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Showmanship and Presentation by Mark Lewis-magician

Posted: February 8th, 2016, 8:01 pm
by performer
Alfred wants me to start a new thread about the second chapter of an unfinished and unpublished book on card tricks that I wrote about 40 years ago. It covers showmanship and presentation which I have always considered to be of VASTLY more importance than the trick itself.

He has threatened to post heaps of praise of that awful book by Henning Nelms if I do not do so. I have already posted some of it on the Nelms thread but to keep things complete and on the one thread I will post it again here:
............................................................................................ USE PATTER TO MAKE YOUR MAGIC ENTERTAINING.

This is where 75% of all would be wizards fall down. Even experienced magicians are often run of the mill performers simply because of poor or badly delivered patter. I believe this is an important subject, in some ways more important than the trick itself. You see, patter is the vehicle of your showmanship; good patter can lift a performance into the heights of entertainment-bad patter can make a trick resemble the sinking of the Titanic. In other words, a disaster.

Admittedly you will have seen magicians on stage and television perform in pantomime to music. These performances are known as “silent acts”. However this book is not trying to teach you to be a stage magician, but rather to instruct you in the art of card magic for your own satisfaction and the entertainment of your friends. With regard to the purpose of performing in social situations for our family and friends good patter is essential.

Now where do you acquire this silver tongue, you may ask? It’s not really difficult; it just takes some application. First of all, after thoroughly learning the mechanics of a trick, why not spend a half hour or so thinking about what to say for it. Use your brain, that’s all you have to do. With a little imagination you should be able to come up with something. In fact, you can get ideas from almost anywhere. Look around you and see if there’s some object in sight that will give you an idea for a patter line. Perhaps you can pick up a book and browse through it in search of inspiration. Whatever you do try and make it interesting, even whimsical or perhaps a little nonsensical. You may prefer to make your tricks appear dark and mysterious. If so, mould your patter accordingly, but don’t try to be something you’re not. In other words, if you’re not really suited to being a comedian there’s no need to make yourself look ridiculous attempting to tell jokes with your tricks. Be natural, be yourself, but be entertaining.

Now of course this may create a conflict because you may not naturally be an entertaining personality. On one hand I am stating that you should be yourself and on the other hand I’m saying you should be entertaining. So you may well ask, “How am I supposed to be myself and be amusing at the same time? My conversation is as dull as dishwater, I don’t like speaking in public, I am naturally a quiet, shy person, so how am I supposed to transform to a product of Barnum and Bailey combined with shades of the Ringmaster to the Greatest Show on Earth?”

Actually the answer is you don’t. You will find that the more you perform card magic the more interesting your personality will become anyway. You don’t have to change overnight to a reincarnation of Dante, Blackstone, Houdini or any other great magician of the past. As time goes by your personality will become more interesting anyway. However, you do have to help it along a tiny bit. For example, if you should make an amusing remark extemporaneously try and remember it for future occasions. You will find as time goes by you will accumulate a stock of these remarks and you can weave them into your performances. If you think you’re as dull as dishwater and you lack confidence, don’t worry! Magic is an incredible confidence builder. Every time you hear gasps of astonishment it will do wonders for your morale.

We seem to have gone away from the subject under discussion, namely patter. Well, here we are again; all I have to say about it now is that I do NOT recommend learning it off by heart. You will certainly sound stilted and ten to one you will forget the words halfway through the trick. It’s a far better plan to get a general idea of what you wish to say, rehearse it aloud a few times with the cards in hand, going through the motions of the trick as you do, and finally when you come to perform you will sound more spontaneous than if you had learned the patter word for word. After many performances you will find that you tend to say the same words over and over again anyway, but with more flexibility. If someone interrupts you will not be put off whereas if the patter was learnt off by heart a break in the performance could throw you off completely.

Re: Chapter Two of an unpublished book on card tricks.

Posted: February 8th, 2016, 8:11 pm
by performer
OK. Now the second extract deals with how to handle hecklers in a close up impromptu situation. I have mentioned previously that I rather liked the Strong Magic book and in fact agree with almost everything in it except for the advice on hecklers which essentially consists of ignoring them but if it gets too much don't even look at them and simply say, "This is what happens when cousins marry"

Dearie me no! That is a perfectly dreadful approach. As Expert Card Technique rightly states if you ignore them they persist and the last resort line above is most inappropriate and unbecoming of an astute and tasteful entertainer.

My advice on these matters is naturally far superior by dint of the fact that I happen to be me. There are far cleverer ways of going about things which take a bit of deftness admittedly but are far more effective than the crude method outlined above.

Now my advice on hecklers takes up a lot of space so I shall divide it in two parts. I will post the first part and if I am encouraged I shall then post the second part.

This applies particularly for impromptu close up work but I think it can easily be adapted to other situations.

Unfortunately, in this sad world there are those unenlightened souls whose only pleasure in life is to wreck the magician’s performance. The will insist on loudly proclaiming that they know how the trick is done (they very rarely do) and that all magicians are fakes. The will insist on shuffling the pack at inopportune times, they will spot the palmed card in your hand and will brag that they once had a magic set.

There are three solutions to the above problem:-

1. Curl up and die (for the timid among you).
2. Punch your tormentor on the nose (for the not so timid among you).
3. Read on and peruse my advice.

Now let’s see. We do not recommend the first solution on the grounds of bad showmanship. Neither do we particularly get excited over the second option. It will distract from the performance and besides, our heckler friend (?) may be bigger than you.

That leaves us with the third solution. Read on, dear reader, read on.

You must first realise that you are there to entertain people, even the nasty heckler. Tempting though it is to retaliate and be rude right back it is wise not to lose your temper. If you are quick witted and have a little bit of cunning about you it is possible to turn the pest into an asset, or at least quieten him down.

If, on the other hand, you try to answer him back the performance could easily deteriorate into a slanging match which is not quite what you originally intended. Besides, the more you argue the more he’ll persist in wrecking the show. You will also find that by resisting him you may alienate the rest of the audience because you are attacking one of their number. We find that people are perverse and although some of the spectators will be annoyed by the pest, others for some psychological reason will tend to side with him, especially if he is not TOO obnoxious. This is probably because people have a subconscious resentment against being fooled. They feel somehow inferior to this sharp trickster who is deceiving them so convincingly and they react with delight when the clever so and so runs into trouble. This being so, they may identify with the heckler especially if the magician has a smart alec see-how-clever-I-am air about him.

One other reason not to trade words with the bore is that if destroys what actors call the “suspension of disbelief”. To explain this, when you watch a movie or theatre play you are absorbed completely; you know in your heart of hearts that the actors are only playing a part, that what is going on is not real, but for the moment while you are watching you SUSPEND your disbelief momentarily reveling in the illusion that everything is really happening. However, if a piece of scenery drops backstage or the movie projector breaks down you are quickly brought back to reality and the “suspension of disbelief” starts to disintegrate. Similarly with our magician; he creates the illusion that what he does is magic; of course, at the back of their minds the spectators (unless they are extremely gullible) know that it is not magic, but for the moment while they are enjoying the performance they are willing to “suspend disbelief”. However, let the performer start arguing with the heckler or tell him to shut up and the whole process will disintegrate very rapidly. Our magician is no longer superman; he actually does mundane things like get annoyed. This maker of miracles is just an ordinary mortal after all,-well, what an anti-climax! Our hero who was dazzling everyone a moment ago with feats of astonishment now shows himself to be just a normal human being who demeans himself by arguing with the lower orders. After all, if he was a real magician, he wouldn’t waste time in conversation-he would simply make the heckler disappear!

No, answering back is not the solution to our problem. A better plan is to try and be nice to the nuisance. This will take the wind out of his sails and might make him feel guilty! Of course you might say, “Love thine enemy” is easier said than done. Well, persevere, persevere. Try and get on his side, even flatter him a tiny bit. You can even let him bully you a little for you have a trump card. We’ll tell you about it soon.

There. That should do for now. Let me know if you want to read more. I have just reread my advice of 40 years ago and I would not change a word of it even today.

Re: Chapter Two of an unpublished book on card tricks.

Posted: February 8th, 2016, 9:32 pm
by MagicbyAlfred
Performer, I am enjoying this very much and learning from it too! I hope that our brother magicians start weighing in and sharing their experience as well, because it is bound to be a dialogue that will be fascinating and informative. What you are offering for free is as valuable and more so than a lot of material I have come across in a lifetime in magic. Do I say this to butter you up so you will keep posting your writings? I would never do something like that, just to meet my own selfish needs. Well, maybe sometimes. Alright, always - but that is beside the point. It is the truth for once. This is really good!

Re: Chapter Two of an unpublished book on card tricks.

Posted: February 8th, 2016, 10:14 pm
by performer
In that case here is the rest of the heckler advice from all those years ago. Again I still believe it to this day and I use it even now. I was a little gentler in those days when performing but the basic idea has still persisted with me even nowadays.
Here’s more advice: try and make capital out of the situation, look for some amusing remark that won’t give offence (do NOT say, “We all make mistakes, your mother made one”) humour him, laugh with him and try to turn things to your advantage. Oh, and don’t worry-we have a trump card. Patience, patience-I’ll tell you about it eventually.

More advice: if he says, I know how that’s done!” you reply, “That’s strange, I know how it’s done too!” If he then tells everyone the secret and he is right you deflate him by asking, “What do you want, --magic?” If his antics become TOO irritating I suggest you threaten to turn him into a frog. No doubt this will make him quail with fear and he will immediately go as quiet as a mouse and treat you with the respect you deserve. If for some reason even this master stroke doesn’t completely succeed, well, you have the trump card to fall back on. All right, all right. We’re coming to it, I promise. But first, a little more advice on this subject.

Probably the best protection against the heckler is your own competence. After all, if you do your stuff well there is less opportunity for interruption. If you perform fluently and as if you know what you are doing it will tend to dissuade the pest from tormenting you. Everyone likes to watch a master at work, even the heckler. If you are exciting and entertaining this will often be enough to quell mutinous spectators. On the other hand, if you are ill at ease and awkward, not only will you cause the audience to experience the same feelings, you will be inviting trouble, as sure as the sun rises in the east. Your attitude is all-important; if you are humble you will tend to make people like you, and the more people like you the less heckling you will experience. Conversely, if you are arrogant and superior when you work, you will attract confrontation like a magnet, and well you will deserve it. Contrary to what you might expect, a little heckling is good for you. It keeps you alert, on your toes and teaches you not to be too complacent. It will encourage you to practice; when the loudmouth says, “I saw you switch that card!” he’s actually doing you a favour. Maybe you’ll practice so hard that next time he won’t see you switch it.

Oh, I completely forgot-the trump card! Well, dear reader, it’s called a SUCKER TRICK. There are a number of them in this book and using any one of them at the right time is the surest way not only to deflate your tormentor but often to make him your biggest booster. These are tricks which look as if they’ve gone badly wrong, but at the last minute the poor magician extricates himself from his dilemma, and turns the table on everybody by amazing them after all! This type of trick is especially effective for hecklers because they fall into a trap; at first they are delighted that the magician has had his comeuppance, they are flushed with triumph and often loudly mock the performer for his incompetence. However, when suddenly everything turns out right in the end, the gales of laughter from the crowd are usually directed against the heckler who then after his initial surprise and embarrassment, usually admits defeat and nurses his bruised ego by strangely praising you to the skies and becoming one of your biggest fans. In my experience, I have often found these former opponents have spread my reputation far and wide, they get their feelings of importance now, not by heckling but by bragging that they know me, and most incredible of all, get loudly indignant if anyone else dares to heckle me if they happen to be watching!

That’s my advice on hecklers; it’s taken up more space than I intended but I think it’s useful advice since beginners probably get more heckling, especially from family and friends than anyone else.

One word of warning, though. If you should happen to see a professional magician deal with hecklers you may be confused since he will probably use a different approach to the one outlined above. He may utilize what are known the trade as “heckler stoppers”, that is one-line gags, usually derogatory and personal that attack the heckler. Well, don’t feel confused; these people work under different conditions to you. They often perform in sleazy places, to inebriated audiences and they have to keep the pace of their act going without wasting too much time on the perpetrators of drunken interruptions. And they have one big advantage you don’t have-a microphone. No heckler can compete against a microphone-his insults are heard indistinctly whereas the performer’s remarks cutting him to ribbons come out crystal clear.

As I said before, this book is not for the professional magician. If you perform close up intimate card magic in social and business situations, all you need to know about handling hecklers is the advice we’ve given you and the knowledge you’ll get from experience

Re: Chapter Two of an unpublished book on card tricks.

Posted: February 9th, 2016, 10:51 am
by MagicbyAlfred
PERFORMER you ought to complete the book and charge a healthy sum for it. Can you please PM me your email address?

Re: Chapter Two of an unpublished book on card tricks.

Posted: February 9th, 2016, 12:50 pm
by performer
The book is for beginners. It would be for general publication and I don't see hefty sums in that area. And it would be hard to sell to publishers I think as there are many books on card tricks for beginners on the market. I would only complete it if a general publisher or literary agent asked me to complete it. My get up and go has got up and left I am afraid.

Anyway you will find my email address on my website at

Re: Chapter Two of an unpublished book on card tricks.

Posted: February 9th, 2016, 1:28 pm
by MagicbyAlfred
Performer, perhaps you should change course and make it a book, not on card tricks for beginners, but a primer on showmanship and how to entertain for magicians of all levels. The world does not need another book of tricks - especially card tricks. But the information you have to offer is of value to all magicians who perform or who want to. Even though I suggested you post your valuable material here, I wouldn't post another thing until and unless people on this Forum start expressing some appreciation for what you are offering and contribute to the discussion. Perhaps many are misled because the title of the post suggests the info simply relates to card tricks, as opposed to presentation, entertainment. showmanship and the techniques for understanding and dealing with spectators. Most magicians are way behind in getting to even the voluminous material they have already paid for in the realm of cards. Even then, I think many might only value the pearls of wisdom you are offering if they have to reach into their pocketbook and/or if and when someone on Genii or Magic Magazine were to give it a positive review. Still others think they are perfectly fine when it comes to presentation, entertainment, and showmanship. (A grand delusion to be sure, and I'm not just referring to Dunberry)

Re: Chapter Two of an unpublished book on card tricks.

Posted: February 9th, 2016, 1:47 pm
by performer
I suppose I could expand that second chapter and make into something longer. I actually did put it on an audio cassette recording once with some vague idea of marketing it but never did anything about it. That sort of thing is quite beyond me. Until I do everyone will have to make do with Henning Nelms.

Re: Chapter Two of an unpublished book on card tricks.

Posted: February 9th, 2016, 3:00 pm
by MagicbyAlfred
I think that is a very good idea. It need not be a long book - people don't seem to have much time nowadays anyway. The fact that it is a relatively short book could be a selling point. I just think it would be unfortunate if people did not have the opportunity to benefit from the wisdom you have accrued, your perceptiveness and entertaining writing style. But like I said, for the reasons explained, I am no longer of the mind that you should post your valuable material here. I have been to your website/blog a number of times, and I enjoyed reading the lives of a Showman installments you posted. I actually tried emailing you once from your website, but it seemed like the email I sent you was through a contact form or something, and i don't know if you received it because I never received a reply. So perhaps you would be kind enough to PM me your email address so I can stay in touch from time to time and also share some ideas. I don't expect to be showing up here much in the foreseeable future because by some stroke of luck, I have all of a sudden been booked for a ton of events in the next several months. That will mean a lot of wallets and jewelry pour moi.

Re: Chapter Two of an unpublished book on card tricks.

Posted: February 9th, 2016, 3:22 pm
by performer
There is no contact form on my website. How very odd! I always return messages promptly too. If you send messages via the blog I have no idea how that works so I am not sure what happened there. I will therefore exert myself to send you a private message if I can figure out how to do it.

Maybe you are right that I shouldn't post any information here. I am not sure anybody wants it anyway. I have no idea. I shall think about it.

Re: Chapter Two of an unpublished book on card tricks.

Posted: February 9th, 2016, 3:27 pm
by performer
I have sent the private message. I have no idea if you received it or not.

Re: Chapter Two of an unpublished book on card tricks.

Posted: February 9th, 2016, 4:42 pm
by MagicbyAlfred
Yes I did receive. Thanks, I will write to you soon.

Re: Chapter Two of an unpublished book on card tricks.

Posted: February 9th, 2016, 4:50 pm
by performer
Jolly good. Incidentally I have TWO magic blogs. One for trade show work and one for other magic stuff. I really should figure out how to put a signature link to them here. I am afraid this modern world is too much for me and is quite beyond my understanding. However I have managed to change the title of the topic as per your advice.

STOP PRESS! I have just figured out how to add signatures to the two blogs. I may have mastered this modern world after all!