I haven’t written anything for a couple of weeks as I have been touring Western Canada with my hypnotism show. Now that I have returned I can’t think of a thing to write about! The best I can do is give an extract from a book I wrote about 35 years ago. The second chapter consisted of advice for magicians on showmanship and presentation. I figured it might not go amiss to produce it here as I haven’t changed my views on these matters even decades later. So here you go!
- USE PATTER TO MAKE YOUR MAGIC ENTERTAINING.
This is where 75% of all would be wizards fall down. Even experienced magicians are often run of the mill performers simply because of poor or badly delivered patter. I believe this is an important subject, in some ways more important than the trick itself. You see, patter is the vehicle of your showmanship; good patter can lift a performance into the heights of entertainment-bad patter can make a trick resemble the sinking of the Titanic. In other words, a disaster.
Admittedly you will have seen magicians on stage and television perform in pantomime to music. These performances are known as “silent acts”. However this book is not trying to teach you to be a stage magician, but rather to instruct you in the art of card magic for your own satisfaction and the entertainment of your friends. With regard to the purpose of performing in social situations for our family and friends good patter is essential.
Now where do you acquire this silver tongue, you may ask? It’s not really difficult; it just takes some application. First of all, after thoroughly learning the mechanics of a trick, why not spend a half hour or so thinking about what to say for it. Use your brain, that’s all you have to do. With a little imagination you should be able to come up with something. In fact, you can get ideas from almost anywhere. Look around you and see if there’s some object in sight that will give you an idea for a patter line. Perhaps you can pick up a book and browse through it in search of inspiration. Whatever you do try and make it interesting, even whimsical or perhaps a little nonsensical. You may prefer to make your tricks appear dark and mysterious. If so, mould your patter accordingly, but don’t try to be something you’re not. In other words, if you’re not really suited to being a comedian there’s no need to make yourself look ridiculous attempting to tell jokes with your tricks. Be natural, be yourself, but be entertaining.
Now of course this may create a conflict because you may not naturally be an entertaining personality. On one hand I am stating that you should be yourself and on the other hand I’m saying you should be entertaining. So you may well ask, “How am I supposed to be myself and be amusing at the same time? My conversation is as dull as dishwater, I don’t like speaking in public, I am naturally a quiet, shy person, so how am I supposed to transform to a product of Barnum and Bailey combined with shades of the Ringmaster to the Greatest Show on Earth?”
Actually the answer is you don’t. You will find that the more you perform card magic the more interesting your personality will become anyway. You don’t have to change overnight to a reincarnation of Dante, Blackstone, Houdini or any other great magician of the past. As time goes by your personality will become more interesting anyway. However, you do have to help it along a tiny bit. For example, if you should make an amusing remark extemporaneously try and remember it for future occasions. You will find as time goes by you will accumulate a stock of these remarks and you can weave them into your performances. If you think you’re as dull as dishwater and you lack confidence, don’t worry! Magic is an incredible confidence builder. Every time you hear gasps of astonishment it will do wonders for your morale.
We seem to have gone away from the subject under discussion, namely patter. Well, here we are again; all I have to say about it now is that I do NOT recommend learning it off by heart. You will certainly sound stilted and ten to one you will forget the words halfway through the trick. It’s a far better plan to get a general idea of what you wish to say, rehearse it aloud a few times with the cards in hand, going through the motions of the trick as you do, and finally when you come to perform you will sound more spontaneous than if you had learned the patter word for word. After many performances you will find that you tend to say the same words over and over again anyway, but with more flexibility. If someone interrupts you will not be put off whereas if the patter was learnt off by heart a break in the performance could throw you off completely.
After all this I waffle on about other performance matters. If I can’t think of anything else to write about in future posts I may well post more of those thoughts here.