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Lee Darrow
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"Audiences don't mind being fooled by a gentleman." _ Nate Leipzig.

Truer words were ne'er spake.

And Leipzig was at the TOP of the profession in his day, so his comments bear living, breathing and flaunting by those of us working today.

There are too many rude people performing, too many "bad boys," too many insulting magi. Maybe we need to reverse this trend.

I tend to think so.

"Manners are the oil that keeps the social machine, which never runs all that well, running more smoothly." - Robert Heinlein

A good thought that dovetails nicely with that of Maestro Leipzig.

Just some late night (early morning?) thoughts...

Lee Darrow, C.Ht.
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Bill Palmer
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Back when I was first getting into performing magic full time, I got a job with the City of Houston Parks Department. I went around to parks in economically depressed areas and did shows for groups of kids from about 8 - 18 years old. Most of these shows were in areas that were either racially mixed or had a large percentage of minority children in attendance.

Sometimes when I would be setting up my show, I would hear kids calling things like "Hey, honky. You don't pull a rabbit out yo' hat, you be dead meat." I ignored that. I did my setup and then I started my show with a little speech. It went something like this:

Hello, my name is Bill Palmer. For the next half hour or so, we are going to have a magic show. Now, magic is the oldest of all the art forms. Everything we do that we call "Art" started out as some kind of a magical ritual. The oldest paintings in the world were to help us get control over the animals and the elements. The oldest buildings in the world were temples. But some time about 2000 years ago, there was a split in magic. Some of us became priests and the rest of us became entertainers. That's what I am. This show is for entertainment. It's not a puzzle. I'm not here to challenge your ability to think. I'm here so you can have fun. So, if there is anyone here who does not want to have fun, please don't ruin it for the rest of the people here. Go swim or play basketball or something else. But if you are here to have fun, well, so am I! So here goes!

This may seem like a long speech, but it worked. The last item in the show was a straitjacket escape. I got the kid who had given me the most trouble when I was setting up and one of the counselors up to help me. I did all of the gags with the counselor, so the troublemaker looked like a hero.

At the end of the show, the kid who had been the troublemaker always volunteered to help me take things out to the car.

I never had any kind of a problem. I worked at 50 parks that summer.
"The Swatter"

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Alan Wheeler
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I appreciate all these thoughts about elevating magic above puzzlement to a higher level of entertainment and art. As a few folks noted, it's a never-ending quest.

It does seem that magic lends itself to being a puzzle in a way that other special effects do not. Rarely do people try to "see through" the effects in movies or plays, paintings or poetry.

Several people have discussed here how to defuse the puzzle curse, by pre-emptive strikes of patter that disarm the audience, by avoiding body language and words that telegraph this worry to the audience, by being so personable and likeable that people are disarmed, by not being challenging, and by other presentation angles. I am so very interested in all of these techniques.

I will add that I have not found that puzzlement and antagonism go hand in hand always, as someone else noted above. In other words, some people who really enjoy magic also try to figure it out. My Chinese students are a good example. They love magic as much as anyone I have ever come across and eagerly watch magic. But they are also very analytical and do try to figure it all out. They are very friendly and do not expect me to tell them any secrets, yet they love to (very politely) examine props after a show if I "happen" to leave some sitting around.

Does anyone else have any practical suggestions for disarming the audience or defusing the "puzzle curse"?

alleycat
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Jonathan Townsend
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Separate the puzzle from the curse. Let them enjoy the story and choose for themselves about getting intrigued or frightened. IE keep the ellipses and questions out of your overt script while leaving them in plain sight for those who wish to see them.

* And have a look at the film 'Harvey' about 'likeable'.
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Alan Wheeler
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OK. Here's a specific example. At the end of a particular card effect, you notice a few people here and there have been responding by saying, "Those must be trick cards." Do you

A. Deny it or allow the cards to be examined.

B. Revise the effect so that spectators handle or implicitly examine the cards during the effect.

C. Look for ways to change the presentation or patter to increase the entertainment and pre-empt such thoughts--separating the puzzle from the curse by making a more enjoyable story.

D. Bow out or go on to the next effect or prepare a stock response.

E. or something else ???

alan
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Jonathan Townsend
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F. Use a couple of those cards as chosen by the suspicious for card warp and give them the pieces.

G. Tell them they are trick cards and using a kicker climax thing show them to be all strange looking.

H. Use your imagination to explore WHAT is prompting them to look at the cards instead of you for the magic and then ask some more questions.

I. Use borrowed cards. Can always imply that the person who loaned them to you is a witch or similar. (joking)

J will be back after dinner.
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Bill Palmer
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Quote:
On 2005-08-20 16:15, Alan Wheeler wrote:
OK. Here's a specific example. At the end of a particular card effect, you notice a few people here and there have been responding by saying, "Those must be trick cards." Do you

A. Deny it or allow the cards to be examined.

B. Revise the effect so that spectators handle or implicitly examine the cards during the effect.

C. Look for ways to change the presentation or patter to increase the entertainment and pre-empt such thoughts--separating the puzzle from the curse by making a more enjoyable story.

D. Bow out or go on to the next effect or prepare a stock response.

E. or something else ???

alan


All of the above and none of the above.

How do you feel about your magic when you are doing it? Do you feel like you are lying to your spectators when you say that the cards have done something and you know that they really haven't? Do you expect the audience to suspend their disbelief without suspending yours as well? What is it about your performance that makes them think you are using trick cards? What are your "tells?"

What I'm asking is basically what your level of confidence in your own material is.

The other question is this. If I'm not mistaken, weren't you at one time considering teaching a course in magic over there? If so, are these your students?

Usually, I try to work out routines in such a way that when the trick is finished, two things happen.

1) I am completely clean.
2) I am ready to go into the next item.

Allowing one of the spectators to handle the cards will go a long way towards the implication that the cards are unprepared.

But I think that attitude and routining will take care of a lot of this.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
Alan Wheeler
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Quote:
On 2005-08-20 18:19, Bill Palmer wrote:

How do you feel about your magic when you are doing it? Do you feel like you are lying to your spectators when you say that the cards have done something and you know that they really haven't? Do you expect the audience to suspend their disbelief without suspending yours as well? What is it about your performance that makes them think you are using trick cards? What are your "tells?"

What I'm asking is basically what your level of confidence in your own material is.

The other question is this. If I'm not mistaken, weren't you at one time considering teaching a course in magic over there? If so, are these your students?



1. I have only noticed this response on one particular card effect. It is a "Wild Card"-type effect done standing (without a table). I thought it might be something about this effect in particular that was drawing out the "puzzle curse." And the response has come in about 2 out of 10 performances.

2. Actually, I've been back home in Athens, Ga. for the summer and it's been folks around here that I've been performing for. I go back to China on Tuesday. I did get to teach the class I designed. It was titled "Magic in English" and covered--in brief survey--magic in history, literature, mythology, folklore, philosophy, psychology, and included the ethics of magic. I performed a couple shows for culture lectures last Spring and ended each class with an effect or short routine. But this particular issue arose this summer here at home.

Thanks for the advice about attitude and routining. I will try to develop confidence and conviction--and also try to end clean and ready to go on to the next thing.

alan
The views and comments expressed on this post may be mere speculation and are not necessarily the opinions, values, or beliefs of Alan Wheeler.
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MagicalArtist
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This is a great topic, and it's at the heart of what it means to be a magician. I'm glad topics like this are being discussed, and that's one of the things I like about the Café.

To quote from the very insightful post by Gregg Tobo:

Quote:
On 2003-12-29 07:43, Gregg Tobo wrote:
This is problematic in performance, because I want my audience to feel as though they are my friends.

But if we are friends, then we should be equals. And if we are equals, there should be no secrets between equals. After all, one hallmark of a frienship is the act of sharing.


This is very true, and it's one reason why "The puzzle curse is more common when performing to friends than to strangers. By doing something that the spectator can't figure out, you are changing the equilibrium of your relationship.

Those magicians who claim they never encounter this response either

a) are lying

b) never perform, or

c) have the ability to turn a deaf ear to all comments they don't like.

It's true that performing your magic in a challenging fashion will invite this kind of response. But that's not the only cause of it. Magicians who think so must be incredibly naive.

Magic is a great form of entertainment, and one of the things that makes it great is that it's so unique. It's the only form of entertainment where there is both an illusion and a reality behind what the entertainer is doing. Naturally, some people are going to want to peek "behind-the-scenes" so to speak.

Another good thing that Fitzkee said was that "The secrets aren't so ***ed important. There is little that the magician does it cannot be figured out by a reasonably intelligent person. " If the spectator is motivated to do so, many tricks can be figured out, no matter how well they are performed. In some cases, the whole trick can't be figured out, but if the spectator gets kind of close to one aspect of it, they are satisfied that they have succeeded in solving the "puzzle. "

It's also true that this happens to all magicians, whether they admit it or not. I was watching one of David Copperfield specials with my dad one time, and he seemed to feel the need to throw out his theories as to how every one of the tricks were done! It finally got to me and I said "Do you mind??" his response was very thought-provoking. He said "But trying to figure it out is part of the fun of watching magic!"

I didn't like this response at the time, but as I've thought about it through the years, I've realized that he was right. This is simply part of the way that some people experience magic.

So while some of the people who suffer from "The puzzle Curse" do so because they deep down don't like magic (yes, believe it or not, there are some people who don't), this is simply the way some people enjoy it.

Who are we to say how are spectators should watch our magic. True, they should and shout out their theories when your performing, and if they do you should have a good comeback line prepared, but there will always be people who view magic this way.

Not all problems have a perfect solution, and this is one of them. If you don't like it, the best solution is simply to perform for someone else.
Count Zapik
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This is an interesting issue and I meet it a fair bit.

I’ve developed a standard response to deal with it.

It’s maybe not the best , but its what I sometimes use.

I say something along the lines of:

‘It’s not important to know how its done, even I don’t know /or don’t want to know how its done.

It’s all about wishing that magic really exists like when we were kids.

… and if for a brief moment of fantasy we again begin to have a wonder for the world around us, and we are made to feel there might be more to our standardised short lives than meets the eye -then we have had a brief moment of shared adventure’.

I find people can identify with those kinds of sentiments [when presented with a voice that fits the moment], and begin to lay off a need to denude the puzzle of all mystery.

They relax; we all start to have fun.
I feel as if I have been whisked here from another life....it may even have been my own!
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