Kid Magic

Discuss the art of Children's Entertainment with your fellow performers.

Postby Guest » 07/14/07 01:25 PM

This is just an opinion but I think that it fits here in the kid magic show section. I started doing kid magic shows when I was eight years old. I wanted to do magic and I got my first magic tricks from books from the library. I built my first magic show out of coffee cans and cardboard tubes. I used to do shows and load my tricks into a little red wagon that I had and I would do Birthday parties.

Starting as a magician doing birthday parties wasnt as easy as people think in the Bishop Family.

In our house magic secrets were valued because it was a business not a hobby. Magic paid the bills and put food on the table. So if I wanted to be a magician the attitude was to get it together so I could charge money for the show. In other words the reason for the show was to make money by making people happy and be entertained by the show.

It was selling a service.

So I put a show together when I was eight years old but in order to do it and charge money I had to get it to a level that it was worth the money I charged for it. So what I had to do by my Dads instruction was to do free shows for the experience.

Today we have magicians that want to start at the top. I get people - amateur magicians that e-mail me and ask me how much I charge for a show. What they want to do is charge the same fee I do. I find that charging a professional fee for an amateur and inexperienced performer would be bad for the magic business and bad for magic. An amateur magician with no show business experience should not be charging the same amount of money for a magician that has the experience.

And if they have to ask why - well then they must be an amateur magician.

The idea was that my Dad said, was that you should not charge money for a magic show until the show is worth the money you charge for it as a service.

It takes time for a magic act and a magician to get good with the performance material. When entertainers perform on a regular basis they get what is called the performers edge.

So for about two years I did birthday party shows in my neighborhood for free to get the experience. Later on I charged five dollars a show. Not bad money for a nine year old and it beat mowing lawns like a lot of other nine year olds were doing to earn money to buy comic books at the time.

I purchased a lot of comic books in those days but I also purchased more magic and improved my show.

The point here of what I am trying to say is that magicians today do not seem to have the work ethic that the magicians used to have. Many magicians that do magic today do it as a hobby. I see nothing wrong with that but if I may, I want to add that magic is a performance art form. The audience and the show are an important part. There is the practice of magic and the art of practicing the performance art of magic and to me that is doing the shows.

The other thing I want to bring up is what I feel is some of what I think are lost work ethics that I feel are important no matter what kind of a show a magician does. There right out of the Magic Digest by George B. Anderson. The Magic Digest is an important book to me because it was the first magic book that I ever purchased with my own money from doing Magic shows and the start of my own magic library. And even today I consider it must reading for any performing magician.

Ground Rules of Magic

1, Decide on a style of performance and stick with it.

2, Make your personal appearance indicate the quality of performance.

3, Never do a trick in public unless you can do it well.

4, Routine your tricks.

5, Never, never, never expose a trick under any circumstances.

6, Amateur or professional, you extend professional courtesy to other performers.

7,Accept the prevailing performance conditions.

8,Dont embarrass anyone in your audience.

9. Keep it clean.

10, Never do tricks with dangerous items in front of children.

11,Have a definite terminal point.

I still find them very good rules

Onward and upward.

Postby Guest » 07/14/07 03:51 PM

Now there's several thousand dollars worth of advice to any wanna-be professional.

One of the reasons to join a magic club is to do free shows that don't take work away from a working pro. Assembly 22 of the SAM that I was a member of when I was a kid put on free shows in some diverse places like the Ventura School for Girls, a low-level prison for really tough girls.

You get your experience where you can and, as Billy Bishop drilled into his son, you can, in time, charge what you're worth. At the beginning, regardless of what you think your technical skill level is, you aren't worth much. That comes after you learn how to please an audience and entertain them. Glenn was lucky to have a pro of Billy's level to study under.

Postby Guest » 07/14/07 04:48 PM

George left out the most important step of all. Maybe he felt that his rules implied it strongly enough that nobody would miss it.

Have an act.

Postby Guest » 07/14/07 06:41 PM

An amazing post. I wish someone had given me those rules when I started out.


Postby Guest » 07/15/07 07:00 AM

David Alexander said

At the beginning, regardless of what you think your technical skill level is, you aren't worth much. That comes after you learn how to please an audience and entertain them.

David you just said in one line something that would take me a whole book to write and explain. I think that this is worth at least a thousand dollars to any magician starting out.

Thanks David.

Postby Guest » 07/15/07 09:13 AM

"1, Decide on a style of performance and stick with it."

Great post Glenn, and I agree with most of it. However, in the list of rules, I do not agree with the above. I never decided on a style of performance, and stuck with it. I think this can be a mistake, especially starting out in this business. I think it can stifle the creative juices to take this course. Your style and performances will evolve through practical experience by performing in front of a variety of audiences over a period of time. I have been a professional magician for over 40 years. During that time I have performed Children's shows, walkabout, illusion shows, cabaret name it, and I have done it! My performance style 40 years ago is very different to that of today. Every show I do is a little different to the one before. I never settle in my style, and I am constantly changing and evolving. I, personally, think it is a mistake to decide on a style of performance and stick with it. What do others think? JR

Postby Guest » 07/15/07 09:29 AM

While George Anderson had a lot to offer magic, and did make some valid points in his list of rules, I must caution any reader of his material to bear in mind that George was not a professional magician. He wrote advertising.

The viewpoint of a person whose very existence depends on how good his show is and how well it is accepted by his audience is much different from that of someone who does a bit of magic now and then.

So, I weigh the offerings of these people based upon what I know from earning a living as a magician for 30 years.


Of course your style is different from what it was when you started. So is Lance Burton's.

However, I'm sure there is some consistency in the way you perform. You probably don't change styles in the middle of a show.

Karrell Fox performed in different styles.

Postby Guest » 07/15/07 09:47 AM

"You probably don't change styles in the middle of a show."

Actually I do, Bill! There is much light and shade in my kids show. One minute I am doing silly stuff dressing the kids up with funny hats, and wands collapsing or mutiplying all over the place. The next moment I am doing a classic like "The Linking Rings" set to music. style is definitely not consistant. This, I believe, is most important for a children's entertainer, and it helps keep the attention of the little ones. JR

Postby Guest » 07/15/07 11:01 AM

Is that a stylistic change or a thematic change?

Postby Guest » 07/15/07 01:17 PM

I would like to add that George B. Anderson was also the producer of the Magic Ranch television show starring Don Alan. George B. Came into our magic shop at Old Chicago many times and lived in Elmhurst IL.

Magician's talk about being a pro and making a full time living.

I have found that some of the most experienced pro's have taken time off for a few years and take a Day Job.

Besides doing shows my Dad started an advertising business. He also worked for North Western Mutual Life Insurance in the advertising promotion department for about three years.

He was director of entertainment and special events for Old Chicago Amusement park where we started in the magic shop business.

Lots of professional magicians have had different kinds of jobs besides magic from time to time.

Here is my opinion of rule one.

1, Decide on a style of performance and stick with it.

I looked at that from the point of view of a kid and to me it went sort of like this. Find the kind of magic that you like to do and stick with it. Close up? Stage Magic?

When I was a kid I started doing stand up magic at birthday party shows and the "style" of magic was stand up that would work in a living room. So I learned how to speak to a group. Use eye contact and learned how to get people up out of the audience - let them help without embarrassment to them or the audience. Things like that.

Later in High School I got interested in close up magic. The style was the magic that was published by Dai Vernon and a few others.

Others may not agree but that was my slant on what George B. Anderson wrote.
David wrote

"Glenn was lucky to have a pro of Billy's level to study under."

(Glenn Bishop)
Yes and a lot of his friends to. (Buddy Farnan, Jack Pyle, Don Alan, Jack and Anne Gwynne, etc.)But I have to honestly say that my Dad did not teach me magic he taught me "show business" and "promotion and advertising".

There is a difference between practicing a magic trick and practicing the art of magic.

And it was through the shows and my Dad and Mom that I learned the difference and how make a living "doing" magic.

Onward and upward.

Postby Guest » 07/15/07 01:22 PM

"Is that a stylistic change or a thematic change?'

Both! JR

Postby Guest » 07/16/07 08:32 PM

Decide on a style of performance and stick with it.

This is good advice for a beginner, especially a young person. Jim Gerrish has a group of young Wiz Kids and we have noticed that they have a tendency to want to jump around from doing escapes one day to mentalism the next... whatever catches their fancy. The rule (as I see it) is meant as a guide to focus on one thing at a time, master it, and then move on. If you decide to change styles, it should be for a good reason, not just because you saw some guy doing something on TV and you just have to learn how to be like that guy and do magic the way he does.

As the young people mature, and the beginner gains more experience, rules like this are no longer necessary except as teaching aids.

Postby Guest » 07/16/07 09:50 PM

"As the young people mature, and the beginner gains more experience, rules like this are no longer necessary except as teaching aids."

On this I would agree, Spellbinder. As one matures in magic, the rules become less and less important. I am now at a stage in my profession as a children's entertainer that I really have no rules. I intuitively know what works best in my shows, what I should charge for these shows, and how I should get booked for these shows. When somebody(especially a magician) tells me I should do A, B or C, I usually listen to them, ignore them, and do D! JR

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