed by professional magicians while on the job. Do not underestimate the laymen.
  10. You could still create a completely exposure-less set and still have the attitude that you're Copperfield-on-the-streets.

    While I agree that we shouldn't underestimate the laymen. I don't think that NOT using exposed effects is going to solve the problem.
    Regarding Penn and Tellers performance of 'Cups & Balls'. I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone who watches that and isn't entertained--even if they have seen other performances of 'Cups & Balls' a million times before. Even though we know how cups and balls (at least on a very basic level) work; I think it all comes down to how it's presented, what is said, and how its done.
    That said, the duo are very experienced magicians who, obviously do not underestimate their audience, have established characters, and can script and construct a routine.

    I think what hinders an attitude change (or at least a refusal to stop using well known effects) is that a professional magician, in most cases, isn't the most lucrative job in the world, so the idea of going rogue and using something new and exposure-free is a frightening and uneasy idea because that could mean part of your set bombs and that could also mean no positive review and maybe no referrals to others.

    For the pros: Am I wrong in the belief that I think a good amount of magicians know that what they are using is widely used or not and they are 'playing it safe and playing to the crowd' rather than thinking they are the next Copperfield?
  11. I feel like this attitude is coping out. It's the difference between a cover band and an artist. There are very good cover bands out there but they will always be making a living off of someone else. I don't see much good coming from this, it does nothing to push the art forward.
    Bryant_Tsu likes this.
  12. I think that the issue with many "professional" magicians is a lack of creativity - both in the effects they choose and in the way they present those effects.

    This thread made me look at the material I perform.


    The parlor show I'm currently developing starts with the linking rings done to music. I've developed my own routine using a variety of sources - books, DVDs and magazines. My rings are custom made and you can tell the difference from a cheap $20 set of rings. I htink that audiences that even know the secret to the cheap rings would think that these rings are different (how else could two spectators examine each of the rings used?).

    The next effect is a card to bottle effect from a magazine from a couple of years back. It required a little bit of arts and crafts to make one of the props and the way I made the prop is different than explained in the effect. I've also changed the method for forcing the card to allow the spectator to keep the deck that is card vanishes from.

    The next effect is Apples and Oranges from Jim Steinmeyer's Conjuring Anthology. The effect is pretty much presented as written, but I've purchased a large glass jar to hold the fruit and and some wooden apple baskets for the spectators to use. The method is based on the Piano Card trick, but the use of fruit and the presentation would disguise that from anyone that isn't a magician.

    That is followed by Dan Ross's Election. The effect is presented as a compatability test for a couple that is dating or a married couple. The mechanics are the same, but the presentation is very different Most magicians would know how it is done, but laymen wouldn't be able to figure it out.

    The next effect is Fan Mail, another Steinmeyer effect from Conjuring Anthology. The props include two letters in red and blue envelopes. Again, I purchased quality envelopes and nice stationary for the letters. I also had a unique custom silk devil's handkerchief made for the routine that fits in my jacket pocket for part of the routine.

    The next effect is Wayne Houchin's Houdini's Influence. I'll admit that I perform it pretty much as Wayne does. It's that good.

    The final effect is an egg bag routine. I use an egg bag custom made to my specifications and my own handling. I also wrote my own story to accompany (and justify) the routine.


    As with my parlor show, most of the effects in my children's show are customized.

    My opener is an invisible deck routine, where the kids toss around a beachball to music and each time the music stops, the child holding the ball chooses red or black, hearts or diamonds, number card or picture card, high number of low number and then the actual card.

    My "How to Build a Zebra" routine is my own. Even though it uses a change bag, I've had magicians scratching their head about how exactly it is done. The routine is enhanced with safari hats, a toy camera, toy binoculars and an inflatable magic wand.

    I do Mark Wilson's Bigger Card routine pretty much exactly as it is done in the book.

    I also do a Jumbo McCombical deck routine with a deck that I made myself using Jumbo Biycle Cards. The routine is pretty much Billy McComb's routine.

    My English Sheepdog routine uses the effects on David Ginn's DVD but the presentation is very different - mainly because my sheepdog puppet is a sarcastic, wise cracking pain in the butt who insists on having his own theme song.

    My cups and balls routine is my own design and the ending is unique (producing six billiard balls).

    My closer routine is a card to nested boxes routine done to music with a child being the magician. The method is right out of Mark Wilson's book (won't say which effect) but the magic is in the presentation.

    I think that part of the problem is that if an effect is performed without any presentation, the audience just focuses on the effect. If it is something that is overdone (regardless of whether it is exposed) the audience's reaction is "I've seen this before." If the effect is different or there is more presentation than narrating what you are doing with the props, the audience will be engaged and entertained. My philosophy is that every effect should reflect your style and that your style has to be unique.
    Brett Hurley likes this.

  13. I was at work one day, and one of my co-workers said something that I found very interesting. He was commenting on my performance of sleight of hand, and he said something to the effect of, "One of the things that amazes me about sleight of hand is that even for stuff where I'm able to somehow piece together/figure out how it's done, it still looks like magic if it's done properly, and it's still really impressive."

    To me, this seems to reinforce the idea that magic, if executed and presented properly, is impressive and appealing regardless of the knowledge of the method. In a way, this makes sense. I happen to be a guitarist, and I must say it doesn't ruin my experience if I happen to know how to play the song I'm hearing. In a way, knowing an art gives you a new/different appreciation for it when you witness it. I can't speak for anyone else, but I still find myself enchanted and impressed by well-done magic, even if I understand the method behind it.

    My main act begins and ends with classical magic. I start with the Chinese Rings, and I end on the Cups and Balls. Yes, material on both tricks is as myriad as it is easily accessible. In the hands of some magicians, these probably come out as "Chopsticks" or "Hot Cross Buns," but in the hands of others they more closely resemble "Fur Elise" or even "Flight of the Bumble Bee" (Paul Daniels goes break-neck fast with that chop cup!). I don't think there's anything wrong with presenting time-tested material, as long as the proper level of time and effort is put into making it extraordinary and unique.
    Brett Hurley likes this.
  14. I'll just throw my two cents in.

    I've seen magic that's simultaneously fooled the crap out of me and bored me to death. And just the opposite, where i've caught every single move and couldn't care less, because at the end of the day we're entertainers. And granted the "magic" and "amazement" are the primary factors of a magician, they don't have to be. Fooling your audience is a must for a magician, but it doesn't have to be the primary goal.

    Also about your audience knowing your tricks, think about how many times Michael Ammar has done crazy man handcuffs, and one time a group of kids managed to google the right phrasing? Who cares? everyone gets busted sometimes, and you have to remember the majority of people have never actually seen a magician. (which is why you can get away with just doing the same three magic tricks over and over again)

    As for magicians-by-proxy (what i call magicians spouses, family and friends) saying "oh, he just did sponge bunnies, he must not be very good". That's because they've seen you do it, probably a hundred times, and they know lots of other magicians do it so they assume it's easy/not impressive, but quite the opposites true, lots of magicians do it because its impresssive.

    annd last bit, while i know things like linking rings are cliche, i've never once seen a magician actually perform it, and if i haven't a doubt a layman has.
  15. I think there are two things at play here.

    First, it has to be accepted that not everyone is a good audience for magic. That's fine. I'm not a good audience for most heavy metal music or romantic comedy movies. A few unreceptive audiences who are just out to bust you or simply can't get their mind into a place where they find magic entertaining don't undermine the foundations of magic. It just means that we move on to the next audience and do our best again. We don't have to convert everyone to our magic religion.

    Second is a caveat to that. We live in an era where everyone carries a machine which, theoretically, answers any question. If they are so uncurious that they witness a miracle and don't attempt to use the means they have to rationalise the situation then that would be odd. In fact, it could be a sign that we haven't particularly mystified or interested them. So, surely we need to engage with that rather than fight against it. Fake mediumship needed to adapt to the development of electric light and we need to adapt to the development of the search engine. Therefore, using the same psychology as Juan Tamariz's idea of cancelling out possible methods, perhaps we should do some Googling for ourselves when we're putting our set together. Then, we should ensure that we routine our effects to apparently cancel out whatever methods are exposed on the first page of results. And, we could even script the routines to plant a key phrase so we can control what they Google (e.g., after a linking rubber band effect say, "Have you ever seen linking rubber bands before?" to push them towards Googling the phrase "linking rubber bands").

  16. It's my opinion that magicians in general are living in the Patent Age while most of the rest of the modern world's professions have migrated to the Information Age. In a world where all information is essentially in people's pockets already (if for a price), the Wizard who relies too heavily on secrecy will have a short spell book, indeed. If you can make your magic depend on something besides secrecy and/or if you can put the audience in a place of not wanting to know, then you have a lot more staying power and a lot more freedom to present tricks that are widely known.

    In my performances, I treat conjuring as special effects to be used in presenting a character with a story. Because of this, the audience willfully suspends disbelief for the sake of taking in my story and getting lost in the fiction.

    I call this the "Superman Effect." When most people sit down in a theater to watch a movie about Superman, they do it with the full knowledge that Superman isn't real, and that the film makers are using special effects to make him fly, shoot lasers, and lift impossibly heavy objects.

    For the most part, nobody complains that the action on screen isn't real, and nobody sits through the film looking for the wires, CGI, or other behind-the-scenes stuff. They might go home and Google it, and they might even already have previous knowledge of special effects, but if somebody is sitting through a performance voluntarily, it's because they want to take in the story.

    I admit that there are a handful of people who DO nit-pick the realism and special effects slips of films and are sometimes even loud and obnoxious about it as they watch, but let's get real: this is not that common, and nobody likes those people, especially not in the middle of the movie. Why do people do this to so many magicians? Simple: because they fail to create the proper theatrical environment.

    As a Wizard, I use the Superman Effect to create a scene where people want me to succeed. I seek out settings and situations where people are watching voluntarily, and in many cases I'm very upfront about the fact that I'm a fictional character and my magic is fictional, too. I fill my act with stories, jokes, literary references...anything I can to add detail and capture interest. As a result, my audiences are rarely concerned with how something works, and even people who know some of my secrets still like to watch me because there's more to my show than the trickery.
  17. It will be not an invent, but a known effect can be made with different material. For example Chinese Prayer Vase can be made with a soft drink can and altering a drink can is simple. However I do not know about the copyright of Prayer Vase.
  18. Hmm. This is a interesting subject. We are all giving our imput as magicians, but I wonder what's layman would have to say on this subject. Im going to give my imput anyway.

    I'm kind of torn in the middle. In one case, if you are doing something right out of the box the same way it says to present it, it is not fully fair as you are basically buying yourself into the art when others are spending years creating original material and patter.

    On the other hand if you are doing tricks right out of the box and the audience is loving it and having a great time, who are we to judge, he is doing exactly what he was paid to do and in some cases might be getting better reactions then people with original material. For example, look at The Vanishing Bandana, we have all seen it hundreds of times and people who do it don't have to put any effort in. But, I have never seen The Vanishing Bandana get a bad reaction by laymen. In fact, I've seen laymen give a standing ovation for it.

    Also, when you say that people know how the linking rings and cups and balls are done or easily figure it out. In most cases I agree, but if you know what you are doing, that is not a problem. Let Me tell you a story that happens to a magician I know. He was doing a show the day after the episode of The Masked Magician that revealed the rings aired. At that time the show was much more popular than it is now and millions of people watched it. This magicians signature piece was the linking rings. The producer of the show recommend he did not do the rings that night as people will know and might call you on it. He decided to do it any way. Un-benounced to him there was a reporter in the audience that was sent to figure out if the Masked a Magician was right. He did the rings so perfectly the next day the article was released and it said that the masked magician was wrong about the rings because when she saw the magician at the show do it she watched carefully to see if there was a key ring and there wasn't. What I'm saying is, if you are extremely good or entertaining, you won't have that problem.

    Lastly, in the original post talking about the person at the birthday party. I would assume he is just starting out as he was doing that card trick for kids. When you are just starting out in magic everything is a lesson. You learn as you go. Now keep in mind I'm only 18 so I still have a lot of learning to do but instead of trashing him you should help him. I got My first running restaurant gig when I was 12. I worked that restaurant every week for 2 years. I improved a ton because of that. When I first started I was good enough to fool laymen but nothing was original. Everything was out of the box. In fact one of the tricks I did for the first couple months was that kids trick where they pick out all the slates that have their thought of # on it. I could look back and be embarrassed that would do that for a paid gig, but instead I look at it as a learning experience. When someone is starting doing payed shows they won't be perfect, but the only way for them to learn and get better is going out there and performing.

    Magical Wishes,
  19. I've noticed this with my closer friends that help me practice as well as some of my spectators. Hell, just yesterday I was performing some card stuff for a guy at the bar. I did a routine which requires a double show of the ace of diamonds to show 4 aces. In the 3+ years I've been performing this routine, he was the first person to ever notice and call me out on it. Turns out he's an avid poker player - noticing the suits for him is second nature.

    I noticed, though, his appreciation shifted - he wasn't a heckler, but he was entertained and impressed in a different way. He obviously didn't see it as absolutely impossible like most others would. Instead, he saw the dexterity and part of how the cards were being manipulated and was still blown away.
    jgabor likes this.
  20. I handed a guy a deck once and he said "hey this isn't a full deck" (I had four cards removed for a packet trick). Also a poker player.

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