Slydini - Worst trick ever?

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Joe Mckay » 12/11/09 05:01 PM

Hey everyone,

I don't want to start a fight or anything, but I just saw a trick by Tony Slydini. It is called 'The Helicopter Card' and definitely gets my vote for the worst trick ever. The trick is boring, undeceptive, too long, too slow, annoying and has a confusing effect with stupid patter. The trick is so dull that Tony keeps forgetting the name of the trick he is performing. It also involves the spectator having to remember a number of different selections (as the boring effect is repeated over and over and over again - kill me already!). This can lead to the spectator actually forgetting the name of his selection. Slydini does justice to this novel concept in the following clip...

I thought Slydini was a genius? Am I missing something with this trick? If you have 5mins and 40 seconds to waste then check it out here

Joe

PS Check out the spectator watching the trick. He looks like he is waiting to have a loan request turned down by his bank manager. Oh, the fun of watching magic...
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Postby Mark.Lewis » 12/11/09 05:22 PM

You must remember that Slydini was way past his prime on the Cavett show. I was disappointed to see how crap he was. His technique was as good as ever but he was not the dynamic personality I remembered from years ago. Time had, alas caught up with him. Age can be a terrible taskmaster.

In his prime he was one of the greatest close up magicians of all time.

But none of that is the Helicopter Card's fault. It was the fault of age. The trick itself is great. In fact most tricks are great. It is all in the PRESENTATION. If that is a bit off then the trick may seem to be crappy. But it isn't.

Incidentally Tony knew perfectly well what the name of the trick was. He always used to ask the name of it. I pretend absent mindedness when performing too.

It wasn't the trick that was boring. It was father time making Slydini boring. It was too long and too slow simply because Tony had become too long and too slow. Not the trick's fault. And I seem to remember in the original description of the trick the same card was used throughout.

If you had seen Slydini do this in his heyday you would have had a different opinion. He was over the hill and gone at the game by the time he got on Cavett. I have seen this happen many, many times with old performers who are past their prime.

Incidentally I have worked out the best finish with the helicopter card. Of course I am just as much a genius as Slydini but without the funny accent.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 12/11/09 05:43 PM

I have to disagree with one part of this: most tricks are not great. I don't mean the method, although most (i.e. more than half) tricks have overcomplicated, unnatural methods. I mean that the effect is simply not magical at all.

Fortunately there are thousands and thousands of tricks and your (not Mark personally) repertoire will have maybe two dozen, so there are plenty of great tricks. But if Mark had read a magic book since 1954 or watched any dozen magic videos he would find that the large majority of tricks are no good at all.

I have heard the arguments on Slydini before. Ortiz in particular I recall made the point that Slydini was not a professional who performed for real people. I don't have any facts on that question. Does Mark or anyone else have anything to add on this subject? I like Slydini myself but I am not real people.
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Postby Joe Mckay » 12/11/09 05:57 PM

I wouldn't pick on a guy for being to old. That happens to the best of us. It is just that watching this trick really annoyed me. And the fault seemed to be with the trick itself. But I dunno' - The only way this trick would be good for me would be if you could contrive to somehow have the first card turned over by the spectator ALWAYS be the one he chose. And - as Mark mentions - to always use the same card... Might need to have the card signed to rule out duplicates though. I dunno' - I think about it and I just think 'NEXT!'...

Joe

PS I have checked other stuff on YouTube. He was much better when he was younger. Some great stuff there - would be interested to see him do this trick in his prime. Maybe I would like it better then?
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Postby Steve Bryant » 12/11/09 06:03 PM

I saw Slydini perform often at the Magic Castle, sometimes in the Close-up Gallery, sometimes at tables in the dining room. He thrilled lay audiences. At the conclusion of his performance, the audience THANKED him for the privilege of watching him perform. I've never seen quite that reaction for any other magician (the closest might be Rene Levand), including those who were wildly popular, such as Albert Goshman. That is, the audiences knew that they were in the presence of a master, and he instilled them with that notion. (And yes, I know, Magic Castle audiences are predisposed to like magic in general, so I don't know how Slydini would have fared before a hostile crowd, but, relative to all the other performers of the Castle's golden age, he was one of the best and was always well received.)
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Postby ptv » 12/11/09 09:08 PM

Slydini spend many decades performing for real audiences long before he was embraced by the magic community. He understood the difference between a trick and the performance of an effect. Every word and gesture he selected was based upon his experience with real people. What has changed are audiences, including magicians, who anticipate that they will be treated with the same stimulus as a movie presentation with the words, images, and flash occurring and changing in split second timing. Present TV is drastically different from what is was in the seventies when Slydini's performance was recorded.
It is likely that Dick Cavett specifically requested the Helicopter card be performed, and unlikely that Slydini would have selected that effect for TV performance. Dick Cavett was a student,and probably wanted to record the effect.
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Postby Gordolini » 12/11/09 09:34 PM

I enjoyed Tony's performance. I thought that the deliberate pacing, presentation and quirky humor (what was the name of the trick?) was a brilliant piece of misdirection that grows stronger with the repetition - similar to an ambitious card routine such as performed by Tommy Wonder. Then again, I may be biased after being blown away in the late 70's by Tony with his one coin routine.(I also was astonished by Albert Goshman's brilliant coin and salt shaker routine at that time).
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Postby Mark.Lewis » 12/11/09 09:50 PM

In the earlier part of Slydini's career he certainly performed for laymen a great deal. Less so in his later years but he still did a fair bit of it. Ken Brooke once told me how Slydini slayed a bunch of laymen in Ken's local pub. The man was a master magician and that Cavett show does not do him justice.

I have seen Slydini do the helicopter card on television when he was younger so he certainly was not averse to doing it on TV.

As for hostile crowds I have been led to believe that he wasn't much good with them. That grumpy old misery Al Goshman once said to me "Slydini couldn't handle trouble" I have no idea.

I can assure Joe that there is nothing wrong with that trick at all. I only did it on one occasion (and did it badly) and the reaction from laymen was great. I must work on it. Incidentally the secret to not becoming crap when you get old is to keep working and learning. I am constantly studying magic and will do so until the day I die. Even if my hands don't work any more my tongue will and in magic your tongue is FAR more important than your hands. Magicians don't seem to know that little secret. Well they do now because I just told them.

Mc'Cabe is wrong as usual. No less an authority than Maurice Fogel said there are very few bad tricks. Of course he said that before 1954. It isn't so much whether a trick is good or bad-it is more a matter of whether a trick suits you or not. A fantastic trick which goes over brilliantly in one person's hands may not get anywhere when YOU try it. But the reverse applies to. Some seemingly boring complicated piece of crap which dies in everyone else's hands may go fantastically well in yours.

It is never the trick. It is the MAN that is important, NOT the trick.

It seems that Mc'Cabe is confirming my contention that there is no point learning anything created after 1954. There may well be a lot of rubbish around nowadays. I wouldn't know. I tend not to bother reading it. And I never pay the slightest bit of attention when magicians lecture. I have more than enough tricks already and I suspect that applies to virtually everyone here.

I have every faith in the Helicopter Card and I will learn it properly and even though I make all the same mistakes that Slydini allegedly did I will stun audiences with it.

Slydini was old and slow paced. He mumbled too much. All the trick needs is a bit of speeding up and less mumbling. It will then work well.
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Postby Gerald Deutsch » 12/11/09 10:24 PM

Ive known Slydini for years, first as a teacher and then as a friend. I quickly learned that I had a far different personality from Slydini and if I did any of his effects I wouold have to present it differently from the way Slydini did.

(Also with his principles of misdirection and timing which are brilliant had to be done differently by me to fit my personality.)

As for the Helicopter Card Ive seen Slydini delight and entertain laymen and magicians whenever he performed this effect.

For myself though would not fit Slydini I felt that a good climax for the effect would be to be confused when, after several revelations, the card was not on the table but, to my confusion, it was in my mouth.

(I would lap the card and fold it twice hold the folded card between my thumbs with my
Elbows on the table, hands folded, and my chin resting on my thumbs and by lowering
my head the card would go right in my mouth.)

It is a wonderful effect!
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/11/09 10:42 PM

Unfortunately no one (unless I missed it) has raised the most important point here, and that's the flattening of magic on TV. Magic on video sucks compared to seeing it live. That's always been the case. You can't judge anyone from a video.

So, you can't judge Slydini (or anyone else) from how they appear on TV.

To sit with Slydini at the table was to sit with the closest thing to a true magician you can imagine.

He was the most magical of all close-up magicians. And I include the Helicopter Card in this, which was mind-thumpingly astounding when you sat next to him and he did it. It was just like Lavand's bread crumbs--like someone kicking you in the balls over and over again until you MUST stand and applaud. And I saw him do it at about the age he was when he appeared on Cavett. I mean you just cannot conceive of what it was like to sit with him at the table and watch him do the One-Coin routine.

I'm grateful as hell that the Cavett footage of Slydini exists because, unless all the footage that Christian Fechner shot of Slydini in the 1970s ever comes out, this is all we're going to have. You just have to interpolate what you're seeing.
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Postby flynn » 12/12/09 12:14 AM

Heck yeah with camera jitters out of the way magicians have to be at least ten times better in person rather than in front of the camera. They're handlings are smoother and presentation more personal from what I've seen at the few lectures I been too.
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Postby Paul Gordon » 12/12/09 05:28 AM

I saw Slydini in the 70's and it looked like real magic (whatever that is) to me. His one-coin routine - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5lGwhbvANo - was just masterful. To be frank, I never thought of him as an entertainer per se, but more of a magician fooler. In that bracket, he was the best. But, as RK says - 100% better in person. Paul Gordon
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Postby Matthew Field » 12/12/09 05:38 AM

Unless you're just trolling, Paul,I'm afraid you miss the point. In Helicopter Card, my favorite trick by my favorite magician, Slydini has the spec prove to himself that his selection is not on the table. Then, with an obviously empty hand, he points to one of the cards and, unbelievably, it is the selection.

For me, this is a beautiful and inexplicable mind bender. There's no counting of cards, no 'handling', apparantly nothing has gone on except a power of some sort exercised by the magician.

To me, it is like the effect another of my favorites, Out of Sight Out of Mind, has.

For you, well chacun a son gout.
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Postby Paul Gordon » 12/12/09 06:08 AM

What do you mean, Matt? I said I loved Slydini's work. I think you've either mis-read my post or confused me with Joe McKay. Cheers, PG
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Postby Paul Gordon » 12/12/09 07:22 AM

Matt Field emailed me to say, quote, "Dear Paul, I didn't misread your post. You said you loved Slydini, hated Helicopter Card."

NO I DID NOT SAY THAT!

Matt, you have mis-read my post entirely! Please retract your comment. YOU are the one who is trolling! This is a prime example of folks NOT reading correctly and then accusing the innocent! I'm surprised at you Matt for doing this... It's out of order!

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Postby Mark.Lewis » 12/12/09 07:59 AM

I am on Matthew Field's side on principle even though I have no idea what the pair of them are arguing about. I do not agree that Slydini was not an entertainer. In fact he was a SUPERB entertainer. Far better than Paul Gordon in fact. He may not have been a rat-a-tat-tat never-stop card trick machine like Gordon but he could keep LAYMEN entranced as well as magicians. Alas the Cavett show does not do him justice although the programme is invaluable for training purposes for those that want to learn Slydini material.

I do a fair bit of Slydini material and I only work for laymen. I have never had the slightest interest in performing for magicians mainly because I don't like the bastards. I therefore know good entertainment when I see it.

Richard is of course right when he says that television or video is not the best medium but you can still get a fair idea. For example I have never seen Potassy work live but he looks pretty good on TV or video and I have seen him also work when he was younger. Unlike Slydini he seems to be just as good in his eighties as he was when he was far younger.

Slydini was pretty old and decrepit on the Cavett show but I have seen him on British television many times. It was always on Black and White television which will tell you how long ago it was but he was SUPERB. In fact I had no idea that I was watching the legendary Slydini on the first show until the credits rolled around. I was quite taken aback to find out who I had been watching. It was on a programme which was something to do with Max Jaffa and the host was Peter Haigh. And I saw him repeatedly on that show over the period of a few weeks.

He was also on another show which I think Harry Stanley had something to do with. It was a half hour shoe featuring three magicians. Slydini, Vernon and Cy Endfield. Slydini was probably the best of the lot although Vernon was pretty good too. Cy Endfield was in the Jack Avis and Fred Robinson class but his technique was superb and of great interest to me as a young magician.

It would be extremely valuable if some television archivist could dig that up. A superb show which would actually have been a historical one if it could ever be found again.
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Postby Matthew Field » 12/12/09 08:20 AM

My deep apologies to Paul Gordon.

For the record, I consider Paul Gordon a friend. I'm sorry to have mis-attributed the original post (that was Joe Mckay with whom I strongly disagree) and then gone after Paul, who had nothing but nice things to say about Slydini's performances.

Chalk it up to (yet another) 'senior moment'. Time for my nap.

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Postby Paul Gordon » 12/12/09 08:32 AM

Thanks for the apology, Matt. Now, I'm off to watch Ronnie O'Sullivan & John Higgins (Snooker) before I got to London for a gig!

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Postby mrgoat » 12/12/09 08:42 AM

Paul Gordon wrote:To be frank, I never thought of him as an entertainer per se, but more of a magician fooler.


Not seen him do balls over head for a lay audience then?

I can't think of many bits of magic more entertaining than that.
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Postby Joe Mckay » 12/12/09 09:57 AM

Sorry - definitely not trolling here. Just an honest reaction to that one performance...

It is an interesting thing to connsider whether or not there are bad tricks. Harry Lroayne is a good person to consider here - I am convinced he could make ANY trick go over well with laypeople. I saw him do a trick when I had only bein 'into' magic for a few months (so I was still pretty much a layperson). It seemed like the greatest trick of all time. About 15 years later, I found the method to it. And - it seemed all messy and confusing. I probably wouldn't have given it a secong glance had it not being for that memory... The trick in question was 'What A MES!' from the 'Personal Collection' book. The wider point is that I am convinced that Harry could make ANY trick go over well. As it happens 'What A MES!' is a good trick - but I can't imagine any other performer getting the same reaction... I would love to see an experiment done. Let's dig out the worst tricks in print (maybe I could create some myself?) and film Harry slaying laypeople with them!

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Postby Matthew Field » 12/12/09 10:10 AM

Joe Mckay wrote: Let's dig out the worst tricks in print and film Harry slaying laypeople with them!


Yeah, Joe, that's sounds like a ton of fun.

What you are saying is that presentation makes a card trick. Well, duh!

I still maintain that the Helcopter Card is a great trick.
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Postby Mark.Lewis » 12/12/09 11:13 AM

Joe. The trick is neither here not there. It really doesn't matter about the trick. It is the MAN not the trick that is important. Yes. I expect Harry can make most tricks entertaining because he seems to be a great showman. But even Harry can't make EVERY trick into something. That is because some tricks are just not going to suit his personality.

Like a suit of clothes. It doesn't matter about the quality of the suit if it doesn't fit you. You would be better off with a cheap poor quality suit that fits you rather than an Armani suit which doesn't. And not every trick is going to suit you.

The reason you don't like the Helicopter card trick is simply that Slydini was old and decrepit when you saw him do it. If you had seen him do it when he was thirty years old and preferably live you would probably be doing it yourself now. And it still might not work in your hands if it doesn't fit you.

Remember it is not the trick that makes the magician. It is the magician who makes the trick.

And so endeth my sermon for today

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Postby Joe Mckay » 12/12/09 11:40 AM

Thanks for the responses. It is very useful hearing from guys with thousands of hours of 'flight time' on this issue...

Matt? The thing about Harry - isn't so much the presentations, as his 'charisma' and personality when performing. He has such a great sense of pace and making things clear that he really can turn a crappy trick into a winner. I think we agree on these points - but I just wanted to clarify my point since I think there is a subtle difference between the 'presentation' of a trick and the dynamism of a performer. It is that dynamism which so impresses me with Harry's work. It is interesting that such dynamism seems to come up with experience. Although it could just be that the dynamic performers get to perform alot whereas the ones who are not so 'hot' tend not to perform so much.

Kinda' like a chicken and egg thing. Which came first?

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Postby Edward » 12/12/09 06:11 PM

Is "The Helicopter Card" effect in print somewhere?

I liked the effect.
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Postby Mark.Lewis » 12/12/09 06:20 PM

It is described in two places that I know of. "The Magic of Slydini" by Lewis Ganson and "The Best of Slydini" ( I think that is the title) by Karl Fulves.
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Postby Terry » 12/12/09 07:13 PM

Richard Kaufman wrote:Unfortunately no one (unless I missed it) has raised the most important point here, and that's the flattening of magic on TV. Magic on video sucks compared to seeing it live. That's always been the case. You can't judge anyone from a video.


That's the Truth. I have seen performers live that were truly entertaining but have put me to sleep watching them on video.


Richard Kaufman wrote:I'm grateful as hell that the Cavett footage of Slydini exists because, unless all the footage that Christian Fechner shot of Slydini in the 1970s ever comes out, this is all we're going to have. You just have to interpolate what you're seeing.


For those of us who never saw Slydini or any of the past masters live, these videos are the closest we will get. Mr. Cavett deserves a big thank you for capturing Slydini on video.
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Postby Mark.Lewis » 12/12/09 07:43 PM

I think the best TV magician was easily David Nixon. Most Americans will have never heard of him but he was a household name for decades in Britain. Strangely enough the one time I saw him work live in a theatre he wasn't very good.

The secret to television is to realise that it is an intimate medium. If you are loud and bombastic you will die a terrible death. I was the first magician to appear on colour television in the UK and I was performing every day for a month. I was doing close up magic and learned a lot about television during that month. The main thing that I learned was that you have to be as relaxed as possible and look as if you own the place. I have seen magicians look tense and nervous on television and that has worked against them.

I learned to keep an eye on the monitors when it was possible to do so so that I could see what the viewing audience saw. And I also learned that despite standard wisdom you COULD misdirect the camera. After all it is a human being behind the camera.

And I learned not to go out of frame when I made a move or when I had to do so by giving a subtle warning to the cameraman and moving slowly.

Working to TV or Video is definitely a different kettle of fish and there is nothing like a live audience. Still it can be done successfuly providing your remember two things. Don't overplay it and look as relaxed as possible and as if you own the place.
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Postby David Acer » 12/12/09 07:48 PM

I've seen Romaine (a student of Slydini's) perform the Helicopter Card trick for actual humans (a.k.a. laymen) and they loved it. Or him. Or him via it.
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Postby Mark.Lewis » 12/12/09 08:16 PM

I like the helicopter card. Slydini is always better in his talking tricks. I don't like his silent tricks though. That cigarette production just seems like a lot of handwashing to me and a lot of fuss about nothing. I alway thought that it was a load of crap.

I never liked his Paper Balls in the Hat either. And possibly he didn't like it either. Ken Brooke told me that Slydini told him that the only reason it was in the book was because it was a good way of teaching his principles of timing and misdirection.

Incidentally Ken also told me that Slydini would bore people to death by doing the coins through table too many times. Interestingly enough he also told me that Tony would have a substitute for lapping when he worked standing. He would throw bits and pieces over the spectator's shoulders.
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Postby mrgoat » 12/13/09 08:59 AM

Mark.Lewis wrote:"The Best of Slydini" ( I think that is the title) by Karl Fulves.


Jolly close:

"The best of Slydini...and more"

page 75
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Postby Justin Wheatley » 12/13/09 11:29 PM

I'm intrigued by the fact that Joe calls the Helicopter card undeceptive. While this thread deals more with the aspects of presentation of the effect, I must argue that it is entirely deceptive. I would be hard-pressed to say that a layman would watch Slydini perform this effect and give a good explanation to it's workings, especially with the usual and myriad layers of misdirection that he applied to it.

Dismissing this video as a waste is foolish, because (as with all performances of Slydini) many, if not all magicians, can benefit from watching his ingenious principles of timing and misdirection being played out in real time (so to speak).
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/14/09 12:58 AM

It's possible that it doesn't appear deceptive on the video--it would be hard for me to take that point of view since I saw it performed properly and know how it appears and how it is supposed to look.
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Postby Justin Wheatley » 12/14/09 01:07 AM

While I agree with you, Richard, that magic can be completely compressed and un-deceptified by video, I do think this particular performance looks great. If I didn't know the workings, I think I'd be fooled (at least for a moment). But that's just my opinion.
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Postby Mark.Lewis » 12/14/09 08:59 AM

I have messed about with the trick and I do it badly. A hell of a lot worse than Sydini in fact. Yet, on the few times I tried it I was astonished to find that the spectator had no clue despite the boldness of the procedure.

If I can get away with it doing it so badly then I am quite sure that Slydini could fool with it doing it superbly.
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Postby Joe Mckay » 12/14/09 02:37 PM

Well - this is how I described the trick.
The trick is boring, undeceptive, too long, too slow, annoying and has a confusing effect with stupid patter.

Now - For me whether this effects fools you or not wasn't my main beef with it. It was to do with the other aspects of this performance. This might be a great trick (I don't happen to think so), but this is definitely a bad performance. It is also the only performance of the trick that I have seen, so it is all I have to go on at the moment. I think Slydini did some great stuff when he was younger (although I don't like his cigarette vanish - I agree with [censored] on that one) but he definitely seems pass it here. I never understand why old people lose it as performers. Is it to do with boredom, complacency or lack of energy? I would have thought that if something wasn't physically challenging then there would be no reason why you couldn't keep doing it well until the day you die?

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/14/09 02:42 PM

How old are you, Joe?
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Postby Joe Mckay » 12/14/09 03:45 PM

27 and 3 quarters...

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/14/09 04:08 PM

Ah, that explains your statement: "I never understand why old people lose it as performers. Is it to do with boredom, complacency or lack of energy? I would have thought that if something wasn't physically challenging then there would be no reason why you couldn't keep doing it well until the day you die?"

As you reach 30 and discover your body start to act differently than it previously has, you will begin to understand the aging process. You'll find yourself becoming a lot more sympathetic toward everyone over the age of 40.

When I was your age I thought 50 was ancient. Now that I'm 51, that's no longer the case. And I've got the aches and pains to prove it!
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Postby Joe Mckay » 12/14/09 04:14 PM

OKay - Fair enough. I'll get back to you on this point in 20 years time! :)

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Postby skmayhew » 12/14/09 04:27 PM

Joe Mckay wrote:The trick is so dull that Tony keeps forgetting the name of the trick he is performing.


Oy.
skmayhew
 
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