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Topic: Woody Aragon's Weighing the Cards routine anyone?
Message: Posted by: Sealegs (May 10, 2015 07:38AM)
I posted this in the 'Workers' section as that's where a lot of the card guys hang out but as this is a Stage/Cabaret effect and that section attracts predominantly close uppers I thought I might get some input from posting it here too. (I hope posting in two sections is ok with the Mods)

Does anyone do this Human Scales routine or know of anyone (other than Woody Aragon) that performs it? If so, I wondered what your, or their, experience was of it and any thoughts on it as being the basis for an entertaining routine?

When I saw Woody do it live at International Day a few years back it looked great and I loved it. It was entertaining, magically incredibly strong and it had a great theatrical look to it too. It made me want to get the book and learn and do the routine. I'm wondering though if I was seeing this through a magician's eyes.... and I'm really not sure anymore that the public gets it in the way magicians do.

Strangely I can feel it sucking the life out of my set when I've performed it. It seems that no matter how I break up and drive the pace of the counting it quickly ends up feeling laborious, tedious and incredibly dull. Worse than that though is that I cannot seem to make the audience care about the events and actions of the routine.

I've tried to capture the excitement and anticipation of getting the right number of cards that I felt from Woody's performance but I just can't make it resonate at all.

All magic can have a 'so what' factor, but I'm seriously beginning to think that maybe the plot of this routine is predisposed towards it. I'm wondering too if despite making it as impossible as possible it still looks like a stunt to an audience? I've even tried writing and performing an alternative presentation to incorporate this stunt vs trick as a theme to try and exploit this (perhaps) weakness. But still to no avail.

I loved the routine when I saw it and of course I realise that the first place to look when a routine isn't panning out as you've seen, and expected it to play, is with the performer and not the effect. It might well be that this just isn't a fit for me but... I find it odd that the only other person I know that has tried this routine has had the exact same issues with it as me.

Maybe it just isn't a fit for either of us... or maybe it's not the effect I feel it is?

Any comments, suggestions, help, ideas, insults?
Message: Posted by: bojanbarisic (May 10, 2015 08:43AM)
This is my all time favorite version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6k-JVxf-tXE
I uploaded it to You Tube when Woody was with Paul Daniels on EMC Magic Conference and showed it to Woody. Not sure if he discussed it with Paul but he told me that he has some unpublished method to perform it after riffle shuffle.

Best regards,
Message: Posted by: bojanbarisic (May 10, 2015 09:09AM)
Here is a live performance by Woody https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTxY9QUGXVE
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (May 10, 2015 09:55AM)
Sometimes tricks just don't work they way one thinks and sees them as working. An example: I like Mike Caveney's Linking Coat Hangers, and I think the routine should be hilarious, as every one uses coat hangers and have had that tangled mess in their closets one time or another, reach in to get one hanger and you get 3 or 4 all hooked together. Well, I performed the routine numerous times and it fell dead, the whole routine, not one laugh or sound coming from the audiences. Such is performance life. Of course you can keep going until you hit the right words, actions and mannerisms, but is it worth it to you personally. Only you can answer that question.

Who knows what it is, it may be his accent and speaking English instead of his native language. I know here in America, English performers all kill at magic conventions. People seem to be drawn to people who speak other languages. So is it Woody himself that makes the trick, or is it just his personality. He is a shorter guy, and not intimidating at all in his approach to spectators. He is someone you would not mind helping, if he asked a question. I watched a YouTube video and made all these assumptions about him.

I guess you could watch the video of his performance on the DVD set and study him more closely. Is there something he says, does, or manner that sells his performance of your style of performance. If you see something, is it something you can try, or is it just not you. Are you altering the routine or handling or words that changes the outcome of how the audience perceives you and the trick coming together.

I don't know the trick you are referring to, but is the trick a strong trick and can stand on it own with little patter or instruction. If not, then it is a performance piece, and not just a trick with cards. From the title, I would imagine the trick is something to do with the weight of cards revealing a selection or quantity of cards.

Hope this will give you some things to think about, analyze and try, and hopefully you will find a solution.

Now, I have seen the presentation that Bojan provided, and can say it is not the trick, it is incidental to the routine. Notice the laughter was more for what Woody was saying then what he was doing. Also notice his applause cue with is arms. I have not idea what he was saying, but that is more of the secret behind the routine then the playing cards.

I would compare this to Fred Kaps Currency trick of Edward Victor's Eleven Card Trick. It was not until Stephen Bargatze performed it in his style and manner did everyone want the Kaps booklet. And to show how when one person sells it, not many if any even do the trick today. Why, because they are not Stephen Bargatze. The demand was so great, there was a 2nd printing, and someone said there was a third printing of the booklet to meet demand. Bargatze only let a very few watch his video of the trick, that was in a protected website. Somehow, a few was tipped and posted on the Café for the Kaps handling.

So this trick is like Currency, it has little to do with the trick, and more to do with presentation, showmanship, and finally selling the ending.
Message: Posted by: Sealegs (May 10, 2015 11:49AM)
Boran,, that must be a really old clip of Paul. not just from the look of it but because we stopped using £1 notes in the Uk in 1984. I didn't initially recall Paul doing this routine... but seeing it jogged my memory of him doing it all those years ago on TV.

He presented it in the Bunko Booth slot. This was a great vehicle for some of the stuff that had a feel of a stunt or con that would otherwise be hard to sell. I actually think it's interesting that this routine which is similar to the plot of Woody's routine, is in this Bunko Booth slot and not being presented as a stand alone centre studio spot. Maybe that is an indication of the difficulty of getting this kind of plot to otherwise play?

Strangely, in trying to make the effect work better for me I tried an alternative presentation where my scripting suggested that at first it was maybe just a stunt, something improbably difficult (like walking a tightrope) but not impossible... then I trashed this idea by doing it in an obviously not possible way... and in a bid to make it involving I went on to further suggested several false possible methods for how it could have been done (one of which is the method Paul Daniels is actually using!) and then finally I did the last phase to show that no methodology could account for what the audience was seeing happen.

This twist in presentation unfortunately didn't really play any better for me... but it's interesting that the false, but possible method I proffered in order to dismiss it in the final phase was in fact the one Paul was actually using!!!

The clip of Woody performing the routine is great. I've seen it before, many times. This clip and his live performance is what made me want to get the book, learn the routine and apply my own performance to it. The series of effects are magically very strong. As Bill points out, the performer, as with all effects is the thing that makes the routine what it is... but what is being worked with, the foundation on which the performer shows themselves, also plays a function.

This routine has everything for a performer to put themselves into... very strong magic... audience involvement,... a building routine... a theatrical looking big ending....AND YET... I don't know anyone else who features this routine in their set. I only know of one other performer who has tried it and we have both experienced the same presentational difficulties with it.

I don't usually have that kind of problem in hooking into a routine I've identified as being a potentially good vehicle for me but these two factors, ( that virtually no one seems to be using it and that the one person who has, struggled with the same aspects of it that I have,) make me think that there's something unusual about this routine that either requires a subtlety of presentation that is hard to identify or that it is a better trick for magicians than it is the general public.

I hope that doesn't sound like I'm dismissing any challenge of, "you're just not performing it well", as I take that as a given. I'm obviously not performing it well. But other than, "It works great when Woody does it", I wonder if there's anything else to be said about it that might be insightful, thought provoking , interesting or whatever?

I think Bill's point is well made, that some tricks just don't work for some people. Maybe some tricks only work for the person who devised the routine? Caveney's linking coat hanger might be a very good example of that. I've not seen Mike do it but take it as given that it's excellent. I know many people who have tried the Linking Coathangers and no one has got the sort of response with it you might expect or hope to get from it.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (May 10, 2015 03:14PM)
From my experience, the best way to find the mystery solution is to do it exactly like the originator, Woody. I have done this with many of the routines Ken Brooke would write. I said, what does that mean, and why say that. When I 1st purchased Terry Seabrooke's Burned Bill in Envelope in Wallet, it was exactly like that. I had all the lines down, and did not know what was meant by many of them. I did not even know why certain moves were performed when they were instructed. But I went out and did them as the instructions and his book instructed. While performing, I would say a line at the proper time, and the audience would laugh out loud. I actually wondered why. Then it dawned on me, what it meant. Why he said it and why certain things were done the way they were.

I also had a revelation moment of the same learning experience with the Ken Brooke Malini Egg Bag routine. Why all the pauses and holding the egg in the air. Believe it or not, I did not even get the stroking of the hand thing, until I did it and the audience broke up. Then I got all of it. Put more personality into the gags and showmanship in the displays and production of the egg. It is not a feature routine, built with an intro trick. When the egg reappears they laugh out loud, because they are seeing the egg reappear after I destroyed it, and it is a continuing moment with an egg, they thought the would never see again. So the Egg Bag starts on a high note.

I think to many magicians buys a trick, reads the instructions or watches a DVD and then start judging the material before even learning the routine or going through the actions. Thinking and doing is two totally different things. One is a feeling and the other is a certainty in learning why.

After all, you are doing something that another person invented or built for himself. Until you can fully understand why certain things are said and done at certain times, how can changes be made that are better for your and your personality. I am all for "making a trick your own", but until one understands the creator reasons for doing what he does, how can the change be for the better or for a different person.

I worked for a while in a magic shop, and sold a lot of TT. Guys would come in and show me their handling, very stiff and you could tell they were hiding something in their hands. Then I would casually offer to show them mine. Showing both hands empty, then produce and vanish the little silk. I hope they understood being casual, talking while handling was the secret to good magic and engaging with your audience. And above all, don't feel guilty.
Message: Posted by: Dick Oslund (May 10, 2015 04:07PM)
I find myself nodding my head as I read Sealegs, and Bill's posts above.

I remember a whole summer working with Victor's "Eleven" card routine. and, I got NOWHERE! Then Steven Bargatze did it at Abbott's GTG, and he killed with it! I gave up!

I atudied Ken Brooke's Egg Bag MS when it came out. I knew that Ken had put "everything he had" into it. But, I use a Sterling/Mardo bag, so I had to adapt! It was well worth it! I had been using the egg bag since 1952 +/-, I had a good routine--and Ken's thinking made it BETTER! ((In the case of the egg bag, it was the "little things" that made the difference.)

The TT and the silk...Bobo had shared it with me at the '75 SAM in Chicago. It went "in" that fall, and was the opener for about 5 years. I still do it, but now it's for walkarounds, etc. Of course, I had learned how to USE a TT in the late '40s! I remember doing it at Ring 27's meeting, and it PLAYED! Jon Racherbaumer called attention to the fact, that I didn't say, "Here, I have a little red silk!" (etc.)

I would recommend that you re read Sealeg's and Bill's notes AGAIN!
Message: Posted by: mtpascoe (May 12, 2015 02:18AM)
[quote]On May 10, 2015, Bill Hegbli wrote:
From my experience, the best way to find the mystery solution is to do it exactly like the originator, Woody. I have done this with many of the routines Ken Brooke would write. I said, what does that mean, and why say that.

I think to many magicians buys a trick, reads the instructions or watches a DVD and then start judging the material before even learning the routine or going through the actions. Thinking and doing is two totally different things. One is a feeling and the other is a certainty in learning why.

After all, you are doing something that another person invented or built for himself. Until you can fully understand why certain things are said and done at certain times, how can changes be made that are better for your and your personality. I am all for "making a trick your own", but until one understands the creator reasons for doing what he does, how can the change be for the better or for a different person.


Even though I write my own routines, I have been known to buy routines and perform them the way as it was instructed. Bill, I too did the same thing with Ken Brookes Egg Bag. I didn’t understand his moves either, but did the pauses even though it pained me.

At that time as a young performer, I worked too quick. Talked too fast and rushed my timing. My idol was Johnny Carson and Jack Benny. When I found out that Carson patterned his style after Benny, I realized how true that was. I studied both men’s delivery and style. I started to slow down because of it. And it worked for me in comedy.
Part of this started with the Egg Bag trick. Doing the moves the way Brookes instructed… every single pause, was an epiphany. When I performed it as is, I was very startled at the reaction. I could not believe it. This became part of my talking act. Each time it would get a great reaction.

After I got married, my wife has told me that she does not like any of the tricks, but loves the Egg Bag. All thanks to Ken Brookes.

My suggestion is to study the book or DVD that you learned the trick from. Does it contain tips in it that can improve your presentation? If not, let us know and maybe all of us can come up with something for you.

I have written my own script for a couple counting tricks including an extremely long version of the Six Bill Repeat. My wife was in the audience and I referred to her during the trick. After the show, so many people came up to her and comment on it. So, I have experience in writing, but never turn down an opportunity to buy and perform a well written routine.

As a PS, I saw someone do the Linking Rings using the Whit Haydn premise. The woman did a fine job in doing the trick, but she got too original with it and ruined the comedy. I asked Pop if I can do the trick exactly as written and he has given me permission. With the exception of a few things I changed, l do it as suggested in the both the book and VHS. Yes, Pop I bought both.

It always gets a great response. There is a reason for every move and I think the woman that did her “improvement” didn’t understand that and killed a good trick.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (May 12, 2015 01:18PM)
Vernon: "Magic is the only artform in which beginners are encouraged to paint over masterpieces."
Message: Posted by: mtpascoe (May 12, 2015 08:53PM)
Pop that is so true. I cringed when I see magicians performing classics and try to "improve" it. There is a reason it is a classic. Besides, other art forms like comedy do not do this. Some comics pay good money for a well written joke.
Message: Posted by: mtpascoe (May 12, 2015 09:00PM)
And Pop, the only thing I changed on the Ring routine was adding my four ring at the end. So I do it word for word, until where you dismiss the spectator. I keep her up and do my routine I use to do with music.

Your routine is too strong to change any futher.
Message: Posted by: Sealegs (May 15, 2015 11:05AM)
It seems this thread has morphed into a discussion about doing a routine as the originator created it or not.

That point is really moot in this thread as I have tried both presenting the masterpiece as is (which in my hands doesn't work for me. An obvious failing of mine not the routine) and when that didn't work I tried rewriting the presentation to make it a better fit for my performing style. Having written for other performers, including award wining shows and TV among other things, I don't consider myself a beginner. It feels odd to me that I can't make this great routine work for me in one way or another.

Should I read anything into no one responding that they perform this routine? Or that despite the deserved recognition this routine has had no one seems to have taken it up?

I believe that this might be one of those things that suits the creator but that doesn't easily lend itself to being adopted by others. In this regard it makes Woody Arragon's performance of this incredible routine deserve even more credit and accolades than it has already garnered.

Either that or I simply have a performing blind spot with this routine for some reason... maybe someone else will be able to suggest why no one else appears to have adopted this terrific routine.
Message: Posted by: Tony Iacoviello (May 15, 2015 12:30PM)
I had not seen Woody's routine before, and think it is fantastic.

I have been doing a variation of Bob King's Weighing of Cards (I think that is the name) on and off, since I leaned it from him at a convention nearly 20 years ago (it is just weighing cards, and is different in methodology from the original Trost routine). I believe it is in one of the BC books, I will have to check when I get home.

Message: Posted by: mtpascoe (May 15, 2015 03:31PM)
Neal, let's all of see what we can do. I am sure we can work this out.
Message: Posted by: Sealegs (May 18, 2015 07:46AM)
Tony, it is indeed a great routine.... in Woody's hands at least. I'm interested to hear about your experience of using this plot. If you learnt it 20 years ago and it's still on your radar it must be a solid worker for you.

Did you had any presentational issues with it as a plot? Anything you had to work at within the routine when you first started using it?

Woody's routine when performed by him has the excitement of the anticipation of hitting the exact number of cards... it has a strong magical feel... it has a big theatrical looking ending... and it has a structure that builds. On top of that Woody makes it engaging and entertaining.
Message: Posted by: mtpascoe (May 18, 2015 07:47PM)
Sealeg, did the routine you learn come from Woody? I would like to go over it and study to see what we can do. If it worked for him, I'm sure we can study what showmanship techniques he used to build up the routine.
Message: Posted by: marcjh (Apr 8, 2020 01:48PM)
Was watching Juan Tamariz perform his version on his DVD this weekend and found this thread.
It is funny, I learned a one phase version of weighing the cards years ago, but never really performed it.
Watching Tamariz and Woody perform their versions as a Showpiece routines is very eye opening. What great presentations and performers!

I was wondering about the Paul Daniels routine. Does anyone know if this has been published? I thought it was brilliant as well.
As an American, I really did not get to see much Paul Daniels in his heyday. But with you tube and the internet, I have seen a number of his shows. There is some OUTSTANDING material. What a great showman he was.
Someone should delve into the shows and publish the complete Paul Daniels work! Would love to see that.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Apr 28, 2020 12:17AM)

The complete work of the Paul Daniels' television shows would be more then anyone could afford. His shows were for a very long time, years in fact.

I am sure BBC UK television network is the same as in the U.S., they hold all rights to their shows and will not release them. The videos you see on YouTube are most likely only home taped shows. The BBC has had many of their programs that appear on YouTube removed.

To do what you suggest, you would never get a profitable return on investment. Did you know that all the television shows since the beginning of television are stored in NY and LA archive buildings. That is how some shows can show old footage of previous movies and television shows. General public is not allowed to see any of it.

Example, did you purchase the Paul Daniels' DVD set "Bravura by Paul Daniels and Luis de Matos" that cost $150.00 ?

Hopefully, you will understand how difficult your idea would be. It is something you should keep in mind for when you win the LOTTERY, you can fly to the U.K. and make a deal. Then you can have all of them converted to digital video.

I read that the Johnny Carson shows are stored in an old Salt Mine, the salt helps preserves the tapes.

Nice idea, but will never happen.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Apr 28, 2020 12:24AM)
Is there a video of Woody Aragon speaking in English while performing the Weighing The Cards effect. I don't speak Spanish, so could not understand a word he was saying in the above video.
Message: Posted by: Nikodemus (Mar 7, 2021 12:09PM)
I can only speak a few words of Spanish.
At the beginning of the routine, he creates some comedy by (I think) weighing the whole deck (52), then 1 card, then 2 etc. Then 34 (which is unverified), then 51 (when he holds up the one remaining card the audience burst into laughter.
Having watched Paul Daniel's performance, it seems to me that a good performer can get good reactions from even the most mediocre of effects. Just like great stand up comics can create great material out of the most mundane premise.
At the end Paul D very cleverly cues the audience to applaud the spectator not himself - which I think is necessary because the effect is so weak.

For me (returning to the original post) there IS a fundamental problem with weighing the cards - it is simply not "magical". If it were genuine, it would be an unusual skill - but why should the audience care? It certainly doesn't fit Simon Aronson's classic idea that the audience should "know it is impossible" rather than just not know how it is done.