When I was a kid, I started getting really interested in Magic. I don’t know what exactly about it intrigued me, but it became a fascination. I sat in front of the TV screen every year when the magic award show came on, I always popped into the magic show at the fairgrounds, and every trip to Disneyland included a stop in at the magic store. And to this day, I still find opportunities to do stupid card tricks for any friend that will let me.
I was reminded of this one Sunday when I spent the day at Disneyland with some new friends, including a woman and her son who was also very into magic tricks. And I told her something that I’ve only recently learned how to do myself: the real trick is figuring out some reason to have spent all this time and money into learning magic tricks.
Luckily, there are two things I do that I love doing: I perform for children and I make a fool of myself on YouTube. For kids, I do assembly shows and birthday parties, both of which have ample opportunities for magic tricks. One party in particular had already seen the tricks I had come prepared with, so I improvised a third trick out of some random part of my brain. The assemblies give me an opportunity to do larger stage illusions I’d never have a chance to perform otherwise. I’m working on one now where a performer disappears completely before their eyes. Cool, huh? The YouTube clips give me a chance to do silly tricks that usually end up failing hilariously, but at least once I’ve gotten to see pure astonishment on my co-host’s face, and that’s enough for me.
Because here is the secret of magic. Ready? Do something unexpected. Really, that’s about it. My YouTube cohost was expecting another lame trick like the other ones, and yet it actually worked. He didn’t know what was going to happen, so when the trick was over, it was astounding.
Magic is not limited to professional illusionists and prestidigitators. Watching Fantasmic at Disneyland, or seeing the show Wicked, that’s magic. You’ll know it’s magic when all of a sudden you are caught up in an explosion of positive energy. Magic never results in anger or fear. When it does, it’s just a “trick”, and a dirty one at that.
Now, here’s the trouble. Magic’s been around a while. We’ve all seen the same tricks in varying forms and styles, and we’re LOOKING for the “trick”. We already expect that otherwise-amazing outcome, so we spend the whole time trying to figure it out. A man in a tux and a top hat walks up to you and asks you to pick a card, you know he’s going to figure it out and tell you. It’s become expected.
So, if you want advice on how to do magic tricks, here it is: don’t buy another magic book. Start from this: what can you do that people don’t expect you to do? They pull a card out of the deck and it turns into a pigeon in their hands? Maybe. Don’t do a trick someone’s done before, come up with a trick no one has a clue it’s coming.
But most of you don’t do magic tricks. Sorry, Mr. Copperfield, but I have to apply this to “real” life now.
Start doing magic.
By that I don’t mean to put your office receptionist in a box, slice her up, and bring her out unharmed. I mean do things that are beyond what is expected of you. If you’re making a budget spreadsheet, take some time to link the boxes all together so that when you show it to the higher-ups you can automatically run any other situation they want to see, instead of having to compute it by hand. You change the numbers in B3 and A6, and all the other numbers change accordingly. Magic.
If you’re known for forgetting birthdays, never wrapping presents, etc, taking some extra time, shop a week early, wrap it, and leave it somewhere visible, but not obvious. High, unused shelf or something. When the time comes for gift giving and the “did you forget again” conversation happens, say “Nope! It’s been sitting up here for a week, you didn’t see it?” Unexpected. Amazing. Magic.
Next time you’re near a magic store, pop in and thumb through any book on magic. They all follow the same pattern: “What they see”, “The Trick”, “Preparation”, “What you do.” Think in these terms. What is something that would amaze someone if they saw it? Something completely unexpected from you. Suddenly, after 10 years of marriage, you finally learn to dance? And dance well? That after a semester of B work you turn in the only A+ paper? That you get up to do a typically boring Powerpoint presentation, and you line up all the facts and evidence to lead to a conclusion that leaves people absolutely floored? Whatever it is, figure out what you want them to see.
The section on “The Trick” is just a summary of the parts to follow, mostly so that when you’re thumbing through you know whether you need a marked deck, a pair of twins, or a crane. If you know you don’t have access to such things, the rest will just be entertaining.
Yes, you will need to prepare. You will need to do things in advance of the deadline – well in advance. If you’re adding functionality to something, you need extra time to do that. Whenever people build sets, for example, even if a door is never used they make it a functional door. Just in case the director decides later that he wants to use it. (Open up the prediction: is that your card?)
Then figure out what you do. Do you tell them right off the bat about the hidden secrets? NEVER! A true magician never reveals his secret! This is the backbone of many good proposals. You don’t say “by the way, there’s a ring in the glass,” you say “champagne, dear?” Pour. “Hey, what’s that in the glass? A ring? That’s odd, let me see…” Magic.
Finally. Practice. Wait a minute. PRACTICE. That’s better. Maybe you just need a little practice, maybe you need a lot, but you need enough so that you don’t do something too soon and give away the trick. Or stumble over words so people know that something’s up. Keep the surprise hidden until just the right moment and POW!
Remember. Magic makes people spontaneously happy and positive. It makes them cheer. Keep that in mind when you’re developing your home and/or workplace magic.
And if you’d like to see my world-famous card trick, check it out here. (around the 6:30 mark). And trust me when I say it wasn’t pre-planned or rehearsed.