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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Underestimating the spectator (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Pablo Leal
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I was talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago about a subject that has stayed on my mind until now. It was about how we judge a spectator's mind in our routines. Let me explain...

For example, for many years I've been structuring my routines with plots like "the living deck", or "the magical aces", or "the magical jokers", etc. Of course I always did it in a funny way, so it could be amusing. But after thinking for a while about it, none of those things are truly possible for laymen in general.

I know that that's what magic is all about, but I don't know... I think people won't ever believe in all of that, even if the effect is really good.

I think the only thing people will ever question is the magic that the magician himself could have, or the miracles he can perform. That's, for me, the doubt they will always have about a certain (good) magician.

If I take "the magical aces" patter, for example, I would say that as the aces are magical they can do impossible things on their own. The problem is that people are not giving the credit to the aces, but to you only. Therefore the whole ace plot is just a big gag for them, and perhaps it might subtract the magic a bit. I think for laymen is a lot more magical if the magician is the one capable of doing impossible things with the aces...

I'm still trying to make myself a good point of view about this, so if anyone can add something to this subject I would appreciate it.

Cheers
Pablo Leal
"The one that seeks for the truth takes the chance to find it". Isabel Allende

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Frank Tougas
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All but the very youngest understand that the magic is accomplished by the skill of the magician and not by any magic inherent in the cards themselves. To present the aces as being "magical" is just a choice in presentation. Your presentation should enhance the effect. You will have to decide if it does or does not.

For example: I do "Face to Face Aces". I tell them my cards have been trained to all face the same way when asked. When I spread the pack face down and the aces are face up I say "These guys never listened in class." It is a joke I feel adds to the effect. In fact it is a running gag repeated two more times in other card effects.

It fits my character of just barely being in command of the magic I present. A conscious choice in presentation.

Frank Tougas
Frank Tougas The Twin Cities Most "Kid Experienced" Children's Performer :"Creating Positive Memories...One Smile at a Time"
Jaz
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There are some things I think you can present as having magical properties and some not. Playing cards? In my opinion no. Tarot? Perhaps.
As Frank suggests, most people know that a lot of card tricks are done with skill.
Most of the cards tricks I do point to my humble skills.
However, when you do a color change, torn and restored or rising card trick their mind will take a turn. Likely they will start to think that there is magic coming from somewhere. It's your choice as to from where the magic emanates, the cards, you or elsewhere.

I'm currently working on a coin routine where it begins with coins being produced from a bagless purse frame. My patter, thus far, is about how the ancient magi carried these to allude thieves and that the coins inside are invisible until they are removed. I'm not exactly sure where to go from here but I do suggest that this purse frame has magical properties.
tommy
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They can only guess it's not real magic. How do they know it's not real? Every one knows there is no such thing as real magic! How do you know there isn't?

:)
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Michael Baker
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Some really good thoughts here from both Frank and Bern.

Johnny Carson said something once that was more than pure gold to me... it was the mother lode! He said of the audience, "If they'll buy the premise, they'll buy the bit."

The audience merely needs a point of relevance... a launching pad, if you will. In my own opinion, the more absurd the premise, the more tongue-in-cheek the follow-up presentation. Sometimes, it only needs to become a subtle way of indicating to the audience that you are aware that the premise is a farce... and there is nothing wrong with farcical theater... so long as both sides of the spotlight are aware of it and on the same page. Nothing will tear down their confidence in you and you performance as when they are "on to you", and you refuse to admit it. Head them off at the pass.

(Pablo, I'm realizing that I am using a few Americanized metaphors, so I apologize if some of this becomes lost in translation.)

There are times when, as both Frank and Jaz indicated, that the audience will give the credit to the magician, i.e. in many card tricks. I have found reason to embrace this in certain cases. I do a version of Triumph, employing ideas from John Bannon and others. Because of the enormous amount of shuffling, cutting, and other handling that occurs during the routine, I deliberately tell the audience that they are witnessing what is possible when you know how to cheat at cards. They aren't really seeing a demonstration of actual gambling/cheat techniques, nor are they seeing a premise recognizable as good for the gambler, such as dealing pat hands and such. But, they are seeing something that they think is occurring while I am working the cards... and they actually believe that to be the truth. Their imaginations (and a mild suggestion from me) tell them I could do what I wanted to in a Poker game.

On the other hand, I also do a version of Duvivier's "Printing", the premise of which is completely absurd. For this, I tell the audience that I am about to use trick cards. I tell them that magicians always try to hide this secret, but I don't mind telling them, because MY audience's are smart enough that they will figure this out by themselves anyway.

By the end of the trick, they are convinced that they are witnessing some highly secret principle at work, as indicated by the fact that things seem to get out of hand. The important thing is that I don't overplay the premise. I plant the seed and leave it to mature in their minds. For some reason, they shun the notion that I had anything to do with what ultimately happens. They ALWAYS try to rub cards together or print other things. I love it when I know they are completely lost, and I love it more when they get lost on a path that is nowhere near the truth.

Much of this comes back to what your character can, and cannot do. Under the right character portrait, it is perfectly ok to take the credit for some of the magic, while at other times, endowing certain objects with those "special properties". You be the judge as to what percentage goes to each side.
~michael baker
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BlackShadow
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I like Frank's idea of being barely in command of his magic. That is a good presentation which can make the effects seem more magical.

It's too easy to appear slick and aloof. Then it all seems like mere trickery. Even if the truth is known deep down, it's the perception that counts for the entertainment.
Michael Baker
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Quote:
On 2005-11-12 21:30, BlackShadow wrote:
Even if the truth is known deep down, it's the perception that counts for the entertainment.


... a willing suspension of disbelief.
~michael baker
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tommy
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The further you go down the road of look at me and see how magic I am, the further you stray from magic.
The further you go down the road of look at this this and see how magic it is the closer to magic you get.
The problem with going down the first road is you end up with mere demonstrations of skill. The problem with that is there is little skill in magic compared to other skills. Although it can made to appear so I suppose.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Jonathan Townsend
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If most in magic could see themselves...
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Michael Baker
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Quote:
On 2005-11-12 22:19, tommy wrote:
The further you go down the road of look at me and see how magic I am, the further you stray from magic.
The further you go down the road of look at this this and see how magic it is the closer to magic you get.
The problem with going down the first road is you end up with mere demonstrations of skill. The problem with that is there is little skill in magic compared to other skills. Although it can made to appear so I suppose.

Pointing out the problem does not offer up a solution. Please, take us down that second road. I, for one, am curious to learn what you have found.
~michael baker
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Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2005-11-12 23:32, Michael Baker wrote:...Please, take us down that second road.

The path that can be shown is not the path. What is actual is not theoretical. What is shown is no longer discoverable, merely assimilated.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Alex Linian
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There are three ways in which a magician can participate in a demostration of magic:

He can cause the magic to happen.
He can watch the magic on it's own.
He can fall victim to the magic and can't stop it.

Some performers choose to explain how the magic happens i.e. "the coin goes up this sleeve, and down the other sleeve", or "It is actually a secret technique called a pass (exposure of the classic pass goes here), but I can actually do it extremely fast and with only one hand (ACR). While many of them can present magic this way in a very entertaining manner, I find this type of presentation meaningless, pointless, and actually downright rude. An insult to the spectator.

I also believe that this type of presentation takes away the mystery of the effect. This is where I like David Blaine. Because he uses NO presentation (not saying you should), he let's people draw their own conclusion, according to what they believe in. If you use an explanation that they don't believe in, you will seem like a liar and magic will seem like a joke.

If you want to present magic as something that happens on it's own, Demostrate thar you are not creating it, and let them decide what is creating it.

If you are going to demonstrate that you are creating the magic, I believe that the best way is to present it as a metaphor to an idea. For example, you could borrow a ring place it in your palm and by waving your hand around it you could cause the molecules of the air to create a magnetic force that picks up the ring.

A lot of bull**** that not many will believe.

Derren Brown does the same effect (or used to) differently... He has the owner of the ring think about what the ring means to them, how it makes them feel...and the ring begins to float. He doesn't need to explain anything. The magic is a metaphor for what the person feels.

If you want people to believe that you are a victim of the magic, then you should must act surprised by what happens. It is not necessary to say anything. But you must seem and feel suprised. And you must not explain anything. [b]You don't even know what's happening! This type of effect requires more acting chops than any other.

Like I said, ridiculously unbelievable presentations might fit you. I just don't believe any explanation is needed. If you are going to explain how it happens, then what's the point? We are supposed to create wonder, not the feeling of stupidity. And when you take away the mystery, that's all that's left.
MrBiddle
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Well I ain't really good in theory and all that so I'll post an example....

David Copperfield had a lot of his patter suggesting that the Barclay House thingy on the stage was really "haunted"... covering the room so that the self-respecting spirits will manifest in the darkness, weird noises, etc.

But everyone knows that the Dreams and Nightmares show is theater and everyone knows that theater is all about contrivances and fabrication... But since he's established the premise of his act (that's why we call routines "acts" ), you can safely speak in a glib manner even words that suggest that you're doing the real thing or you're dealing with the paranormal, etc.

Although without blatantly lying, there are techniques of subliminally giving hints that what you're doing might be real magic... but we can leave that to Derren Brown.

Absolute Magic, I highly recommend it. Smile
I would, however contest that there is in REALITY very little pportunity to perform what could actually be termed "close-up" magic.
- Guy Hollingworth
Pablo Leal
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After reading your posts I've cleared my thoughts a bit, they are all tremendously valuable.

People (or most of them) are always trying to give a logical explanation to what they are watching. When that explanation beats their logic they start thinking about magic. Of course, that explanation should be "logical" as well. As Alex said, it's difficoult to think laymen are going to consider that the molecules in the air have magnetic properties or stuff like that.

Laymen will be sorprized if they watch something they thought was impossible and suddenly ACCURES in front of their faces. For that they have to believe that the thing involved actually took place in a certain moment(i.e. a travelling ring, the aces turning by themselfs in the deck, etc.)

I liked your reference about Duvivier's Printing effect Michael, cause' I think it's a good example of how to give magical properties to simple cards. I'm also used to whitness moments, after a card change for instance, where laymen just stay rubbing and looking at the card as they where expecting something to happend... they are clearly thinking about the posibility that the cards are "special" or even "magical".

I think as long as your magic convinces your adience it's ok.

Thanks for all your replies
Pablo

PS:
Quote:
On 2005-11-12 19:25, Michael Baker wrote:
(Pablo, I'm realizing that I am using a few Americanized metaphors, so I apologize if some of this becomes lost in translation.)

Jejeje... no problem Michael, I'm getting used to "interpretation".
"The one that seeks for the truth takes the chance to find it". Isabel Allende

www.magopabloleal.com
Michael Baker
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Nothing profound is being said here, except that the interpretive presentation of magic (or the interpretation of that presentation) relies on very few things:

1) characterization
2) venue
3) the contract between magician and audience

Everything else is merely an example of a magical occurance lying somewhere within the balance of these things.

The first rule of magic should be that there are no rules; all other rules should refer to the first rule. The beautiful irony in this is that assuming this to be true, magicians, in their never-ending quest to harness, and thereby define magic, are fooled more than all their spectators combined. Don't ya just love it?
~michael baker
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tommy
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As a card guy I used to think that demonstrating skill with was what it all about: Flourishes and gambling demos of false dealing etc and came up with a few effects that were really aimed at well I could handle cards and showed one effect to some guys and they said very smooth, great handling Blah Blah Blah which made me feel good but one guy said:

“Its a great idea and worthy of position amongst all of the other great 'faux skill' routines out there.

Just a thought...why would you do something hard in order to fact something else which is hard? What is the magic? Usually, these routines consist of an easy method to fake doing something hard! E.g. using a double lift to 'fake' a centre deal!”

Nicholas J. Johnson

It made me think, What is the magic? Where is the magic? In what I am doing and the answer I concluded was there was none and Nicholas was right in my opinion. I always ask myself now Where is the magic and if I have no answer I try to eliminate it because I ask myself why am doing it if there is magic in it.
I think now there is no stronger magic than the magic where the magician seem to do nothing. I think Erdnase helps with this when he said:

“The simplest sleight, if well rigged up with either plausible or nonsensical clap-trap, may be made to provide a most astonishing and elaborate card trick; whereas, if the sleight be exhibited alone, the effect is not at all commensurate with the time and labor spent in acquiring the skill. Conceal, as far as possible, the possession of digital ability, and leave the company still guessing how it is done.”

He is obviously speaking of exposure in that but note: “Conceal, as far as possible, the possession of digital ability,”

Also at the end of the The Exclusive Coterie he says:
:

It will have been seen by the foregoing that the presentation of a card trick may contain much more bosh than action, and indeed the performance of the one just described might be advantageously prolonged by a great deal more nonsense. In all card entertainments the more palaver the more the interest is excited, and the address and patter of the performer will count as much if not more than his skill in manipulation.

I think putting the two together Erdnase is saying the magician should show the company magic but they should not perceive that it is done by any skill and it can be done by using more patter than skill. It is more akin to telling the company a fantastic story that could not possibly be true but leaves them wondering that it might have be as opposed to them thinking you did that well.
I think Ricky Jay says something like use a small principle to create a little drama, which to me is the same as what Erdnase is saying.
The company know your not a real magician but you can tell them a story of magic that they can believe for time being. Much like one can believe the story in a play or a film when one is watching it. If you show them how skilled you are it’s more like a documentary in my view.

I have to say I personally am no professional magician and this is just the opinion of an hobbyist.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Jonathan Townsend
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If more in magic spent some time learning a bit about working in the theater VIA ACTUAL EXPERIENCE DOING, these discussions would be almost non-existent.

Folks, if you want to know about theater (of which magic is a subset) then go to the theater and learn.

Asking a magician without theater experience to discuss performing is like asking a movie watcher what it's like to be an astronaut. If you want to know about the view from space, ask the astronauts. If you want to know about how things work in stage, ask a director to help you learn.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
landmark
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Alex wrote:

<<There are three ways in which a magician can participate in a demostration of magic:

He can cause the magic to happen.
He can watch the magic on it's own.
He can fall victim to the magic and can't stop it. >>


Another possibility, hinted at by JT and those who mentioned Derren Brown:

Together, there's a possibility we might be able to make something special happen. There's something about us being in such perfect communication that allows magic to happen. No need to explain much. Like the fantasies of love we grew up with.


Jack Shalom
RandyStewart
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FRANK TOUGAS SAYS:

“It fits my character of just barely being in command of the magic I present. A conscious choice in presentation. “

When in fact he’s in complete control and always leading up to the surprise finish that leaves them scratching their heads. A good and matured approach that works for him.

JAZZ SAYS:

“It's your choice as to from where the magic emanates, the cards, you or elsewhere. “

A responsibility we should take on and take on carefully as there should be a perfect marriage between the performer’s character/skill level, the effects, and the audience.

Michael BAKER SAYS:

Quoting Carson (one of my heroes): "If they'll buy the premise, they'll buy the bit." With a varied diet, that will remain a favorite food for my thought.

“In my own opinion, the more absurd the premise, the more tongue-in-cheek the follow-up presentation.”

If this is true then there will always be hope for my assault on the senses manipulation act.

Baker says:

“Much of this comes back to what your character can, and cannot do. Under the right character portrait, it is perfectly ok to take the credit for some of the magic, while at other times, endowing certain objects with those "special properties". You be the judge as to what percentage goes to each side.”

I like and am running off with that one!


These are great points guys! Thanks for boiling that down to something we can make our own. Just priceless! Much appreciated.

I think if any of these elements are present in a magician’s performance, innacurate assumptions or underestimations will be coming from the audience and not the other way around.
Alex Linian
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Quote:

Absolute Magic, I highly recommend it. Smile



"It is flattering and refreshing to an audience to be treated with the presumption of intellingence by a performer...Magic is a performance, and a performance should have an honesty, a relevance and a resonance if it is to be offered to spectators without insulting them"

That's straight from the book. It is a must for performers of our art.
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