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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » When you witness a truly bad performance... (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Scott F. Guinn
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"Great Scott!" aka "Palms of Putty" & "Poof Daddy G"
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Recently I have been struck by the polar opposite opinions of some pretty heavy hitters in magic regarding how to respond upon having seen a really bad magician performing for the public.

One highly esteemed icon says that the guy is working, and no other magician has any business criticizing another member of the brotherhood.

Another pillar of equal prestige suggests that one should invite said performer to coffee or lunch and make some suggestions as to how he can improve.

Yet another is somewhere in the middle; he believes we should introduce ourselves to these bad performers and make ourselves available for advice, but only actually give it if asked to do so.

The extremes tend to show themselves at magic club meetings. In my experience, clubs tend to be either karaoke-type sessions where everyone is applauded and given kudos regardless of how awful their contribution might have been, or places where a performance is cut to shreds and they are lambasted with "improvements" within seconds after the routine is completed.

I already know where I stand on the matter, and I may divulge that a bit later. But I would like to hear where you stand. I may be doing an article on this topic for my blog and/or one of the magazines for which I write, and I'd like to hear some differing opinions and the basis for those opinions--so in a very real sense, this is research for me.

So, what is your opinion?
"Love God, laugh more, spend more time with the ones you love, play with children, do good to those in need, and eat more ice cream. There is more to life than magic tricks." - Scott F. Guinn
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Al Angello
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When I see a really bad performance I first feel bad for the performer. I then want to leave the room before his performance is over, and I try not to be put into a position to give an opinion, or go home before I am asked. I will do just about anything to keep from saying to them "YOU STINK".
Al Angello The Comic Juggler/Magician
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"Footprints on your ceiling are almost gone"
Ken Northridge
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Quote:
On 2010-03-25 12:48, Scott F. Guinn wrote:

One highly esteemed icon says that the guy is working, and no other magician has any business criticizing another member of the brotherhood.


I tend to fall into this category. Unless I’m specifically asked for my opinion or critique I feel it is improper to do so. And being that the majority of entertainers have a big ego, I find few will invite such horror.
"Love is the real magic." -Doug Henning
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tommy
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In my neck of the woods it has long been a maxim of professionals, never criticize a fellow performer in public.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
BarryFernelius
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I wouldn't criticize a performer in public. If I have the opportunity to do so, I'll meet the performer in private and engage in conversation. You can learn quite a bit about a person by listening to him. If the performer seems to be a truly arrogant you-know-what, I'll wrap up the conversation and leave. (Why should I waste my time?)

If the performer seems to be a decent sort of person, I'll try to direct the conversation to a place where the performer will ask me to perform something. In that case, I try to perform a short effect that will show him who I am, impress him, and (hopefully!) fool him. If that leads to a positive relationship with mutual respect, at some later time I'll connect him with the people who can help him the most.

If I don't have some sort of positive relationship with this hypothetical performer, all of the criticism in the world (even if it's correct) won't help. It's just wasting my time and the performer's time.
"To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time."

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funsway
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old things in new ways - new things in old ways
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I would listen to what lay spectators have to say and share those -- offering my opinion only if asked. If everyone liked it but me I'd ask his advice. For me, another magician's opinion is not always that of the audience in general.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

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Donal Chayce
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Unless my opinion is a favorable one, I offer it to the performer only when asked.

But I would (and do) give my opinion about bad performances if the performer in question is the topic of a private conversation I'm having with others.

On a side note, I sometimes learn as much by watching bad performers as I do by watching great performers.
stoneunhinged
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As most people here who know me know, I don't perform. I don't perform because I am not ready. And my decision is not wrong.

Magic requires a level of expertise to be mastered before one performs. Otherwise it is no longer magic.

I can teach some young child to play three chords on a ukulele and put him or her on stage to perform "Kum ba yah", and a lot of people will be entertained and find it cute and take pictures. And it is music. Hey, it ain't Beethoven, but it is music.

But with magic the rules are different. It isn't magic if people aren't fooled, if they have no sense of wonder, if they aren't wondering where something went or how it appeared. Bad magic isn't "magic".

Right? I must think about this further, but I think I'm on to something. Bad music is bad music, but music still. Bad magic isn't magic at all.

Right?

So a really bad performance (and goodness, I've seen many) is a serious problem. It isn't magic. So should we approach the magician and say...what?

I have never approached a poor magical performer. I have approached bad musical performers and said something kind. They had the guts to get on stage. They entertained and pleased a few people. Nothing was lost. No one got hurt.

But magic? If it isn't "magic"...well, all magicians get hurt. The cost of failure is different. Miss a note and people still love singing along to "Tom Dooley" or whatever. Miss a sleight and you have shattered the illusion.

Darn! It depresses me greatly that I do not perform. But now y'all know why.
funsway
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old things in new ways - new things in old ways
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Quote:
Magic requires a level of expertise to be mastered before one performs. Otherwise it is no longer magic.

I agree and also do not perform much, and am disheartened at the local IBM club where most performers are experimenting rather than performing. The problem is that everyone focuses on "being entertaining" with little concern over mystery, awe, or dilemma. Bad magic can be entertaining, and as long as applause and tips are forthcoming some will continue to purchase "easy out of the box" effects and ignore the magic. Those who table hop and ask, "Wanna see a trick," give you just that, confuse bewilderment or shock with a sense of magic and bounce on to someone else.

At least in this situation it must be OK to say, "That was pretty neat -- but where was the magic?"
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

eBooks at https://www.lybrary.com/ken-muller-m-579928.html questions at ken@eversway.com
jazzy snazzy
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run off by a mob of Villagers wielding
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Quote:
On 2010-03-26 07:27, funsway wrote:
"That was peretty neat -- but where was the magic?"


Good one funsway. It depends on the attitude of the performer. If they are legitimately trying to learn and have respect for the art. They deserve encouragement and gentle guidance. On the other hand, the David Blaine wannabe's should be addressed more sternly. This is the group that is only trying to impress people or pick up girls, with no self awareness of how bad it really looks. They carry things in their pocket because they think it's cool. The magic shops sell a lot of coin benders to this crowd, so they won't be going away soon.

I've met magic afficionados who can blow me away with an effect. There was a hotel chef who was once a magician in Vegas. He turned to the dark side of gambling and eventually got out of it altogether. His card work was stunning.

Some magic club members approach magic as they would a crossword puzzle. Something to be solved. A purely technical approach that lacks the artistic discipline and confidence to make it work in actual performance. Their hearts are in the right place and they can't be faulted for that, but we risk being bored to death.
No harm done.

Watch them all with the perspective of a respectful audience member and applaud the effort.
If someone asks what I think, I try to be kind but honest, positive but constructive.
If they have an agenda other than a love of magic, then the gloves come off, with a lesson by example.
"The secret of life is to look good from a distance."
-Charles Schulz
Lawrence O
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Because I feel ashamed that I could be associated by friends around with a performer delivering a really bad act, I find an external excuse and I leave.

I recall having done this with Christian Fechner at about one quarter of the gala dinner in a convention. The show was so miserable that we looked at each other and pretended having an important business meeting to claim to our other magician friends that we had stayed as much as possible (that last part was not a lie) but that we now had to leave.

We then had a very pleasant dinner with our respective wives without even discussing about it: "De minimis non curat praetor"
Magic is the art of proving impossible things in parallel dimensions that can't be reached
Donal Chayce
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Quote:
On 2010-03-25 12:48, Scott F. Guinn wrote:
I already know where I stand on the matter, and I may divulge that a bit later.


Scott, some of us have declared ourselves; are you now willing to share your POV on the topic at hand?
gaddy
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My experience is that most people do not care for, or want, my opinion. Therefore only when I am directly pressed will I give my opinion about someone else's "art".

In the context of criticism or of reviewing someone else's performance, I have no qualms about sharing my feelings about bad art.
*due to the editorial policies here, words on this site attributed to me cannot necessarily be held to be my own.*
karbonkid
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I think magicians are an arrogant lot, mostly...especially if they perform in any kind of capacity. I think I gave up trying to change that, and just do magic like I like it to be done. Live by example, or something liket that.
stoneunhinged
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There were some interesting thoughts in that interview Steven Youell made with Paul Chosse that Steven put in a PDF and offered to us last week. Paul talks about one of his own influences and really emphasizes that old "if you can't say anything nice" attitude. It impressed me.

Sheese! That's the second time this week that I wish Paul Chosse could give us his thoughts right now....

I am inclined to agree. Subtle hints...saying very gently "maybe you might think about X..."? But downright criticizing?

Scott, I'm with Donal. I'd like to know your own thoughts on the matter.
markmiller
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When he witnesses a truly bad performance my guess is that Scott boos and yells "You Stink" and "Get off the stage."
stoneunhinged
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HA! Scott is a gentleman. If he chooses to criticize, my guess is that he does it man to man and in private.

I could be wrong, of course. Right now, about 57.8% of my Café posts are wrong in one way or another.

Does that mean I should stop posting?
Donal Chayce
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Quote:
On 2010-03-30 17:12, stoneunhinged wrote:
HA! Scott is a gentleman. If he chooses to criticize, my guess is that he does it man to man and in private.

I could be wrong, of course. Right now, about 57.8% of my Café posts are wrong in one way or another.

Does that mean I should stop posting?


And deprive us of your wit and wisdom? Heaven forbid! Smile
Dannydoyle
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I see no upside in trying to "help". It may be the right thing to do, it may be helpful, but it can get ugly easy.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
tommy
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I just cover the mirror.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
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