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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Do bad magicians create a problem for the industry or an opportunity for good magicians? (8 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Mike Walton
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I was reading through a post regarding a particular magician of a particular age who wasn't up to the expectations of the spectator, to put it kindly.

I've also heard about others seeing other magicians who just aren't very good performing in restaurants, etc. My guess is many of these comments are ego driven but others are truth driven.

I wonder if this "bad magician exposure" hurts or helps us as magicians. One viewpoint could be that this negative exposure is bad press for the industry and business owners/managers will assume other magicians are just as bad and not be interested or as interested in hiring any professionals to do magic.

The other side of the coin is that this bad exposure creates opportunities for those who are actually good. The good magicians are able to greatly exceed expectations when given a chance and the business manager/owner are more likely to retain this magician, possibly pay more because of the scarcity, and realize the benefit of having someone good.

I'm leaning towards the more negative aspects of bad magic exposure. For example, in Chicago it seemed that years ago a fair amount of people were familiar with the benefits of having a magician at their bar, restaurant, or at another venue. It seems that the industry may have been held in a positive light as awareness of the business value of magic was greater. Now, there isn't much magic going on in Chicago, other than Neil Tobin's excellent weekly show. I'm under the impression that this previous widespread positive awareness of magic may have dried up and there isn't anything in its place to combat the negative association of magic with bad magicians.

For those with more experience or with a better take on this, what are your thoughts? Is the awareness of the value of magic drying up? Are bad magicians further hurting the industry or is this an opportunity for those that are excellent magicians?
Craig Krisulevicz
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Quote:
On 2004-06-20 14:57, Jive-Turkey wrote:
For those with more experience or with a better take on this, what are your thoughts? Is the awareness of the value of magic drying up? Are bad magicians further hurting the industry or is this an opportunity for those that are excellent magicians?


I do think that bad magicians create a negative reference to magic as a whole to the public eye. In today's world, many people judge an entire topic on one experience (it is one of those "instant gratification/ instant results kind of things) A spectator will see one bad performance, and from then on have a closed mind from then on towards us. These people do not need an "open mind" (one that will continue to take in ideas) but an "active mind" (one that will analyze things with a lot of cognitive effort)

Seeing beyond one experience, and realizing the possibilities of another in the same category does take an active mind. For example, a piece of music: You may absolutely hate it at first, but one can not absorb the entire piece in one listening. One must listen to it multiple times to fully appreciate the various pieces each instrument is playing, and also the vocals. Then it takes even more listening to appreciate the blending of it all. But back to magic...

...Since some people seem to hold a negative view on magic after seeing one terrible magician, we the performers have to work past that.

Something that happened to me recently made me work throught this very problem. I was performing for a group of about a dozen people, and one said to someone passing by " Hey, you have to stop and check this guy out!" The woman said " God no, I hate card tricks so much, sorry."

So I said "You may have a negative view towards this sort of thing due to past experiences with bad performers. Watch me for a little bit and decide yourself if all of us magicians are as ad as you think."

She decided to stay, and enjoyed herself.

So what does make a magician portray himself in a negative way towards the audience? There a many things, but one I'd like to touch on is this: credibility.

I once say a very young magician, probably around 13 or so, doing an ace assembly and passing it off as a gambling routine. During it, he literally said that he has used this technique at a table in the casino with success. I don't think I have to explain any further.

We as magicians have to THINK. Who are we trying to fool here anyway? Us or them? The routine has to have logical and credible patter - otherwise you look like a walking pile of nonsense. Thus, creating that ever so negative view of magic as a whole.

I must say that if it wasn't for the small group of magicians who perform their acts extremely well, I too would think that this whole subject was hokey-pokey.

$
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Big Daddy Cool
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It's both. But overcoming the negative to get to the positive is a rough road sometimes.
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Sk8rDave
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Quote:
I wonder if this "bad magician exposure" hurts or helps us as magicians.


To put it simply: YES!

As magicians, we rely on preconceptions a lot. In my opinion, more than other entertainers. A spectator who expects us to be good will be a lot easier to deal with than a spectator who expects us to be bad. Sure, how we handle such a spectator will change their opinion if they're open to it. However, I've had spectators so certain that magicians were bad (or evil, or trying to put one over on them or whatever other negative thing they were thinking) that they would actively look away during the moments of magic in order to be able to say they weren't fooled because they weren't really paying attention.

Those are extreme cases but they've happened. At the same time, I've had audience members who've seen me before and know what to expect be the most attentive and consequently the most enjoyable audiences.

You want the audiences preconceptions to work with you, not against you because then you can get right into your job of sharing moments of wonder instead of spending your first several minutes winning an audience member back over from a previous bad experience.

I would take this a step further and say that we are all benefitting from the popularity of the television magicians. Whether we are good or bad at what we do we are given credence, based on the fact that we call ourselves magicians, by people who have seen good magicians in the past. They expect us to be that good and so we are slightly elevated in their eyes. If we don't live up to their expectations then, my guess is, they decide that magicians use camera tricks or only look good on TV. Whether they actually do or not is the matter of another discussion.

One final point, I want my audience to enjoy themselves, I want them to laugh, I want them to gasp, I want them to shout or react in the biggest possible manner. Towards this end, I make my performances "emotionally safe zones" where the only person allowed to look like an idiot is me because I can handle it. I want each person to feel safe admitting that what they just witnessed was impossible. I want people to allow themselves to become emotionally involved enough to worry when I make a mistake and cheer when I pull it off. Becuase of this, I think that magicians who belittle others are damaging to the art. I don't care how good or bad a magician is if his attitude puts the audience on the defensive then they are damaged goods for performers like me.

Dave
bishthemagish
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In my opinion there are no bad magicians only bad performances of magic. And having said that I feel that that is the only thing that truly hurts magic.

A bad performance of magic is the only thing that can hurt magic... But the silver in the dark cloud is that we all have to learn and the only way to learn how to be good is through the mistakes that we make by doing bad performances...

So as long as the magician is not burning up territory, bad performances have their place in magic too...

Anyway that is my slant on it....
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christopher carter
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Quote:
On 2004-06-20 14:57, Jive-Turkey wrote:
Now, there isn't much magic going on in Chicago, other than Neil Tobin's excellent weekly show.


Neil's show is excellent, but there is more going on in Chicago than that.

--Christopher Carter
Sk8rDave
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He he, I hate to disagree, Bish, but I have met some very bad magicians. Some were bad performers and some were just downright evil.

On the other hand, your point is well taken. Everybody does need a place to be bad. That's what family and club meetings are for.

When I was an awkward pre-pubescent teenager, before I learned how to make a performance enjoyable for regular folks, I used to hate performing for non magicians. Magicians would look past my awful presentations, horrible sexist jokes, blatantly ripped off from Andrew Dice Clay, and appreciate the effect. Or, in those cases where even the effect was lost or confused in my attempt at presentation, they could at least appreciate the technique. They would politely praise whatever was praiseworthy in the performance and I'd be sure that I was doing great. For some reason, lay people never reacted the same way to the effects I chose to do at the time.

It's funny, now I don't enjoy performing for magicians nearly as much. They are too jaded and seem so obsessed with the method that they refuse to experience the moment of wonder that comes from watching a well performed effect.

Dave
digimaestro
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Downright evil magicians??

Please explain.

digimaestro
Sk8rDave
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Don't sound so surprised Digimaestro. Just because someone is a magician doesn't necessarily make him or her good, bad or indifferent. There are all sorts of people out there and magic attracts some of the best and some of the worst.
Chrystal
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I think most of us shudder when we think back to our first shows, and hopefully we've become better performers. Hopefully our patter is much smoother and free flowing and nerves even if felt is not that apparent. Hands don't shake as much and we've equipped ourselves with humorous lines or quips should something go wrong. All that is learned with experience. To be fair, if the person was fairly new in magic I would be more understanding.

Yet, at the same time I hope that most newcomers don't perform until they have practised, practised, practised! (Can't say this enough times.)Flashing or allowing laypeople to see how an effect was done hurts all magicians. You may find some in the crowd are the ones that yell out "I know how that's done", and proceed to tell everyone as they had when viewing a performer that enabled them to do so. Some magic shops may be quilty of this as well, allowing customers regardless if they are magicians to view how an effect is done. (my pet peeve.) But I'm digressing and going off topic.

If on the other hand a performer has been in the business for several years ...what to do? They make it bad for others as people do get a preconceived notion of magicians in general. Then again most laypeople may have only seen a Copperfield show and view another performer's show as not quite up to par as a full illusion show. It's a good question but many factors are involved. In my long winded post I personally think they are not good for business.

Chrystal
bishthemagish
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Quote:
On 2004-06-21 00:03, Sk8rDave wrote:
He he, I hate to disagree, Bish, but I have met some very bad magicians. Some were bad performers and some were just downright evil.

Dave


Speaking as a hypnotist good and bad is a point of view... That comes from the conscious mind where all judgments come from.

Having said that I still feel that there are not bad magicians only less experienced ones.

The word evil is also mentioned. I can only assume that you are talking about the stab you in the back magician and there are some of these magicians around.

But most often they fall by the wayside and crash and burn out of the business. Because I firmly believe you have to play the game on the square in order to get repeat business...

Anyway that is my slant...
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Payne
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Having asid that I still feel that there are not bad magicians only less experienced ones.


I would have to disagree. We have a few magicians in these parts who have been perfoming for years and years and show no sign of improving. Two or three of the are so bad that many who have secured their services will think long and hard before ever hiring another magician again.
It's not that they are not experienced, it's that they never learn from their experiences.
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Mike Walton
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Quote:
On 2004-06-20 23:44, christopher carter wrote:
Quote:
On 2004-06-20 14:57, Jive-Turkey wrote:
Now, there isn't much magic going on in Chicago, other than Neil Tobin's excellent weekly show.

Neil's show is excellent, but there is more going on in Chicago than that.


I have yet to find a bar or restaurant that is offering close-up or walk-around magic other than O'Donovan's. Then there's some drag/striptease show in Chicago that has a little magic peppered in it, but that is all I've found. Let me in on the secret and tell me where. I would love to check out more at restaurants and bars.

Chicago used to be the home of many great magicians including Bill Malone when there were "magic bars." But now, magic in Chicago is indeed hard to find. This isn't meant to be negative as though "magic doesn't have a chance", but I'm not sure if this scarcity of performance magic is a supply or demand issue. Are magicians not going around and asking for the work or is it more difficult to land a gig because of the lack of demand...
bishthemagish
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Chicago used to be the home of many great magicians including Bill Malone when there were "magic bars."

Besides Bill Malone there was Jim Ryan, Buddy Farnan, Jeff Korst, Kathy Nolen, Bill Weimer, Ray Radla, Jim Gleason, Phil Willmarth, The Schulien family, The Jay Marshall family, Ed Marlo, Jimmy Cards Molinari, Terry Vecky, Don Alan, Jack Pyle, Heba Haba Al, Frank Everheart and others that have passed on or moved to another city, One or two of them still might be there.

And there was Houdini's Pub, Schulien's, The New York Lounge, The Pickle Berral, Mr C's Magic Lounge etc...

Chicago was a good place for magic...

I also made quite a good living there as their is a lot of good magic I always felt that good magic makes a demand for more good magic.

Most of the places are gone now but there are still places to work if the magician gets out there and pounds the pavement...
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Reis O'Brien
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I would love to see Chicago returned to that one day.

And to answer Jive-Turkey's question, yes there are very very bad magicians in the world. I am one of them.

Still, it could be worse, I could be a horrible spoon-bender.
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When I first moved to Nashville 10 years ago, I immediately tried to get a gig doing restaurant magic. After all, I had performed all over the country doing tables. Shouldn't be a problem right?
Wrong. What an eye-opening experience. The attitude about magic in this town was, well, words can't describe it. And I contend it was mostly the doing of a handful of guys who are the worst kind of magicians.

10 years later I and a group of other pros have brought about a change. Magic is alive in Nashville!

But it was hard to overcome the stereotypes.
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Quote:
On 2004-06-20 23:44, christopher carter wrote:
Quote:
On 2004-06-20 14:57, Jive-Turkey wrote:
Now, there isn't much magic going on in Chicago, other than Neil Tobin's excellent weekly show.


Neil's show is excellent, but there is more going on in Chicago than that.

--Christopher Carter


Chris is right: his show, "Christopher Carter Keeps Messing With Your Mind," is playing to rave reviews at the Royal George Theatre.

Read all about it at http://www.mindcramp.com

Best,
Neil
Creator of The Xpert (20 PAGES of reviews!) and the Hands-Off Multiple ESP System ("Quality and design far exceed any ESP cards on the market"-Genii), and contributor to the ebook GOLD: When It HAS To Be Performance GOLD -- all at Penguin.
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Jive-Turkey,
Bad magicians hurt magic, period.

Audiences do not see magic very often. If they see a bad magician then this will be their view of magic. Why is this not the same for other entertainment like comedians or musicians? Well, because of exposure. Everyone has seen a good comedian or musician because there are so many. So if they see a bad one, they know there are plenty of good ones.

laymen very very seldom see a magician and a bad magician creates a state of mind in the laymen that this is the level of magic... because it is the only magic I have seen. TV is helping with all the magic specials, but in reality it is still not nearly as many as the comedian and music exposure.

Let me now qualify what a bad magician is. These are the performers who will get a Paid Show a week out and then start asking other magicians what tricks they should do. An act is not simply a collection of tricks and one-liners!!!!! These clods believe that because they can do a slick Elmsley count they must be good magicians and therefore good entertainers. They have never written an act out, they have never rehearsed an act, and they have not paid their dues by doing the free shows that get them the practice.

Beginning magicians are not bad magicians, they are simply beginners like in any other entertainment. I like what Sk8rDave had to say about how we all have to have a place to be bad. To work on our act, character, tricks, jokes, dialog, etc. There are many places to do this, The magic club, Charities, friend's parties, retirement homes, community clubs, etc. I like to encourage serious beginners, but I will discourage anyone who thinks they will be doing paid shows faster than the ink dries on their new business card.

Let me give you some real world examples of how a bad magician hurts us.

1. After a corporate show, the buyer came up to me to express her thanks. She explained that a lot of people were very hesitant about the show. I asked why? She said 4 years ago they had a magician and he was insulting and terrible. After that, they vowed to never have a magician again. I asked what had changed their mind to try me. Well, it was an accident really, they wanted a hypnotist, but there was some misunderstanding and when they signed the contract they noticed they had gotten a magician. (The ups and downs of going through an agent.) They almost canceled but my agent assured them I was good and offered a money back guarantee.

2. Trying to sell a buyer a show. She was reluctant to buy. Why? A year ago she had hired a magician (adult show) and was very disappointed. Why? She said that throughout the entire show his jokes were childish and the tricks he did seemed to be aimed more at children. This was for an all adult evening show. Her direct quote to me was . ."I think he was just a birthday party magician who tried to do his act for adults." . . . I did get the gig.. but I had to reduce my price considerably to wrangle her into using another magician. For those of you who would scoff at this...well, One, many times that is what you have to do get the gig, two, it opens up a new market for you, three, the long range hope is that she will now be open to magicians again and might use me again, at my normal price.

3. I inquired at a comedy club about doing some work. The owner said he would never have a magician again. Why? One openly stole the lines of another comedian, another simply was the worst entertainer I ever saw, and the third one I tried kept running over time. I told him that there are many good magicians out there just like good comedians..and occasionally you get a bad one. He said, "Yeah, You are probably right, I just haven't met any of the good ones yet. Check back with me in a year and maybe I will change my mind, right now the bad taste is too strong in my mouth."
I knew who one of the magicians was he was talking about. I had seen his act about 6 months prior in another club. He was bad then. Turning his back to the audience as he grabbed his next trick, standard one-liners, at one point in his show an audience member finished the joke for him.

These are examples that I have personally run into. Bad Magicians create a bad impression of magic. And this will make the mountain a little steeper for the next magician. You must also realize that as magicians are main competition is not other magicians but other entertainers in general. You are competing against comedians, jugglers, musicians, vents, game shows, speakers, etc. Hey, and if a bad magician can help narrow the field for the buyer all the better for them... but not us.

Sergeant
Mike Walton
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Thanks for all of the posts. Sergeant, thanks for the examples.

Are there more bad magicians now compared to the older times during the years of Eddie Fechter, the magic bars, or even earlier?
Chris H
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I believe I was the one who posted the thread that Jive-Turkey refers to in his initial post. It's interesting that a lot of the ideas that have been expressed here were the same things I and others had mentioned in the original thread. Yet in that one, we were ripped to shred for even suggesting that there were bad magicians around/performing.

I must say I agree with the majority here. For too long magicians have been "kids entertainment", and very few have bothered to even consider what they're doing. They dress badly, have terrible scripts that seem unnatural, and perform the same, tired, clichéd effects over and over again. Why? Regardless of whether anyone has ever seen a magic performance, they are all aware of the images of linking rings, or pulling a rabbit out of a hat. There are a lot of magicians who still seem to be living in the early 1900s. The problem is, that the majority of magicians are like this. They simply perform tricks, without any real thought into the theatrical presentation. Hence, majority rules. This is the perception the public has of magic. And so they should...

Please note that this is not directed at anyone in particular, especially in this section of the Café. I enjoy posting here far more than I enjoy chatting with the "flourish monkeys" further up the board.

Cheers guys. Take care.

-- Topher
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