An Open Letter to Crappy Magicians
I recently was hired to coach a speaker who also happened to do a bit of magic in her programs. It seems to me that the things that I told him are the same things I tell a bunch of people. Usually I’m nicer than what follows… but since I’m not talking to anybody in particular, perhaps you’ll forgive me.
This letter is to all of the magicians doing sub-par magic. (It seems to me that there are a a bunch of you.) As well as all of the speakers and trainers who dabble in magic and do a tiny bit of it to add to their presentations and public speaking.
(If this letter isn’t for you… then you’ll know it. If it is… you should take notes.)
I think your choice of props can be improved. My favorite magicians use props that look like stuff they bought at TARGET or Home Depot. Not the magic store. Our audiences today are so hip and sophisticated that their eyes glaze over when they see magic wands, velvet (change) bags and silk scarves. They see that stuff and immediately connect us with the dweeby 19 yr old that did our little tykes’ neighbors’ birthday party. If you don’t believe me ask your pals. Seriously… ask your pals. It might mean that you are looking a little dweeby yourself.
So I like your card and rope tricks… no schmaltzy props. They’re a bit tired, but what the heck; I use ‘em too. But … ok, I’ll say it… I hate the “magic scarves.” The box with the fake Chinese characters on it. The silly table that doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen any where but at magic shops. And I hate the change bag. It immediately tips you as an amateur. Not just to me, a guy who loves magic. But to the whole audience. To the whole world.
Here comes the straight talk.
My five year old uses a change bag and gets away with it because he is a cute little boy and people forgive him for doing a stupid trick. You are so smart and charming yet I can’t believe anybody is fooled, nor are they impressed with that little red bag. I think it is almost that simple: you are never gonna be a top-level speaker or entertainer if you are holding the same $25 magic-store prop that Skippy the Magic Clown uses. Trash it… or give it to my kid.
If you ask 10 people to describe a cliché magician they will come up w/ the same words and images. Top hat. Wand. Rope. Velvet bag. Get the point…? I think we, as magicians, need to immediately lose the props that on on the top shelf of the magic store and are done by birthday-party magicians around the globe.
My soap box: as magicians we need to recognize that magic has a deservedly bad rep. There is so much bad magic in the world most people don’t love it and I don’t blame them. If we accept this as true, it makes our path clear: avoid cliché magic. Big time… we just gotta stay clear of mediocre and crappy stuff.
But….I challenge you do learn that trick… or something like it using sleight of hand. Sure, you do the Prof. Nightmare trick with rope. Cool. Now keep going with the sleight of hand.
Let’s face it; audiences are impressed by what they perceive as skills. So if you dazzle them with a trick that they could never do… if you do some sleight of hand without a bag, without a dove pan, without….
Trust me.. they’ll be blown away. You work will be totally worth the effort. If they see you, a terrific person who can dazzle them with skills, personality, and his or her own hands…. Wow!
You can do it. Just make sure you’re doing the right thing.