To revive an old thread, the August 2001 issue of Genii
devoted 23 pages to the Too-Perfect Theory generally attributed to Rick Johnsson, based on his article that appeared in The Hierophant
in 1971. Rick based his ruminations on a comment attributed to Dai Vernon. Although the Rick Johnsson article may be the first time the theory had been formally stated as a theory, it appears that it is not the first time the magic world had discussed the notion (of adding some imperfections to a trick to make it more perfect) in print. Yesterday, while reading a telephone telepathy trick in an old issue (January 1946) of Lloyd Jones' The Bat
, I came across this passage:
A man and his wife in a nearby town do the trick a dozen times a day. It has been great publicity for them. To confuse the spectator she asks, "How many years have you been married?" "Twelve?" "Well, then your selected card is the three of spades!" And do the poor spectators go around mumbling in their collective beards! This little off-shoot bears out what Monk Watson has to say in his new book about a trick being too perfect. If the spectator is left without any loop-hole to use for a solution he is not then nearly as impressed as when he has one. In other words, a non-explainable trick is not nearly as effective as one in which the spectator is permitted to think he has a clue to its solution.
The Monk Watson book is surely The Professional Touch
, which came out in 1945. (Not to be confused with The Professional Touch
by Billy McComb, which came out in 1987.) In its ad -- still available -- on the Abbott's web site, Abbott's says, "You will feel more sure of yourself after reading this. Can A Trick Be Too Perfect?"
I don't own the Monk Watson book, so can't comment further, but I find it interesting the he and Lloyd Jones were discussing all this 25 years before "we" were.