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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » A magician is an actor playing the role of a clown and a mountebank (5 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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gregg webb
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I think the audience needs to experience moments that really seem like the real thing...call it "getting a burn" or whatever, where they swear - "His sleeves were rolled up and I "saw" it in his hand, etc. Then later run a disclaimer or do so in your program or such. Let's not try NOT to blow their minds for fear of being a charlatan. Blow their minds as well as you can...then figure out what to say later. I'm afraid people use it as an excuse - Gee I don't want to make it look real...people might think I'm a charlatan. Worry about that bridge when you get to it.

And don't do the "Let's make it silly so they don't think I'm a charlatan" thing, please. As far as comedy magic, I liked Ballantine and Tommy Cooper. People that expose to get a laugh is not my idea of how not to be a charlatan.
George Ledo
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I don't understand why someone doing a magic act would be perceived as a charlatan unless they specifically came across as a snake oil salesperson. When I was performing magic for the general public many years ago, I came across as a magician: a guy doing impossible stuff for entertainment purposes. And I had a couple bits in my cards-and-doves act that did blow their minds, but I never felt any need to say, "hey, I'm not pretending this is real, ok?"
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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Pop Haydn
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Quote:
On Dec 14, 2021, gregg webb wrote:
I think the audience needs to experience moments that really seem like the real thing...call it "getting a burn" or whatever, where they swear - "His sleeves were rolled up and I "saw" it in his hand, etc. Then later run a disclaimer or do so in your program or such. Let's not try NOT to blow their minds for fear of being a charlatan. Blow their minds as well as you can...then figure out what to say later. I'm afraid people use it as an excuse - Gee I don't want to make it look real...people might think I'm a charlatan. Worry about that bridge when you get to it.

And don't do the "Let's make it silly so they don't think I'm a charlatan" thing, please. As far as comedy magic, I liked Ballantine and Tommy Cooper. People that expose to get a laugh is not my idea of how not to be a charlatan.


I think that magic is a burlesque of charlantry. It is meant to make fun of the psychics, alchemists, sorcerers, necromancers, demonologists, fake healers, inventors and such. The performance does not have to be about magic--that is just one theme for our art. It can be about anything commonly thought to be impossible. A magic trick follows the model "Impossible claim" then incontrovertible "proof" offered with varying degrees of seriousness. The "wink" is sometimes all that separates a magician from a mountebank. Other times, the performer is making fun of "other" magicians, and the need for "great proof" is beside the point. The Great Tomsoni is a wonderful example of a performer mocking the pretentious magician, while displaying incredible skill and consistently surprising and fooling his audience. No one can figure out where the doves come from, but they don't believe it was "real magic."
tommy
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"Magic consists in creating, by misdirection of the senses, the mental impression of supernatural agency at work.

That, and that only, is what modern magic really is, and that meaning alone is now assignable to the term.

The modern magician does not deceive his spectators-that is to say, the legitimate magician. The modern charlatan, of course, has no more conscience than his predecessors. He will deceive anybody who will give him the chance, and he will try to deceive even those who don't; just to make sure of missing no possible opening for chicanery. He and the legitimate magician, however, are as far apart as the poles, in aim and procedure. A legitimate magician never deludes his audiences as to the character of his performance. He makes no claim to the possession of powers beyond the scope of physical science. Neither does he, while rejecting the suggestio falsi, substitute in its place the suppressio veri. That method is one frequently adopted by charlatans in magic. The latter gentry often refrain from committing themselves to any definite statement on the subject of their powers. In effect, they say to their spectators, "We leave you to decide upon the nature of our feats. If you can explain the methods we employ, you will know that what we do is not miraculous. If, on the other hand, you cannot explain our methods you will, of course, know that we have the power to work miracles."

Since the majority of people attending public performances cannot explain the simplest devices used in magic, it is scarcely likely that persons of such limited capability will arrive at any satisfactory explanation of processes involving even a moderate degree of complexity. Consequently, the mere reticence of the charlatan suffices to convince many people that "there is something in it." So, there is, no doubt; but, usually, not much-certainly, nothing such as the innocent dupe conceives.

The distinguishing characteristic of a legitimate magician is his straightforwardness. He makes no false pretences, either by suggestion, implication, or reticence. This present treatise of course, relates only to legitimate magic; and, therefore, our definition of the term is limited to misdirection of the senses, exclusively. We have nothing to do with fraudulent or semi-fraudulent deceptions of intelligence, as practised by unscrupulous adventurers."


Our Magic

The Art in Magic -- The Theory of Magic

by Nevil Maskelyn 1911
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
George Ledo
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Ok, so going back to the OP, could the same be said of a singer, comedian, or other type of entertainer? I.e., is a singer an actor playing the role of a troubador or strolling minstrel?
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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Pop Haydn
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On Dec 19, 2021, George Ledo wrote:
Ok, so going back to the OP, could the same be said of a singer, comedian, or other type of entertainer? I.e., is a singer an actor playing the role of a troubadour or strolling minstrel?


That would be opera. Smile

A comedian is in fact, a comedian. That is a description of what he does. A singer is a singer. A magician is not someone who can make birds appear from nowhere by magic--he only pretends to be able to do it. He is an actor who uses deception to create the illusion of magic.
tommy
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A man is fated to play many roles in his life. A man can wear the mask of comedy one minute and the mask of tragedy the next.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Dannydoyle
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On Dec 19, 2021, Pop Haydn wrote:
Quote:
On Dec 19, 2021, George Ledo wrote:
Ok, so going back to the OP, could the same be said of a singer, comedian, or other type of entertainer? I.e., is a singer an actor playing the role of a troubadour or strolling minstrel?


That would be opera. Smile

A comedian is in fact, a comedian. That is a description of what he does. A singer is a singer. A magician is not someone who can make birds appear from nowhere by magic--he only pretends to be able to do it. He is an actor who uses deception to create the illusion of magic.


I’m not sure Pop. Since the audience at large understands nobody can do these things by supernatural means isn’t the contemporary description of what we do using deception to accomplish it and therefore simply a description much like singer?


https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/magician
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
tommy
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One cannot rationally define magic, because magic isn’t rational.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Dannydoyle
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One can certainly rationally define the performance art of magic.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Pop Haydn
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Quote:
On Dec 19, 2021, Dannydoyle wrote:
Quote:
On Dec 19, 2021, Pop Haydn wrote:
Quote:
On Dec 19, 2021, George Ledo wrote:
Ok, so going back to the OP, could the same be said of a singer, comedian, or other type of entertainer? I.e., is a singer an actor playing the role of a troubadour or strolling minstrel?


That would be opera. Smile

A comedian is in fact, a comedian. That is a description of what he does. A singer is a singer. A magician is not someone who can make birds appear from nowhere by magic--he only pretends to be able to do it. He is an actor who uses deception to create the illusion of magic.


I’m not sure Pop. Since the audience at large understands nobody can do these things by supernatural means isn’t the contemporary description of what we do using deception to accomplish it and therefore simply a description much like singer?


https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/magician


If the audience at large understands that nobody can do these things, how are so many conmen able to take their money? We burlesque those con men--the faith healers, psychics, necromancers, and mesmerists--whom many people take seriously. What separates the con man from the magician? It is in fact the nature of our profession to "pretend to be" something we are not. This we have in common with an actor. An actor pretends to be Hamlet, and the audience "knows" he is not. The audience should know that a magician is an actor who pretends to be able to do the impossible by using deception. To say that a magician is "someone who does magic" isn't very helpful. To say an actor "was Hamlet" instead of "played Hamlet" would be misleading.
tommy
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On Sep 28, 2020, tommy wrote:
"As the mountebank delivered his harangue, the clown would repeatedly poke his head out from behind the curtain, making fun of everything his master said, parodying his patter and twisting the meaning of his words. The mountebank played the perfect straight man, meanwhile. Here he was, trying so hard to hawk his wares, and his own assistant was doing everything possible to undermine sales. "The merriment was of course intentional. While the clown seemingly encouraged the public not to buy the proffered merchandise, the mountebank knew full well that the bystanders would easily be converted into customers as soon as they forgot that they were, in fact, supposed to be buying. Once the audience had been effectively hypnotized, once its judgment and willpower had been weakened, the real sales pitch could begin..."

J.H. Towsen, Clowns.


I read that book recently and it explains that Clowns in the old days were not simply entertainers but they had a dark side, which was exposure by mocking of the powers that be, including exposing magicians or charlatans’ secrets. It is good book. I gave the book to an old fella who makes ventriloquists dummies.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
George Ledo
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Court jesters did some of that, Tommy. Supposedly they were the only ones allowed to poke fun at the boss. Is there a "direct descent" from them to clowns?
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
www.georgefledo.net

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tommy
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Yes George: the book is more or less a history of clowning. It goes into Court Jesters but it starts with American native jesters and tricksters. This sort of thing:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heyoka

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pueblo_clown

The Mud Heads, the Tsuku, were somewhat feared by the Hopi as the source of public criticism and censure of non-Hopi like behaviour.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
George Ledo
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Thanks!
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
www.georgefledo.net

Latest column: "Sorry about the photos in my posts here"
tommy
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What interests me is the duality of it all.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
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