Michael Ammar Success and Magic

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In my opinion, it is presentation that separates the men from the boys in magic. It makes the difference between the audience feeling the experience of magic or feeling that they've seen a demonstration of sleight-of-hand. For the most part, magicians are more interested in sleights and moves and "what's new" than they are in how to present their magic in the most effective manner.

Good presentation is absolutely essential if you want to work for "real people." It is what distinguishes a commercially successful magician from a guy who "knows some tricks." There is nothing wrong with the latter if his aspirations are simply to be a hobbyist, but very often he is the one wondering why he can't make a living as a magician. He feels he is a much better magician than the local pro. "What's the deal?" he wonders.

You need to be very clear as to what you want out of magic. If it's to make money performing for the public, then devising entertaining presentations should be as high or higher on your list of priorities as learning technique. Otherwise, you'll fail miserably.

Please don't misunderstand me. I believe you should have excellent technique. Magic is a craft, and you should learn your craft well. But magic becomes an art in the performance. It is here that your craft of sleight-of-hand makes the audience feel, even if only briefly, that they have witnessed real magic. Just as an actor makes you forget that he is not his character and the things in the script are not really happening to him, so with effective presentation you can make the audience forget that it's all just a trick and you are just "an actor playing the part of a great magician" (Robert-Houdin). Even Dai Vernon, "the Professor" of close up magic said, "Magic is the absence of moves!" This from a man who devoted his life to coming up with new sleights and concepts!

You may feel free to use the presentations I have included for a number of the effects in this book. But first take the time to make them yours, to mold them to your personality. Imagine Martin Nash or Earl Nelson trying to deliver their magic like Juan Tamariz or David Williamson. They would flop, because they'd be trying to emulate someone with a vastly different style. I've seen both Mr. Nash and Mr. Nelson perform several times, and their acts are highly entertaining. They are much more reserved and sophisticated than Mr. Tamariz and Mr. Williamson, but there is no less an experience of wonder and astonishment in their acts, because they have formed entertaining presentations based on their individual characters and style.

This brings me to the subject of comedy. It seems every magician in the world thinks he is also a world-class comedian. Be careful with comedy. I am convinced that comedic timing is something you're born with. You either have it or you don't! It can't be taught or learned from a book. If you are not naturally a funny person, don't try to be a comedian when you perform magic! You don't need to be funny—you DO need to be interesting and entertaining.

The above quote by Mr. Ammar has proven true of the vast majority of magicians I've met. Let me give you a quick example.

I was at a major magic convention. It was late; about 2:00 AM. The last lecture was over and a number of the guys were "sessioning." A small group of beginning and intermediate magicians were "picking my brain," when one asked me to show him a good practical false cut. As I was showing him one, a guy about 19-20 years old (who now has a video out) walked up to see what was going on. I glanced at him just in time to see a look of disdain cross his face. He decided it was time the other fellows heard from a "true expert," so he stepped in.

"Here's a GREAT false cut!" he exclaimed, and he went into an eight-packet, whirling dervish cut that would have made Jay Sankey blush. Some 45 seconds later, the packets slowed down and fell back into place. "A full deck false cut!' he cried, doing a hop spread and springing the cards for emphasis.

While I had to admit it was very impressive, I also knew it wasn't particularly practical. I can't afford to spend nearly a full minute of my time at a table or group showing off my ability to juggle cards. Besides, this type of foolishness does exactly the opposite of what a good false cut does. A good one passes uncontested and unsuspected. It looks like a regular, casual cut. This thing screamed, "Look at me control the cards under the pretense of cutting them!"

The "intruder" wasn't done yet, though. He decided that to become the "guru" of this small group, he needed to discredit me, so he asked with a cocky smirk, "So, do you do a perfect one-handed faro shuffle?" He proceeded to demonstrate one for our edification. Everyone looked at me, waiting for my response.

"No, I don't, actually." Mr. "Marlo had nothing on me" grinned broadly. "So what you're saying is, you CAN'T!" he cried with triumphant glee. I pointed out that I had never tried to learn that particular sleight, nor did I have any desire to. He retorted, "Then you're not serious about being a TRUE magician!"

I'd like to say I shrugged this off and went my merry way. I'd LIKE to...

But it was late, I was tired, and he had just insulted my magical manhood. So I called him on it. "Listen," I said, "would you mind telling us how long you spent learning those two moves?"

"About fifteen months," he said, proud of his obvious commitment and dedication.

"And in those fifteen months, how many PAYING shows did you have?"

His smile faded. There were too many members of his magic club around for him to lie. "UH, about ten, I guess."

"And of those ten, how many were repeat bookings?" "None," he said, visibly shaken.

"Exactly!" I declared. "And until you lose the cocky, 'I can do this and you can't" attitude, you won't get any." He picked up his freshly false-cut, one-handed-faro-shuffled deck and stormed off, to the cheers and jeers of the rest of the group.

Too many magicians are like this guy. The glaring exceptions are those performers who make their living performing for real people. Performers like Paul Green, Dan Fleshman, etc.

In conclusion, the biggest single step you can take toward being a better magician is to invert the ratio in the quote from Mr. Ammar. Put more time into making the tricks you already know more fun, entertaining and mystifying. Then watch as the audience reaction improves and your repeat business increases!

PART ONE

CLOSE UP MAGIC

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Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

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.

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