The Close-Up Magician by Bert Allerton contains a quote which has stayed with me from the time I first read it as a kid. It goes like this: " Dr. Zola, the possessor of one of the keener minds in magic, once said to Bert: 'You can take a stacked deck and follow any great artist with cards, and your spectators will think you are the better magician.'" Over the last six years I have discovered that, for the most part, Dr. Zola was completely correct. Had Dr. Zola lived a little longer, though, he would have amended his comment to say: "Unless you have to follow Tom Mullica."
A few years ago, I had to follow Tom Mullica in three close-up rooms at a Wizards Weekend convention in Minneapolis. Tom vowed that he wasn't going to do his world famous "Nicotine Nincompoop" routine (better known as "The Trick Where the Guy Eats All the Cigarettes and the Paper Napkins, and Where the Hell Do they All Go, Anyway?"), and I figured that if Tom dropped this routine I had a chance of making it through the afternoon alive. But, of course, during the heat of performance, and spurned on by the gales of laughter coming from the audience, Tom incorporated the Nincompoop routine into his outrageous handling of "The Card in the Mouth." The memory of walking into those rooms and seeing an audience completely drained from laughter and bewilderment stays with me. It's the stuff that bad dreams are made of.
The wonderful book Show-Time at the Tom Foolery by Richard Kaufman contains the methods for most of Tom's devastating routines. But withheld from that book was the method for "The Nicotine Nincompoop." A-1 MultiMedia has just released three videos featuring Tom Mullica teaching a wide variety of cigarette magic, including the work on the Nincompoop routine. So now you too can do amazing things with cigarettes, the only drawback being that you'll risk destroying your health and incurring the wrath of politically correct audiences for whom cigarette smokers are about as popular as bubonic plague carriers.
Each of the three videos begins with a disclaimer similar to the one on the back of the Show-Time at the Tom Foolery book. It relieves both Tom Mullica and the publishers from any responsibility should anyone be stupid enough to actually try any of the tricks explained. Tom emphasizes this many times throughout the videos. If you do tricks with lit cigarettes you will harm yourself in one way or another. To this disclaimer I would add another warning: use discretion as to who views these tapes. The cigarette industry seems to be targeting young people as their main market, using the "smoking is cool" approach. (And Hollywood is definitely aiding this endeavor.) Well, these tapes contain just about the coolest things that are possible to do with cigarettes, so you may want to keep them away from susceptible people.
The first video (designated as Volume 12 of the "Expert" series) provides a basic introduction to cigarette magic. There are some vanishes (including Harry Lorayne's excellent "That Burns Me Up!" from Deck-Sterity), methods for producing cigarettes, some fun "gymnastics" with cigarettes, and several techniques for tonguing cigarettes. "Pantomime Cigarette #1" and "Smoke Ring" are two items which have been a part of Tom's stand-up act for many years. Also included are many gags using cigarettes, including "Vegas Carpet," "Cigarette Up Nose," "Little Butt," and "Double-Ended Cigarette." If you have never done magic with cigarettes and are seriously contemplating doing so, this video should be your first stop.
The second video contains many more gags and routines, including four excellent ones which do not require that the performer smoke: "Card Is Cigarette" is a very odd effect in which the (unlit) cigarette between the performer's lips becomes the spectator's signed playing card. "AEROBIC" stands for "Automatic Entry Roll Over Bill in Cigarette," and it is a truly ingenious method for doing this standard effect. If you don't know the work on this you will probably get fooled when you watch it. "Torn N' Restored" is Karrell Fox's wonderful method for tearing a cigarette in half and restoring it. "New Year's Cigarette" is a hilarious gag of Tommy Wonder's. There are also several non-cigarette routines and gags on this video, including Tom's handling for "Ashes Through Hand," "Torn and Restored Cigarette Paper," and "Orange You Gonna Do a Cigarette Trick?" which is Tom's killer gag with an orange slice. The tape concludes with a performance of Tom's F.I.S.M. act, which was a precursor to his famous Crazy Horse stage act.
The highlight of the third video (and the item which will be of the most interest to the merely curious) is the performance and explanation of "The Nicotine Nincompoop." This is a world-class effect, and even though the method is revealed, no one but Tom Mullica should ever perform it. Ever. Period. Also on this video are two more handlings for the torn and restored cigarette, Tom's handling for "Cigarette Through Quarter," Karrell Fox's great routine "Poca Cola," and the method for doing the "Smoke Cocktail." The tape concludes with a performance of Tom's Crazy Horse stage act. The act is not explained, but you will find that it incorporates many of the items from the three videos.
The three tapes are well produced, and the performance segments feature Tom working behind a bar in the home of Gary Beutler. This is not quite the same thing as watching Tom behind a real bar in front of an all lay audience, but it's close enough for jazz. There are a couple of "Mature Audience" gags, and if this bothers you, consider yourself warned.
These are excellent videos, and, while I highly recommend them, I would reemphasize that the only routines you should attempt are the ones which use unlit cigarettes.
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