The Magician Online

The Magician Online is a live, interactive, online experience - in the comfort of your own home. Starring Dan White. As seen by Ashton Kutcher, Ariana Grande, Chris Rock, James Corden, Jessica Alba, and President Clinton.

See details

Unpopular Opinion: Stage Magic is Harder Than Close Up

Josh Burch

Elite Member
Aug 11, 2011
2,967
1,100
Utah
Today I was watching a Tim ferriss interview with Richard Turner. Halfway through the interview Richard Turner makes the claim that a sleight of hand magic, especially with cards,is the most difficult type of magic.

I heard the said before and I just can't understand how it would be true. I have seen many competent magicians do close up. I've seen a lot of confident magicians do extremely difficult card magic. Eric Tait, Paul Wilson, Jason England, Richard Turner, Steve Forte, Bill Malone, Ed Marlo, Darwin Ortiz, Mark Calabrese, Sal Piacente and the list goes on. Really when it comes to close-up magic, or deception at the card table there are hundreds of magicians that are extremely proficient, entertaining, and competent.

Contrast that with the amount of stage magicians that are proficient, entertaining, and competent. I can count about 6.

Paul Daniels once claimed that stage work was the most difficult branch of magic. I completely agree.
 
Jul 6, 2019
64
40
Yeah but you also have to account for the fact that most magicians never get the kind of initial investment it takes to be a decent stage act. As for your general point, close up certainly takes more pure skill than stage magic, and all of the pressure is on the magician. Stage magic is more difficult logistically, but that's why all of the stand out stage guys have large highly trained crews.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Al e Cat Dabra
Sep 1, 2007
405
203
37
Calgary
www.hermitmagic.com
Today I was watching a Tim ferriss interview with Richard Turner. Halfway through the interview Richard Turner makes the claim that a sleight of hand magic, especially with cards,is the most difficult type of magic.

I heard the said before and I just can't understand how it would be true. I have seen many competent magicians do close up. I've seen a lot of confident magicians do extremely difficult card magic. Eric Tait, Paul Wilson, Jason England, Richard Turner, Steve Forte, Bill Malone, Ed Marlo, Darwin Ortiz, Mark Calabrese, Sal Piacente and the list goes on. Really when it comes to close-up magic, or deception at the card table there are hundreds of magicians that are extremely proficient, entertaining, and competent.

Contrast that with the amount of stage magicians that are proficient, entertaining, and competent. I can count about 6.

Paul Daniels once claimed that stage work was the most difficult branch of magic. I completely agree.

How is your ability to name magicians in close-up and on stage any indication of difficulty?

There are fewer famous pole vaulters than sprinters, so by this logic, pole vaulting is harder than sprinting?

What is your criteria for competence, proficiency (which means competence), and entertainment?

Your argument doesn't take into account the trend of the last hundred years of magic moving from the stage to close-up and parlour. Or the cost of putting on grand illusions versus walkaround. Or the effects of the internet and gig culture.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Al e Cat Dabra

CaseyRudd

Director of Operations
Team member
Jun 5, 2009
3,210
3,348
Charleston, SC
www.instagram.com
I think both are equally as difficult, and I think part of the perception that comes with thinking card and close-up magic is less difficult is that there a ton of people that do it (or attempt to do it). There may be a lot of people flooding the particular genre, but one of the major reasons why is accessibility.

One of the first things new people get when they are introduced to learning magic is a magic set, which contains a deck of cards and a bunch of props for close up magic. You don’t see a lot of parents dropping loads of cash and invest in their kid with a stage magic kit. That’s pretty much unheard of these days. Close up and card magic is the first destination for today’s new magicians.

Let’s say you have the same number of kids grow up learning stage magic as you do kids growing up learning close up and card magic. By 10 years I think you’ll have almost the same amount be pretty proficient at the craft, which is a few people, and the rest are just mediocre still, with some giving it up completely and moving onto something else.

I also think the real skill in doing magic in general, whether it be stage or close up, is not in the techniques themselves, but in the presentation, showmanship, and structure of the performance. Great magic is defined by how well you can combine those 3 (just as an example) and how well you can execute the technique required. A magic trick is executing technique without much of the other 3. That’s where the real skill lies, and applies to all forms of magic.
 
Jul 6, 2019
64
40
.

Let’s say you have the same number of kids grow up learning stage magic as you do kids growing up learning close up and card magic. By 10 years I think you’ll have almost the same amount be pretty proficient at the craft, which is a few people, and the rest are just mediocre still, with some giving it up completely and moving onto something else.

I don't think so unless you like, fundamentally changed society. The barrier for entry into stage magic is quite high, which is a big part of why there have never been as many people doing it, and most of the people who do started out doing close up and got lucky.
 

CaseyRudd

Director of Operations
Team member
Jun 5, 2009
3,210
3,348
Charleston, SC
www.instagram.com
I don't think so unless you like, fundamentally changed society. The barrier for entry into stage magic is quite high, which is a big part of why there have never been as many people doing it, and most of the people who do started out doing close up and got lucky.
The premise of this scenario is assuming the kids that start learning stage magic have a lot of the basic resources available to them, and with money not being an issue in regards to adding new props. Make the barrier of entry the same for both, and you'd have almost the same amount of people being proficient in both genres.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RealityOne
Jul 26, 2016
573
796
I think it is a bit like comparing basketball to baseball. Both are sports. Which is more difficult? I don't know if there is an answer except for a person's own opinion. Also, what may not be very difficult for one person (e.g. doing a great classic pass, palming, or bottom deals) given his/her natural talents, skill set and level of experience, may be extremely difficult for another person, who is nevertheless a naturally gifted and skilled stage performer.
 

Luis Vega

Elite Member
Mar 19, 2008
1,810
232
36
Leon, Guanajuato Mexico
luisvega.com.mx
I don't think so unless you like, fundamentally changed society. The barrier for entry into stage magic is quite high, which is a big part of why there have never been as many people doing it, and most of the people who do started out doing close up and got lucky.
I have a succesfull stage show that has been performed for 2,500 people in a big venue... but its normal for me to perform it from 100 people...

The show costs around 600 dollars... and by that I mean the total invesment I have done to create it... @Casey Rudd is right... is all about the presentation...

I do think that stage magic is more difficult... personally....
 

RealityOne

Elite Member
Nov 1, 2009
3,644
3,964
New Jersey
I also think the real skill in doing magic in general, whether it be stage or close up, is not in the techniques themselves, but in the presentation, showmanship, and structure of the performance.

Very true. You can just as easily give someone a close-up effect or a stage illusion and have them perform it poorly in less than an hour. To do either type of magic well, requires a dedication to taking tricks and turning them into well thought-out, designed, scripted, practiced and rehearsed performance pieces.
 
Jul 6, 2019
64
40
I have a succesfull stage show that has been performed for 2,500 people in a big venue... but its normal for me to perform it from 100 people...

The show costs around 600 dollars... and by that I mean the total invesment I have done to create it... @Casey Rudd is right... is all about the presentation...

I do think that stage magic is more difficult... personally....
It sounds like you are doing a closeup show on stage, you can't even pay the lighting and sound crew for a stage show with $600.
 
Jun 18, 2019
547
295
18
West Bengal, India
Today I was watching a Tim ferriss interview with Richard Turner. Halfway through the interview Richard Turner makes the claim that a sleight of hand magic, especially with cards,is the most difficult type of magic.

I heard the said before and I just can't understand how it would be true. I have seen many competent magicians do close up. I've seen a lot of confident magicians do extremely difficult card magic. Eric Tait, Paul Wilson, Jason England, Richard Turner, Steve Forte, Bill Malone, Ed Marlo, Darwin Ortiz, Mark Calabrese, Sal Piacente and the list goes on. Really when it comes to close-up magic, or deception at the card table there are hundreds of magicians that are extremely proficient, entertaining, and competent.

Contrast that with the amount of stage magicians that are proficient, entertaining, and competent. I can count about 6.

Paul Daniels once claimed that stage work was the most difficult branch of magic. I completely agree.
Unpopular opinion? I thought it is a given that stage magic is very, very difficult. I can easily draw you in if I am a foot away from you, but then feet away under the garb of a 'performer' (and the unintentional role of the know-it-all), connecting with people seems so much more difficult.

Doing close-up magic that has been (often unsatisfactorily) adjusted to suit the stage however, is the most difficult thing ever, in my opinion.
 

Luis Vega

Elite Member
Mar 19, 2008
1,810
232
36
Leon, Guanajuato Mexico
luisvega.com.mx
It sounds like you are doing a closeup show on stage, you can't even pay the lighting and sound crew for a stage show with $600.

I alway request to the client to provide sound and lighting for the show... including the crew... its clear in the raider... and no.. it´s no a close up show..its a stage show...

You should stop putting excuses and get to work... I know a mentalist that charges 30,000 USD for an hour show... and he is incredibly succesfull and his show is even cheaper than mine.... ITS ALL ABOUT TALLENT AND WILLINGNESS TO WORK...
 

Josh Burch

Elite Member
Aug 11, 2011
2,967
1,100
Utah
Yeah but you also have to account for the fact that most magicians never get the kind of initial investment it takes to be a decent stage act.

I started out learning stage magic. I performed for my first birthday party at age 7 with mostly stage material (linking rings, professor's nightmare, square circle mirror box). I used the magic from a thrift store magic set. I was a teenager before I performed much close-up magic.

As for your general point, close up certainly takes more pure skill than stage magic

I think if by pure skill you mean dexterity you might have a point. I think it takes a lot of skill to stand on stage and make people care about what you're doing.

and all of the pressure is on the magician. Stage magic is more difficult logistically, but that's why all of the stand out stage guys have large highly trained crews.

If anything more pressure is on the stage magician (a whole theater of eyes vs a small room or table). The logistics are definitely one of the things that make stage magic more difficult, and while a large crew is great it is not always necessary.

How is your ability to name magicians in close-up and on stage any indication of difficulty?

It's not, I named a few to suggest that there is a larger number of close up magicians that there are stage magicians. I believe this is true no matter how you measure it. This could be but is not necessarily an indication that stage magic is more difficult. Just like how there are more fast-food workers than there are doctors in the world. That might suggest that most people can work in fast food without taking any classes in college, the road to becoming a doctor is more difficult my most measures.

There are fewer famous pole vaulters than sprinters, so by this logic, pole vaulting is harder than sprinting?

Pole vaulting probably is more difficult than sprinting. For one, you have to go get a pole. I can sprint naked.

What is your criteria for competence, proficiency (which means competence), and entertainment?

Competency is not the same thing as proficiency. My master's degree is in education and the difference between testing proficiency and competence is stark. When we look at a student's competence we look at what is the least amount required for passable work. Competency means that they know all that they need to know. Proficiency carries with it more depth. They can perform what they need to and they have a bit more mastery over that specific skill.

Your argument doesn't take into account the trend of the last hundred years of magic moving from the stage to close-up, and parlour.

This is not a trend that I am aware of but it underlines my main point. If it is less trendy to be a stage magician it suggests that it is more difficult to become a stage magician.

Or the cost of putting on grand illusions versus walkaround. Or the effects of the internet and gig culture.

The cost is less than you might think. David Copperfield started his career with an excellent dancing cane routine. A dancing cane can be cheaper and more durable than a deck of cards. If it is more expensive, then again that is one way that it is more difficult to do than close up.

I don't think so unless you like, fundamentally changed society. The barrier for entry into stage magic is quite high, which is a big part of why there have never been as many people doing it, and most of the people who do started out doing close up and got lucky.

I don't think the barrier is all that much higher than close up magic, the most difficult thing to do is find a venue, and test new material. In both cases these are examples of some of the things that make stage magic more difficult. Jeff Mcbride, and Mac King, are stage magicians but the majority of their props aren't overly expensive. Cardini, and T. Nelson Downs were stage magicians and their props and needs were similar to the close up magician.

It sounds like you are doing a closeup show on stage, you can't even pay the lighting and sound crew for a stage show with $600.

Many stage shows don't require special lighting and many stage magicians either don't use music or cue their own. Most venues provide their own amplification. If a school hires me to perform for their student body I bring under a thousand dollars worth of props. The school provides lighting, and sound crews.

You could easily perform an inexpensive stage show with a deck of cards for manipulations, a rope, a couple chairs, and very little else.

Unpopular opinion? I thought it is a given that stage magic is very, very difficult. I can easily draw you in if I am a foot away from you, but then feet away under the garb of a 'performer' (and the unintentional role of the know-it-all), connecting with people seems so much more difficult.

Yeah, we agree. I am surprised too. If you look at some of the above comments it appears that it is an unpopular opinion.
 
Jun 18, 2019
547
295
18
West Bengal, India
Yeah, we agree. I am surprised too. If you look at some of the above comments it appears that it is an unpopular opinion.
Reading all the comments in the thread, I think I've come to agree that both have their easy and difficult points, much like anything. Stage magic does require more minimum investment than close up magic.

I think all of us should take selective best elements from stage magic and close up magic and mash them together for a great performance. For example, if we take the amount of showmanship and engaging skill required for a good stage show, along with help of mechanical aids (think gimmicks) and combine that with the manual aids (think sleights), finally to laminate the entire thing with a fine layer of psychological aids (think true misdirection, as talked about by Tommy Wonder), I think we can have a performance (and/or an effect) that is beautiful inside out.
 

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,791
2,891
Stage magic does require more minimum investment than close up magic.*

*If you aren't selective about what you performing. If you start with stage magic, I would agree that it's probably going to be more expensive than close up, but if you start with a knowledge of magic and then create a show, I would posit you could create an extremely cheap stage show.

It's easy enough to spend around the same amount for either a stage or close up show, I'd be willing to bet.

It's not, I named a few to suggest that there is a larger number of close up magicians that there are stage magicians.

I'd be willing to agree that there are more close up magicians than stage magicians in general, but only because the majority of people who do magic do it casually, Blaine-style. If we narrow it down to professionals and part-time professionals, I bet the numbers are much closer.

If anything more pressure is on the stage magician (a whole theater of eyes vs a small room or table).

Personal experience, but I find it to be far less pressure on a stage than in a close up show. The distance and lights create a separation between the performer and the audience, which for me makes it more of a demonstration and I'm perfectly comfortable with that. Close up means I'm right there and interacting with the audience and the interactions are far more immediate.

This is not a trend that I am aware of but it underlines my main point. If it is less trendy to be a stage magician it suggests that it is more difficult to become a stage magician.

That logic is faulty, sorry. The popularity of a thing doesn't necessarily depend on the difficulty of it.

I would say that stage and parlor basically trade back and forth between what is popular. Parlor shows are more portable, and I think magicians aren't selling out big theaters like they were 30 years ago. With big screen TVs and a wide array of streaming services, people have a lot of options for personalized entertainment these days. There's no need to go to a theater to get that immersive experience, and at home you can pause it and take bathroom breaks, and don't have to worry about people talking or being annoying.

Parlor shows offer a similar experience - a decent sized party could take up a whole show for themselves to enjoy.

I don't think stage is more difficult than close up. I think each genre of magic has its own challenges, and the focus of what is difficult is different - but ultimately I'd say it all evens out.
 
Jun 18, 2019
547
295
18
West Bengal, India
T
Personal experience, but I find it to be far less pressure on a stage than in a close up show. The distance and lights create a separation between the performer and the audience, which for me makes it more of a demonstration and I'm perfectly comfortable with that. Close up means I'm right there and interacting with the audience and the interactions are far more immediate.

True, and I'm guilty of over-exploiting that. :p

*If you aren't selective about what you performing. If you start with stage magic, I would agree that it's probably going to be more expensive than close up, but if you start with a knowledge of magic and then create a show, I would posit you could create an extremely cheap stage show.
But then the creative investment is huge. If we assume the basic knowledge includes mostly sleights and technique, we have to face the barrier of taking a close up act on the stage, which is creatively very, very challenging. But since it is so much of a more feasible option financially, we make do [insert shrug].
 
Jun 18, 2019
547
295
18
West Bengal, India
Personal experience, but I find it to be far less pressure on a stage than in a close up show. The distance and lights create a separation between the performer and the audience, which for me makes it more of a demonstration and I'm perfectly comfortable with that. Close up means I'm right there and interacting with the audience and the interactions are far more immediate.

True, and I'm guilty of over-exploiting that. :p

*If you aren't selective about what you performing. If you start with stage magic, I would agree that it's probably going to be more expensive than close up, but if you start with a knowledge of magic and then create a show, I would posit you could create an extremely cheap stage show.

*TLDR AT THE END*

But then the creative investment is huge. If we assume the basic knowledge includes mostly sleights and technique, we have to face the barrier of taking a close up act on the stage, which is creatively very, very challenging. But since it is so much of a more feasible option financially, we make do [insert shrug].

If by knowledge we mean sound knowledge of the principles of magic, the very basic ideas (and independent of sleights, think 'spheres of concentration' or something similar) then designing a stage show will be easier.

Yet, even getting a small table (again assuming we pay for it) would be more than getting a standard Bicycle deck, wouldn't it?

Finally, if we (last assumption, I promise :D) that the hosts will provide with the table, then we can also assume that we'd get coins, keys, pens, rings and even cards from the people watching a close up show.

TLDR:- All magic requires significantly more investment in terms of time rather than money, which is why so many teenagers and adolescents get into newer hobbies, because they have a lot of time but very little money themselves.
 

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,791
2,891
The creative investment is always huge. Cookie cutter performances suck all around, regardless of venue.

With the purchase of Mark Wilson's book, and Maximum Entertainment, one has all the material they need for a solid start in either close up or stage work.

But even getting a small table (again assuming we pay for it) would be more than getting a standard Bicycle deck, wouldn't it?

Are you implying that a close up show consisting entirely of playing cards wouldn't use a table? I strongly doubt that. Also, though a lot of folks like to say they could do hours of entertainment with a deck of cards - very, very few people actually could create a full show with playing cards. There needs to be variety.

So the table point is moot.

Chances are most households have everything needed to create a decent stage act.

Finally, if we (last assumption, I promise :D) that the hosts will provide with the table, then we can also assume that we'd get coins, keys, pens, rings and even cards from the people watching a close up show.

Bold. We're long past Malini's time - creating a show that has any significant reliance on borrowing props is a recipe for disaster. People don't carry nearly as much as they used to, and people are less keen on letting some stranger borrow their valuables these days. Oh, and (at least in the US), if you borrow something expensive eventually it will bite you in the back side when someone says the phrase, "That's not the ring I loaned you," or "Is there a diamond missing?" Both things I've had friends tell me have happened to them.

As I said in my previous post - each genre of magic has its challenges. For close up the props might be cheap, but the performer is going to have to replace them regularly. For stage there may be more of an initial investment, but once that investment is made that show will probably be good to go for years - assuming the material is wisely chosen.

The point is that investing in knowledge means the performer can go any direction they like/need to. I have a friend that does a stage show based around martial arts feats - he's been working on making a stage act that will fit inside his motorcycle's saddlebag so he can just travel around Southeast Asia and perform wherever he can set up. I can think of multiple shows I could do, or teach someone, that would involve zero monetary investment. Just learning some skills and using what's around.

So yeah. I don't think any genre is inherently more difficult than another one, except in specific ways.
 
Searching...
{[{ searchResultsCount }]} Results