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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » Why some people see a puzzle, and others see an illusion (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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lelando
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I've seen lots of posts as I've browsed the Café that approach the question of what to do when someone wants to look at your gaff/gimmick/trick deck, or when someone looks at the trick as a puzzle instead of an illusion. Almost all of the experienced voices seem to keep coming back to the same basic point: that the problem is in presentation and audience management, and that it's the magician's responsibility to change something to prevent that response. I've even seen some people get kind of snooty about it, with statements like, "If you knew how to handle your audience, that would *never* happen to you; it hasn't happened to me in 20 years of performing" [paraphrased]. I rarely see constructive suggestions on how to handle the problem when it occurs, just criticism for letting it happen (aka 'poor audience management'), and the vague advice of "you'll learn through experience."

As I've been developing my skills and showing tricks to small groups of people I vaguely know (so far, my 'audience' is usually made of players at the trivia nights I host, at the end of the night), I've noticed both types of responses: those who view it as an illusion, and those who view as a puzzle. And the other night, I had both responses within a single group, during a single trick. Three of the four people at the table were totally fooled and enjoyed the illusion. But one guy among them, also fooled, couldn't stop asking questions, and the look on his face was definitely one of someone trying to solve a puzzle.

So, when I think of this scenario, it tells me that even if you have a perfect performance, there will still always be someone out there with a curious and intelligent mind who will view the trick as a puzzle. So, I wonder what those of you who always say that it's a result of audience management and performance, and that it would never happen if the performer knows what s/he's doing, would say?

What can we do to actually reduce this response from the puzzle-solver, and what can we do once we get the barrage of questions?

Cheers!
DWRackley
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You ain’t gonna like this, but…

When I was going before the Board of Review for my Eagle Scout badge, one of the questions I was asked is, if you’re swimming out to help a drowning person, and they get you in a head lock and start to take you under, how do you escape without hurting them. My reply was that you’re never supposed to let yourself get in that position in the first place.

First response: stop performing for people who know you. You say “vaguely know”; that’s how you see them, but is that how they see you? They obviously feel familiar enough to be comfortable questioning you; that’s not an ideal audience. It’s not far removed from performing for friends, parents or coworkers, and brings up the question: “What do you expect?” They’ve seen you when you’re NOT being “magical”, do you honestly expect them to suddenly begin believing you have powers? OF COURSE it’s a trick or a puzzle or “some magic gizmo”. They’re not idiots.

Find some real strangers and IMPRESS THEM!

Sorry if it’s not gentle or flowery, but my intent is to be helpful.
...what if I could read your mind?

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Donatelli and Company at ChattanoogaPerformers.com

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lelando
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That's a fine answer... understanding that someone who knows you is more likely to do that than a stranger is very helpful. It's certainly a better answer than "you'll figure it out" or something condescending. So 'thanks!'

That said, how the heck do you try things out if not on people you know? I'm not going to go out and stop a stranger on the street to try new tricks, especially because I'm a hobbyist, not a pro.

Thanks!
psychod
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I'm also a hobbyist but you'd be surprised at the audiences you can find. I was in a Hard Rock Café one time and ordered a drink. It came with a swizzle stick with the Hard Rock Emblem on one side and nothing on the other. I grabbed another one and complained to the waitress that my wife got one with the symbol on both sides while mine were blank on both sides. Not only did I get to try out the Paddle Move on a stranger, but I got some practice sticks for free! You might just want to make sure that you have some small items with you and you'll be surprised at the audiences you may be able to find. Granted, it's not going to be a big deal show but you can practice on real people....given that you're not asking for anything, they tend to be kind!


Dave
Just adding my 3 cents worth because anybody can add their 2 cents worth...
Ed_Millis
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Along the lines of what DW said: the first part of the equation is that they are watching "just you", not a magician. A good presentation involves a character and a setting that allows the audience to suspend their disbelief. "Just you" in the living room doesn't quite do that.

What would happen if you left the room for a minute or three, then returned as character - an actor playing the part of a magician? Maybe put on a hat or a jacket. Act - not just act different, but act - give a presentation.

Audience management begins with taking control over the audience. You must create a setting that brings them out of the "relaxing after games at lelando's house" mindset and allows them to shift gears to think differently. And then you must present a character that can take them out of "lelando's house" to a magical place where the impossible happens.

Then involve them in these impossible things. The more they sit and watch, the more they will analyze. The more they experience, the more they will enjoy.

Hope that helps.
Ed
Mike Maturen
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Great advice from all!
Mike Maturen
World of Wonder Entertainment
The Magic and Mayhem of Mike Maturen
989-335-1661
mikematuren@gmail.com

AUTHOR OF "A NEW DAWN--Weekly Wisdom From Everyday Life"

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silvercup
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Avoid thinking that because someone doesn't know you that they will think you have powers and skip completely by the, OF COURSE it’s a trick or a puzzle or “some magic gizmo”. That is going to be the end result anyhow if they have minimal intelligence. It may happen right after the trick. It may happen on the ride home, or tomorrow during a smoke break, but it's going to happen. No one believes you can make a quarter disappear into thin air, they just don't. If they do consider getting them some help.

Time is important. If you can present the trick without interruption you have a better shot at entertainment because they will get the whole tomato before they get a chance to cut it up. Does your presentation give the time or opportunity to go into puzzle mode? Are there holes in the presentation? Gaps of time that aren't being filled with something more interesting to the viewer than wondering how it's done?

The person insists on being in puzzle mode. What to do?
Are they interrupting the show? Realize you gave them a chance to do so and address the interruption head on. Who's show is this anyhow? Do they wanna see some magic? Great! They'll have to allow you to perform or it's not gonna happen.
Are they not interrupting the show? Don't worry about it. Some come naturally to puzzle mode and it's comfortable to them. Next time out make it less comfortable.

Are they tossing out methods? Realize you gave them a chance to do so and play off it.
Example: "That just might be a good way to do it but it wouldn't look this good. Now watch."
The thing is you have to keep it moving. You are directing attention at all times. Be a good director. Flat out tell them what to do. Give them something to do.

Where to get experience on that new bit? Out in the world cause that's where people are.
Examples:
Get yourself to a public park. Make a sign that says Magic Show. Have fun.
Get yourself to a bar Bar. Not a disco, not a sports bar, but a bar Bar. Have fun.
There are places near you where there are people. That's your audience. Have fun.
Remagicon
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You have to realize that audiences are naturally going to have a set of assumptions of your abilities, and possibly even what sleights you may pull in order for you to do your tricks. One method is to destroy those assumptions by showing clean hands at certain key points, perfecting sleights to the point of invisibility while being 150% burned, or just using more misdirection. At least this should work agaisnt laymen because I used to be one at some point in time and this is probably what fooled me the most whenever I was amazed at other magicians' tricks.
"Ars Est Celare Artem"
It is art to hide art
DWRackley
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Silvercup, you made the same argument I usually do in discussions about magic “versus” mentalism. Yes, it’s a trick.

But “special powers” can be anything from lifeguard to oboe player to history expert to yes, magician. My point is that once they’ve seen you in one light, their opinion is unlikely to change just because you’ve made some new claims. (In fact, now that I think about it, once you’ve made the claim “I’m a magician”, you’ve pretty much thrown out a challenge that “I can fool you”. No you can’t. Yes, just watch. No, you’re using… You can see how that devolves.)

Ed’s idea about changing the stage, leaving the room, putting on a character, is a very good one. (Wish I’d said it!) Smile It’s a method of tacitly asking them to “go alone” with you, admitting that is it indeed “just a show”, and getting their permission for you to act out just long enough to maybe do something special.

And not everyone is as “unconvincing” as you seem to think. I’ve had long time friends who “catch” one of my shows, and now they’re afraid to speak to me. That makes me both sad and angry. But the “leap” from my being their friend, frequent dinner companion, even favorite Cubmaster, then changing into the “mind reader” who described the life story of a woman he’d never met before and then knew what song would be playing on their radio when they drove home? That was a bit much for them to take in stride. It changed our relationship, possibly forever. A few others simply say “You are scarey!”

Point is: you need to understand how they see you. That’s your starting line. If you don’t plan around that, any reactions are pretty much a toss-up.

Lelando, Remagicon has some great suggestions. In some effects I use a gaffed (non-examinable) deck, but by the end I have it switched out for a normal one. I do NOT offer it for examination (that sets a VERY bad precedent) but I do set it out where it COULD be picked up if anyone wanted to do so. In one effect I deliberately leave that normal deck in the hands of a spectator and “forget” about it. S/he will spend the rest of the night thumbing through that deck wondering how it worked.

You can do this! But you need to remember that you’re only one part of the equation.

Best of Luck!
...what if I could read your mind?

Chattanooga's Premier Mentalist

Donatelli and Company at ChattanoogaPerformers.com

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silvercup
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I'm not arguing anythinhg DW, just tossing my two cents in.
If enough people do that maybe lelando will get a bucks worth of advice fer nuttin'.
That "I'm a Magician" does set the trap!
DWRackley
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Smile
...what if I could read your mind?

Chattanooga's Premier Mentalist

Donatelli and Company at ChattanoogaPerformers.com

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bowers
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If presented as a puzzle that's what it will be.
but if prsented as a illusion with proper routiening
then that's what it will be.
Todd
Aus
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During my day job I deal with the public on a daily basis and often engage them with my dry sense of humour well taking the mickey out of them in a light hearted and un-malicious way often with a smile on my face. However on the odd occasion my sense of humour may not translate to well to a customer for whatever reason and they may give me a deadpan look or a retort of some kind. I don’t say anything different to one customer then I do to the next and yet I get different reactions every time I do it.

Its proves to me that you can’t be everything to everyone and this hard line attitude some magicians seem to have that “the audience is always right” seems to me as rubbish. Sure massaging and finessing your performance to some degree will tilt things in your favour, however just like wearing a seat belt in a car, it may save your life but It won’t stop the accident from happening.

If people are in a set frame of mind, no amount of subtle techniques will change that, so you also need to know where that line in the sand is crossed and what to do about it.

Magically

Aus
Adam Fraise
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I think the main problem with sophisticated audiences is that they know a trick when they see one and therefore view it as a puzzle. The best performers have developed a persona which convinces the audience that they have special gifts and what they are seeing is more than a cleverly constructed trick or a deft piece of sleight. This, I believe, is the main reason my mentalism has become so popular of late.
David Fillary
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This happened to me today. I performed on some friends and did my new sponge ball routine. One of the guys was trying to figure it out, but in a completely friendly way. I'm at university and study maths, so a lot of my friends really do enjoy puzzles. He began to suggest another ball could have been in play, so I dismissed it and went immediately into CMH (penetrating rubber band magic for new users). This gave him a new "puzzle" to focus on and his mind completely went from the original trick. After doing CMH in his hands, he wanted to try himself. As he was coming close to the method, I showed him linking rubber bands as an "explanation", then took his rubber bands back and made them meld into one.

I think I could have handled it better and I should have moved between tricks quicker before he started to come close.

I agree that having a persona is incredibly important, and I don't tend to have these issues with actual gigs. However, if a mysterious person showed me something that I couldn't explain, I would still view it as a puzzle and I don't think that everyone who thinks like me is a magician! As a scientist, I view the world as something that can be explained, but we might not have discovered how yet. Whereas some people explain it with religion. Even if a genuine miracle happened, I would probably still view it as a puzzle!
David Fillary
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Forgot to add the actual point of the above story: to fend off questions, you can do more magic. End on something that you know they can't figure out (perhaps it uses a gimmick or is just really good), and by then they will have forgotten details of the previous effects. Perhaps not ideal, but it will take a while for me to reach the presentation level of the pros, so till then...
krowboom
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I think people view magic differently and there isn't much you can do to change that. Some are intent to "figure it out", some want to be obnoxious and heckle (thankfully very few), and I think most just want to be entertained and amazed. I don't care if you're David Copperfield or a family friend amateur magician, they know it's a trick. Yes there are ways to control your audience, ways to present your magic effectively, ways to handle questions and comments, etc., etc., but how they view magic is beyond your control.
Dougini
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Quote:
On 2013-05-17 19:05, DWRackley wrote:
...And not everyone is as “unconvincing” as you seem to think. I’ve had long time friends who “catch” one of my shows, and now they’re afraid to speak to me. That makes me both sad and angry. But the “leap” from my being their friend, frequent dinner companion, even favorite Cubmaster, then changing into the “mind reader” who described the life story of a woman he’d never met before and then knew what song would be playing on their radio when they drove home? That was a bit much for them to take in stride.


I also have "friends" who won't speak to me any more after performing a dark, brooding mind reading session. One girl freaked and left crying, and the friend who's house it happened in? Well, I'm really not welcome there any more.

Quote:
It changed our relationship, possibly forever.


Yep. And my family. Two of my three sisters...completely changed the way they think of me! All of this for performing L*n@. This would never have happened with silks, cards and coins...

Doug
krowboom
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Dougini, that's really too bad. I guess spiritualism, seances, mind reading, and mentalism, are looked at by the lay person a little differently than "silks, cards, and coins". There are lots of people who "want" to believe that these powers exist and are very susceptible to being taken in. Rather than having fun with it or just being amazed they go beyond that and unfortunately not in a positive way. Spiritualism was a big business in the nineteenth and twentieth century centuries as are psychics and mystics today. If you want to believe some people really have supernatural powers that's up to you but if it affects friendships and relationships in a negative way then that's just a shame.
DWRackley
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That a good point. Some people may have a “need” for this to all be just a game that they can easily explain away (even if they don’t have the explanation at hand). Bunnies and bright silks can reassure them that it’s just a children’s game of Let’s Pretend. If something actually does “move” them, they need to be able to convince themselves that there’s a “rational explanation”. It’s a life jacket.

Remove both comfort zones of pretty childhood images AND easily recognizable solutions and they can freak out pretty quickly.
...what if I could read your mind?

Chattanooga's Premier Mentalist

Donatelli and Company at ChattanoogaPerformers.com

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