What should you tell a spectator

Aug 25, 2017
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Pittsburgh, PA
The nature of "our craft" is mystery. Mystery is not a puzzle. Those are not interchangeable words.
Actually mystery and puzzle are interchangeable. They're synonyms.

That aside, I personally get what you're saying. I also get what others are saying as well. There will always be someone that is actually trying to figure out how we've done what we've done. Usually there will always be more than just one person trying to sort it out. When we know this in advance, and we do, we prepare for it by deceiving them into thinking a different way or perceiving it a different way to minimize the inevitable.
 

RealityOne

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Nov 1, 2009
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Have you ever watched a Marvel movie and have the person next to you lean over and say, "They can't really do that in real life, it's all computer generated graphics and camera tricks"?

Probably not.

Have you ever sat in the audience at a magic show and hear someone speculate throughout the show various theories about how it is done?

Oh yeah.

What is the difference?
 
Aug 25, 2017
172
93
Pittsburgh, PA
What is the difference?
While both are elements that the spectator know is "impossible," they generally know how a movie is made. They may not be able to do it themselves, but they know how it's done. So it leaves them with no urge to learn more, unless they themselves want to learn how to use the various pieces of software to do the same.
 

RealityOne

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Nov 1, 2009
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While both are elements that the spectator know is "impossible," they generally know how a movie is made. They may not be able to do it themselves, but they know how it's done. So it leaves them with no urge to learn more, unless they themselves want to learn how to use the various pieces of software to do the same.

Maybe... but I think there is something more to why they don't interrupt the movie to give you a theory of how it is done.
 
Aug 25, 2017
172
93
Pittsburgh, PA
Maybe... but I think there is something more to why they don't interrupt the movie to give you a theory of how it is done.
lol I think that has a lot to do with everyone else being ticked off at them for interrupting. It should be the same with magic but I have found that it's not (a lot of times). Now I will say that there have been at least two occasions in which I was at a theater and got up and walked out because of someone behind me not being able to shut up long enough to enjoy the movie. They commented on everything from the character's clothing, to their hair, to the special effects, etc.

Other surrounding spectators usually don't care this much about someone doing this at a magic performance because deep down....they want to know too...even if they don't openly say it.
 

WitchDocIsIn

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Sep 13, 2008
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If you have to do that, then doesn't that mean you've recognized that the nature of our craft is a puzzle and need to use a red herring on the audience just so they don't focus on the method?

No. I'm creating a mystery, engaging their imagination with the possibilities of it, and then allowing them to feel satisfied that it's come full circle. This is effective story telling.

As I've been saying the whole time, my material isn't a puzzle to figure out. It's an experience to share. They can be mystified and still satisfied. I have no problem with them walking out saying, "How did he do that." My problem arises when it turns into, "How did he do that?"
 
Jul 26, 2016
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@RealityOne: "Maybe... but I think there is something more to why they don't interrupt the movie to give you a theory of how it is done."

People know that a movie is not "real." They know that these are actors merely playing a part, and that in most cases, the story itself is completely made up. They know that the special effects are technologically created - computer generated or whatever. Yet, there is a suspension of disbelief. They are emotionally engaged - they get excited, angry, worried, relieved, they laugh, they tear up, they genuinely want the hero or heroine to "succeed," and just as genuinely want the villain(s) to fail, be destroyed or brought to justice. I believe it is because people are fascinated by stories, and with other people. The same is true with a good novel or short story; they can get lost in it knowing that it is completely fictitious. Again there is a suspension of disbelief, and it becomes real for them.

When I realized this years ago, I wanted to construct my presentations in a way that would draw people in, the way a great movie or literature would do. I found that I improved significantly as a performer, and that the reactions became far better when I wrapped my my magic inside interesting and entertaining stories, and also made my magic more interactive, featuring and involving audience members. This alleviates the effect of them looking at what I do as trying to "fool" them, they see it less as a challenge and more as something they can relax with and get involved and immersed in - enjoying the story and the drama - like a good movie, rather than trying to analyze and figure it out and trying to bust me.
 
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Aug 15, 2017
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so when im performing to some audiences they ask me how the trick is done which is natural right? Well i was performing to this audience of around 4 people performing david blaines sandwich trick and he kept pestering me to tell him how it was done and wouldn't leave me alone at which i had to stop performing as he kept following me around asking me. I was wondering what you tell a spectator if they want to know how the trick is done... also i would like to know what you guys do when you have performed to an audience and they tell you to perform the same trick again, me personally i just move on to a different trick and show them that.
Okay...so that's a weird spectator and DEFINITELY among the rare ones who will pester you srsly to show the method to a trick.

Usually, spectators just ask RHETORICALLY 'how did you do that?' and they know you won't tell them. But if the situation gets awkward and demands a reply from me, I usually give just a small smile, or if the trick was supposed to be based on, say, body language reading, I tell them that is what I did actually, body language reading.

However in your case if the spectator is behind you to show the actual method (and I don't think that's going to happen too frequently, as I said, 'they' are rare) then you can actually afford to sit down and tell them a philosophical explanation. Like you can tell them why the secret is not that important, why they should pursue the finer aspects of magic themselves if they are interested in being magicians, why it really is a big no-no in magic to tell secrets, etc. But do this to them alone, not in front of others. And if you want, I would not do that, but if you want to you can show them the secret to a simple trick like rubber pencil or some optical illusion? Optional remedy tho.
And if they are too difficult to handle and absolutely pester you till you feel you are going to blow up like a big-time gas explosion
REPRIMAND THEM FRANKLY
again, alone.
Because honestly, if they want to irritate you so that maybe your rest of the performance is getting affected too (like in a restaurant or something, you go to another table but they follow you there too and hinder your performance) they deserve harshness.

If they don't care what I feel and the fact that I don't want to tell them anything, then fine, neither do I care about maintaining friendly relations with them a magician should always maintain with audience.
We are magicians, NOT saints.
 
Jul 26, 2016
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@ Lord Magic: "Because honestly, if they want to irritate you so that maybe your rest of the performance is getting affected too (like in a restaurant or something, you go to another table but they follow you there too and hinder your performance) they deserve harshness."

I guess I am lucky because in the 3 years that I have been regularly working at the restaurant/bar where I mainly perform, I have only encountered an overbearing spectator like that maybe twice (which is amazing in itself since many people are inebriated and that turns some people ugly and obnoxious). But the bartender (6 feet five inches tall and 280 pounds of solid muscle), with whom I became great friends, quickly disposed of my problem when I let him know...
 

RealityOne

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Nov 1, 2009
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@RealityOne: "Maybe... but I think there is something more to why they don't interrupt the movie to give you a theory of how it is done."

People know that a movie is not "real." They know that these are actors merely playing a part, and that in most cases, the story itself is completely made up. They know that the special effects are technologically created - computer generated or whatever. Yet, there is a suspension of disbelief. They are emotionally engaged - they get excited, angry, worried, relieved, they laugh, they tear up, they genuinely want the hero or heroine to "succeed," and just as genuinely want the villain(s) to fail, be destroyed or brought to justice. I believe it is because people are fascinated by stories, and with other people. The same is true with a good novel or short story; they can get lost in it knowing that it is completely fictitious. Again there is a suspension of disbelief, and it becomes real for them.

When I realized this years ago, I wanted to construct my presentations in a way that would draw people in, the way a great movie or literature would do. I found that I improved significantly as a performer, and that the reactions became far better when I wrapped my my magic inside interesting and entertaining stories, and also made my magic more interactive, featuring and involving audience members. This alleviates the effect of them looking at what I do as trying to "fool" them, they see it less as a challenge and more as something they can relax with and get involved and immersed in - enjoying the story and the drama - like a good movie, rather than trying to analyze and figure it out and trying to bust me.

I couldn't have said it better myself! I bolded the most important words.
 
Feb 1, 2017
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Actually yes. A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue. When you say:

Usually I include some kind of pseudo-explanation in the script that gives them the impression they already know. I'm creating a mystery, engaging their imagination with the possibilities of it, and then allowing them to feel satisfied that it's come full circle. This is effective story telling.

Then you're doing exactly what I just said; granted, I think @DisasterTheory and @RealityOne said it better:

When we know this [that spectators want to know the method] in advance, and we do, we prepare for it by deceiving them into thinking a different way or perceiving it a different way to minimize the inevitable.

It is that most magicians aren't that interesting to watch. When there is nothing more to the presentation than what you are doing, the most logical thought for the spectators is how you are doing it

The root of our craft is a puzzle. People are not stupid. They know what we do are tricks. Be it mystery or puzzle (whatever word you want to use that essentially mean the same thing), people want to figure it out. What we strive to do is create a presentation/character that is entertaining and distracts them from the method.
 
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RealityOne

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Nov 1, 2009
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I don't think it matters if you call it a mystery or a puzzle. I prefer to think of it as an illusion. That acknowledges that it is not real but emphasizes that the purpose is to enjoy what you see.

The root of our craft is a puzzle. People are not stupid. They know what we do are tricks. Be it mystery or puzzle (whatever word you want to use that essentially mean the same thing), people want to figure it out. What we strive to do is create a presentation/character that is entertaining and distracts them from the method.

I think the major difference is the starting point of our analysis. @ChristopherT and I start with the idea that the root of our craft is entertainment and that people only want to figure "it" out if we fail to provide them with something that is more entertaining than trying to figure it out.

If you start with "it's a puzzle" and conclude "people always want to figure it out" then you've lost the battle.

As magicians, it is difficult to watch magic without trying to figure it out. For us, the method is important. Read the add copy for any new effect - it fooled us: tricked the heck out of us, kills the audience; impossible to figure out, etc. It is easy to think that everyone else feels that way too. But I don't think that is true.

So my point is to ask "how do we entertain?" not "how do we mask the puzzle?"
 
Jul 26, 2016
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Another one I've seen in the ad copy: "This will fry them." This kind of marketing and the other examples Reality One gave above are unfortunate because they encourage magicians to think of their audiences as adversaries in a battle of wits, rather than people to be entertained, uplifted, intrigued or inspired. Personally, I use a lot of comedy, because i want them to laugh and have fun - to forget whatever cares and stresses they might be going through. Plus, it's hard for someone to be analytical or to feel defensive when they are laughing their *ss off...
 
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Feb 1, 2017
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I think the major difference is the starting point of our analysis.

If you start with "it's a puzzle" and conclude "people always want to figure it out" then you've lost the battle.

So my point is to ask "how do we entertain?" not "how do we mask the puzzle?"

I think we end up in the same place if done correctly. Start with puzzle as the root or start with entertainment, the destination is the same: Create an enjoyable experience for the audience.

If you start with entertainment as the root and fail, the audience looks for method.
If you start with it as a puzzle and try to hide it through entertainment and fail, the audience looks for method.

I think in the end we're all saying the same thing. So who cares. Lol.
 

Antonio Diavolo

Elite Member
Jan 2, 2016
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I'm going to write a long and rambly (not a word I know) reply that might go off track but hear me out.

Pete Holmes did a comedy bit about magicians and mentioned how there's no immediate reaction to magic like there is with comedy (laughter). I'd argue there is. Some magicians tend to say that if your performance is good enough, people won't wonder how it was done. I get what they're trying to say but I don't think this is entirely the case. In the modern day, very few people will actually think you've done magic. Their "knee-jerk" reaction (relating to the Pete Holmes statement) will be to ask "how did you do that?" regardless of whether they actually want to know or not. I've found that most people won't hound me further or even speculate about how the trick is done if I reply with something stupid and cliche like "Magic ;)". Usually they just go on about how impossible the trick was. If anything, they usually get more confused the more they think about it.

It's like they say in The Prestige, "Now you're looking for the secret. But you won't find it because of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be fooled."

If they're really hounding you about the solution, then as others have said, you're likely presenting the trick as more of a puzzle rather than a magic trick. They want to know how it's done because you may have posed the trick as a "How did I do it?" type thing.

Like I said, most people will ask how you did a trick regardless of whether they actually want to know or not. My cheesy lines I use for this are:
-"Magic"
-"Camera Tricks"
-"I honestly have no idea"
Or I'll occasionally make up some weird obviously BS overly complicated solution that I make up on the spot, like saying the invisible deck has tiny nanobots programmed to flip over the chosen card.

Of course, regardless of how you present it, there will always be a few people who will only want the secret. And for these people, I'm honest with them. I'll tell them that the solution isn't all that interesting and learning the solution without the intent of performing the trick themselves is just going to ruin the fun for themselves. Something along those lines. Usually shuts them up.


Idk if this made any sense or was even accurate. I'm not nearly as experienced as the others on this forum. Just wanted to throw in my two cents based on my experience doing magic for a bunch of high schoolers on a regular basis. The best advice I can give is to experiment with different techniques for presenting the trick. Change up your patter. Add a story. Something like that. And have fun;)
 
Oct 6, 2017
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This happens to me a lot, A lot of great tips up here in the forum but the simplest advice I can give you is
DO NOT perform in a place you know you are going to stay in it for more that a few hours, if you know you are leaving, this guy can't follow you anymore.

If I am ever out with friends or people are over and someone wants to see a trick and I think there might be someone who is going to pester me to tell them how a trick is done, I usually wait until the end of the night and I know I will be leaving shortly.
Just let everyone know I will show them something a little later in the evening.
 
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