The Climax

few things as important—and tricky—in a magic ^Tmancc as properly handling the climax of each effect. It's quite an* how you can do everything perfectly in a trick, yet ruin it all am" matter of seconds by hobbling the climax. In fact, you'll sec just thai happen in most typical close-up magic performances. By ntrast structuring the climax properly can literally double the impact of an effect. Here are some principles to guide you in the right direction.

End On The Climax

In The Elements of Screenwriting, Irwin Blacker writes: "After the conflict is resolved in the climax, the film should end as quickly as possible." He cites as an ideal example A Alan for All Seasons where the second the executioner's ax falls on Thomas More the screen fades to black. In his book on comedy The Light Touch, Malcolm Kushner stresses this basic rule: "Put the punchline at the end." He goes so far as to criticize the phrasing of one joke because there are two words after the key word of the punchline.

Here are two widely separated fields, movies and jokes; yet the same principle is being stressed in both. This is because it's such a fundamental principle of dramatic structure that it's equally valid in any dramatic medium—including magic tricks. The principle is that, once the climax is reached, anything that follows will only tend to eaken what you've already accomplished. In other words, once vou j»t the climax, shut up and fade to black.

doubiw" d°tihi8',you mu8t tie UP aU loose ends and resolve all

you can't just take a break in the middle of a I

and pick up where you left off. c"max. then com.


The term "anti-climax" comes up from time t„ « writings and the way its used makes it clear «.J?* in , writers don't understand what the word mean7. of > definition: An anti-climax is something folkmin«^* sta« «1? disappoint,ng due to its triviality coZS^f ^ Thus, the term anti-cUmax does not meaTaTe .d et * although as we saw in the Hi«-.ia»n _faecond climax Per.

although as we saw in the discussion on surprise, a second dim*' may indeed be anti-climactic if it's not as strong as the climax** follows.

We've already seen how this can be a problem with kickers. Now 1 want to talk about something somewhat different, the tendency 0[ magicians to throw in an additional magical tidbit for the wrong reasons: because it helps clean up the trick, because they feel it would be wasteful not to do it, or just because of poor routining.

The "Clean-Up" Anti-Climax: This situation is particularly common in card magic. For example, the magician learns an "All Backs routine," the kind of trick where the faces disappear from the deck, each card now having a back on both sides. At the end, he makes the faces reappear. The magician notes that at the end of the trick he is left with a card secretly reversed in the deck. Eventually, he has a bright idea. He will start by having a card selected and returned to the deck. At the end of the "All Backs" trick, he will reveal the reversed card and disclose that it is the previously selected card. On the surface, this seems like very clever thinking; take a liability and turn it into an asset. Not only does he openly clenn up his reversed card, but he also gets a magical bonus in the form of locating a selected card. The problem is that it isn't a magical bonus, it's a magical blunder because it constitutes an anti-climax. The printing of faces on the deck is a very strong climax. The revelation of the selected card is a weak item by comparison. That means it's an anticlimax and that means it will only serve to undermine the overall impact of the trick.

This is not an isolated example. Practically every time a trick comes along that leaves you with a secretly reversed card, someone comes up with the "brilliant" idea of making that card a selected card. If trick leaves you with two reversed cards, someone will figure out way of having a selected card appear face down between them. « packet trick leaves you with an extra card secretly in the pa<*el1 220

d cide to reveal the presence of that card and show that gomeon"3 ^"elected card.

jt is a PreV ' „eativity stems from the beginner's horror of not All this ffl^r" ^^ always fears that the instant the trick is ending dean. i ne . the cards out Df his hands and discover that supposed to be.

81118 • rp vou start to realize that, if the effect is convincing W,th expenenc 5 ^^ the audience is too stunned to do anything and the dun»- - ^^ youVe got all the opportunity in the world to at the end ot . • the trjck is over while the audience is still clean up casuany «

rTlTthe contortions magicians go through at the end of Paul - ■ "Reset" in order to be able to show that the packet on the table Xv^supposed to consist of four kings really does consist of four 7?" J.JJ tell you a secret: The way to clean up at the end of "Reset" is to pick up all the cards and stick them in the middle of the deck. If you've done the trick convincingly, no one will have any reason to doubt that the king packet is what it's supposed to be. The "No-Waste" Anti-Climax: In addition to this "clean-up fever," another major cause of anti-climaxes comes from the magician not wanting to waste any opportunity in a trick. This type of performer is like a cook who hates to waste food, so he scrapes together every scrap left over from preparing the main dish and tries to figure out something to use it for.

The magician notices that at the end of the trick in which the aces have changed to kings, the aces are secretly on top of the deck, so he can't resist producing them in some fancy way. Or, he finds that at the end of the trick in which the selected card vanishes, it's really on the bottom of the deck, so he can't resist palming it off and producing it from his pocket.

If doing so really provides a climax stronger than the one that came before, it may be worth doing. Too often, however, this sort of thing only provides a disappointing anti-climax. The fact that vou happen w ne m a position where you can throw in an additional scrap of ■nape doesn t mean you ought to.

evente^nf8t Tu* d°esn,t comG frnm Producing the most magical food It coLaT the beSt meal coracs from Priding the most dramatiX eS™Pr°fducin?,a ma*ical event- or events, in the most the garbapp ZT °rm- Better to throw those leftover scraps in

Swing everyone heartburn6 **** 3 magnificent mcal and risk By "8e^ncing," I mean the tne maglcal e™ts in an effect are revealed to the

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