Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conceit

All beginners in magic should address their questions here.
performer
Posts: 2163
Joined: August 7th, 2015, 10:35 pm

Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conceit

Postby performer » September 21st, 2016, 2:44 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:
performer wrote:... the best way to "make the moments" are to underplay them. Trained actors overplay them.


For those of us learning how to do that reliably - go for about half the audience catching on that there's been a glitch - have a friend watch a few shows so check audience responses during those moments to fine tune the performance?


A lot depends on how incompetent you are. If you appear incompetent or better still if you ARE incompetent you won't need to act so much! I would also suggest that for the average magician, despite what I said earlier, one sucker trick in a performance is more than enough. I break this rule but that is because I am an exceptional person and normal rules do not apply.

The best way to act as if things have gone wrong is to think in your mind that it HAS gone wrong! In other words it is all in the mind. And no. Don't get friends to check audience responses particularly if those friends are magicians. The trouble with magicians is that they think their opinions are important. They most certainly aren't. You don't need anyone. Just observe for yourself. It should be pretty obvious if they think the trick has really gone wrong. If they mock and deride you or seem to feel sorry for you then you know you are on the right track.

Jack Shalom
Posts: 420
Joined: February 7th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Brooklyn NY

Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conceit

Postby Jack Shalom » September 21st, 2016, 7:56 pm

An acting suggestion for "magician in trouble.": don't play the trouble, play the action of trying to get *out* of trouble.

It's like when you play a drunk; don't play the drunkenness; play the attempt to appear sober, the effort to walk a straight line. The results will tend to be more realistic. It's the effort to appear what you are not that defines those conditions.


But I'm not so sure it's such a great thing to be too convincing; you are asking an audience to spend real emotional capital on you as a person, not just as a performer. Then you go ha-ha, I was just joking. You may have crossed a line in some audience members' eyes.

As an analogy, if as a performer, you were to stop the show to say seriously that you just found out that your spouse is very sick and you'd appreciate it if someone could drive him or her to the hospital, it would be upsetting for an audience to then be told ha-ha just joking after they have commiserated with you.

By the way, in my opinion, it's not the same as doing a sucker trick. In a sucker trick, the audience is committing themselves only to the question of the performer's method, not the performer's emotional well-being. Yes they do then find out that they were fooled by what the method actually is. But there is no emotional commitment in those cases as to the performer's well-being as there could be with the "magician in trouble" scenario. That's why I think it is best not to be too convincing, but better to let the mask slip a bit, and show the playfulness behind the apparent trouble.

performer
Posts: 2163
Joined: August 7th, 2015, 10:35 pm

Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conceit

Postby performer » September 21st, 2016, 9:34 pm

Jack. You have to know when to do a sucker trick. You do not do it when you have nice polite audiences all sitting in their chairs smiling nicely. You do it when people are a bit boisterous or trying to catch you out. It is a great thing to do with hecklers for example. You do it when they HOPE you have done it wrong!

Audiences in the real world can be quite sadistic because they hate being fooled. These are the audiences you do this stuff with, not audiences who invest "emotional commitment" in you. If you are a soft spoken nice person they may indeed feel sorry for you but on the other hand they might take it as sign of weakness and want to tear you apart.

To me there is not really any difference between a "magician in trouble" trick or a "sucker trick". I suppose you could present it in a mamby pamby way so as not to hurt the audience member's feelings. Some kid show entertainers adopt this position and are afraid to do Hippity Hop Rabbits or water it down because they think the kids will be traumatised for life. I can assure you they won't be. I expect they will all grow up to beat their wives, act drunk in public, go out shoplifting and drop litter in the streets like the rest of us. And become bad magicians as well of course.

These mistake tricks can be very powerful if presented correctly at the right time for the right people.


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