A long-time standard of magic is U.F. Grant's "Topsy-Turvy Bottles." Actually, Grant called his method for the Topsy-Turvy Bottles "Tricky Bottles." Despite this, most magicians still cling to the older title. John's routine can be done with either version; however, since the original Topsy-Turvy Bottles are now collectors' items, it is assumed that most will be using the Grant set. Topsy-Turvy Bottles is the trick wherein a spectator follows the actions of the magician with a bottle and tube; yet the spectator's bottle always ends upside-down from the performer's. A great deal of situation comedy can be derived from this effect as it is repeated four or five times. However, there was always one problem with the Topsy-Turvy Bottles to which few performers found a solution: the trick never had a strong finish — an applause cue. It could only become repetitious, with no seeming way to build to a climax. There was always that feeling of a lame conclusion signaled by a usually awkward dismissal of the assisting audience member.
John recognized both the entertainment value of Topsy-Turvy Bottles and its lack of a climax. This is his excellent solution to the problem. He has used this routine in over five-hundred shows to date. It is full of comedy, surprise and good psychology.
You will need a standard Topsy-Turvy Bottles set, available through most dealers. This consists of two bottles, two tubes that can cover them and a metal sleeve that looks like the bottom of the bottles on either end. The sleeve nests closely inside either of the tubes.
Also required are:
Four 24" silks, two of which should be black; Four or five very tattered silks — the worse the condition, the better for comedy purposes; An old 18" silk or rag; Two metal hooks — John uses fish hooks from which he has cut the barbed tips; A miniature bottle about three inches high — this must be small enough to be easily hidden in the hand; And a pencil or chop stick.
The setup is simple. Take the old 18" silk or rag and tie its corner to that of one of the 24" black silks. Tie the diagonally opposite corner of this black silk to the second black silk; and the other two 24" silks are tied in a line to this second black silk, creating a chain of five. To the extreme corner of the last silk — that silk opposite the rag-silk — sew one of the metal hooks. Then tie the rag-silk into a large round knot. Figure 1 shows the completed assembly.
Force the knotted-up rag-silk down into the neck of the bottle you will be using during the performance. This is done with the pencil or chop stick. It is most important that this knotted cloth cannot slip from the neck of the bottle. The bottle must be able to hang securely from the silk chain without the knot slipping free.
Follow through by pushing the rest of the silk chain loosely into the bottle with the stick. The last portion of the chain to go into the bottle should be the corner of the silk with the hook. Engage this hook over the edge of the mouth of the bottle as shown in Figure 2, so the corner of the silk chain can be neatly grasped when required.
Make a chain from the four or five tattered silks (having different sized silks for this group can enhance the humor of their appearance) and sew the other metal hook to the extreme corner of one of the end silks. This chain is loaded into the bottle the spectator will use. Again, make sure the hooked corner goes in last and engage the hook over the mouth of the bottle. Notice that no knotted cloth is used on this chain, as you wish the silks to pull free of the bottle.
The last thing necessary is to place the miniature bottle in your right coat pocket.
The routine begins with the standard Topsy-Turvy Bottle sequence. You give the spectator a bottle and tube, while you work with the set with the sleeve feke. Go through the usual you-do-as-l-do business with the spectator. When you reach the end of this sequence arrange it so that both you and the spectator are holding the bottles rightside-up. Both of you show your tubes empty and place them over the bottles.
You announce, "Now for the magic!" Make a magical gesture over your tube and get the spectator to mimic you. Then reach inside, grip the silks by the hooked corner and dramatically pull them from the tube, stopping when you feel the knotted cloth bind in the neck of the bottle.
Cue the spectator to do the same. John says here, "Go ahead. I set it up for you." This line will usually bring a laugh. The spectator's production of the ragged line of silks will create an incredible response of both laughter and applause. There is some wonderful psychology behind this production. All through the Topsy-Turvy sequence the spectator is made the goat. He is always wrong. It is a funny situation, but it can tend to make the performer seem like a "heavy" as he unfairly makes his poor volunteer look foolish. However, when the volunteer successfully pulls the silks from his tube he is made a winner; albeit not a perfect success, it is a triumph of sorts after the complete failure of the bottles. The audience knows that you have set up this situation and recognizes that you are letting your poor
helper off the hook. Thereby you reap the benefits of both the sight-gag and the spectator's success. Depending on your character you may wish to reinforce this image with a comment like, "Come on, it's his first time."
At this point we must backtrack slightly. As you pulled the silks from your tube they were draped over the free hand. As the spectator now produces his line of silks, you have perfect misdirection to lift your bottle secretly from the tube by the silks. The two black silks perfectly camouflage the dark bottle and the four 24" silks completely cover it.
Take the spectator's silks from him when he has pulled them completely from his tube, adding them to your silks. Then put silks and bottle away.
Explain that you will try teaching him one more trick. Raise your tube to expose the bottom half of the sleeve feke. Have the spectator follow your actions to show his bottle. Lower the tubes onto the hand again. Tell him that he is to reach into his pocket and get a pinch of that ancient staple of conjurers, woffle dust. You go to your pocket and Thumb Palm the miniature bottle there. (See Figure 3.) Bring out the hand and pretend to sprinkle the woffle dust into your tube. The spectator should be duplicating your actions.
"It's amazing how much woffle dust looks like pocket lint, isn't it? But it's incredible how it works!" As this line is delivered you finish your sprinkling actions and secretly drop the little bottle into your tube. It shouldn't make much noise as it drops; but your patter and the supposed presence of a bottle in the tube will cover any noise it makes.
Tell the spectator, "Show them your bottle!" Nothing, of course, has happened and there will be a laugh. "Nothing, huh? Me too." Pick up your tube and expose the bottom of the sleeve feke once more. Then lower the tube, wave your hand over it and pick up both tube and sleeve, leaving the miniature bottle on your hand. Display the little bottle in one hand while casually showing the tube empty with the other. That is a certain applause cue.
This routine will play beautifully for either children or adult audiences and under any conditions. And it is solid fun and entertainment from first to last.
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