"Magic must be above all entertaining — visual — simple and uncomplicated. The magician must first and foremost be an entertainer. No matter how perfect his sleights and moves (and make no mistake about it, they ought to be perfect) unless he is an entertainer he will KILL magic."
This is something I once said to Lewis Ganson. He quoted it in an editorial for one of the 'Gens'. I would like to elaborate upon it a little and try to explain exactly what I mean by ENTERTAINING, VISUAL, SIMPLE and UNCOMPLICATED.
My dictionary defines entertaining as giving pleasure, diverting and/or amusing. Therefore, I feel that it is the function of an entertainer to give pleasure, to divert, to amuse. Many magicians, when learning a new trick, will slavishly follow the instructions. They neglect the matter of developing an entertaining, diverting, amusing presentation. They fail totally to appreciate the need to give pleasure to their audiences. It is very important to realise that the tricks which we read or buy are not, in themselves, entertainment. They are the tools, from which, with careful thought, entertainment can be fashioned.
As a first step towards entertaining, it is necessary to develop one's own distinctive style. The presentation can then be moulded to fit that style. It is tremendously important to discover the kind of person that you are and then to magnify that personality in terms of your magic. In my own case, I discovered quite quickly that the large paunch, which I was developing, coupled with my general bigness was something that could be played upon and sold. Something around which I could build an image and fit the type of magic that I liked doing. In my younger days I had tried to perform a silent manipulative act, after the style of Cardini. It was completely foreign to me. The first time that I walked out in front of an audience I felt uncomfortable and "wrong". They, of course, quickly sensed this. It did not suit my appearance and therefore was no way that I could look the part.
No book can tell you how to be entertaining. No trick can make you entertaining. It is you, that must make the trick entertaining. I have seen some incredibly entertaining magic, which has been very simple. It was entertaining because the performer had studied himself in sufficient depth to discover those aspects of his character which needed to be rounded out and developed. He then selected effects, which would capitalise to the maximum, on his character. As an example of this, let me mention that I frequently feature balloons in my work. This is because I am rather a balloonlike person. A balloon in my hands seems to become almost an extension of myself.
Please do not run away with the impression that, in order to give pleasure and amuse, one needs to be naturally funny. It is amazing how many naturally funny people can also be boring, unless they discipline themselves and channel their humour in the right direction.
One means of giving pleasure to an audience is to take their minds away from the problems of ordinary life. The harsh realities, which crowd in upon people. Provide instead a phantasy way of escape, which opens the door into a fairy story world, diverting from the tensions of everyday living.
People will not be willing to enter your phantasy world of magic, if the things that happen there are easily explained. Your magic must be deceptive. Magic, which fails to deceive an audience, insults their intelligence. Instead of being carried -along with you they will merely look down on you.
The problem that you are now faced with is that, in order to carry the audience along with you, you must baffle them completely. At the same time, if you are not careful, the very business of fooling them can alienate them. It was Bill Nagler who pointed out that the old adage "it's fun to be fooled" is just not true. On the contrary, one of the best kept secrets in magic is that it is NOT fun to be fooled. Most people find the experience of being fooled a threatening one. Fooling a person demeans them psychologically. It is a form of relational one upmanship. If you have come along to be entertained and the person, purporting to entertain you, merely indulges in the activity of making you feel mentally inferior, then obviously you will resent his performance rather than enjoy it.
This resentment and alienation will be increased if the performer assumes a challenging manner. As A1 Schnieder says in one of his books, many performers adopt a challenging
approach without realising it. This is usually a sign of lack of confidence. If an inexperienced magician feels nervous or uncertain, he will keep trying to prove to the audience that what he is doing is good. Any casual remarks, that the spectators may make, will be instantly seized upon and the unfortunate person, who happened to make the remark, shown to be wrong. To the audience this appears to be a put down. They see the performer as implying "I'm better than you, because I can fool you!"
I can remember my own early performances and the lack of confidence, which I felt. This confidence can only be gained through performing experience. First thoroughly learn your magic and then perform it frequently until you KNOW that you can do it. Only then will the need to prove that you are doing it well, cease.
Bill Nagler, a psychologist by profession, defined four basic approaches to magic, which would eliminate the challenge element and enable people to be fooled without feeling demeaned. One was the CONSPIRATORIAL approach, where the performer takes the audience into his confidence and enlists their moral support in trying to defeat some inexplicable happening, which is making his life a misery. Another was the TRIUMPHANT approach. This is where the magician, in attempting to perform a "miracle", gets into a mess; things go wrong. In order to extricate himself he uses a bit of magic. Thirdly there is the DISTANT approach. This is where you distance yourself and the audience from the actual effect by weaving it into a story. The story becomes the important thing and the magic merely the means of illustrating it. The audience are not being directly challenged to solve a mystery. Finally there is the NON-MAGIC approach. That is where the magic is introduced merely as an incidental afterthought to the comedy or whatever.
I agree absolutely with Nagler. For this reason I never tell an audience that I am going to fool them. I suggest instead that we are going to have some fun together. Also I will often make a point of putting myself on the same level as the spectators, by pretending to be just as baffled and surprised as they are. In this way the challenge element is eliminated.
An entertainer needs to know that his audiences will like him. They must like him as a person. If not, the challenge element will always be present. The performer will be forced into a situation of magical one upmanship. On the other hand, once you have got the audience to like you, you can get away with almost anything. You must, however, be able to win them over quickly. Especially is this true in commercial close-up work. The initial rapport which you generate with your audience is crucial. In these situations you have to "move out" towards the other person(s). That initial contact is important. It will create a rapport, which changes potential resentment into something that will be received with pleasure, and a willingness to enter the phantasy world of the performer.
To be continued.
To be continued.
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Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.