Discuss general aspects of Genii.

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 03:31 PM

What are some good books on different patters for trick

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 03:54 PM

Read Henning Nelms Magic and Showmanship. It will tell you some things you need to know about how to write your own scripts.

Most "patters," as you refer to them, are not suitable for anyone but the person who wrote them. Using someone else's script is like wearing someone else's clothing.

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 04:05 PM

Funny how the term "script" has come into vogue these days. There's something less pretentious about "patter" and especially "patters".

Postby NCMarsh » 12/12/06 04:29 PM

I can't stand "patter," a word that -- as Docc Hilford points out -- seems to come from smushing together "prattle" and "chatter."

"Script" is a direct and accurate description of what you are using (assuming that you are, indeed, writing the words that you will speak and the actions that accompany those words).

N. Orlando Magician
User avatar
Posts: 1194
Joined: 02/16/08 01:00 PM
Location: Orlando, FL

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 04:31 PM

Originally posted by Bob Coyne:
Funny how the term "script" has come into vogue these days. There's something less pretentious about "patter" and especially "patters".
Patter is a twelve year old boy saying "Many years ago, when I was traveling through India, I found an old Jadoowallah who had two bamboo sticks like these --"

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 05:19 PM

All words have their connotations and emphasize different aspects of some underlying reality. So, yeah, "patter" could be a 12 year old talking about his trip to India. But that's not all bad -- there's something refreshing and liberating in highlighing the artificiality and arbitrariness of the words being spoken.

One nice thing about Ricky Jay's act is how it delights in patter as mere "patter". It's a mistake to denigrate "patter" in favor of the overly prescriptive and recently fashionable "script".

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 05:45 PM

"Script" has been fashionable for as long as magicians who wanted to get out of the mold have used it. If 30 years is recent, so be it.

It's also a mistake to assume that mindless patter is better than something with actual meaning.

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 06:36 PM

I found Ricky Jay's scripting impeccable and brilliant last week. Nothing mindless about it, though it flowed effortlessly and was punctuated by well-placed silences.

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 06:55 PM

I think I met that kid in India when I was there as a 12 year old boy. Funny how many of us traveled there as kids. Man what a summer!! :D

Postby Larry Barnowsky » 12/12/06 07:01 PM

The word "patter" has always had a cheesy connotation to me. I associate it with Orben one liners.

Virtually all theatrical performances follow a script. Why should magic be any different? "Winging it" works great if you're Robin Williams. Without a plan of what you are going to say, when you're going to say it, and how you're going to say it, you'll lose your chance to connect with your audience and present a polished theatrical magical performance. The problem lies in the fact that coming up with ideas for a script that is entertaining is hard work. I believe it's worth that extra effort and I'm convinced your audience will notice that you did.
Magica Analytica
Larry Barnowsky
Posts: 406
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Cooperstown, NY

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 07:02 PM

Sorry, but "script" isn't indicative of breaking out of the mold. It *is* the current mold. "Patter" has the virtue of being fresher, despite its untrendy and 12-year-old boy feel.

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 07:38 PM

Originally posted by Bob Coyne:
Sorry, but "script" isn't indicative of breaking out of the mold. It *is* the current mold. "Patter" has the virtue of being fresher, despite its untrendy and 12-year-old boy feel.
Till you have a character, a motivation and a basic relationship both to the audience and to the magic you offer, there is very little to discuss.

Once you know who your character is, and what is supposed be happening in the story you are trying to get across to the audience, the spoken part of the presentation can evolve.


Okay go ahead and be trendy and put on those Dr Seuss striped toe socks too. Ah what the heck, put on that hoodie too.

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 07:55 PM

I agree as to the importance of charactor and motivation. I think planned statements whether you call it patter or scripts or whatever are also important Improvisation as theatrical technique is useful. A very useful book, now hard to find, is Ken de Courcey's Sequential Comedy. The oft dissed Orben books have their place as a source of stock lines for your mental gag file. The 2 fat volumes of Milton Berle's gag file are very useful. Studying some of the techniques of the masters is rewarding. For a graduate course in charactor, timing and comedy technique study videos of Victor Borge I think we need to look at all performance tools and not just those of magicians. I think this is much more interesting and rewarding than just collecting secrets.

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 08:07 PM

Originally posted by Larry Barnowsky:
"Winging it" works great if you're Robin Williams.
Robin Williams does not "wing" it. He performs a superbly scripted act, from which he occasionally improvises. He is, in many ways, the poster child for scripting.

This entire conversation is (so far) entirely off the point. Patter and Script are not different names for the same thing, they are different things.

Script: the written text of a play, movie, or broadcast.
Patter (take your pick): rapid or smooth-flowing continuous talk; rapid speech included in a song, esp. for comic effect; to talk at length without saying anything significant.

Which of these do you do? If you talk at length without saying anything significant, that will not change just because you call it a script. Conversely, if what you say is stale and uncreative, it will not become fresher because you change what you call it.

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 09:26 PM

As usual with these sort of things, everyone has different ideas of what words mean. That's partly a result of how words slice up the world somewhat differently and drag in different associated contexts.

Pete McCabe's definitions for "script" and "patter" are just one way to slice those respective slices. Defining "script" as "the written text of..." leaves out *all* of the interesting connotations of "script" and "scripting". i.e., How can an act be "superbly scripted" (as he says) if a script is essentially just a written transcript? Does that mean it was written neatly, with good penmanship? :-) Scripting obviously connotes much more than the physical, textual record.

Anyway, whatever definitions we choose, the important point is that different terminology highlights different ways of thinking. They all have blind spots, and it's interesting to notice how this has changed over time. And it's likewise instructive to consider the broader context where "patter" is an important focal point. Ricky Jay invokes this in an interesting an artistic manner, but it's by no means the only way.

Postby Guest » 12/12/06 11:52 PM

People's opinions, or misunderstandings of what a word means do not determine the meaning of said word.

Patter is an intransitive verb which derives from middle English.

It primary meaning, according to Merriam-Webster (the preferred online resource for my professor of Technical Writing) is:

to say or speak in a rapid or mechanical manner

Which sounds exactly like what I associate with magic patter.

Script, on the other hand simply means something written.


Postby Guest » 12/13/06 12:41 AM

Originally posted by Bill Duncan:
Patter is an intransitive verb which derives from middle English.
Which is perfect for my Middle English Act!

"to say or speak in a rapid or mechanical manner

So you've seen my act then.

Postby Guest » 12/13/06 02:16 AM

Scripts are written on paper, not chiseled in stone. A good performer knows when to stick to the script and when to vary the presentation. Unless you have watched a really good performer who works from a script more than once, you won't know that he is actually working from a script.

I used to think that scripts limited a performer. Now I don't. They act as a map.

Postby Larry Barnowsky » 12/13/06 07:09 AM

We may be saying the same thing. Robin Williams and Billy Crystal and others have many prepared, thought out, and previously performed funny bits, voices, and characters which they can go in and out of at a moments notice. This is best seen when they are being interviewed on say a talk show. Their talent is weaving these prepared scripts into what appears to be pure improvisation. There is a distiction between that and unprepared improvisation which is hard to do well and uses no script. This is also different from reciting a script word for word.
Magica Analytica
Larry Barnowsky
Posts: 406
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Cooperstown, NY

Postby Guest » 12/13/06 08:26 AM

Hi Larry,

I think a key to the common theme here is that we have script and we have improvisation. The artists mentioned use both in good dosages. Improvisation in their cases, is more than "mere" patter. If your performance character is that of a con artist, what passes as patter may suffice. Ricky Jay demonstrates patter in his performance, but in the context of revealing the flavor and history of his subject.


Postby Brad Henderson » 12/13/06 08:28 AM

On one of those old "password" type games, the secret word was patter. While I can't remember the clues given (I did write them down at the time) they were of the ilk of: drivel, nonsense, chatter, etc.

From that, the contestant guessed the word correctly.
Brad Henderson
Posts: 2897
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: austin, tx

Postby Guest » 12/13/06 08:32 AM

Patter doesn't only mean "to say or speak in a rapid or mechanical manner. It can mean that. But in a magical context (and others) it often just refers to the words that are spoken along with a performance -- independent of the exact manner (rapid, slow, sing-song, etc) in which they're spoken.

The "script as map" metaphor is very interesting. It shows the limits of the term "script"...and "map" becomes another way to look at it. And that's my point. "Patter" focuses on the words that accompany a performance rather than all the stuff (timing, etc) that's usually "scripted". "Maps" focus on the branching possibilities, etc. And "one-liners" (whether jokes or just semi-independent verbal snippets) are a more specialized form of patter. Each concept has a different scope and emphasis with corresponding value and limitations.

Different people can work in different ways, with different amounts of "scriptedness" or "improvisation" or being themselves or playing a character, or with a verbal or non-verbal orientation, etc. Patter remains a useful concept in the space of performance elements. It shouldn't be belittled in the current infatuation with scripts.

Postby Guest » 12/13/06 11:42 AM

All of this is getting away from the original question, though. The poster who, judging from his other questions, seems to be unable or unwilling to look for the answers to his questions, is asking for us to spoon feed him the information that some of us have spent decades gathering.

Pointing him in the direction of tools, rather than bickering over terminology seems to be more productive than giving him a list of books full of outdated crap, such as the Orben books.

Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 12/13/06 11:49 AM

Originally posted by Bill Palmer:
Pointing him in the direction of tools, rather than bickering over terminology seems to be more productive than giving him a list of books full of outdated crap, such as the Orben books.
And with that in mind, I'd like to second your initial recommendation of Henning Nelms' "Magic and Showmanship".

Jim Maloney_dup1
Posts: 1709
Joined: 07/23/01 12:00 PM
Location: Northern New Jersey

Postby Guest » 12/13/06 12:12 PM

Originally posted by bogd19:
What are some good books on different patters for trick
Trying to answer the original question. Take a look at the category "Patter, Plots & Scripts" of ebooks. There might be something to get you started.


Postby Guest » 12/13/06 12:36 PM

I would recommend any one of the Ron Bauer's Private study Series.

These booklets are a great way to learn how to present magic, how to construct routine and how to write and deliver the patter.

Best luck.


Postby Guest » 12/13/06 01:41 PM

Sorry if I offended you and wasted your time Bill. I thought that is why they have forums to share information with each other. Everyone in here is smarter than a google search engine. I appreciate everyone's help.

Postby Guest » 12/13/06 05:47 PM

It's not a matter of wasting time. It's a matter of taking the time to explore. The way you word your requests leads me to believe that you have never gotten past the third page of a search engine result.

Did you ever just sit down with a magic book, such as the Tarbell series or even Mark Wilson's book, and read the material, just to see how the people involved with it think?

Have you ever looked at the forums where this kind of thing is discussed?

The suggestion of looking at Ron Bauer's material is a very good one. You should look at the list of booklets on his web site and purchase the ones that apply to your material, just to see how a professional performance might be routined and scripted. He explains why everything is done, in minute detail.

I could write out a routine for every trick you do, along with a presentation that would work, but it wouldn't work for you. It would work for me, but I don't know how you move, speak and project yourself.

It's not a matter of buying some lines, memorizing them and then spouting them as you go through the mechanics of the tricks.

There has been a lot of good material posted here about this kind of thing. Read it and think.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 12/13/06 07:26 PM

There are a lot of folks out there who perform magic, or want to perform magic, who think that they are not creative. They believe they cannot come up with their own presentations and need stock patter in order to perform. Maybe bogd19 is thinking along these lines.

There is absolutely no question that creativity comes easier to some people. Some folks are born gifted; others arent. Sometimes you have to work at whatever gifts passed you by.

I used to think that I lacked this kind of creativity until I started to exercise that part of my brain. I learned that creativity can be learned. Now I am finding it much easier to come up with presentations for effects that I like.

I learned the process of creativity: Its techniques, if you will. And it all begins with one thing: Observation. Open your eyes and your mind. Pay attention.

An exercise that will get you startedwhich I learned in lighting design when I was in collegeis describing everyday scenes and objects that you see by really going into detail.

Its not; the tree had green leaves. Its should be; The short tree had small leaves that were a very dark green. They shimmered in the sunlight as they rustled in the wind.

Which one of those descriptions paints a clear picture of a tree in your mind? The next time someone asks you what the weather is like, dont just say, Its cloudy. Describe the colors you see (or dont seeever notice that colors are less vivid on overcast days?). Describe the amount of wind and what its doing to the trees and objects on the ground. Note the smells in the air. Learn to observe and describe, not just see and say.

How, you might ask, does that make someone creative? What does that have to do with magic?

Answer: it changes the mindset. It teaches you how to take input (be it sensorial stimulus or factual information) and express it in a form that places unmistakable imagery in the mind of the person(s) receiving it.

Doesnt that sound like something you might want to do with your magic?

Four words I will never forget, and can still hear as if it were yesterday that I heard them, are, Creativity: What is it?

That phrase (with heavy emphasis on WHAT) is how Dewitt Jones begins his program on creativity. Dewitt Jones is a sought after corporate speaker. I was lucky enough to see him some years ago. I can honestly say that he transformed my thinking. Dewitt Jones is a photographer and filmmaker who worked for National Geographic and is now a freelancer. His stock in trade is his own creativity. But he is able to help you realize that you are indeed creative. I might not be super creative (read: gifted). But I am creative enough. And chances are so are you. Creativity is right there in front of you. You need only be observant enough to recognize it.

Of course, it may be behind you. Sometimes you have to turn around (thank you Mr. Jones). Like I said, what you need to be creative is to pay attention.

Sources of creativity are all around us. Many are already a part of our lives. You need stories for your magic? Why use someone elses patter when you probably have some good stories of your own? What interests do you have other than magic? Sports? Do you enjoy science fiction? Romance? Fantasy? There are endless subjects that can be adapted as subjects for magical effects. Chances are you are into one or more of them. What about life experiences? Has anything ever happened in your life that was extremely funny, or weird; maybe even heart warming? Stories with emotional hooks can become very potent performing pieces. Perhaps you can adapt those stories to your magic.

Its always better to stick with what you know, but its certainly not a requirement. The life experiences of family members can be a source of creative stimulation. Do you have a parent or grandparent (or uncle or cousin; any family member, maybe even friends or friends of friends) who tell great stories? I bet youve heard them a hundred times but never considered the fact that you could adapt them to a piece of magic.

You can also let experts be your source of creativity. Maybe a circus story might work for a new trick you just bought. See Two Hundred Years of the American Circus by Tom Ogden. Its filled with wonderful ideas for stories. In fact, Tom has two other books that are excellent sources for stories: Wizards and Sorcerers, and The Complete Idiots Guide to Ghosts and Hauntings.

There are books on every subject you can imagine, arent there? The next time you feel like buying a new trick, go to a library instead. Or go hang out at one of those giant bookstores where you can sample the books in a nice comfy chair while sipping a latte if thats more your style. Just be sure to purchase something.

Chances are your home is filled with opportunities. Pick up that old copy of The Guiness Book of World Records thats gathering dust. Talk about a freak show. Its second only to Ripleys?Believe it or Not, another possible idea source. And speaking of freak shows, Ricky Jays Learned Pigs and Fireproof Woman is another excellent source, as are any books about the kindred arts. Chris Wasshuber sells an eBook copy of Houdinis Miracle Mongers and Their Methods which is another great source for ideas.

There are many usable books about the Wild West, Greek and Roman myths, Shakespeare, Poe. I could go on and on. And a lot of them are on the discount table!

Do you hate books? Have you been to the movies lately? Are you into classic films? Have you seen every single James Bond movie? I once pulled a story idea out of a western that worked quite well for me at the time. Im not talking about actually referencing the movie; the movie gave me the idea for the presentation. If I can do it, so can you, believe me.

It is so important to pay complete attention. If youre looking at something you think may be an idea source, but its not coming together, change the view! Remember what I said about turning around? This is right out of Dewitt Jones thinking. Had he not simply turned around, one of his most famous photos would have been missed. (Youve probably seen it in an ad, but dont know that its his.) So, in thinking about a tricks presentation, maybe youre looking at something that you think should be funny, but its not working. Well maybe its weird or spooky instead! Something that is normally dramatic could end up being funny. Change the view and you will probably see something better.

With all of that said, I dont believe that creativity can be forced. It is imperative that you are relaxed when you are searching for ideas. You know; comfy chairs and lattes. If youre stressed because you have got to put together a presentation for some new trick in a week, you will likely fail. Rarely does creativity and pressure make good bedfellows.

And speaking of bed, take it from me: Keep a pen and paper handy on your nightstand. If you think of something in the middle of the night, get up and write it down right then. Dont take a chance at forgetting it. By writing it down, the worst thing that can happen is that the idea looks lousy in the morning. But if you dont write it down, and you forget it, youll kick yourself (been there, done that)! Creative thoughts can hit you at any time. Always be prepared to write things down. As the wise man said, The palest of ink is better than the sharpest memory.

Those of us not gifted with creativity and other talents have to work at it: Some harder than others. But it can also be fun work if you let it. Unfortunately, we live in a world of instant gratification. We want something for nothing (or for little as possible) and we want it NOW. I dont think it works that way; not if you want something good. And I think we all should strive to make our magic good.

Now if I could just do a better pass

User avatar
Dustin Stinett
Posts: 6347
Joined: 07/22/01 12:00 PM
Location: Southern California

Postby Guest » 12/13/06 07:42 PM

Holy crap!!

I was wondering if anyone was going to answer the poor guy's question, when we finally arrive at Dustin's post, which kicks ass! :whack:

You are in rare form, senor! Thank you.

Postby Guest » 12/13/06 09:39 PM

Amen Dave. One of the more thoughtful and thought provoking ideas for someone the is still trying to find their way in magic. Dustin, you just gave away a huge secret and I know I will look at my magic in a different way. It's wonderful to have someone as helpful as you and many of the other members of this forum to help lead the way. I'm not a pro, don't even know if I want to be one, but it sure makes a difference to have folks like you and so many others help point us in the right direction. For crying out loud I just emailed Harry Lorayne and he emailed me back, how fortunate am I. If we can't ask wide open questions of those with so much experience what is this place for? Forums and emails can be so deceptive sometimes, its not always easy to ask things the way you should and everyone should keep that in mind. Great post.
Peace, Joe

Postby Guest » 12/13/06 10:25 PM


If you will e-mail me, I will give you some instructions that will point you where you need to go.


Extremely well put.

Last year, right after Christmas, I sat down with a book called "Weird Texas," and found a half-dozen stories that inspired me to write magical pieces about them.

Another piece, which I debuted in Germany in June, was based upon an old Alpine song that I used to sing when I was playing in a Tyrolean band.

So, inspiration can come from many different places.

Postby Guest » 12/14/06 09:55 AM

thanks for your help dustin. When I was younger my Grandpa taught me maigc. He taught me what to do and what to say. It's been quite a few years now since I've been doing magic. I recently just got back into the swing of things. I ran into Dick Oslund at Abbotts a couple months ago and I should him how I do the professors nightmare. It was terrible cpm[ared to his. Im trying to do my tricks in my own way now and have been getting stuck. I guess I just needed you guys to get me focus. Thank you Dustin for help.

Postby Guest » 12/14/06 10:40 AM

Well said Dustin!

Postby Pete Biro » 12/14/06 10:42 AM

To try to answer the original poster's question.

Books: Sid Lorraine's Patter, George McAthy's books, Jimmy Muir's Laugh Lines (series) and the dozens and dozens of books by Robert Orben.

However, all these are dated, but the premises for many of their lines are solid--you just need to change the references to today's news.
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Guest » 12/14/06 07:57 PM

I was going to present a list of books, such are Eugene Burger's early works, Strong Magic and Darwin's new book which will be out shortly, and echo the suggestion to read Henning Nelm's Magic ans Showmanshoip.

But now, I'll just suggest you read Dustin's post once a day for a month...

And then get Eugene's books, and Strong Magic, and...

Postby Guest » 12/15/06 01:13 AM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
To try to answer the original poster's question.

Books: Sid Lorraine's Patter, George McAthy's books, Jimmy Muir's Laugh Lines (series) and the dozens and dozens of books by Robert Orben.

However, all these are dated, but the premises for many of their lines are solid--you just need to change the references to today's news.
I bough an Orben book recently, as a curiosity. It had a joke about Malenkov. (That's Georgy Maximilianovich , 1902-1988 which means that the joke was topical around 1954.)

Did you know that when Lenny Bruce started out, his ad in Variety said "No Orben?"

Robert Orben said

And he said it was a new type of act, and on the bottom of the ad every week ran "No Joe Miller, no corn, no Orben".

And the reason he was putting "No Orben" was at that point virtually every comedian in the country was using Orben.

So I used to look at this ad week after week and it started to irritate me and so I went to my lawyer and said I want to sue this fellow, and the lawyer smiled and with great omniscience said, "Look, Bob, save your money. Who has ever heard of Lenny Bruce and who is ever going to hear of Lenny Bruce?" (laughter) Needless to say he is not my lawyer anymore. [ Interview with Robert Orben by Simon Sandall .]

Postby Pete Biro » 12/15/06 10:32 AM

That's a great story!
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Guest » 12/15/06 12:03 PM

The best books for obtaining patter I can think of off hand are Grimm's Fairy Tales, Bartlett's Quoatations and Bullfinch's Mythologly.
Magic tends to be far to insular with far too many magicians employing a "Monkey see, monkey do" attitude.
Best to look outside the box for inspiration and patter ideas.

Postby Fred Zimmerman » 12/15/06 04:04 PM


Just a side note on the origin of the word "patter."

Yes, it is a Middle English phrase, but HOW it was coined is interesting.

In those days, (and up until the early 1960s), the Catholic Church used the Latin Mass. (Trinitine, if my memory serves.)

And especially in those days, the congregation was fairly illiterate and had a tough time with English let alone knowing the full Latin Mass.

Of course, they knew phrases, much like people nowadays do with pop music.

To their credit, they probably would have picked up some of the short prayers, and perhaps parts of longer ones, but the general masses did not know the entirety of LONG prayers, especially the "Nicene Creed," or the "Pater Noster," Or, as we know it, the "Our Father."

At the beginning of prayers like this, most of the congregation could start off with assurance and verve. But as the prayer progressed, many people would drop out and begin to simply mumble gibberish that approximated the Latin text. (Think Pop music again).

Therefore, when the "Pater Noster" would begin, you could hear a resounding "Pater Noster..." and then slowly, the voices would fade into a mumble, with a few stalwarts leading the way. (While showing what good little Catholics they were!)

The word "Pater" then became the basis of the word "patter," and its meaning was "to mumble gibberish," etc.

Now, when we think of magicians using "patter," it puts it in a whole new light.

And oftentimes, it's very apt.

Fred Zimmerman
Fred Zimmerman
Posts: 102
Joined: 02/02/08 01:00 PM
Location: Chicago


Return to General