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nathanallen
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If you don't like to think, just click "Back" on your browser. If, however, you are thoughtful, do real-world shows, and maybe have read a book or three by Dariel Fitzkee, keep reading.

The old Razor Blades on the thread trick has been on my mind. A lot.

I've been doing this in every show for roughly a year. I am not looking for secrets, or books, or the latest pile of apparatus that oh-so-sneakily-and-naturally will do a switch for me. Today, I did a search and started reading. And reading. And reading. And, although I found plenty of recommendations for method, I don't recall seeing anything pertaining to (what I feel is) the big questions of this type of routine:

1. Do audiences walk away thinking this trick was "Magically Amazing", or more of a sideshow practiced skill? Is it magic to them?

2. What reason could there be for putting razor blades in the mouth and tying them onto thread (or dental floss, which is what I use). It's a stretch, but I can logically understand needles and thread. But razor blades? Why why why?

I'm just looking for an honest, objective, thoughtful discussion. Even though I get great response with the trick, I can never leave well enough alone and always have to keep tinkering with my act. Currently, I don't have any "explanation" for it, I just introduce the blades to the audience (yes, I've named them), and go for it. But it just feels too MTV-Angel-Shallow-Thoughtless. Any thoughts?

Even though this particular trick has been keeping me awake at nights, the same idea could be applied to other effects. Like a stage/parlor escape. I'm not talking burning ropes or a water tank, just more of the Siberian chain / thumbtie / smaller effect. You know, with no real consequences for escaping. And no real reason for being restrained in the first place, just simply to get back out again. Do audiences think escapes are magic? Or just a lot of wiggling and a lockpick?

As you can see, I am having some serious internal struggles (mostly because I had some mexican food earlier today).

Please help.
Nathan Allen, The Maniac of Magic
www.maniacofmagic.com

To buy a prop is nothing.
To write a good routine is something.
To really entertain an audience is everything.
Mr Amazeo
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My personal feeling about the impression that you've left the audience with after something like the razor blade trick is, just that - it's just a trick. I think, that they think, that you must have switched them somehow because there's no real way for you to tie a knot in a piece of thread with your tounge. I honestly think they would be just as impressed if you tied a knot in a cherry stem with your tounge. Actually, I can think of a few times when I was VERY impressed by the cherry stem knot thing, but that's another story.

If you want to make it a comedy bit, put the blades in your mouth and then spit out a bunch of blood. Use the tread to make your own stitches. That makes more sense to me.

Overall I agree with you. Tricks like that don't seem to make a lot of sense.

As far as escapes go, by now most audiences will expect that you can get out of whatever is holding you. In my opinion, the 'show' is what's happening while you're getting out. It's not the 'I got out of that,' that makes for the entertainment, it's what happens along the way. I've seen everything from a thumb tie to car crusher escape be entertaining, but never did I think that they weren't going to get out.
Sealegs
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Nathan, motivation for doing anything magical when on a stage I think can be very much take it or leave it.

Giving a context to a trick can be very useful as a tool to add some theatre to the piece.(Robert Harbin's torn and restored paper where the guy with the paper is 'in a train carriage' that is getting more and more crowded so he tears up the paper to make it smaller and easier to read in the increasingly cramped conitions) david Copperfields 'story pieces' in his earlier specials.

But such examples are like little plays and if ones working environment or ones style of performing doesn't lend itself to such a tactic it can easily look contrived, forced or just plain ridiculous.

Generally the things that magicians do during their shows are a bit strange. Often we do them just 'because we can' or maybe as a demonstration or something such as a supernatural power, or possibly just to show off and be a smart Alec.

Take the example you gave, getting out of a restraint just to show you can. Well for some performers that will be enough to work with to get as good a response as they can... enough for them to be happy with what they are doing and enough for their audiences who (lets hope) loved rooting for them to escape, and marveled at how they could get out when everything looked so secure. Others might not find this enough to work with and require something more within a routine to get as good a reaction as they can.

Regarding the razor blades you asked:
" Do audiences walk away thinking this trick was "Magically Amazing", or more of a sideshow practiced skill? Is it magic to them?"
Well that's going to depend on how its being pitched and who's pitching it. And of course there are loads of ways of doing just this with loads of different satifactory conclusions.....just as there are loads of ways of doing it and having unsatisfactory conclusions.

I think the question you pose is a good one to ask oneself... generally I would think that for a working pro these questions get sorted out, even when they are not directly asked or even thought about. The process of...."Is this routine working for me?" "Can I get more out of it?" "In what other ways can I do it?"... happens more or less automatically as one works through a trick or hones it into place in ones act. It has to for a pro or your act suffers... and you eat by virtue of your act.

As this is the comedy section of the Café I thought I'd add that for myself the motivation is; does this get a laugh? and is it as funny a laugh as I can make it? The question of specific motivation and context don't matter quite so much to me if I'm enjoying what I'm doing and doing my job of making a theatre full of people laugh. But then as I said hopefully the question will have been addressed indirectly as the various routines have taken shape wihin the act over the years.

Neal
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
nathanallen
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Quote:
Mr Amazeo wrote:
If you want to make it a comedy bit, put the blades in your mouth and then spit out a bunch of blood.


I used to use blood, when I was first playing with my routine. I'd swallow 10, and only bring back 9 threaded onto the floss. Then blood would start trickling from my mouth. Leave room hurridly. End of show. Very Penn & Teller -esque. I stopped using blood when I saw Amazing Johnathan's razor blade routine. My social circles include more comics than magicians and, even though our razor routines are completely different from a magician's point of view, the overall magic effect is identical in the mind of a layman or a stand-up comic. So, as far as my comic friends were concerned, I'm already borderline hack for doing the same trick. So even though I had never seen A.J.'s razor/blood bit when I was writing my routine, A.J. is the one with nationwide exposure. People were just going to assume I ripped off the idea. I decided to play it safe and throw away my blood capsules.

Quote:
neal austin wrote:
...if ones working environment or ones style of performing doesn't lend itself to such a tactic it can easily look contrived, forced or just plain ridiculous...
The question of specific motivation and context don't matter quite so much to me if I'm enjoying what I'm doing and doing my job of making a theatre full of people laugh...


Neal, I couldn't agree more. The important thing is the laughter. But then again, for a joke to be successful, the initial premise has to be believable before you can hit 'em with the punch. In a larger sense, I guess I'm just having a hard time finding that overall believable premise. I have the one-liners. And the tags. I just don't have the set-up.

I guess I'm just frustrated with my Razor Blade routine because it feels more like a string of pedestrian knock-knock jokes (to use a loose comedy analogy), as opposed to an insightful stand-up comedy chunk about how different people knock on doors differently (in keeping with the knock-knock theme).

Maybe I'm just over-analyzing. I've never had a complaint about the routine. The audience laughs. It fools the few magicians who have seen it. My comic friends like it. Maybe I should stop trying to fix it if it ain't broke.

Holy crap. I'm losing my mind.
Nathan Allen, The Maniac of Magic
www.maniacofmagic.com

To buy a prop is nothing.
To write a good routine is something.
To really entertain an audience is everything.
Sealegs
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Nathan, it's obviously really healthy to look at ones act to see where improvements can be made and even though you have this razor blade piece that's working for your audience it seems that you're not entirely happy with it yourself.

I guess you're right that there's no need to fix it if it aint broke but the fact that you aren't happy with it as it stands is itself reason enough to keep working at the piece. The chances are that when you get it to a point that both you and your audience are happy with it.. its likely the end result will be overall much better. (ie:stronger, funnier, more pertinent or whatever)

As for reasons for putting razor blades in your mouth I'm sure you can come up with loads. Off the top of my head..... to compensate for an iron/trace metal deficiency... to recreate the days of the traveling sideshows.... to demonstrate how you used to **** your parents off when they told you you hadn't chewed your food properly...to allow you to cut up your food after you'd eaten it... you have a rare disease that leaves you with a hairy stomach (on the inside) and this is how you shave...

Now whether you can use any of these premises or others you might come up with as a comedic framework for the routine....well that of course is another thing.

Cheers Neal
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
nathanallen
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Quote:
On 2007-11-02 16:22, neal austin wrote:
to demonstrate how you used to **** your parents off when they told you you hadn't chewed your food properly...


LMAO. Actually that sounds just like our relationship!
Nathan Allen, The Maniac of Magic
www.maniacofmagic.com

To buy a prop is nothing.
To write a good routine is something.
To really entertain an audience is everything.
nathanallen
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Des Moines, Iowa, USA
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I feel better now. Thanks for your support, folks.
Nathan Allen, The Maniac of Magic
www.maniacofmagic.com

To buy a prop is nothing.
To write a good routine is something.
To really entertain an audience is everything.
ibm_usa
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The thought of Chuck Norris coming to get you, there is a motivation!
"You may think that i only talk of things from the past, you know, history, well magic is history"

-Guy Jarrett

"Curiosity isn't a sin Harry, but it should be exorcised with great caution."

-Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
http://www.jordanallen-mentalist.webs.com/
ibm_usa
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The thought of Chuck Norris coming to get you, there is a motivation!
"You may think that i only talk of things from the past, you know, history, well magic is history"

-Guy Jarrett

"Curiosity isn't a sin Harry, but it should be exorcised with great caution."

-Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
http://www.jordanallen-mentalist.webs.com/
ERIC
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I never did the blades as a comedy bit. When I did them, it was part of a three effect routine wrapped around Harry Houdini. The first effect delt with spirits and ghosts. The second was the blades. I told folks how Houdini used to use needles and explained what he did with them and how he ended with the needles strung across threaded on the thread. Now I was going to attempt to go one step further and more dangerous, then do the blades. I then ended with a Straight Jacket Escape.

Now that I have two herniated discs, I no longer do the Jacket. Many people today have no idea what a razor blade is unless it is thin and in stacks of two to four, so I rarely do the blades any more. I do however still do my little effect with the help of Harry's spirit.
Rupert Bair
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Accidentally swallow the razor blades instead of food in other hand. Use thread to get them out. Ta-dah.
mcharisse
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I recall seeing the blades on the Ed Sullivan show wen I was 8 or 9. I certainly tookit back then to be the real deal,- ie a demonstration of an especially skilled tounge that can thread the blades - although I was already doing a little magic. My mom, watching with me, thought the same thing. Maybe I'm naive, but I suspect many people think you can thread them inside your mouth. But what's wrong with that? Being a magician isn't just performing mund-numbing feats, but demonstrations of unusual skills, to me anyway.
Marc
mcharisse
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That should be mind-numbing feats, or course
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