Showmanship and Presentation

OK. I had the bright idea yesterday of posting the entire chapter Two of a an  unfinished and unpublished book on card tricks I started to write 35 years ago. This chapter does not give magic secrets away but gives some hints on how to present magic in the first place.

It will help me to fill up space on this blog for quite a few future posts as I will post it all in installments. I think it will also  help beginner magicians in presenting their card tricks. I believe it may also help more advanced magicians too if they read it carefully particulary the latter half of the chapter.

OK. Let’s get it started:

CHAPTER TWO

SHOWMANSHIP AND PRESENTATION

 

Now that you’ve learned a few easy tricks, I’m going to give you a few tips on how to perform them. Notice I said PERFORM, not do them. You see, magic has to be PERFORMED if it is going to be effective. If you just go through the motions of a trick mumbling your words, perhaps fumbling slightly with the cards, talking too much OR too little and generally struggling through without any attempt at showmanship you’re not going to impress too many people. You may, if you’re lucky slightly puzzle a few spectators who have been able to sit through your effort but you certainly won’t have ENTERTAINED them.

And entertainment is what magic is all about. Always remember entertainment comes first! Mystifying people, although not unimportant, must come second, I’m afraid. Even experienced amateur magicians tend to become so fascinated by the secret of a trick that they neglect to present it properly. The professional magician is less prone to let the ingenuity of a trick distract him from his main purpose-that is entertaining his audience. Since a man who earns his living by magic has to please his public or be out of work, he is not likely to let his enthusiasm for secrets affect his capacity to deliver an entertaining performance.

This book is for the beginner in card magic, not the professional. However, the same principles apply-if you put showmanship and good presentation into your performance you will be repaid a thousand fold. The amazement and delight you will see in the faces of the onlookers will be your reward. When you become proficient, people will treat you as a minor celebrity; you will be feted and admired for your talent; you will find spectators laughing and exclaiming with astonishment at your miracles and you will experience great feelings of satisfaction at your new found ability. Unfortunately, you won’t get any of this without good presentation. The best reaction you’d get would be polite indifference; the worst reaction would be downright hostility.

 

Showmanship and Presentation

The Teaspoon Trick

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I hadn’t the slightest idea what to write about today on this blog but then I remembered that about 40 or so years ago when I was  young and had hair I started to write a book on card tricks for beginners. I got up to five chapters and then got bored with the whole thing as I had no idea how I was supposed to get it published in the first place.

However, last year I transcribed the whole thing into my computer on the off chance (a very thin off chance) that I might finish the damn thing one day. It occurs to me that it might be a good idea to put one of the card tricks from the book here today for the amusement of all and sundry. It’ll save me the hassle of thinking of something to write anyway. And who knows? Maybe some great publishing house will see it and be so excited about the trick that they will pay me vast sums of money to finish the book and I can end up rich and famous.

OK. I suppose I had better get back to reality now. In the meantime here is the extract. It is a very easy trick to do and somebody might get a bit of fun out of it.  Here it is straight from the book. Ignore the bit where it says look at figure one since there isn’t one. I never got that far.

THE TEASPOON TRICK

Actually you don’t really need a teaspoon. You could use a pen. Or if there is no pen handy you could use nothing at all except the deck of cards. However the incongruity of the teaspoon makes the trick more amusing and novel. I used to do it without the teaspoon but one day in a fit of impromptu devilment I saw one handy and decided to use it as a sort of magic wand and it made the trick more effective.

First there is a tiny little bit of preparation. Secretly place the seven of hearts and the eight of diamonds on the top of the deck before you start the trick. This might be a good point to explain what I mean by the top of the deck. Let us assume that the deck is face down. The first face down card is the top card of the deck. It is at the top of the deck. The last card of the deck is at the bottom of the deck. Now I hope you know what I am talking about. It gets a little more complicated if the pack is face up since the top card will now be the bottom of the deck and the bottom card will be at the top. I am quite sure that you have no idea what the last sentence meant and I now wish I hadn’t written it. I shall try again. Let us assume that the deck is face upwards. The card facing you is actually the top card of the pack since it is at the top. However that is from a technical literal point of view. From a card magician’s standpoint it is actually the bottom card of the deck! And the same goes for the bottom card which is actually the top of the deck.

The heck with it! I wish I hadn’t started this description. I shall let you use your common sense and figure it out yourself. Or look at figure 1; that should hopefully clear it up for you.

Anyway put the seven of hearts and the eight of diamonds at the top of the deck. You do this secretly before performing the trick. Now remove openly the eight of hearts and the seven of diamonds from the deck and hold them together in a little fanned formation as in figure 2. By holding the cards in this fashion your spectators will forget which is which. Just to recap you have two cards on the top of the deck, that is the seven of hearts and the eight of diamonds and two other cards in your hands which seem similar but are not the same, that is the seven of hearts and the eight of diamonds.

Ask the spectator to take both cards together and place them face down either together or separately into the face down deck which you helpfully spread between your hands in order for him to do this. Now square up the pack and place it face down on the table. Ask your spectator to take the teaspoon and tap the back of the deck. When he does so tell him to tap it again. After this second tap ask him to repeat the tap. This of course is all window dressing and showmanship. The teaspoon and the tapping have nothing whatever to do with the trick but it does add a certain finesse to it. If there is no teaspoon handy then use a pen or pencil. Or the spectator can merely tap the deck with his forefinger.

Now take off the two top cards and reveal that the cards he put in the deck a moment ago have now come to the top! I can assure you that the assembled company will be quite amazed. Of course the audience will have confused the seven of hearts/eight of diamonds combination with the eight of hearts/seven of diamonds combination and will actually believe that somehow the cards rose from the middle of the deck to the top. And they will be quite baffled as to how this came about.

Take your bow and bask in your new found glory.

The Teaspoon Trick

The Lives of a Showman

I see that the person who set up this blog for me and who made the first post under my name said there would be excerpts from my most wondrous memoirs “The Lives of a Showman”. However in reality so far there hasn’t been a single excerpt! Well I suppose I had better remedy that right now. Here you are. This describes my adventures when first starting out in showbusiness in London, England.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

At the time there was a weekly theatrical newspaper called
The Stage (it is still in existence to this day). It had all sorts of
advertisements in a category called “Entertainers Wanted.” The
depressing thing was that you would often see the ads worded
something like this: “Variety acts of all kinds required. (No
magicians.)” It amuses me now to think about it, but at the time it
wasn’t amusing in the slightest.

Eventually, I happened to see an advertisement requesting entertainers
to audition. This time the ad didn’t say a word about not
wanting magicians, so I thought it might be worth a try. Accordingly, I phoned the number in the paper and was told to report for
an interview prior to an audition being set up. I was told to bring
any photographs I had of the act. In those days photos were the
most important part of your promotional material; they were more
important than any literature you had.

I took down the address and prepared to be on my way the next
afternoon. However, my sense of navigation became somewhat
askew, and I got lost. I came to a tiny street called Swallow Street
where there were two nightclubs side by side. One was called the
L’Hirondelle and the other was named the Stork Room. For some
reason, which I can no longer recall, I was convinced that the
L’Hirondelle was the place where the auditions were being held,
so I wandered in with great anticipation.

There was a small, empty hallway; nobody seemed to be
around. It was beginning to dawn on me that perhaps I had come
to the wrong address. Just then a small, dark, important-looking
man appeared out of nowhere. I found out later that he was the
owner of the nightclub. So many years have passed that I have
quite forgotten his name, so for the purpose of this story I will call
him Mr. Mustapha. He was of Turkish origin.

He looked at me and said, “We are closed until the evening.
Did you want something?” I replied, “I have come about the
auditions advertised in the paper.” His puzzled response was,
“What auditions? What paper?” I said, “The Stage newspaper. It
said you were having auditions; I phoned up about it.”
He answered, “I don’t know anything about auditions. You
must have come to the wrong place. Are you an entertainer?” I
replied, “I am indeed,” whereupon he inquired, “What kind of entertainer
are you?” I told him that I was a magician. He pondered
for a moment and said, “I need entertainers. I don’t know if a
magician would be suitable here, though.” I told him that my act
was a little different from most magicians, since it consisted of
nothing but card tricks. I told him that the card tricks in question
could be seen from a distance and appreciated by large audiences.
He didn’t seem convinced.

My salvation had always been the close-up magic, so I immediately pulled out a little pocket trick and showed it to him.His eyes widened; I could see that he was impressed. I then did a card trick and I could see he was sold. He said, “I’ll tell you what. We have an early show at 10:00 p.m. and a later show at 1:00 a.m. Do your act here tonight at the earlier show and I’ll see how well it goes over. If it works out I will hire you.” He explained that I
would not be paid for the evening; my performance would be an
audition.

I agreed to this and was quite pleased with myself. I left the club
deciding not to bother locating the place where I was supposed to
do the audition that was advertised in The Stage newspaper.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

I shall continue this saga in future blog entries. At least it will give me something to write about. I will probably post the next entry tomorrow. You will be able to see how I fared at my first show at this particular nightclub.

The Lives of a Showman