What do you guys say when you guys get CAUGHT

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Guest » 02/18/03 09:00 PM

What do you guys say when you guys are caught using a sleight or using a gimmic? Because one time i got caught doing a Dl and i just stood there not knowing what to say. Ever since that, i went back to the drawing board and practiced ever since. Also, now i have lost the comfidence to perform for other people because i fear for the same nightmar to happen again...

Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/18/03 09:26 PM

If you get caught (and we all have early in our performing lives) then:
1) You have NOT practiced enough.
2) You are thinking about your hands when you're performing, rather than thinking about the spectators and your presentation.
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Postby Guest » 02/18/03 09:42 PM

I have to disagree with Mr Kaufman.

There is always a chance that you will make a mistake in an effect no matter how much you practice. It might only happen once in a blue moon but it can still happen.

Whilst practicing more is the solution to making less mistakes the best way to deal with getting busted is to smile make a remark about how smart they must be and immediately move on to something REALLY strong.

People don't remember mistakes, they remember conflict. By defusing the embarrasing nature of the situation by appearing to not really mind, they will forget about it later.

I once ruined the finale to an effect by having a gimmick fall apart on me. I recovered by being likeable and the couple I was performing on ended up hiring me for their son's birthday.

Postby Dave Shepherd » 02/18/03 09:48 PM

Some of the best advice in print on this topic is by Roberto Giobbi, in the theory section at the end of Card College 2.

Mr. Giobbi talks a lot about the psychology of the performance (the kind of thing Nicholas was just alluding to) and what spectators remember.

I highly recommend Mr. Giobbi's theory essays for anyone in magic, whether a card specialist or not.
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Postby Bill Duncan » 02/19/03 12:18 AM

...the best way to deal with getting busted is to smile make a remark about how smart they must be and immediately move on to something REALLY strong.
It seems to me, as a consumer of magical entertainment, that if I catch you and you tell me how smart that makes me then follow that by doing something that I couldn't possibly figure out then it's the same as saying that I'm not all that smart... just smarter than most of your audiences.
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Postby Guest » 02/19/03 05:11 AM

I try not to present magic as a see how good I am way. I don't want people to feel stupid when I fool them.

By performing a good trick after a stuff up, I want to erase their negative emotional response by defusing it and then replacing it with something stronger and more positive.

Either that or kill them so they can never share the secret of the double lift ;)

Postby Guest » 02/19/03 06:24 AM

Originally posted by Nicholas J. Johnson:

Either that or kill them so they can never share the secret of the double lift ;)

Doomo just has me kill random spectators at every performance. Those left are so on edge, they generally don't notice the occassional screw up. It's great for a performer's moral.

Plus it's good to keep my hand in...I used to work with Chuck Barris...


Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/19/03 10:06 AM

Nicholas, the initial post did not ask what to do if you make a mistake, but what to do if you get caught. Those are two entirely different things, since you obviously can perform, make no mistakes, and still get caught.
I responded to that.
If you make a mistake, on the other hand, you have NOT practiced enough. Period.
If your gimmick falls apart, then you need to redesign it so it never happens again.
If you are a professional magician, there is no excuse for making a mistake.
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Postby Guest » 02/19/03 10:35 AM

Because of our human condition we are all going to make mistakes.......no matter how hard or how much we practice. Michael Jordan, the most intense and effective "practicer" in basketball, has missed open 10 footers and Tiger Woods, without a doubt the most intense and effective "practicer" on the PGA tour, hits the ball into the water sometimes. Practice will not eliminate mistakes....we're human so it can't, it will only minimize them. Tiger and Jordan aren't the best because they make no mistakes, they're the best because they make less than any of their collegues.

Postby Pete Biro » 02/19/03 11:10 AM

Never having been caught... :confused:
I would suggest having outs... or having such a pleasing personality, that you can laugh your way out.

You can also compliment the person that says, "I see the card (or whatever)" by saying. "You are the most observant person I've ever encountered. Usually my audiences are pretty lame and I can get anything by them... but your are good."

However, as RK sez, "Practice" -- if it doesn't take practice, make sure the method is strong enough that no one can figure it.

That's why I think the "Too Perfect Theory" is wrong... you want the tricks to be perfect.

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Postby Guest » 02/19/03 11:15 AM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman
If you are a professional magician, there is no excuse for making a mistake.
Have you never made a mistake? Have you in all honesty never had a moment when the trick goes wrong for no conscious reason... Even as a Professional Magician? A seasoned magician knows how to deal with INEVITABLE mistakes and situations out of the rehearsed. To err is human Richard whether you are a professional or not. Perhaps I misunderstand you, perhaps you mean that a pro doesn't make percievable mistakes. If so I apologize for the misunderstanding.

To answer your conundrum, there are no right and wrong answers here. There are better and worse though. Better to acknowledge the fact and and tell them "Yup you got it, it's a trick" and move on or you could blow it off and act like you were planning to show them what "other" magicians try to get away with and that it is all part of the trick. Then use a different method to accomplish the effect. If you are nice and your audience likes you they will still like you whether or not they catch you. Richard is right practice, practice, practice! Don't concentrate on what you are doing concentrate on your audience. Guilt will give you away before technique. Remember that and be confident when performing. One last thing, I know from experience everyone makes mistakes. Anyone who says otherwise is either naive, arrogant or both.

Postby Guest » 02/19/03 11:25 AM

I say, "No you didn't! That was my cufflink."

Postby Pete McCabe » 02/19/03 11:37 AM

I think a lot of it has to do with exactly what you get caught with and how you get caught.

If someone says "I saw that" then I immediately smile and wink at them, and say "you're quick -- do me a favor, don't tell anyone else until after the show." I've only had to do this a couple of times in my life (I don't perform that much :-) but it has worked like a charm at getting the spectator on your side.

If, as Abraham had originally mentioned, I was caught in a double lift (by someone who said "you've got two cards" or something) I would probably try something like "You're right -- sometimes they stick together." Then I would separate the cards, put one back on the deck, and try to figure out a way to replace whatever the DL was trying to accomplish (which would depend on the trick in question).
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Postby Jeff Eline » 02/19/03 11:45 AM

I think the difference is that a professionals will make the occasional mistake, but you will never know it.

I remember watching a local bar magician, Jimmy Smith and he was incredible!! He was doing an ambitious card type of routine. I'd seen it enough to know that he messed up at one point, the card on top was not the selected card. That didn't bother him, he simply culled the right card, palmed it off and put it under the glass. He then faked the miss a couple more times and revealed the card under their drink. They went nuts!
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Postby sleightly » 02/19/03 11:53 AM

I think what is not being addressed is the original question...

How do you respond when caught?

I disagree with Richard on one point; professional magicians can and will make mistakes. Being professional does not mean that you always turn in a flawless performance. I do agree that sometimes you can perform flawlessly and still get caught. This often may suggest a flaw in your presentational approach that emphasizes method.

Let's face it, [censored] happens!

What really distinguishes you is how you handle the situation. To some, being a "professional" establishes an expectation that you have the core techniques (both methodical and presentational) down and should be able to perform them 100% of the time flawlessly. Actually, the only thing "professional" really means is that you are paid to deliver what you promise.

In practice, things can go wrong: you can lose the card, drop (or misplace) the load, have mechanical equipment fail, or, in the case of close-up, have a spectator "interact" in an appropriate manner unexpectedly. In the chaotic place that is "real-world" performance settings, one cannot account for every detail, we can only make contingency plans for when something does go wrong (and it will).

All of this can be minimized thorough careful planning, persistent checking and rechecking of equipment (including proper maintenance such as replacing batteries and oiling movable parts).

When we perform magic, we are painting a mental picture that is reinforced by visual occurrences. Audiences are generally only aware of what we want them to be aware. They may have an idea of what you will be doing, but not know the details. There is good reason for the axiom, "Never tell an audience what you are going to do."

The problem is less one of technique and more one of Guilt. If things go wrong, our perception tends to close in on technique. In a white-hot blinding moment we mentally retrace our steps seeking an answer. Regardless of an answer we suddenly realize that we are not alone and we must go on. The stress on this moment is intense and can color our approach from then on in. We make the mistake of turning in when we should turn out.

When things do go awry, don't panic; proceed in an appropriate manner (including addressing your own surprise). Respond to the audience reaction, choose an appropriate action and commit to it. Ultimately you must finish successfully.
If you complete the journey, any mistakes you make will either be perceived as "a bit of business" or may ultimately contribute to the audience's conviction about the overall impossibility of what you do accomplish. (There is a reason why "magician in trouble" is such a compelling plot for laymen.

Keep a confident air in your ability to conclude a piece successfully (and satisfactorily). You may not get to where you were going, but you might arrive at a place that is even more interesting because of the journey.

When designing presentations, I rely on a technique I call "branching" to plan for contingencies. I script out the course of action that I intend to take. I then examine possible opportunities to "branch" off to if the unexpected happens. This could be a mistake, a failure or, on a positive note, a potential interaction with the audience that opens up a new train of thought. The possibilities discovered by studying "branches" also contribute to a more logical, coherent performance. Discarded "branches" are not lost work, but stored responses.

You have prepared for the eventuality. This in turn makes you a more confident performer.

The biggest benefit of being a professional performer is that you have more opportunity for trial and error, which when applied by a thinking performer can make for a more intense, and interesting experience for our audiences.

And isn't that what we want?

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Postby Sean Macfarlane » 02/19/03 12:34 PM

I have had on occasion during the ambitous routine I do, a person comment that I must not be putting the selection in the middle. I structured the routine so that if the question came after a double lift, the next sequence will cancel out the previous one,( using a pass or top change...Etc) so that they're never sure, I have even done the pop up move from Royal road without bending a double card if I think some astute spectators are chasing me. I will fairly put the bent card in the middle and pass it undetecatably to the top (heh heh I love it.) and then proceed with the pop up revelation.

Just two nights ago I dropped a break by accident, I can't remember the last time that happened to me. I was tending bar, and customers needed some drinks so I just gave the guy the deck and asked him to shuffle it to his hearts content. When I came back to him I just proceeded to do a think of a card routine. (estimation, I brought the effect to a successful conclusion and carried on. Outs are the way to go, get a few in your repertoire, they can save you in times of trouble.
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Postby Guest » 02/19/03 12:36 PM

Simply say "What do you want-magic?"
You will get a huge laugh if you time this right.
Then you move on.
It is essential to put on a puzzled air as you do this. It will take the sting out of what could be construed as an aggressive defensive response.
Failure is good for the soul. It will also make your spectator feel good and on your side for the rest of your show if you handle it right. It could actually be a blessing in disguise.
One thing. Never, never apologise under ANY circumstances. You will appear an ever bigger twit if you do that.
Smile sweetly and move on. Oh, and it might be a good idea not to get caught a second time.

Postby Lance Pierce » 02/19/03 12:37 PM

It seems that more than just "getting caught," what we're talking about in a broader sense is what do we do when our performance goes awry, whether because we made a mistake, someone saw something they shouldn't have, because a gimmick failed, a spectator simply "intuited" the solution (which sometimes happens), or for whatever reason. How does one respond when a performance goes awry?

Obviously, there's not going to be one simple answer to this. The variables are too many in number to offer a pat answer. However, what we CAN say is that how you respond is going to be heavily (if not completely) governed by why you're there in the first place.

If your intent in performing is to share an art, then when things go awry (and they will), you'll respond in a manner that continues to further the artistic. If your intent in performing is to have people laughing as hard as you can get them, then when something goes awry (and they will), you'll respond in a manner that keeps the laughter going. If your intent is to deeply mystify, then when something goes awry (and they will), you'll respond in a manner that hopefully continues to emphasize mystery.

So I suppose the first thing to do is ask ourselves what our message is to the audience -- why are we there and what are we saying? If we have that clearly in mind, everything we do -- including how we handle unforeseen circumstances -- will convey that message.


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Postby Guest » 02/19/03 01:03 PM

Lance, you have made me realise that my brilliant response of "what do you want? Magic?" will not work very well if your intent is to, as you put it, "deeply mystify"
After all if they catch you with a Swami Gimmick on your thumb you are basically screwed if your intent is to "respond in a manner that hopefully
continues to emphasize mystery"
I suppose you could say that you were possessed by Satan and he made you put that awful thing on your thumbnail.
Perhaps not.
This is a hard one. I think the moral of the tale is not to "emphasize mystery. It could lead you into great trouble.
David Blaine emphasizes mystery. What would HE do? Oh, I know. He can edit it out.
I think the rest of us will have to say "Sometimes I have to use illusion to duplicate reality. And duplicate reality to achieve synchronicity in order to achieve harmony in illusion"
Before he figures out what the hell you are talking about you will have gone on to the next trick.
Incidentally, I have no idea what the above sentence means either. I just made it up.
I rather like it. I would recommend it to more serious performers who get caught.
I will stick to "what do you want? Magic?"

Postby Lance Pierce » 02/19/03 02:36 PM


No doubt those who intend to communicate mystery have a harder row to hoe. However, rarely does the performer pick just ONE path or one message to communicate. Some of the performers I admire most, like Max Maven, Eugene Burger, etc., mystify AND entertain AND

Multi-layered performances have the advantage that one layer can help compensate for another when shortcomings arise.

Someone once wrote of the difference between speaking a message and being the message. It all comes down to what you want your audience to get from you. How you respond to them (including during those unfortunate circumstances that arise from time to time) will be dictated by the relationship you want to establish with them.

As The Who once sang: "Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?"



p.s. Of course, I could be wrong.
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Postby Guest » 02/19/03 08:05 PM

Am I the only one who thought John Blaze's cufflink line was hilarious?

Postby Guest » 02/19/03 08:08 PM

Actually, I do have more than one message.
I have various lines that I use at various times if I am caught out.
I wish I hadn't said that.
Now you will think that I get caught all the time.
Oh well, c'est la vie.

Postby Guest » 02/19/03 08:10 PM

Incidentally, I don't get the cufflink line.
Am I the only one who is a bit slow?

Postby Guest » 02/19/03 08:23 PM

Some people go on a long distance car trip without a spare tire; some drive around the block without buckling up their safety belts.

And some magicians not wishing to emulate the unprepared read Charles H Hopkins Outs, Precautions and Challenges.

Postby Guest » 02/19/03 08:29 PM

Outs Precautions and Challenges is a wonderful book and I am glad it is being reprinted again.
However, it is a great book to get you out of trouble.
I don't think it actually tells you what to do when you get caught.
A gag is the best way in my opinion. Make light of the situation and move on.
Magicians try too hard to be perfect instead of trying to be human.

Postby Guest » 02/20/03 07:48 AM

With my one coin reutine, a little piece I've been working on involves the muscle pass to acnowledge your mistake, switch the coin back and then completely vanish it, though it does require a cuffing manuver. Another little piece I use involves the Han Ping Chien manuver to either say that I have "two coins" or only one, in the hand it's supposed to be in.

Postby Guest » 02/20/03 10:50 AM

Thanks guys for all of the response. They have been really helpful to me. Thank you. I might need to practice some more, skill, presentation, misdirection... Also, i just can't get over this mistake because of two things, confidence and gulit. I think that it is unethical for a magician to blow a trick infront of an audience because that we are here to creat magic... i feel that the audience that i blew the trick on would never belive in magic again...

Postby Guest » 02/20/03 12:15 PM

Don't take it or yourself too seriously, Abraham.
You did not do anything "unethical". You did not mug an old lady or rob a bank.
You just did a crappy double lift.
No need to drive yourself nuts about "guilt" and "lack of confidence". Just learn to do a decent double lift.
I think the double lift has put many a beginner out of magic. When I first started magic I always got caught with it. It drove me to great frustration.
It was only when I learned a great double lift that all my worries evaporated. I have never been caught yet with it even over a period of decades.
The Vernon double lift in the Vernon book of magic solved all my problems.
Go and look it up.
Practice it and your worries will be over.

Postby Guest » 02/20/03 02:13 PM

I usually say, "Oh, so that's how that thing works?" or I lift my head straight in the air and scream, "No-ooooooo" for about 15 seconds. But seriously folks?Lance Pierce made some very good points about what you're projecting, who you are and what mood you're projecting and how you want to be perceived. Mistakes do happen even for the seasoned pro. However, with newbies, so much magic is exposed because of ineptness and lack of practice. I say Mac King do a show once(this past year) and during a point he knelt down next to a friend I was sitting next to and said, "A show of outs." One more thought, I have sitting across from me on a wall, "I can draw anything I want to - never believing in mistakes." - Keith Haring. Just substitute the word "draw" with the word "perform" and you have a wonderful mantra; you may still have mishaps, but if one defines them as "mistakes" then it seems more detrimental. Face it, we're not performing brain surgery - it's a craft and an art, refine the glitches in your craft and you refine your art.

Postby Arnie Fuoco » 02/20/03 03:42 PM

This thread has me thinking about Jay Scott Berry who impressed me by velcroving the rear portions of his topits. His reason was that there was a 1% chance a coin would fly into and bypass the rear section of the topit and onto the floor. He stated when your getting paid to be a magician that percentage needs to be zero.
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Postby Guest » 02/20/03 04:54 PM

The idea that true professionals make no mistakes is obviously overstated. I saw Ricky Jay make a mistake once during his "52 Assistants" show. It was during his poker deal routine. I saw the show a few times (sorry, Ricky!) and so knew what was supposed to happen. It didn't happen. I was the spectator on stage and did not receive the hand I was supposed to receive. But of course he handled it like a consummate pro: he paused for just the briefest moment, acted as if what happened was exactly what was supposed to happen, and did a different trick -- less impressive to me because I knew what we were missing, but the audience thought it was terrific. (And it was!)

I also once saw Jay commit a blunder on the David Letterman show from which there was no recovery possible. He just stood with his mouth open in amused astonishment. It was humorous, and given the rest of his performance it wasn't much of a problem.

Maybe Ricky Jay just doesn't practice enough, but that would be sort of a silly thing to say, wouldn't it? Better, I think, just to accept that when performing complicated tasks hundreds of times, occasional glitches are unavoidable. They can be minimized but not eliminated.

This may seem to be to one side of the initial question about how to handle being "caught," but I think it's related. If it's possible to respond by saying (or implying) "great, that's exactly what I wanted you to think" -- and then do the trick or a related effect with a different method -- that sometimes provides a good way out.

Postby Guest » 02/20/03 05:21 PM

Of course, even professional magicians who practice a great deal can get caught or make mistakes.

Anyone who has watched Daryl's excellent Ambitious Card video/DVD will have probably noticed that he slips up in the live performance during a double-lift/triple-lift phase of the routine. A magician would likely notice the error straight away, as perhaps an attentive audience would do too. But he recovers, tables the deck a moment later, takes a breather and carries on like the consummate professional that he is.

The worst case of getting caught i can recall was some years back when a magician was performing on national TV (i forget his name). He was showing two cards as one until, that is, a young kid sat at the table next to him blurted out: "That's not one card, you've got another one behind it!" Don't recall how he got out of it but there were lots of giggles from the audience.


Postby Guest » 02/20/03 10:07 PM

I do what D. Copperfield does - I clip the end of my finger off with scissors, cancel the rest of the show and go to the hospital for repairs. --Asrah

Postby Guest » 02/22/03 02:46 AM

Originally posted by happytrickster:

The worst case of getting caught i can recall was some years back when a magician was performing on national TV (i forget his name). He was showing two cards as one until, that is, a young kid sat at the table next to him blurted out: "That's not one card, you've got another one behind it!" Don't recall how he got out of it but there were lots of giggles from the audience.

I remember that incident. But I too can't remember who it was. I felt really sorry for the guy, but at the same time, I couldn't help laughing out loud. It was the way the kid said it that made me laugh.

If I remember, he simply stopped performing that effect and moved on to something else.


Postby Guest » 02/22/03 06:24 AM

The performer was non other than David Williamson on The Magic Comedy Strip ( a UK programme.)

I have my doubts as to whether that was a genuine mistake as I have seen David perform a number of times and never has he performed that effect or wriiten it in any books etc. It is actually a nice thing to add a near miss or mistake in the right context. As an example I watched the stage version of Grease in Londons west end (where I live) during the show a lighter didn't work which was funny as a stage hand had to run on with a replacement. It was only when I took my partner to see the show that I noticed the same thing happen again. A friend of mine was in the cast and I mentioned this to him and he told me it had happened genuinely the first time but got such a laugh that they decided to keep it in. Obviously this type of mistake doesn't have a place in a serious theatre show, however in Magic be it on stage or close up does well with a break from the serious. And in regards to a professional never making a mistake this is a total misconception. I have seen some of the greats both close up and stage workers make mistakes, the real secret is to diluting or making the mistake invisible to the paying audience, this is an art in its self. How ever I do agree with Richard in that if you get caught doing a double lift or holding a break you haven't done your homework and shouldn't be doing the move. But as an example, I was doing a standard effect for a nine year old girl my double was flawless but at the end of the effect she asked me if I had hidden the other card by holding two together. Her parents laughed and said "No darling it was one card" but she had used simple logic and was 100% right. I performed the effect again for her but substituted the double lift for the Top Change as taught by David Williamson (which is for my money the best top change.) I could now show her the card as a single and then change it as I jestured towards her hand. Mistakes and getting caught could have its own book, website and T shirt but to some it up I would say
1. Have a set of routines that you perform flawlessly.

2. Have a set of outs, lines or proving variations for these effects, but above all else be relaxed. If someone ever guesss or works out how something maybe done I credited them by saying their idea is very interesting but it really isn't as simple as that but there maybe something in what they have said. I say all of this as though they have given me a great idea. This makes me look nice, they look good and the secret is still intact especially if I give them an example for why it couldn't be done their way. Dante was performing the linking rings in his stage show during a time that exposure was in vogue he walkd out on stage and explained that the linking rings could not be performed with a non complete ring, he showed a 'key' ring and then tossed it off stage and did his version that obviously used a key but he did enough to disprove this silly method that was in the papers. Needles to say he went down a storm and no one new how he did the rings..

3. Anything that you wish to try out should be first practised thoroughly in front of a mirror than for an imaginary audience on camcorder, do this twice with one version mid shot and the other close up watch them back and be honest with yourself.

Postby Guest » 02/23/03 05:55 AM

Originally posted by Spelmann:

The performer was non other than David Williamson on The Magic Comedy Strip ( a UK programme.)
Thanks for that. I just did a search and found some pics - yes, it was David Williamson. There's a short bio here:

http://www.operacadabra.net/Entertainer ... amson.html


Postby Guest » 03/25/03 11:53 AM

I was at a Michael Ammar seminar on Sunday night and he was doing his famous cups and balls routine...when he got to the point that he was trying to get the lemon to load it, it just would NOT come out...he fiddled and tried and fiddled for a few seconds and then he just started laughing along with the rest of us. It was great! So as you can see, even the BEST have things happen!

Postby Pete McCabe » 03/25/03 01:02 PM

Harry Anderson was on Saturday Night Live. And he reached into his pocket to pull out a prop, which I'm pretty sure he was also loading with a folded bill.

Anyway he reached into his pocket and started fishing around. Took a second or two, and then he said "let me just get my thing."

More fumbling, and he said "That's not my thing, that's my thing."

Huge laugh from the audience.

Finally he pulled out the whatever it was.

I've often wondered if that was a stock line to cover the load, or if he was covering for difficulty.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 03/25/03 01:12 PM

Re David Williamson and the stretching card;

I'm pretty sure this was a genuine catch. David wrote it up on the EG many years ago when someone mentioned it. Murray (That was my career, Murray...) spotted the half card attached to another and proceeded to take it apart while David looked shocked. The cards had been specially flown in for the show and were unused...David mentioned that the producer wanted to cut the routine from the show but he fought to get it left in :)

One of the lasting memories of the series, along with Rudy Coby's robotic assistant and Hobson's egg bag routine.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Dave Egleston » 03/25/03 06:19 PM

Originally posted by Abraham Huang:
What do you guys say when you guys are caught using a sleight or using a gimmic?
Ahh SHI... crap!!

I'm not sure where I got that particular "out" - Doesn't work worth a darn either.. go figure

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