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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The little darlings » » We Live and we Learn - Lop Sided Cyclops (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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TommyJ
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I have something I NEED to share with everyone who has purchased my Lop Sided Cyclops or intends to buy one in the future. We all need to learn from our mistakes and I hope MY mistake will be a learning experience for anyone else. I just received a letter from a teacher at a school that I need to share. I'm not proud of it in fact, I'm hitting myself in the head and saying "Why did I not foresee this as a possibility!???" Please read her letter and then I will tell you how I responded.

Dear Mr. Tommy James,

Last week you put on a performance for our school. Most of the children
enjoyed the show greatly, you were funny and magical. However, I would
like to bring to your attention, a skit that I found very offensive. When
you did your flying eyeball trick, you mentioned a "monster" who had one
leg shorter than the other and walked around the stage limping. You had
no way of knowing this, but in my class, I have a student who was born
with a birth defect and has one leg shorter than the other. The minute
you said that, he looked at me and several students looked at him. I am
writing to you, to ask you to eliminate this skit from future
performances. You never know who will be in your audience, monsterizing a
physical defect can be very hurtful. Please consider this in the future.

Thank you,

Christine



I was horrified. I returned a response apologizing and stating I would NEVER intentionally hurt the feelings of another human, especially a child. I let her know that this is a marketed effect that is for sale to other magicians around the world. I let her know that I DO learn from my mistakes and I would not TAKE the effect out of the show, it just needs to be tweaked a bit, and I would leave out the line of the monster having "one leg shorter than the other." My letter was a lot longer, but in short, that was my response.

To people purchasing the effect, I will also change the instructions and eliminate that line which is totally irrelevant to the performance. When I came up with the effect, I wanted a funny name for the cyclops. When I thought of "Lop-Sided Cyclops" I needed a REASON as to WHY he would be lop-sided. And my miraculous brain came up with the short leg bit, not thinking there may be a handi capped child or person I may offend. Did I REALLY offend that child or do you think the teacher over -reacted?? Either way, if it constituted an e mail like I received he will STILL be the Lop-Sided Cyclops but leave out the unnecessary line of the leg which has nothing to do with the routine.

I HATE learning like this!!!!

Thanks for reading,
Tommy
"Keep the Kids Laughing!"
https://www.tommyjamesmagic.com/store
MichaelDouglas
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Richmond, Virginia
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Thanks for sharing Tommy. Your doing so helps to sensitize all of us to issues like this.

We live. We learn. We grow.
Kevinr
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Welcome to the new world of having to always be politically correct and never making anyone laugh due to the risk of offending 0.0001 percent.
danfreed
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Don't beat yourself up over one oversight(pardon the pun). I'd like to meet one person who hasn't ever done something offensive by accident. Ask my wife!
AndyLuka
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Tommy what were you thinking, how could you even think about performing such an offensive routine? You must be a rookie in the magic business, it seems you are trying to focus in on entertaining and having fun instead of being as dry and Politically correct as possible. So I decided to do you a favor and write a short list of other things you should not be doing.
You should take out the part about one eye, in case there is a kid with an eye patch. You should also take out the entire monster, because some kids may not be allowed to be exposed to anything scary. Also, if you do a sucker die box, take that out or any routine you have that may use dice. It promotes gambling, and gambling addiction is very common in young school kids. Why don’t we just axe any and all card tricks for that matter, rather be safe than sorry.

Cut and resorted rope? Take it out, you don’t want to have scissors with you, that could be seen as a weapon. Better stick to professors nightmare, but you probably shouldn’t do that either, because two ropes are shorter than the other. (brings up back to the leg issue)

What about the coloring book? Color changing silk?, Color changing plumes? DO not do these either, in case someone might be color blind.

What about sponge bunnies? Let’s not do that, because squeezing a foam bunny in your hand could promote animal abuse, and I don’t want Little Johnny grabbing Billy the classroom bunny and squeezing him super hard to make Billy a play mate named Brittany,

Anyway Tommy I really hope you take my advice, I want to see you succeed and still be politically correct. Remember funny stories, entertainment, and imaginary monsters may seem like a good idea, but someone will be offended.
Making Magic and Fantasy a reality in a world where our reality can sometimes be rather cruel



Http://www.lukamagic.com -That's Me



Http://www.bigguysmagic.com -The Best Magic Shop
harris
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Harris Deutsch
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Thanks for sharing from the real world.

Our words can be taken in many ways.

Reminded me of a time I was working at a comedy club. As someone who wears and likes suspenders, I commented on a gentleman's fashion sense by saying "nice braces"(a term sometimes used instead of suspenders). There was an icy silence as several people looked down at the braces on his legs.

Our intent sometimes leads to thoughts and emotions outside of our control.

I know many comedians pick the things that aren't quite "right" about themselves. Seems like it is "better" when we point out things about ourselves, than others.

When I make bald jokes, I could offend someone who recently lost their hair from radiation treatment. ..or they might be able to laugh along with me. It can be therapeutic.

Harris
still 2 old to know it all
Harris Deutsch aka dr laugh
drlaugh4u@gmail.com
music, magic and marvelous toys
http://magician.org/member/drlaugh4u
Billy Bo
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Tommy I was holding off as I didn't want to offend but I too am also disgusted with your routine! I have a cat that I re homed after it was hit my a car and lost an eye and walks with a limp. Well when I was practicing this routine he threw up his cat food due to being so incensed by your patter and lack of feelings towards your fellow man or cat. For shame Tommy.
jay leslie
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I forgive you.
AndyLuka
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On more of a serious note(kinda), there is not one effect you can do that someone somewhere will not be "offended" by. Growing up I was picked on a lot in grade school, I had a very bad stutter. Look at me now, I stand up and talk in front of crowds of people without an issue. I see nothing wrong with your routine. You did not single the kid out. You were not making fun of him. You were telling a story. If someone is offended by a story with an imaginary creature then I say let them be upset. There are worse things in the world to be upset about.

If you did something along these lines, I could see a complaint.

Chair Suspension- But point out a large kid and yell "No you’re too fat"

Guillotine- use the giant 7ft abbots guillotine on a 6 year old girl. She will get so scared she will pee her pants, pee pants make for great follow up jokes. If she doesn’t pee her pants, have a squirt bottle ready to drench her in water to make it look like she did, that way you can use the comedy lines after the routine.

20th century bra- on a 12 year old girl

Sponge ding dong- on a 12 year old boy

Pull a sponge bunny off a kids lip and use the line "you have a hair on your lip"- But you do this to someone with a cleft lip. (if you didn’t know Cleft lips are also called hair lips)

However Tommy you are not such a dolt that you would ever do any of these routines to or for kids, therefore keep doing what you have been doing, and I am sure you will be fine.
Making Magic and Fantasy a reality in a world where our reality can sometimes be rather cruel



Http://www.lukamagic.com -That's Me



Http://www.bigguysmagic.com -The Best Magic Shop
Rodney Palmer
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Tommy,

I understand the Dilema but I do not agree. We have got to stand up and not be so afraid of saying the wrong thing. In this you did not reference a CHILD, you referenced a MONSTER. People lets get real. We will offend people all of the time. I will offend several people starting on December 1, 2012 with my "CHRISTMAS SHOWS" and yes there are those that will be offended that I did not say Holiday Shows. Will I lose business over this or will Tommy lose business, I do not think so as most people will know better and that it is a Magic show for petes sake.

Rodney
"Creating Memories That Last A Lifetime"



In order to keep "MAGIC ALIVE" Please become a Mentor to a Young Person.
TommyJ
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Rodney I thought the SAME thing when I first read her e mail. I referenced a fictional monster. I wasn't sure how to approach a response to her e mail if I felt I had done nothing wrong. But I try to make everyone happy so I guess I did the right thing as I just received a return e mail from the teacher about my response. I have pasted her exact words below.

"Thank you! I appreciate that you have given more thought to my concerns. I am glad
that you are able to eliminate that one line without changing your show.
Thank you,
Christine"

So I guess it doesn't matter If I, myself, feel I didn't do anything wrong. I guess in her mind I did.

I just sit and wonder what went thru the kids minds. Did they look at the situation as a coincidence like " Hey, he has one leg shorter than the other too!" Did they look at it as "My God!!!!! He's making fun of a handi cap that THIS kid also has!!!! How dare him!!!"

Did the child referenced feel uncomfortable with what I said? Or did he also just ponder it as a coincidence too. Did the teacher over react?

Either way, as a professional entertainer I guess I did what I felt I needed to do.
"Keep the Kids Laughing!"
https://www.tommyjamesmagic.com/store
JamesinLA
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I believe Tommy's original feelings toward this were on the money. That is because Tommy was able to put himself in the mind of the child in question as well as the other children who also felt empathy for that child, as evidenced by their glancing at the kid in that moment.

I'm against being politically correct for its own sake as the next freedom of speech guy, but not when it impacts the formative and fragile ego of a child.

Jim
Oh, my friend we're older but no wiser, for in our hearts the dreams are still the same...
TomBoleware
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Quote:
On 2012-11-19 20:10, JamesinLA wrote:
I believe Tommy's original feelings toward this were on the money. That is because Tommy was able to put himself in the mind of the child in question as well as the other children who also felt empathy for that child, as evidenced by their glancing at the kid in that moment.

I'm against being politically correct for its own sake as the next freedom of speech guy, but not when it impacts the formative and fragile ego of a child.

Jim



I completely agree with Jim.

We have two children that limp at my preschool now. It's really not that uncommon nowadays to see children wearing braces. I can understand the teachers thought.

You did the right thing Tommy. You handled it well.


Tom
A habit is a habit until you realize you doing it, then it is a choice.


www.tomboleware.com
charliecheckers
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I performed the Lopsided Cyclops at all of my Halloween shows this past October and never mentioned the limp. Not because I wanted to be politically correct, but rather I just did not take Tommy's script word for word. Never the less, it drew a huge reaction every time I performed it. I agree with Tommy. Rather than defend the original script, rewritting it in a way that does not reduce the entertainment value elevates your professionalism. Way to go Tommy.
Paul Rathbun
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I was doing Airhead Rudy one time (in a bully show) and I said he was being picked on because he has orange hair. Now if you look at the graphic on the prop, he does indeed have a burnt orange color of hair. Anyway, after the show, a teacher comes up to me who has red hair and informs me that calling someone with red hair "orange" is offensive. I didn't argue (I apologized) but in hind sight I find it ridiculous. I didn't refer to the prop as having red hair, I said he had orange because that is the actual color he has. He is not a real person, he is a cut out representation of a little boy. She made the leap of applying it to a real person and also the leap of saying I was talking about people with red hair. Could I have argued these points to her? Sure, but it wouldn't have done any good. It probably would of have a negative consequence as someone who is outspoken enough to approach me moments after my show would probably have no issue taking it up with the person who hired me.

Anyway I say all that to say people are looking for things to complain and be offended about and that you did the right thing TommyJ.
Joseph_Then
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No matter how you change your script, or make it politically correct, someone will get offended for no apparent reasons. Remember that there are people who likes to feel offended over miniscule issues like "you never call my kid as a volunteer" or "why did you kill a balloon dog, my pet dog died yesterday".
-----



Joseph Then

Singapore Ventriloquist
Kevinr
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Please not I know a child who has only one eye sadly.

I would assume there are other children missing an eye.

SO

I guess you should not do this effect at all then in risk of offending him and the other 000.01 percent.
Rodney Palmer
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Tommy,

I spend a lot of time with children as my wife is an Elementary School Teacher (Third Grade). Kids do not even think like this anymore. There are children in my wife's school who have Artificial Legs, One Boy has just one leg and uses braces. These kids do not think twice about the other children. The comment went way over the children's head as they took what Tommy was saying to be a MONSTER not some child. The Teacher was over reacting in my opinion. I also show this post to my wife and she just laughed. she thought that it was a joke and she also stated that this was very un-Professional for a Teacher to send an email to the performer. It just showed that she was the sensitive one. My wife also questioned was it really a Teacher, a Teacher's Aid or Para-Pro?

Tommy, did the right thing a apologised to the teacher as this meant a lot to her. Most teachers would not even think twice about this. Tommy's Patter is fine and I myself will not change what he has written. We will always offend people with what we do.

I recently had a School Show where I perfomed the PB & J Routine. I asked the Main Secretary and Pricipal if the effect would be OK to perform as I know that the school has several Peanut Allergy Children. I explained that NO PB would be used. I was given the go ahead to perform it. The show went well but I did receive an email sent from a teacher who complained that I was un-sensitive to the schools needs and performed an effect that was offensive to the Peanut Allergy Children. I forwarded the email to the Principal. The next day I received an apology from the teacher who did not know that I had gotten permission to perform the effect.

All in all Tommy did the right thing. But I certainly will not take this out of MY SHOW nor will I personally CHANGE THE PATTER.

Rodney
"Creating Memories That Last A Lifetime"



In order to keep "MAGIC ALIVE" Please become a Mentor to a Young Person.
Paul Rathbun
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Quote:
On 2012-11-20 01:07, Rodney Palmer wrote:
Tommy,

I spend a lot of time with children as my wife is an Elementary School Teacher (Third Grade). Kids do not even think like this anymore. There are children in my wife's school who have Artificial Legs, One Boy has just one leg and uses braces. These kids do not think twice about the other children. The comment went way over the children's head as they took what Tommy was saying to be a MONSTER not some child. The Teacher was over reacting in my opinion. I also show this post to my wife and she just laughed. she thought that it was a joke and she also stated that this was very un-Professional for a Teacher to send an email to the performer. It just showed that she was the sensitive one. My wife also questioned was it really a Teacher, a Teacher's Aid or Para-Pro?

Tommy, did the right thing a apologised to the teacher as this meant a lot to her. Most teachers would not even think twice about this. Tommy's Patter is fine and I myself will not change what he has written. We will always offend people with what we do.

I recently had a School Show where I perfomed the PB & J Routine. I asked the Main Secretary and Pricipal if the effect would be OK to perform as I know that the school has several Peanut Allergy Children. I explained that NO PB would be used. I was given the go ahead to perform it. The show went well but I did receive an email sent from a teacher who complained that I was un-sensitive to the schools needs and performed an effect that was offensive to the Peanut Allergy Children. I forwarded the email to the Principal. The next day I received an apology from the teacher who did not know that I had gotten permission to perform the effect.

All in all Tommy did the right thing. But I certainly will not take this out of MY SHOW nor will I personally CHANGE THE PATTER.

Rodney


Both my wife and I are certified elementary teachers. I will say having worked in the classroom that it is easy to take on the hurts and concerns of your students. I have worked with several boys with Aspergers and one with Cerebral Palsy. I don't know why but empathy can become too strong of a thing particularly when working with children. You just get protective and I think often times you can become too much so. Could the child with the leg issue felt ashamed or embarrassed? Possibly. There is also the possibility that the teacher read into things. Obviously as entertainer/educators of children we do not intentionally hurt them. However, I think we can all grow as performers and adapt as necessary. TommyJ obviously meant no harm, but that is what was received at least for this teacher and possibly her student. Could TommyJ refuse to change his patter because he only "might" hurt someone else's feelings in the future? Sure, but I guess I think why take the chance? I doubt the patter of the monster with one leg shorter really add much to the piece. I guess I would do my best to not offend and move on.

The peanut butter complaint is just ridiculous. I do that trick in a lot of shows and think if people are thinking you are discriminating against those with allergies they need to get a life. My father-in-law is blind from Vietnam. He had heard about how businesses in some cities were being shut down because they didn't have bathrooms that were handicap accessible. He thought it was ridiculous. Basically his view point was others should suffer because of a small percent have a handicap? He thought it was absurd. Like saying others should walk around with their eyes closed because he can't see.

There is one joke I do that I do worry about offending people with. It is for the Vanishing Bandana and it is at the point when they say make a magical gesture. I do the cross prayer across my chest that is done by Catholics. I worry about it offending a devout Catholic as I could see how they think I am mocking their symbolic prayer. I have yet to get a complaint but do seriously consider taking it out just in case I might offend that small group of people that don't like it. It is a joke used by many who perform this routine, and it does get a big laugh. I wish I could come up with something else that would get just a big of a laugh. Maybe the Vulcan hand gesture would work. Probably not as it would fly right over the head of those under the age of 25.

I guess what I am trying to say in all of this rambling is that we all have to make personal choices and we are all taking a risk every time we perform. It is up to us if we take the feedback we get and apply it.
TommyJ
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[quote]On 2012-11-20 08:57, Paul Rathbun wrote:
Quote:
On 2012-11-20 01:07, Rodney Palmer wrote:


It is up to us if we take the feedback we get and apply it.


I think you hit the nail on the head Paul. (OOps! I hope I didn't just offend any nails out there!)
"Keep the Kids Laughing!"
https://www.tommyjamesmagic.com/store
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