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MagicalArtist
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For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to see the performance of a table hopping magician. It was at an ice-cream social given in a local hospital's courtyard. The magician was perfectly competent. He did classics of magic such as the vanishing and reappearing handkerchief and the invisible deck. In observing the reactions of the spectators, I saw that it was kind of a "take it or leave it" type of thing. I didn't hear anyone begging him to come to their table or to stay longer, nor did I hear "oohs" and "ahs" of appreciation, startled laughter or other audible expressions of enjoyment. They were polite and smiled, but that's it. The magician ran out of tables early and retired. I frankly expected people to react more strongly to good magic.

I also had the opportunity to see a very competent magician at, of all places, a flea market (which is actually not all that rare or unusual a venue--I think it's recommended in Andrew Mayne's book 50 Ways to Make Money from Magic). This magician did very competent manipulative magic to music, but he was largely ignored by the people present, who were more interested in the bargains available (I came specifically to see the show).

I have done shows for mixed family audiences and the adults invariably saw it as an opportunity to socialize and leave it to the kids to actually watch the show.

My question is, are we as magicians kidding ourselves as to the entertainment value of magic? Its seems that laymen have a sort of "take-it-or-leave-it" attitude towards it.
drwilson
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The people at the ice cream social had not come there for magic; they were there for ice cream and conversation. The people at the flea market were poking around for cheap stuff, and might have been afraid that if they watched the magician they would have to give him a quarter. Magicians that sell themselves as baby sitters are employed as baby sitters.

A good busker spends a great deal of energy drawing a crowd, holding the crowd, and interacting with them. A great busker might be able to do a nice visual manipulative act once the crowd was there, but without first actively creating the crowd, there is no one to perform for.

I wouldn't judge the appeal of magic by the examples that you cite. I have encoutered many people who thought that magic was just for kids. I think that I have changed a lot of their minds. Of course, much of my material isn't "magic," but I do quite a bit of magic, and people call me a magician because they don't have a better word at hand.

Well, you asked for opinions, that's mine. No charge.

Yours,

Paul
RandyStewart
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Quote:
On 2005-10-30 19:51, MagicalArtist wrote:
For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to see the performance of a table hopping magician

Despite this being the first time, you assumed a lot of things regarding performers and the art of magic in general.

What sort of reaction would you have prefered from the audience? There's been several discussions here regarding audience reactions ranging from complete stunned silence to hysterical screams and threats to douse performer in holy water. Hehehe.
MagicalArtist
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Yeah , but out of all the performances a magician may give, he is more likely to remember the best reactions of the spectators and forget the more blase responses. Also one would expect magicians, human nature being what it is, to tell exaggerated stories of the audience reactions they've gotten.

The anecdote I related was an unbiased account, because I don't even know the performer in question. I also alluded to the types of reactions I expected to see (perhaps because of the reactions I've heard magicians claim that they get).
Frank Simpson
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I think that it is really impossible to attribute these particular audience's reactions to a generalization of magic's appeal.

Years ago I was table hopping at a hoity-toity kind of place and I remember my first table of the night. I gave my introductory invitation to enjoy some magic and the man at the head of the table asked if he could change his wine order (thinking I was the wine steward). I again told them who I was and why I was there, and he readily dismissed me. I began to dispair of the evening going well at all, but as the evening progressed I had numerous tables who LOVED what I did, and one table gave me a HUGE tip! Table audiences can be more challenging because of their small sizes, and since everyone at the table usually knows everyone else, they want the entertainment on their terms. With a larger audience there is more of a collective experience, and manners usually (mind you I say usually) are used.

I agree with drwilson that attracting the crowd is vitally important. Years ago I worked with a juggling troup and I would stand at the center juggling torches and giving the ballyhoo while 2 or 3 others would create a perimeter by unicyling the circular area we wanted to use as our "stage". It worked like a charm and we could then go into our regular program, which when well-recieved by the audience resulted in more substantial donations in the hat at the end of the show!
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2005-10-30 19:51, MagicalArtist wrote:...My question is, are we as magicians kidding ourselves as to the entertainment value of magic? Its seems that laymen have a sort of "take-it-or-leave-it" attitude towards it.


Probably like sushi or truffles or caviar... magic is an acquired taste and not something one takes as a staple of one's diet. Geoff Latta made a comment about cooking with pepper. Magic is a spice in life and one that most people associate with less than positive attributes.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Patrick Differ
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Like jalapenos. Ya either love them... or they make you run!

Gotta wonder why most people seem to associate magic with less than positive attributes, 'though... Too many jalapenos?

Blame the chef.
Will you walk into my parlour? said the Spider to the Fly,
Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to show when you are there.

Oh no, no, said the little Fly, to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair
-can ne'er come down again.
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2005-10-30 21:32, Patrick Differ wrote:...Gotta wonder why most people seem to associate magic with less than positive attributes, 'though... Too many jalapenos?...


Too many re-heated happy meals and deserts laced with saccharine and sequins IMHO.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Neale - Bacon
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Is the entertainment value of magic overrated? No
Is the entertainment value of some magicians overrated? YES!
Neale Bacon

Ventriloquist and Magician

Burnaby BC
JoeJoe
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Perhaps those performers you saw were not entertaining?



Let me tell you a story ... when I was younger, I hitchhiked coast-to-coast. One method of travel is rainroad box cars ... now when you jump onto a moving train, you have no idea where you are going or how long it will take to get there. The worse case scenario is the night watchman locks the boxcar while your sleeping, in which case your stuck on that train.

So one day I was on a train for a very long time ... bored out of my brain like you wouldn't believe. Eventually I pulled out a deck of cards and started doing some things to basically just entertain myself. That was the first time in my life I ever did any REAL magic.

You can practice the pass till your blue in the face, it won't make you entertaining. You would be better off sitting around doing absolutly nothing for hours until you are bored ... because that is what entertainment is. If you ever do that, then you will know what "entertainment" is all about. It's not about flashing lights or larger than life music ... its not even about a cheering crowd of happy faces. It is about taking the boring, and turning it into the extrordinary.

JoeJoe
Amazing JoeJoe on YouTube[url=https://www.youtube.com/user/AmazingJoeJoe]
Michael Baker
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They may have been competent, they may have been entertaining in some venues, but they obviously lacked the charismatic qualities that allowed them to connect with the audience. When the right connection is made, magic can create a positive memory that some people will carry the rest of their lives. It can have a much less positive effect, or in fact, any level of connectivity in between. Sometimes all the cards fall into place. It's like remembering a song based upon what you connect it with. Did you hear it when you fell in love, or did you hear it when a close friend died?

Things are linked to other things, whether we like it, or not. The magician is merely the catalyst between the spectator and the experience of magic.

The entertainment value of magic is not overrated. The entertainment value of some performances of magic most definitely is.

~michael
~michael baker
The Magic Company
George Ledo
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Quote:
On 2005-10-30 19:51, MagicalArtist wrote:
I have done shows for mixed family audiences and the adults invariably saw it as an opportunity to socialize and leave it to the kids to actually watch the show.

Nothing unusual there, and it's not limited to magic. Go to a theme park sometime and watch the guests who bring kids. I have. Repeatedly, over and over, the adults will totally ignore the experience and focus on chitchatting or buying souvenirs while the kids enjoy the attractions. It doesn't happen all the time, but it's very noticeable.

Does that mean theme parks are not entertaining? No. It just means those particular adults were there more for their kids than for themselves.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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MagicalArtist
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I guess it’s like when David Blaine’s TV specials first appeared. Magicians were quick to point out that reactions like he got are actually rare. First of all, the presence of TV cameras had a lot to do with it and secondly, the careful selection of the very best spectator reactions (and this is no dig at Blaine, you can't blame him for choosing the best responses). The point is that spectators don't normally act like that.

I think one reason for Blaine’s popularity among magicians is that he embodied the type of reactions we all would like to get—no “How did you do that?” “I know how that works” or even worse, bored indifference—just complete, unbridled amazement. The responses in Blaine’s specials are certainly something we can shoot for, but they are exactly that...goals, ideals, aspirations, not something you can expect every time or even very often.

One thing that we magicians tend to forget (but should remember) is that the people who love magic the MOST are magicians themselves. Most people can make it through a whole year--or even their whole lives--without ONCE ever seeing a magician, and not feel that they've missed out on anything important.

The funniest thing I ever saw in my life was when the wife of the magician sitting next to me at an S.A.M convention fell asleep at every one of the three nights of the grand evening stage show! That says a lot about how many people view magic--even good magic. Smile
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2005-10-31 21:28, MagicalArtist wrote:... The responses in Blaine’s specials are certainly something we can shoot for, but they are exactly that...goals, ideals, aspirations, not something you can expect every time or even very often.


Maybe people on the street where you live are very sedate and don't show surprise and delight as readily as in the places DB filmed. What I recall from doing a little magic in NYC is that people tend to enjoy the few seconds or minutes of magic and respond openly when not put on the spot to act in any particular way.

They probably chose not to air the reactions where people ran, flinched, jumped, swore, spit up and other things real people do when you enroll and then surprise them. The strategy of appearing blank or indifferent to the magic can enhance the magic FOR the audience.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
tommy
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The public underrate all art. Do not magicians underrate other arts?
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Big Daddy Cool
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Tonight I was horrified to see a performance of an "illusionist" at a local Fall Festival at a very large church. He was the most dreadful performer I've ever seen. I couldn't believe how bad he was, given that his name is bandied about town frequently.
Wanna know why audiences react so luke warmly? Because so few performers are outstanding. Unfortunately our community seems to celebrate inferiority.
We'll catch ya on the Back of the Cereal Box!
John Pyka
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George Ledo
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Quote:
On 2005-10-31 21:45, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
They probably chose not to air the reactions where people ran, flinched, jumped, swore, spit up and other things real people do when you enroll and then surprise them.

Sure, why would the producers show these? They also did not show the reactions of all the people who did not want to sign the model release, or whatever legal forms the "people on the street" are required to sign nowadays.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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Patrick Differ
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Reheated happy meals, artificial sweeteners...in one word...yeech. Makes me wonder what baked armadillo in orange sauce, fresh corn on the cob on the side, and then sorbet would taste like.
A diverse and tasteful menu may be in order here. Instead of the same old bleh.
Oddly enough, most want something new and fresh, yet few actually know what that is. Again, it's up to the creative chefs.
Oh, yeah. Expresso to finish. Can't forget what already works...
Will you walk into my parlour? said the Spider to the Fly,
Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to show when you are there.

Oh no, no, said the little Fly, to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair
-can ne'er come down again.
George Ledo
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Come on, Patrick... you don't serve fresh corn on the cob with armadillo in orange sauce. Yikes, I thought everybody knew that. You serve fava beans. Like Hannibal Lecter did.

As for the espresso and sorbet, yes, absolutely. Don't forget the sambucca.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
www.georgefledo.net

Latest column: "Sorry about the photos in my posts here"
Big Daddy Cool
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It's Sushi and jazz for me!

Actually, that essay I wrote a while back really applies here - Sushi, Jazz and Moulin Rogue. I'd post the link, but I'm on dial up and who knows how long it'd take for me to find it?
We'll catch ya on the Back of the Cereal Box!
John Pyka
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