to the speed of the tape, sometimes slowing down your actions and sometimes speeding up in order to keep.in time with the recording. Naturally, you do not have tape recordings but all the same, working from a script you tie yourself down to a pretty rigid pattern.
So that this difficulty may be overcome, we allow ourselves a licence of speech which is called in the business,44 Spiel." This is off-the-cuff padding or ad lib patter. Fundamentally, it is something which you add to your script or general speech for fixed tricks, and not something which you use haywire or uncontrolled—unless you are an absolute expert at talking. It is a common mistake for people to think that they can start at the beginning and go on to the end using unrehearsed speech all the way. Undoubtedly it can be done, but those who can do it well are few and far between. Better by far that you have a solid script which covers the bulk of what you have to say, and fill in with spiel as your time, tricks and personality permit.
To return to the subject on hand; Timing. There are other aspects that we have to know about. Let us deal with Running Time.
Running time is the total length of your performance. Up to a few years ago, running time was not so important as it is today. Music Halls and Theatres expected an act to run for 44 about " ten minutes and as much as one minute under or over the mark was a margin that the producer could afford to allow. In some fields today—a one minute overlap would be quite disastrous; I refer to Television of course. If you want to work on Television, you have got to know quite a bit about running time. You must understand in the first place that on a T.V. programme you are one small unit of time which makes up a full hour (maybe more or less). % The best way to think about it is to bear in mind the cost of one second on peak hour commercial television. Time doesn't seem very important unt\J you think that ten seconds over running may cost somebody fifty pounds or more. That's what it can amount to.
You may get booked for a television show and you are expected to work two or three tricks and appear for three and a half minutes. If you finish before the scheduled time, you may unbalance the entire programme and your short act may seem to have a poor, rather drawn out finish. If you exceed the given time, a worse fate can happen. It may be necessary for the producer to fade out on your spot in order to get the next act in on time and from the viewers point of view, they see half a trick. Therefore the answer is to be on time. This is by no means an easy matter, as it is so difficult to allow for unforseen events that may consume valuable seconds during performance. Naturally you will do your best by selecting the right tricks, that is to say, those which you know can be performed within a certain rigid margin of time. You will select a type of patter that gives sufficient breaks from script to allow you to rush or slow the proceedings by inserting spiel. But you cannot allow for the behaviour of an assistant from the audience who comes to take part in a mental effect. Almost invariably a Mentalist has to work with somebody—if you are going to read minds, you have to have somebody's mind to read, and the weak spot in your time problem is the spectator who assists. The most sensible advice that I can give towards solving this problem is to choose tricks for a short T.V. programme that enable you to do most of the handling and let the spectator do as little as possible. You know what you are doing and how long it takes to do; the spectator
does not know what to do until you tell him and is not worried about how long it takes to shuffle a pack of cards for example. The best you can do is to estimate by trial and error how long it takes the spectator to do certain things and when you do so, play safe and allow them more time in your schedule rather than less. Remember all the time that it is easier for you to draw out an act for half a minute than it is to cut it short.
During a television programme you will probably see a man making weird signs at you. A lot of studios have a timekeeper who sticks fingers up and down in the air telling you to speed up or slow down. The T.V. producer of the show will explain to you what the signs mean and what he wants you to do when you see them. Don't mistake the timekeeper for a cameraman who is learning to be a bookies' tic-tac man! Work to time using the studio clock, the timekeeper and your rehearsed schedule for the act. Do not look at your watch as though worried about the time; if you must look at your watch at any time (unless it's part of a trick) do so with a spot of misdirection. This applies to any type of performance.
Anybody who manages to get on a T.V. programme to do a few tricks in a given time, and has not rehearsed those tricks, is an idiot. It has been done, and if you are lucky you may get away with it, but for comfort of mind and efficiency of work, know what you are doing to the tenth degree. The only exception to this ruje is when you happen to be a guest artist and unexpectedly you are called on to show something. When this happens, the time you take is their problem not yours and ten to one the organisers have allowed time for you to do a trick. To make it easy for them, make it snappy. However, as those who know anything about work on T.V. will tell you, there is hardly a thing done or said at any time which has not been discussed or arranged beforehand. Mistakes of any kind are not encouraged and rightly so.
We have discussed two forms of Time as it concerns presentation. Now we deal with another meaning and that is what we call the Timing of Showmanship. It is by far the hardest factor to explain as this is very subtle.
Briefly, there is a point or a phase in every trick you do—when you reach the perfect time to surprise people. There is another point when you reach the ideal peak to finish your act. Another exact moment when a few words delivered dead on time will bring the house down or change an entire act. One of the most noticeable applications of good timing in show business, is the job of the comedian. Watch a good comedian working and see how he waits for one joke to hit and register before he delivers the next. Listen to some specific jokes which depend on the speed of delivery alone. Many jokes wouldn't be funny at all if there was no distinct pause between certain words in a sentence.
A good trick is one that goes on until the time is reached that the audience feel something is due to happen. Then it happens—but not what they expected—and so results in a pleasant surprise. A good act is one that builds up trick upon trick getting better and better and then you seem to reach a peak—and that is the right time to end. Nothing is worse than an act that exceeds its peak time. From that point onwards the act begins to die and starts to bore.
How is it possible to tell the right time, or better still, the ideal time to do something which will incur audience reaction?
One way to tell is to think of the wrong times and see what that leaves you. For instance, you can do something too quick. The build up was insufficient or the effect so rapid that the audience were not given a chance to understand the accomplishment. When we say " something " we mean the part of the trick that actually reveals the achievement; we do not mean the preparation or actual working. On the other hand, you can do something too slow. The initial preparation is too involved or so long that the audience begin to lack interest; as a result, when you reach the ideal point you unwittingly go on and from then onwards you expose yourself to the danger of boring your audience. A good showman is able to build up the atmosphere (theoretically working to the climax of his trick) and no good showman goes beyond the peak. If he does this, the audience are liable to feel frustrated and pay less attention to a second attempt to stimulate their interest.
Now we know tiiat we can go too slow or too fast, and we are left to decide at which point between the two comes the ideal time. An excellent way to discover this is to use the audience as your guide. Make them your clock! If you are running too slow or going on too long, you will see plenty of movement and hear people whispering to each other. They are obviously restless and that is because you have not absorbed their complete attention and held it. If you are on a stage and cannot hear whispering or even see the audience because of bright footlights, you will still44 feel " the reaction you are getting. In fact, it is to what extent a showman can judge the feel of an audience— that makes him a glorious success or a blithering flop. To end this discussion, let me add a suggestion that acts as a fair guide. When you perform tricks, do things which you like and which please the audience also; make them as quick as you can without spoiling the effect by over haste and try to avoid the common pitfall of going on too long. Occasionally one sees a trick performed and after waiting perhaps nine minutes to reach the end, you are never sure whether they clap because they liked the trick or because it has reached the end at last. Whenever I see this sort of thing, when it gets to five minutes I pray the thing will work because it scares me that in the evdnt of failure the performer might have another go from the beginning again/*
I cannot stress too strongly that Misdirection is one of the most important things for you to study. It will make your work perfect and it will make your work easy.
How good or powerful can misdirection be? It can be so good that if you were seated alone in a room with one man, and through the door came an elephant which had been especially prepared with black and white stripes, on its back a Scotsman playing very loudly Highland Lassie on a set of bagpipes (out of tune)—and the elephant complete with escort thumped through the room, in theory your spectator wouldn't know it had happened.
And why not? Because you misdirected his attention!
For those of you that do not have an elephant to test this remarkable feat, I will discuss the general theory of Misdirection.
Generally speaking, there are two ways of distracting attention. First, by what you say and second, by what you do. Misdirection by speech and Misdirection by action. Sometimes the two go together. Occasionally one finds a prop that has been designed or decorated in some particular fashion, with a view to distracting attention (or even attracting attention) and this is more often a case of disguise than Misdirection proper as we know it to be.
Aside from the two obvious ways to apply Misdirection (i.e. Speech and action) there are other methods which from time to time are usable. We can adopt the use of sound, touch and smell all to good effect. 1 recollect that one of my psychological tricks which I entitled 44 The Powers of Darkness " was a routine involving Misdirection by touch and sound as the main stimuli and speech as a minor help to the effect.
Forgive me for mentioning one of my own tricks that is on the market, but I say this purely for your benefit; if you want a study in Misdirection— 44 The Powers of Darkness " is a lesson worth having.
Casting aside everything that Magicians do, what sort of Misdirection is strong for Mentalists?—that is our concern. The answer is this: anything that appears to be done naturally either by you or to a spectator is powerful misdirection. A mistake is the most powerful of all. Allow me to give you a trick which 1 have devised to illustrate the application of a mistake used as misdirection. Study this and try it. You will find that without the mistake— the trick is lousy and fools few people. With the mistake I guarantee it is a good Mental effect.
What happens? Nothing much. You have five cards face up on the table, they are these cards:—10S, JH, QD, KH, AD, in your hand you have five more cards and these match in value and colour those on the table. That is to say, you have IOC, JD, QH, KD and AH and this, you explain to a spectator. You ask anyone to merely think of one of the cards that they see on the table. You read their mind, remove one card from your fan and lay it face down on the table as though for all the world you have no doubts that your selection will match their choice. You remain holding the others. Next you point out the free choice and ask them to name the one they thought of. Whatever they say, you look surprised and disappointed, grab at your , card on the table, look at it again and then show that you understand why you went wrong. 44 Sorry, I've got them in the wrong order," you say and replace the card from the table in your fan and commence to rearrange them, back outwards. Having done this to your satisfaction, you explain that this time you will go a step upwards and ask the spectator to try and match the cards. You hand him the five cards face down so that he cannot tell what they are, and instruct him to deal those cards in any order he likes, one on each of the cards on the table. This he does. When they are turned over, every card matches perfectly, every time it matches and you do nothing whatsoever. You did the work earlier on—using misdirection and acting.
Now you want to know two things. From where do you get the cards and how to do the trick. Last thing first. The trick is achieved by using five double face cards and five double back. You didn't have any cards to look at but the mistake you made convinces them you had! They get the five double backed cards and it doesn't matter where they deal them as when you turn them over (in pairs using the old Two card move) they see the other side of their own cards. That's all there is to it.
Lastly, you will be delighted to know that although the standard double face pack is a haphazard assortment of cards; the five you require will be found in any double face pack and that leaves you with nothing to do in the way of preparation.
In order that you may appreciate the importance and value of a trick of this kind, which functions on the principle of misdirection coupled with good
Was this article helpful?