Question about a Harry Anderson routine

Discussion in 'Magic Forum' started by Elbrando83, Jul 25, 2020.

  1. The other day I was watching Harry Anderson’s “Hello, Sucker!” on YouTube, and around the 7 minute mark he did a great routine where he borrowed $5 each from two gentlemen in the audience, ripped them both in half, gave one half back, and then lit the halves he had on fire, and so on and so on. Long story short, at the end of the routine, he revealed that the restored bills were transported into a sealed pack of Camel cigarettes that he handed to a female spectator prior to taking the money in the first place.

    All of this is to ask, is this just a variation of Chapstick Caper from Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic? Obviously, Harry adds a ton of his own flourishes to make it his own but a lot of the basic principles seem to be there:

    - The sealed pack of cigarettes stand in for the chapstick tube
    - The torn bills
    - Comparing the serial numbers at the end
    - There’s even a part where, when he seemingly messes up the trick with the $5, Anderson asks for a twenty and says that he “hardly ever [screws] it up with a twenty.” Wilson suggests this very joke at this moment in his version of the trick (sans the profanity).

    For those of you familiar with the routine, am I onto something? I feel like this might be a “duh” moment but since I’ve only been studying magic for a few months now it’s exciting to me to think that I might have been able to dissect a routine from one of the greats that I’ve always admired.

    If you’re not familiar with the routine, check it out! The whole special is really funny.
  2. That is a possible method (and you could accomplish the effect this way), but I think he was using a different method that works better when you have two bills.
    Elbrando83 likes this.
  3. I do think you’re right that there’s probably a better method involved. Do you think it’s possible that Chapstick Caper is the genesis of the effect or do you think it’s more likely just a coincidence?
  4. #4 RealityOne, Jul 26, 2020
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2020
    I did a little bit of digging and confirmed my hunch. In his Penguin Live Lecture, Harry Anderson credited the effect to U.F. Grant's Million Dollar Bill Mystery that was published in Volume 3 of the Tarbell Course in Magic in 1943 (it was not in the original Tarbell lessons). Mark Wilson's Complete Course was published in 1975. So the method that Harry used predates Mark's method by 32 years.

    Mark Wilson's book is amazing, but Mark did not credit any of the effects. There is not a lot of original methods, but, at best, there are some original applications of classic methods. That is, Mark is teaching his use and adaptations of classic methods.

    The bill tear he uses can be traced back at least to T, Nelson Downs' Art of Magic in 1909. Downs explains that his routine is based on prior torn and restored cigarette paper routines. The method of having the halves match similarly pre-dates Wilson's book. An example using a similar technique is Conrad Bush's The Lemon and the Dollar Bill in Jinx #7 (April 1935). In that routine, the spectator is handed a corner of their bill which matches the bill in the lemon. The methods in that bill to lemon effect are used in Mark Wilson's Chapstick Caper (the bill tear similar to what Downs used), Mark Wilson's Bill in Lemon (regarding the serial number) and Mark Wilson's Torn and Restored Card (regarding the corner of the bill). The use of a corner or half of a bill to prove authenticity goes back to at least 1897 with two effects in August Rotterberg's New Era Card Tricks where a half a card or card corner are used to prove a burnt card is restored (see The Halved Card p. 130 and The Phoenix p. 132),

    So, Mark Wilson's effect started with Rotterberg's card half or corner and the bill tear from Downs both of which were used Bush's application of Downs's and Rotterberg's methods to a bill in lemon. Wilson used half a bill (like Rotterberg's half a card) and substituted Chapstick for a lemon.

    Grant's effect, which Harry Anderson performed, doesn't use the bill tear from Downs and the handling is not similar to Roterberg's half card or corner methods. The essential element is truly genius and, in my opinion, does not draw upon the same lineage as the Chapstick Caper. Rather, my sense is that Grant looked at those methods and asked, "how do I make something better?" In response, he added two bills and came up with a simplified method compared to what he would have been required to do using the methods that were the predecessors of the Chapstick Caper.

    I'm glad you asked this question. I had a fun morning tracking all of this down. Your instincts were good on this -- the effects are similar and you could use Mark Wilson's method for Harry's routine. The main reason I knew that it wasn't the method is because I perform a variation of Grant's effect (where the matching bills appear in two envelopes held by spectators). My response was to give you a bit more to think about as you progress in magic -- much of what seems new is really a lot older than we think. As an example, Dani DaOrtiz's lecture for Vanishing, Inc. a couple of months back taught the concepts published in Rotterberg's book which seemed new to everyone watching. Also, as an additional note, I do not think that the methods in Rotterberg's or Downs's books were original to them (and neither makes such a claim). As far as I can tell, Bush's methods for Bill in Lemon are unique applications of the principles in that context and Annemann infers as much in that he says, "Mr. Bush has reduced that old and true classic to a concise method that does not confuse at any time and leaves a profound impression."
    JoshL8, Al e Cat Dabra and Elbrando83 like this.
  5. My first instinct when I saw your reply was to think, “Holy hell, I hope this guy didn’t go through all this trouble on account of me!” So I was relieved when you said that you had fun doing this research. Also, I appreciate you taking the time to look into it on my behalf.

    It has definitely been apparent to me as I’ve dug into these forums that, as you say, much of what seems new is older than we think.

    With that being said, can you point me in the direction of what I should study next? I’ve read through Mark Wilson (twice, actually. Skimmed it once, then read it in closer detail), and I’m awaiting “Scarne on Card Tricks” to come in through the mail. I do plan on investing in “Card College” later on in the year but honestly I feel like I’m set with card and money tricks for a little while. I liked the variety that Mark Wilson offered, so preferably I’d like to take that a step further, if that helps.
  6. I love the history of magic and take any chance I get to have fun with it.

    A couple of questions.... Which effects did you like the most from Mark Wilson's complete course in magic? What setting do you want to perform in -- close-up sitting, close-up standing (a.k.a. "street magic"), parlor (performing in a room standing up in front of 5 or more people) or stage? Do you prefer classic magic (cups & balls, rope, sponge balls, etc.), borrowed objects and/or props you have to make yourself?
  7. I can certainly understand that, and I think the forum is all the better for it.

    So my favorite effect from Mark Wilson is the Bill in Lemon. I also like the Magic Card Frame and Further than That. I also like a lot of the card effects that work in tandem, such as A Clever Combination (Hindu Color Change/Thought Projection) and Do As I Do Oil and Water.

    As far as the setting I want to perform in, I’m thinking parlor/stage magic is what I’m aiming for. One of the main reasons is that my line of work affords me access to potential performance spaces so if I ever do create an act, it really wouldn’t be an issue for me to at least workshop it in front of an audience. Additionally, I have three young children at home, so I will have at least a decade or so of birthday party opportunities coming up soon, so I’d like to have a kid’s show prepared.

    As for props, I’d say my preference leans toward the classics but I’m open to anything, really. To tie this all into my original post, that Harry Anderson effect is really illustrative of my favorite kind of magic. I love when a routine is really funny (which I know is more of the presentation side of the house, and Harry was one of the best at that). But I also love how in addition to it being hysterical, by the end we can’t believe what we just saw with our own two eyes. We saw him rip up the bills, we saw him light them on fire, and we know that the pack of cigarettes was sealed the whole time. Yet, there it is. So that’s what I’m humbly striving for.
    Al e Cat Dabra likes this.
  8. I've got a couple of different suggestions for you to choose from:

    The first is to get a subscription to Genii Magazine. With an electronic only subscription, you get access to over 75 years of back issues. There is a lifetime of material there and a lot of variety from Cards and Coins to Mentalism (Max Maven) to parlor (Jim Steinmeyer) to magic history. Some of the presentations are more developed, others are just narrating the effects.

    The second is to get the Tarbell set. The methods are solid, but the presentation (much like Royal Road and other books from that time) is dated. Chances are, if you want to do something, it's in Tarbell.

    My third recommendation is my favorite book, Jim Steinmeyer's Conjuring Anthology (which I think is only available through his website). Jim's routines come with well written presentations which remind me a bit of Harry Anderson presentation with a little less edge and a couple more puns. This is a collection of his columns from Magic magazine. Jim also currently has a column in Genii under the same name. Note, the Genii and Magic magazine columns are available in the Genii archives if you subscribe. Get the book if you enjoy just sitting down and reading a hard copy of all the columns in one place.

    There isn't just one source for more in-depth learning on the classics. There are some books dedicated to specific classics - Pete Biro's book on linking rings, Michael Ammar's book on the Cups & Balls, Al Schneider's book on the Zombie Ball, Tabary on Rope Magic, Rice on Silks, etc. However, my recommendation is to get the L&L World's Greatest Magic DVDs/Downloads for the effects you want to learn. Those videos have multiple performers teach their routines and you can use those routines or take bits and pieces and make your own. Let me know if you need guidance in purchasing some of the classic props -- I can give you a variety of options at a variety of prices.

    For children's magic, go to David Ginn's YouTube channel. He has a lot of great effects and presentations and David is a really wonderful person. I'm a heretic when it comes to children's magic in that I don't like the bumbling idiot character (e.g. David Kaye / Silly Billy) which sometimes puts the strength of the magic secondary to the silly antics of the character. The key is not to be entertaining while performing some magic, but to entertain with magic. Now, my kids magic shows are generally geared to the over 6 crowd, so my position may not carry weight for younger audiences. My recommendation is to watch some episodes of Dora the Explorer and notice the different types of interactions (it is easier than reading Howard Gardner's Theories of Multiple Intelligences). A kids show should have a similar variety of interactions (not just a series of "look, don't see" moments). Also, watch as many episodes of the Upside Down Show as you can - it showcases a brilliant sophisticated comedy that appeals to kids and adults alike.

    Enjoy the adventure and keep us updated on how it goes.
  9. Thank you so much for the suggestions. There’s a ton to unpack here so that should keep me busy for awhile. I think I’m leaning toward the Steinmeyer book for the time being.

    I do want the Tarbell series and a Genii subscription but I’m trying to be budget conscious right now.

    Also, I’ve looked into the “World’s Greatest Magic” DVDs a few times so I’m glad you mentioned them. I’ll definitely look into them as a supplement. I was thinking about starting with either the sponge balls or the linking rings. I have a set of sponge balls already so I imagine I’ll probably go with the obvious choice there.

    And thank you as well for the children’s show suggestions. I agree about the bumbling idiot character in kids’ magic. It just seems to me that there is an expectation for children’s entertainers (not just in magic) to be obnoxiously goofy and I just feel like that runs the risk of underestimating the audience. I wouldn’t say my kids’ sense of humor is high brow by any means, but one thing I’ve learned is they can spot a phony from a mile away and most kids can, too. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’d rather wow them something amazing than get a cheap laugh from a silly prop. Anyway, I got off on a tangent. End of rant.

    Thank you again for all the suggestions. You are doing this community a great service. It’s so much easier to forge ahead when the path is so clearly marked for you and I’m really looking forward to it.
    RealityOne likes this.

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