This is a great opener which allows for a lot of byplay with the audience, establishes your bona fides as an intuitive individual, and packs a very strong punch.
Essentially, the performer shows a fan of small, manila coin envelopes each of which bears a number in the series one through five. He explains that four of the envelopes contain gifts intended for the audience and in the best tradition of "Lets Make A Deal's" Monte Hall, the fifth envelope contains a 'zonker.' In fact, it contains something which the performer would truly rather the audience not get.
The entertainer approaches four people among the spectators and gives each of them a choice of the remaining envelopes in his hand. They are cautioned to keep the envelopes closed until instructed. One by one the choices are made until the performer holds but one envelope. He tells the new owners of the envelopes to open them and remove what is found inside each, demonstrating with his own envelope.
All four participants find a lottery ticket within their envelopes. The performer has a ticket in his envelope as well. Just when the audience begins to wonder what the big deal about the zonker was all about, the performer explains, "I told you that one envelope contained something which I really didn't want anyone to have. And here it is..."
He approaches someone in the front row who is asked to stand and hold out his hand. Dumping the contents into his hand, the entertainer asks him to describe what he sees. It is a one hundred dollar bill! Indeed, that is something which the performer did not want the audience to get.
The working of the effect is simplicity itself. All five envelopes contain lottery tickets.
None of the envelopes is sealed. The hundred dollar bill is placed in the remaining envelope in the act of demonstrating how to open the envelope and remove the contents. This is a very easy move and looks absolutely innocent. The hardest part is dealing with the guilt about the very simple move.
You must number the envelopes in VERY LARGE digits, as large as possible so that the folks in the last row can see what is going on. Stack the five envelopes one atop the other. Fold a piece of currency in eighths (about the size of a postage stamp) and place it beneath the flap of the top envelope. The large fold of the bill should be toward the bottom of the envelope. This is the side which will go into the envelope first. The large fold goes in first because there is less possiblility of an edge catching during the move.
Remove the rubber band and place it aside. Drag the folded bill down from behind the flap with your thumb and spread the envelopes into a small fan. Comment to the audience regarding the fact that four of them contain a prize indended for the audience while the fifth contains the zonker.
This may seem very to be very restrictive as far as angles of view are concerned, but that is not the case. By holding the fan of envelopes "close to the vest" you run little risk of exposure. If you must, slip the rear envelope between your thumb and the bill, concealing it further. This is really unnecessary but some folks feel more comfortable with this handling.
When you are down to one envelope and are ready to do the work, pull the flap open and transfer the bill to the flap-end thumb at the same time.
Slide the bill toward the end of the flap until it clears the opening of the envelope. Slide the bill into the envelope with your thumb as the other hand shifts position to slightly "bow" the envelope. By pressing down (toward the face of the envelope) the lottery ticket inside remains pressed against the rear of the envelope.
Now it is necessary to turn the seam side of the envelope toward the audience, pivoting on the inserted thumb. As you rotate the envelope, it also turns from a horizontal position to a vertical alignment. Because the envlope is bowed, the folded bill to drop to the bottom. At the end of the rotation sequence, the pad of the inserted thumb will be directly against the folded lottery ticket inside.
Draw the ticket out and display it for the audience to see. Then walk forward and ask someone close to the platform to stand and to hold out his hand, palm up. That's when you dump the folded bill into his awaiting hand. If you are using a microphone, be sure to hold it so what he describes can be heard by everyone
I developed this routine because I became so tired of the typical Cherchez le Bill performance in which the participant ends up empty handed and feeling somehow victimized. By ensuring that each person receives something of potential value, that 'sting' is removed.
In addition, a cute bit of business is enabled. At the beginning of the routine, I mention that each envelope contains something which has the potential of being worth thousands of dollars (true). At the end, when each person withdraws a ticket, I remind, "Yes, that lottery ticket could, indeed, be worth thousands. And in return for my generosity, may I rest assured that if you win a substantial prize you will share it with me?"
Of course everyone will nod in agreement, whereupon I add, "Actually, you have no choice - I've already signed the back of each ticket so if you hit it big, I'm your best friend!" This always gets a good laugh.
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