Give The Audience a Reason

When learning from watching poor magicians, one discovers that many magic effects are viewed as meaningless feats of accomplishment that leave the audience cold. Why? Often it's because the magician has not given a valid reason why the effect being performed, and so the audience reaction naturally tends to be, "so what?!"

Frequently, you will achieve a better result in terms of magic and audience reaction if there is a reason for doing each effect. Sometimes the reason will come before the trick, sometimes during the trick, and sometimes at the end.

Have you noticed that many magicians tear up a piece of paper, and then put it back together again? Let's look at this one simple trick in different ways. Surely, if the magician tears up a piece of paper, the audience quickly works out that because they are watching a magician, he will put it back together. That's logical isn't it? But if he is going to put it back together, there is no REASON for tearing it up in the first place, is there?! You can save a lot of time by not bothering!

So what could be the reason for tearing it up?

The great Robert Harbin used to mime reading a newspaper whilst on a subway train that gradually became more and more crowded. He started off with his arms quite wide apart, opening the pages wide open, but as more and more people got into the train, he had to tear his newspaper up into smaller pieces so that he could handle them.

Although the routine was filmed on a set rather than in a real train, at each stop where more people apparently got on the train, Harbin even took the trouble to lurch slightly as the train stopped! As everyone finally got off, he mimed opening his arms again, and the paper was restored to it's original size. Harbin had a reason for performing the torn and restored newspaper, and the result was a far more entertaining routine!

An American performer published another really good suggestion relating to the torn and restored newspaper, which Paul took on board because it suits his style. The performer says that he has recently seen something really interesting in a newspaper, and he goes into his pocket to pull out a couple of pieces of the newsprint. Although he subsequently says "no, it's not on here," it gives him the opportunity to read something silly from the paper, as a comedy aside.

He then reaches into the other pocket, pulls out another few pieces, and does the same thing. Eventually, he is holding a wad of papers from many different pockets. In Paul's case, he says something like, "Oh! Now I remember what it was," and as he flicks the paper out to become one piece, he looks it and reveals the headline, reading it out loud, "Magician restores newspaper."

Yet another approach is to actually tell the truth! For example, you could say, "you must have seen the trick where a magician takes a newspaper and tears it up like this. Some people believe it's not really happening." So you put the newspaper next to the microphone, and ask the audience to listen to the fact that you are actually tearing the newspaper. Tell the audience that other magicians can't do that!

Having torn the paper several times, and with all the pieces in your hand you say, "now, there is a problem. If you heard it being torn, it really has been torn, and you can't put back together." As you say that line, you open it up and show it restored!

A further approach is to do the trick as a 'sucker' type of effect, so that you pretend to show the audience how the trick is done, and subsequently baffle them at the end by using a different method to the one you showed them! That style gives you yet another reason for tearing the newspaper, the reason in this instance being that you are pretending to show the audience how a trick is done.

Now that's just one effect. So it is possible to find a REASON for tearing up the newspaper, and that's a trick that is usually considered to be fairly boring because normally it doesn't go anywhere!

The magic WILL be stronger if you find reasons for performing the effects. You don't HAVE to have a reason for everything, but think carefully, analyse every effect, and keep the audience guessing throughout your show!

Another advantage of doing this is that you'll be building anticipation, which of course is highly desirable, otherwise the actual effect could be over in just a few seconds leaving the audience to think, as we've said, 'it's clever, but so what?' They must care!

The routine can be based around a story, an experience, an anecdote or a challenge. But be very careful. If you are a young magician, don't take lines of patter from some old magic book that couldn't possibly be true, or recite for example that you have entertained the Raja of Kazakhstan when you have no idea who he even is! Be sensible, and be aware of who you are and what you are, and apply your patter accordingly. You should be believable.

Let the audience be wondering what you will do, and if you can do it, rather than wondering how you will do it. The audience should have as much or more fun during the build up, as in the climax of the effect, the moment when the magic occurs.

Encourage the audience to use their imagination by painting a picture for them. Take them to a fantasy land where anything is possible.

Use all the technical means at your disposal such as sound and lighting effects, and use interesting sets and costumes where possible. All these techniques can help the audience have a positive reaction to the routine, ultimately entertaining them.

Again, a word of caution. We have all seen acts that use wild lighting, fog like smoke effects and dancers leaping everywhere. Somewhere in the middle of that lot there is a magic trick going on! Be careful!

Never divide the attention of the audience that YOU are creating. Never stand at the end of the trick gesturing towards some prop. If you do, you are saying to the audience, "look at that item, IT did the trick!" ALWAYS REMEMBER that you are the magician, and you do the magic. Never let the theatricals get in the way of the audience appreciating YOU.

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