Has Simon read Vernon?

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erdnasephile
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Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby erdnasephile » February 1st, 2019, 12:58 pm

I'll start by saying that Mr. Oake is a talented, successful guy and he's fooled and entertained me several times when I've seen him.

However, in his evaluation at the end of the act, self-proclaimed magic lover, Simon Cowell makes an spot-on observation:

https://www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent ... ee/3866006

Although he is clearly fooled, Simon puts his finger on exactly what was missing.

Shades of the Professor and Ammar! (and a good reminder for me as well)

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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby Curtis Kam » February 1st, 2019, 4:02 pm

That was a terrific trick. Well executed, and Simon is 1) pushing his brand, 2) leaving room for another magician with a lesser trick, but more personality, and 3) speaking as someone without much experience in presenting magic.

There are times when a whole lot of “showmanship” just gets in the way. Could he have had a line here or there that made us laugh? Probably. Would that have made the overall experience more memorable? Probably not. Could he have spent a line or two establishing a “theatrical premise” for this? Sure, but would it have made us more engaged? Probably not. In fact, the effect relies greatly on the nearly “impromptu” feel inherent in using people from the audience, and building the puzzle from and on them. Adding, say, an obvious music or lighting cue would likely take away from that. Imagine the same bit, for instance, but add an offstage drumroll just before he takes away the board—is that really better? Wouldn’t that say, in ways the audience might only feel, “yeah, we set this all up”.

I thought the same thing about David Blaine the first time I saw him. No “showmanship”. I was entirely wrong about that. I believe Simon is similarly misguided here.

All that said, we’re I Oakes in that position, I would have paused for effect just before the major points, like pulling out the board, and dropping the last hand. And maybe he did, who knows?


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Q. Kumber
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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby Q. Kumber » February 1st, 2019, 4:30 pm

The link isn't working for here in the UK.

What magician are you referring to, please?

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erdnasephile
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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby erdnasephile » February 1st, 2019, 5:11 pm

Q. Kumber wrote:The link isn't working for here in the UK.

What magician are you referring to, please?


Darcy Oake. He did a really impressive suspension, with little to no presentation.

Curtis:
My perception of Blaine was that he was successful because he used minimal presentation to allowed the home audience to focus on the entertaining reactions of the spectators who were present. Their sometimes over the top reactions made them the star of the show and implied that the magic was incredibly impressive which carried over to the home viewer.
In the case at hand, I just didn't sense that. It just seemed like the performance hinged on how amazing (and it was amazing) the suspension would be. Perhaps it was felt that the illusion was so strong that anything more would have detracted from the impact of the effect.
I can see that position, but I've always tried to live by Maven's three questions about performance, and while I was blown away by the trick, I really didn't learn anything about Mr. Oake and what he was trying to say with the performance. Consequently, I never even got to the third question. Even if he had said something like: "I won't use a bunch of silly words to distract you from what you're about to see, but you're going to remember it for a lifetime", at least I would have felt he was talking to me. I agree that too much "showmanship" can kill a trick, but it was just hard to connect to this particular performance.
Could it be that in this situation, Mr. Oake was already a presumed known quantity to the audience/viewers, so maybe that explains why the piece was being presented so minimally?
Lastly, amateurs like me are notorious for paying attention to things that aren't important and missing a lot of the forest (Mea Culpa many times). Is that what I'm doing here?

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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby MagicbyAlfred » February 1st, 2019, 5:22 pm

This really got me thinking about what "showmanship" means. Clearly, in Simon's view, Darcy Oake was lacking in showmanship in that performance. It strikes me as a hard concept to define, and in trying to define it, I was reminded of what Justice Potter Stewart of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote in a case in which the issue was whether a certain motion picture was "obscene" and therefore was not constitutionally protected free speech. Stewart admitted that he would not even attempt to define obscenity, but wrote, "But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that."

There is also an element of subjectivity as to whether or not a performance was lacking in showmanship. Looking through the prism of his own opinion, Simon found (assuming he was being truthful) that Mr. Oake was lacking in showmanship. The more I thought about this, I realized that maybe there was nothing in the way the trick was presented that would differentiate him from anyone else that knew the secret and went through the mechanics of presenting the trick. In other words, he asked Howie to come up, asked Howie to pick out an audience member to come up with him, asked the model (was it Jennifer?) to come up, and then essentially gave instructions as to what everyone was to do. It was really kind of mechanical. There was no real interplay with the audience or any of the people onstage; there was nothing said to provoke thought or build intrigue; there were no funny or otherwise engaging lines. There wasn't any real theatrical flair in the presentation. Obviously the trick itself was very strong, but the trick is not the showman; the performer is. And in this performance, it seemed like he did nothing more than go through the motions. I think an apt analogy is to consider the presentation of a meal. On one hand, the chef could just put the food on the plate and serve it, and it may well be delicious. Or he/she could make it a beautiful presentation, arranged delightfully on fine china, with garnishes and beautiful colors etc. such as we've all seen. And that enhances the overall experience.

I remember when I first started doing the floating dollar. I would borrow it, ball it up and then take my hands away, and it was seen to "float." The trick itself - the effect - was intrinsically very strong, but no pizazz. It was all the trick and none of me. Then a friend of mine suggested a shtick where, before I let go of the dollar, I would say, "I need some heat to make the magic happen. I think I have a lighter." I would then pat my right trouser pocket with my right hand, while holding the bill with my left hand, and finding nothing, I would then pat my left trouser pocket with my left hand, while holding the bill with my right hand, and again find nothing. Then I would go into both pockets simultaneously, of course letting go of the bill in doing so, but apparently not even noticing that the bill stayed suspended in mid-air as I did so. While the reactions were always pretty strong, cuz it was the floating dollar, when I started doing that, I started getting significantly better reactions than previously. Then, when I started adding some funny lines, and interacting more with the spectators during the performance, and doing some other bits and flourishes, such getting the bill to climb up my arm and back down again, and using my hand in a magical gesture to make the bill rise and fall, and so forth, the reactions got even better. I would call the difference showmanship.

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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby Curtis Kam » February 1st, 2019, 6:11 pm

All valid points, to which I would only respond:

Alfred, the difference is that your audiences had probably never seen a floating dollar bill before. But the AGT audience has probably seen magicians float ladies in the air before, and often in a cheesy over dramatic way.

Ephile, I think you’re missing the fact that it was David Blaine’s minimalist presentation that got those over-the-top reactions in the first place. If it hadn’t, it never would have occurred to anyone to show that on TV.

And I do think that there was an assumption that the audience was familiar with Darcy Oake. We’re talking about the fans of “Got Talent” who watch on YouTube, at least, where the BGT performances seem to have gotten a lot of coverage. On the other hand, Simon was the one who claimed to know Oake the best, yet he was the one who made the comment about “showmanship”. Maybe Simon was telling Oake that he needed to introduce himself to the US audience, or maybe Simon’s definition of “showmanship” doesn’t include “getting to know” the performer.


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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby Q. Kumber » February 1st, 2019, 6:46 pm

erdnasephile wrote:
Q. Kumber wrote:The link isn't working for here in the UK.

What magician are you referring to, please?


Darcy Oake. He did a really impressive suspension, with little to no presentation.


Thank you.

Darcy came 5th in the finals of Britain's Got Talent in 2014, at which time Simon Cowell called Oake "without question the best magician ever on Britain's Got Talent."

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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » February 1st, 2019, 6:52 pm

Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby Richard Kaufman » February 2nd, 2019, 11:53 pm

The levi that Darcy Oake did was created by Kyle Knight.
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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby Ted M » February 4th, 2019, 3:46 pm

Isn't the prize for winning AGT a yearlong engagement headlining a show that needs to sell tickets?

They can't afford to hire somebody without personality to headline that show.

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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby erdnasephile » February 5th, 2019, 9:50 am

Curtis: I have been thinking about your last comment for several days. You are correct: it did not occur to me the Blaine's deadpan presentation was part of what got the reactions.

So, that made me think about the differences between Blaine and the presentation under discussion. I think one of the big differences for me is that even though he emoted little, Blaine's performance was directed towards the spectator. He looked (stared) right in their eyes, made things happen in their hands or to their personal objects, or even had them touch him. The magic could not have happened without them for the most part.

In rewatching Oake's performance, as an audience member, I felt pretty much ignored--he didn't address the audience at all, other than to draw applause. Had there been no audience, the performance would have looked exactly the same. So, what we were left with was a superior performance of a great illusion, but it just didn't seem as affecting.

Of course, the intimacy is what gives close-up it's impact, but the very best stage performers are able to break that wall as well.

In Oake's defense, I'm wondering if he uses this same presentation in the middle of his full evening show--a situation where the audience has already gotten to know him, and where he has already established a connection. If that is the case, when taken in context of the whole, it may score strongly and does not feel quite as empty as when it stands on it's own, bereft of what surrounds it.

I bring this up because as a close-up guy, I tend to think of tricks in sets of three for a performance, but I don't always think about texture and overall context and how they influence how an individual routine is perceived. There needs to a better reason to put an effect into my show, other than I like to perform it and it gets a reaction--it needs a purpose, which may even vary from show to show. (I know this is old hat to you all, but this is very useful for me to be prompted to think about this stuff).

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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby Richard Kaufman » February 5th, 2019, 1:02 pm

If you win AGT, my impression is that they sort of own you for a long time. You are obligated to do all sorts of stuff for them and you have no choice in the matter.
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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby Curtis Kam » February 5th, 2019, 3:21 pm

Okay, as Richard reminds us, the performance we’re talking about is on a spin-off of a television contest show. Except for those whose entire performing career occurred on AGT itself (is there anyone really like that?) I seriously doubt anyone performs live with exactly the same presentations we see on that show. If you’ve spent the time and energy developing a brand through that show, you’re probably going to want your live performances to resemble what the public has seen, but the show makes so many unique demands that a direct transfer to stage is unlikely to be successful.

Case in point, the performance we’re talking about was preceded with minutes and minutes of bio material intended to create an effective backstory for Oake. So perhaps there was a feeling, among the producers, or the performer himself, that time spent on “developing character” would be redundant.

Also, there was that moment Oake took to talk to Heidi about “freezing a moment in time” which was delivered to her, instead of the audience, but that’s possibly because the TV camera can come in close enough for you to present it that way. Live on stage, he’d probably have to direct that comment to the audience.

Finally, the format encourages the use of the celebrity judges. When using two celebrities in an effect, there’s an argument that the best approach is to lay back, and show off their personalities. Certainly it’s poor practice to bring up people who are better known than you are, and to relegate them to the roles of stage furniture. Howie and Heidi both took advantage of their moments.

All of which is why I’d avoid a close comparison of this performance to David Blaine, or anyone, live, and even though Blaine was on Tv, he wasn’t on AGT, so who knows what his act would have looked like if he was. I do think that Blaine, and those who copied him, have shown that the television audience has reacted to minimalistic style. On he other hand, they also seem to like Shin Lim, whose style seems to be quite the opposite.




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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby erdnasephile » February 5th, 2019, 9:09 pm

Hi, Curtis: Points well taken.
(The reason why I assumed he used the same presentation in his shows is due to the clip that JT posted above from Oake's own ITV Christmas special, which seemed to be a very similar presentation to that used on AGT. Granted, this was also TV, so maybe live, he does use a different tack.)

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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby Curtis Kam » February 6th, 2019, 5:32 pm

Or, consider this “conspiracy theory”: Simon’s criticism is spot on, and Oake’s lack of engagement with the audience was what prevented him from doing better in BGT.

If that’s the case, isn’t that the sort of note that the producers would pass on to the performer in private? Why do it in front of—hey, waitaminnit.

Suppose that’s Simon’s plan all along? He very publicly provides the advice that makes Oake a star, we see him improve as the contest goes on, and in the end, Cowell is a star maker?


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Re: Has Simon read Vernon?

Postby MagicbyAlfred » February 6th, 2019, 10:14 pm

That makes a lot of sense, Curtis.


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