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Buffalo McKinley

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Hello,

I'm curious about personal rules magicians have for things they will or will not do when performing.

I'm guessing that establishing certain rules for yourself distinguishes you as a performer.

-Buffalo
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Anthony Vinson

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Always wear clean underwear in case, you know, you have to be rushed to emergency!

But seriously folks...

Not sure what you're asking. Since I would love for you to get some feedback, would you mind being a bit more specific? For instance, are you asking what sorts of humor to avoid? What kinds of people to avoid? 

Thanks,

Av 
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RayJ

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Interesting topic.  Had to give it some thought.  I never codified my thoughts into a list and some of them I do instinctively so there are likely things I will miss, but here is a go:

1.  Never, ever perform a trick until you have practiced it thoroughly.  Some "magicians" read the instructions and try to perform a trick immediately.  They are usually caught out on the method   because they are just going through the motions and not "performing" the trick.  A performance means you have studied the trick, its strengths and weaknesses and adjusted to show it in its best light.  It also means you have patter, a story   or a reason for doing it in the first place.  

2.  Never reveal a secret.  This shouldn't even need to be a thing, but I've seen some "performers" do a trick and when badgered, reveal how it was done.  In the old days, when asked how   something was done, we'd wink and say "it's magic", or you'd wink and say I'd tell you but it took me years of sacrifice and self-denial"  and go on.  Now, secrets seem to have been cheapened to a great extent.  Don't even get me started on   youtube!

3.  Respect your audience.  Laypersons are people too and treat them with respect.  I cannot stand when a magician belittles a spectator, make them feel foolish or whatever.  Just don't.

4.  Remember what you are there for.  If doing a corporate gig, are you supposed to be mentioning your sponsor?  If at a wedding, are you being respectful of timing, seeing as many folks as   possible and moving on so nobody feels left out?  If in a restaurant, don't perform for the servers or cooks unless it is after their work is finished.  Bottom line is your job is to entertain and to make whomever hired you happy and want to have   you back.

5.  Know when to say when.  Don't do your entire repertoire every time you perform.  Know going in how long per table or per session or whatever and always leave room for audience reaction.  If a card trick takes a minute to perform, budget in about 1:20 so that you can introduce the trick and allow for applause at the end.  I've seen performances go long because the performer didn't budget any time in for the audience reaction.  That can kill you on TV or in a competition.

6.  Don't be blue.  At least for me, this is a requirement.  I'm not going to criticize others if they use off-color remarks or profanity, but I don't want to watch that and I sure won't be doing it.       Different strokes...

7   Routine everything.  Every trick generally has a beginning, a middle and an end.  A performance should too ideally.  A powerful opener to capture interest and to set yourself apart as a     performer.  A middle where you interact and develop a relationship with the audience.  If working to music, not going to talk with them, but you can still develop rapport with your eyes and your body language.  Then a really solid closer.  Something   that makes them want to clap.  

8.  Acknowledge the audience.  Might sound like a no-brainer, but it isn't.  The audience is something you should treasure and their happiness should be important to you.  Otherwise stay home and look in your mirror.  So tell them how great they are and how much fun you had performing for them.  Pat the kids on the head, shake hands with the adults if you are comfortable with that and remember to smile.  Smiling is infectious, so do it early and often.

9.  Lastly but not of least importance is your personal deportment.  Show up on time, wearing the appropriate attire and be well groomed.  Dress at least as well as everyone else, if in doubt, dressing up is better than being under dressed.  So if you are at a cocktail party, plan on wearing a sport coat at least, with a tie.  If nobody has a jacket on, ditch the tie but wear your coat.  If they all are in jeans and polos, then maybe you remove your jacket if it is warm.  But don't feel weird if
     your attire is a step above because after all, you want to stand out a bit and they know you were hired to perform so your dress should reflect the respect that engagement deserves.  There are exceptions to everything I just said and some performers today dress very differently and it works for them.  But you asked for MY rules.  To each his/her own.  Not for me to judge.

That's a decent list to start.  If I think of any others, or if subsequent posts jog a memory, I'll chime back in.

Actually, I did just remember one.  I used to work at a bar sometimes.  I did walk around.  I knew at the end of my performing time to pack up and leave.  Typically bars and restaurants discourage employees from hanging around and drinking.  So try to respect that.  Now if the owner or the manager says, "hey you did great tonight, can I buy you a drink", then if you want, you can graciously accept.  But if he/she leaves after that, get up and go.  Don't assume it is OK to hang out.
I think if you do, things could happen that might be detrimental to your re-engagement.  Every situation is different, but I think the best approach is to go home.
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RayJ

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Sorry that when I posted my reply it morphed a bit.  It didn't look like that when I typed it!
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Bmat

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To interject onto the above post.  number 4.  Understand why you are there.   For example a bar magician.  You are there not to entertain, you are actually there to facilitate the sale of drinks.  Anything that detracts from that is doing a dis service to the employer.  

Working a trade show?  You are there to bring in customers, promote name recognition and to aid in the selling of that product. 

The tool you are using is magic. Never forget who your employer is, and why they are employing you.  And just in case one has already lost sight of the reasons.  They are employing you to further their business, entertain their guests to make their party special.  Its not about you, it is about them.  

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RayJ

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Great reply Bmat!  I never tended bar but if I did, then you are exactly right, drinks come before magic.  

Another thing I could add to my list, call it #10 if you want, but do not accept or solicit tips unless it is agreeable with your employer.  I would ask them up front to make certain.  John Mendoza had a great idea he shared about table tents.  The table tents (simply a folded piece of cardboard that stands up in an inverted "v") were placed on the tables with the owner's/manager's permission.  The tent advertised you as the evening's entertainment and that if the table wanted you to stop by they could ask their server or the host/hostess.  On that card you can say gratuities graciously accepted, but again, only if it is OK with management.

If the management says no tips, then if offered, smile big, say thank you so much but I'm here for your entertainment and the management is compensating me for my time.  But I certainly appreciate the gesture and hope you've had as good a time as I have tonight.  That way, you don't come off as rude or unappreciative.  

If tips are fine with the owner/manager, then just be smart about it and don't pander.  When offered, accept with great pleasure and move on.  Don't try to milk tips or ask directly.  I always find that obnoxious.  In the end, handling it right will pay dividends.
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #7 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Vinson
Always wear clean underwear in case, you know, you have to be rushed to emergency!

But seriously folks...

Not sure what you're asking. Since I would love for you to get some feedback, would you mind being a bit more specific? For instance, are you asking what sorts of humor to avoid? What kinds of people to avoid? 

Thanks,

Av 


AV, you prompted another thought.  I didn't mention hecklers.  How to handle them if they are interrupting your performance, etc.  I'll be honest, I've been lucky in that I have never really had a problem with them.  I had a couple of guys say "I know how you did that" and I'd just smile at them and say, "Well that makes two of us, let's keep it between us, huh?" Usually they'd laugh and it didn't break the flow.

But knowing what you would do is helpful.  So rehearse it in your mind.  What would I do if someone said something?  What would I do if someone tried to grab my cards?  
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Buffalo McKinley

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Reply with quote  #8 
Anthony, I'm looking for information like Ray posted.

I watched a documentary about magicians and one magician took pride in thinking "I just fooled you, b*tch."

That got me down.  All that practice and work just to feel superior to people.

I only started studying magic a few years ago, but I'd like spectators to have fun and be amazed, but not feel like they've been duped.  That's my personal rule.

-Buffalo


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Bob Farmer

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Reply with quote  #9 
Try not to be a superior, all-knowing jerk. Pretend you are just as amazed as the audience is. 
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Steven Youell

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Reply with quote  #10 
Never vomit.
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ParaSailor

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Reply with quote  #11 
I loved everything Ray had to say.  They only addition of value that I would make is to always control the flow of your performance.  It may be tempting to do a trick that the audience requests but I've learned the hard way that it sets a bad precedent because next time they may request a trick that you aren't prepared for.
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RayJ

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Thank you ParaSailor! I hope my post is helpful. You bring up a great point. I will share a similar example in music. My brother-in-law had a band and were playing out one night and someone in the crowd yelled "Freebird" and the band started to try to cover it. It was horrible! Nobody was in the right key, etc. Made the otherwise good band look like amateurs.

Imagine having to tell a group of people, "Sorry, I don't know that one."
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EVILDAN

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Reply with quote  #13 
1. Own the stage.
2. Don't do blue.
3. Don't make fun of volunteers. Have fun with them. But don't embarrass them.
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Intensely Magic

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Reply with quote  #14 
Great stuff here. Just some random rules:

1. Buy into the bit - advice David Williamson got from David Copperfield - probably another way of saying "Own the stage" from The Evil One.

2. Don't assume the main concern of your audience is how to get drool off their shirt. Generally, they're not idiots and talking down to them is a very bad look.

3. This is a personal one - I loath hearing a magician saying "I'm going to show you how to do a trick" as a set up for some sucker routine. It's especially rough on kids and can border on the cruel 

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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #15 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Farmer
Try not to be a superior, all-knowing jerk. Pretend you are just as amazed as the audience is. 


Circle gets the square.

Av
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SpareTopChange

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Reply with quote  #16 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Intensely Magic
Great stuff here. Just some random rules:
3. This is a personal one - I loath hearing a magician saying "I'm going to show you how to do a trick" as a set up for some sucker routine. It's especially rough on kids and can border on the cruel 

I generally agree.  But what do you think of the presentation of Torn & Restored Newspaper where you do the effect, then explain it, then show that "if you're really good, then this other piece is restored too."  (I'm being a bit vague since we're not in the session room.)

Paul Potassy has a routine like this on the WGM TnR Newpaper dvd.  It seemed really effective and somehow seemed a little different from the usual "I'll show you how it's done" type of routine.  It was more like, "Here's how a beginning magician might do the effect, and if you're really well-practiced, then you can do this kicker at the end!"

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ParaSailor

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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpareTopChange

I generally agree.  But what do you think of the presentation of Torn & Restored Newspaper where you do the effect, then explain it, then show that "if you're really good, then this other piece is restored too."  (I'm being a bit vague since we're not in the session room.)

Paul Potassy has a routine like this on the WGM TnR Newpaper dvd.  It seemed really effective and somehow seemed a little different from the usual "I'll show you how it's done" type of routine.  It was more like, "Here's how a beginning magician might do the effect, and if you're really well-practiced, then you can do this kicker at the end!"




Personally I love that type of presentation.  I remember watching Penn & Teller do something similar years ago with a cup and balls routine using clear plastic cups and enjoyed the presentation.
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #18 
Pseudo explanations are used in a variety of routines.  None other than Vernon, Cellini and Paul Gertner did "fake" explanations during their cups and balls routines.  I used to do the torn and restored napkin exactly as described above using a newspaper.  I stopped doing it, not because it wasn't effective, just moved on to other things.  When I did do it, it got a great reaction.  After showing the "switch" I held the supposedly torn pieces up and looked at them quizzically, then said, "That's funny"  and proceeded to peel the ball open, revealing the restored condition.  Instead of sounding superior, like if you are really good you would restore this too,  I would mutter "I'll have to learn how I did that so I can do it again."  Always got a good laugh.


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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #19 
I will make an addendum to Rule #1 in my post above.  I was on this forum looking at a post about the Siamese Waltz.  I believe the title of the thread is "Waltzing."  

I went onto youtube and noticed a couple of people had posted performance videos of them doing the trick.  I should say attempting the trick, because they were both pretty bad.  The bottom line is that if someone were to watch them do the trick one or twice they would be able to pretty accurately tell how it was accomplished.  In both presentations you noticed a glaring discrepancy that tells you something doesn't add up.  In both presentations you saw that something was "wrong" with the cards.  In both presentations the tearing was so studied and awkward that you could tell they were hiding something.  No naturalness at all.  

So like I said, don't perform a trick until you can actually do it without exposing the workings.
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Jed

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Reply with quote  #20 
A. Always let the kids be involved, they don't remember the effect always, but usually do remember themselves volunteering.
B. Usually when I perform for youth, I state that I'm here for them to have a good time. If they want to stand in back of me and watch, that's completely fine with me as long as they keep the secret and not ruin the fun for everybody else. That usually gets them to want to feel mature so they stand in front of you and really feel like you're on the same team. It's great!
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Bmat

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Reply with quote  #21 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ
Great reply Bmat!  I never tended bar but if I did, then you are exactly right, drinks come before magic.  

Another thing I could add to my list, call it #10 if you want, but do not accept or solicit tips unless it is agreeable with your employer.  I would ask them up front to make certain.  John Mendoza had a great idea he shared about table tents.  The table tents (simply a folded piece of cardboard that stands up in an inverted "v") were placed on the tables with the owner's/manager's permission.  The tent advertised you as the evening's entertainment and that if the table wanted you to stop by they could ask their server or the host/hostess.  On that card you can say gratuities graciously accepted, but again, only if it is OK with management.

If the management says no tips, then if offered, smile big, say thank you so much but I'm here for your entertainment and the management is compensating me for my time.  But I certainly appreciate the gesture and hope you've had as good a time as I have tonight.  That way, you don't come off as rude or unappreciative.  

If tips are fine with the owner/manager, then just be smart about it and don't pander.  When offered, accept with great pleasure and move on.  Don't try to milk tips or ask directly.  I always find that obnoxious.  In the end, handling it right will pay dividends.


Tips I think are situational.  But overall I don't like the idea.  Especially in a restaurant situation.   And I would make it clear before I start that I don't take tips.  It puts people at ease and not thinking 'oh great, now i have to spend more money, how much do I tip etc'  Plus now the wait staff, who are not making as much as you start to worry that you are going to take tips away from them, or lessen their tips.  

The smarter thing to do when somebody goes to tip you, (in my opinion) would be to tell them to tip the waiter.   Then even if the waiter comes to you with the tip, let him or her keep it.  

That puts you in good with the staff.  

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #22 
I agree that tips are situational.  I've worked places where I accepted them and some that I did not.  Some of it depends upon how you are being paid in the first place.  I wonder if some of the balloon workers I've seen at kids restaurants get paid at all and perhaps only make gratuities.  I see them with $1.00 bill paper-clipped to their lapel or shirt, advertising the fact that they accept tips and possibly expect them in exchange for the balloon animal of choice.  Maybe someone here knows for sure.  But I could see a balloon worker going to Chuck E Cheese and saying, "Hey, you don't have to pay me anything, just let me accept tips."  Of course Chuck E Cheese doesn't have the typical servers so there is not the same competition for tips.  They do have party hosts and they do sometimes get tips.  I know because my son worked at one and was tipped after serving several times.

Bmat, you bring up a great point about the relationship with the server.  I found the best approach was to ask the server for their advice on the best time to approach the table.  We developed a sort of rhythm, and my presence actually helped them when they were busy.  They said that if I wasn't there their tables would be sitting with no contact for too long so they appreciated me for that.



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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #23 
Regarding tips: My view is that you should never work for tips. Get paid what you need up front. Otherwise you'll have to coerce patrons to get your money. I think that makes it less likely that the people who are "extorted" will return during magic night. Being "shaken down" for a tip is often an uncomfortable and negative experience. "Oh - I didn't realize I was supposed to pay... how much should I give? etc" I also don't think it's a good idea to have a table tent that says "Tips accepted." Same problem.

That having been said, I think that when a tip is freely offered, you should accept. Be gracious even if it's one dollar. If I detect ambivalence on the part of the tip giver, I might say, "I am paid by the restaurant, so tips aren't necessary. It's up to you." I find that generally that even with that disclaimer, I get the tip. They wanted to give me a tip whether I was paid or not.

If I'm doing really well with tips, I often will give one of the servers that has been helpful $10. That goes a long way to creating good will with the staff, which is important.

Just some thoughts.

Mike
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #24 
Mike, you bring up some great points.  I, myself never put pressure on anyone for tips, so there was no coercion.  But that's not my personality.  I could see some performers getting downright annoying plying the table for tips.  In that instance, the restaurant manager would probably step in and tell the worker to cool it on the begging.  

As we know, there are instances where restaurants USED to have magicians working there and maybe one of the reasons they stopped was over tips.  
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Reply with quote  #25 
Lots of fantastic advice here.  I have a few rules that I abide by:

1.  Always have freshly polished shoes.  You're on an elevated platform, yucky dirty shoes are VERY obvious.

2.  Always have a fresh shirt, ironed!  This is a personal annoyance of mine.  I see SO MANY magicians wearing old, fraying clothes.  Look smart, feel smart and the audience will think you're smart.  Have an extra shirt in your car.  You never know when a coffee is going to go astray.

3.  SMILE.  Come on stage with your trademark opening line, and smile.

4.  ASK for volunteers and never touch them (unless you're doing PK touches).  I build to getting volunteers to participate.  First asking them simple questions where they don't have to leave their seats.  Asking whole audience questions then asking for a show of hands.  Building trust, and eventually asking if a volunteer would like to come on stage (see the subtle way I asked that).  After gaining trust, I never touch a volunteer.  Thank them for being brave and volunteering.

5.  Video the performance or ask a trusted friend for feedback.  Ask for show notes.  Hire a director to take notes.  Theatre majors take whole courses on notes.  And they are trained to be ruthless.  Would you rather hear feedback from someone knowledgable who tells you what you want to hear (that was great!).  Or would you rather hear the truth (that was okay, a little slow in the middle, you need to tighten up your blocking at this point, and take out that joke about X, it doesn't work, the audience didn't react).
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Michaelblue

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Reply with quote  #26 
I like to make sure the effects are as clear to the audience as possible. And that there is always a definite starting and stopping point. So i always have a line to say that signals the end of a trick.i dont mean something like "you can applaud now."
Just something that fits what youre doing.
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SpareTopChange

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Reply with quote  #27 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ
I agree that tips are situational.  I've worked places where I accepted them and some that I did not.  Some of it depends upon how you are being paid in the first place.  I wonder if some of the balloon workers I've seen at kids restaurants get paid at all and perhaps only make gratuities.  I see them with $1.00 bill paper-clipped to their lapel or shirt, advertising the fact that they accept tips and possibly expect them in exchange for the balloon animal of choice.  Maybe someone here knows for sure.  But I could see a balloon worker going to Chuck E Cheese and saying, "Hey, you don't have to pay me anything, just let me accept tips."  Of course Chuck E Cheese doesn't have the typical servers so there is not the same competition for tips.  

A lot of twisters negotiate deals where they get paid an hourly rate and accept tips on top of that.  In the customer's mind, they are paying $x and getting an actual balloon creation that they requested, so I don't think this negatively impacts the tips that the servers get. 

And most people don't feel entitled to a free balloon just because they're sitting in the restaurant, whereas I could imagine that a lot of people imagine that the magic is included in the meal price.  This might be just because you receive a physical item when you pay a twister.

So I think the whole tipping issue is a lot less awkward when it comes to twisters than it is for magicians.
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #28 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpareTopChange

A lot of twisters negotiate deals where they get paid an hourly rate and accept tips on top of that.  In the customer's mind, they are paying $x and getting an actual balloon creation that they requested, so I don't think this negatively impacts the tips that the servers get. 

And most people don't feel entitled to a free balloon just because they're sitting in the restaurant, whereas I could imagine that a lot of people imagine that the magic is included in the meal price.  This might be just because you receive a physical item when you pay a twister.

So I think the whole tipping issue is a lot less awkward when it comes to twisters than it is for magicians.


Makes sense!
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #29 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ianmcrawford
Lots of fantastic advice here.  I have a few rules that I abide by:

1.  Always have freshly polished shoes.  You're on an elevated platform, yucky dirty shoes are VERY obvious.

2.  Always have a fresh shirt, ironed!  This is a personal annoyance of mine.  I see SO MANY magicians wearing old, fraying clothes.  Look smart, feel smart and the audience will think you're smart.  Have an extra shirt in your car.  You never know when a coffee is going to go astray.

3.  SMILE.  Come on stage with your trademark opening line, and smile.

4.  ASK for volunteers and never touch them (unless you're doing PK touches).  I build to getting volunteers to participate.  First asking them simple questions where they don't have to leave their seats.  Asking whole audience questions then asking for a show of hands.  Building trust, and eventually asking if a volunteer would like to come on stage (see the subtle way I asked that).  After gaining trust, I never touch a volunteer.  Thank them for being brave and volunteering.

5.  Video the performance or ask a trusted friend for feedback.  Ask for show notes.  Hire a director to take notes.  Theatre majors take whole courses on notes.  And they are trained to be ruthless.  Would you rather hear feedback from someone knowledgable who tells you what you want to hear (that was great!).  Or would you rather hear the truth (that was okay, a little slow in the middle, you need to tighten up your blocking at this point, and take out that joke about X, it doesn't work, the audience didn't react).


I agree with all of the above. Touching is somewhat cultural though so I think it is more acceptable to some folks in some situations. Handshakes are still OK most everywhere. But err on the side of caution.

Regarding # 5, John Mendoza was a proponent of recording your performances. Even if it is only an audio recording. He used to surreptitiously place a tape recorder under the table. After his performance he would listen, focusing on audience reaction. It is funny, some things that you assume will kill just don't and simple stuff often gets a great response. If you video, do it secretly if possible. Some people act up for the camera. You want as "normal" an audience as possible.
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Buffalo McKinley

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Reply with quote  #30 
Thanks for the great advice everyone!

-Buffalo
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RayJ

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You're welcome!  
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magicfish

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Reply with quote  #32 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Farmer
Try not to be a superior, all-knowing jerk. Pretend you are just as amazed as the audience is. 

Which is a philosophy taught in many beginners books. Youtube doesn't care about you.
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Barry Allen

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Reply with quote  #33 
NEVER ask someone their name, only to forget it seconds later. Otherwise, it's an insult. If you can't remember names, then just don't ask for them in the first place.

Use lots of eye contact, with everyone. If you don't make them feel engaged, how can you expect them to be?

Don't work at break-neck speed. SLOW DOWN.

If you are spending more on new tricks and props than you are on your appearance, something is wrong.

Pocket management is key - know what goes where. Fumbling around looks completely unprofessional.
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #34 
Great point on forgetting names.  If you do mem-deck work it should be easy to remember someone's name.  For those who struggle with memory in general, this is an opportunity to learn methods to help.  Anyone can improve their memory.
I'm sure Mr. Lorayne can attest to that.
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Intensely Magic

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Reply with quote  #35 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Barry Allen
Pocket management is key - know what goes where. Fumbling around looks completely unprofessional.


I guess this is another way of saying know exactly how you get into and out of a routine. In any case, a hugely important element in a good performance.

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #36 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Intensely Magic


I guess this is another way of saying know exactly how you get into and out of a routine. In any case, a hugely important element in a good performance.


I agree.  Also, don't walk around looking like a stuffed turkey.  I saw a restaurant worker once who had cups and balls in his right coat pocket and final load balls in his left coat pocket.  Made him look "bottom heavy".  It added up to an unkempt appearance.  Avoid.
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