Thursday, September 29, 2005

"Bernie's Show" Post Mortem. (Part 2.)

Continuing the post mortem of my act at the “Bernie’s Day” magic show at the Browsers Den of Magic on Sunday September 25th.

Now I begin an effect I am particularly proud of. My version of the classic “Card Stab” that I call “Cardus Stabbicus.” (For no better reason than I can.) First, an introduction. I begin by telling the audience they are in for a treat, “for today I am doing … a card trick.” This sentence begins normal, but I raise my voice slightly to try and impart that what I am about to do is important and special, then I say “… a card trick.” Which is intended as a bit of a let down. Am I explaining this right? I build up to something important then it turns out to be a lousy card trick. This got a good laugh.
Lesson six: A false build up is always good for a laugh.

I then say “But this isn’t any old card trick, this is a card trick that uses THIS!” At the word “This” I show a knife then quickly shove it, point down, into the corkboard with a nice thud. It is here where I would normally go “Everybody say Ooooooooo” but I didn’t need to, the audience went “Ooooooo” all by themselves.
Lesson seven: Sometimes the audience doesn’t need to be told what to do.

I need volunteers, four of them to be exact. Three to pick cards and one to hold papers. I start with card selection. This was a bit rough because most of the parents were standing at the rear of the crowd and in front of me were children, I would hazard a guess that the average age was in the twelve to thirteen area. Old enough to recognize and remember a card, young enough to try something bad. I had to choose carefully. First, a boy. To my left there was a group of boys, one of which was just a tad too hyper for his own good. Sometimes it’s a good idea to avoid children like this because they tend to want either attention or to ruin your trick or both. I chose a boy sitting next to him who looked interested and was relatively well behaved. Also, he was close enough to the hyper kid so he could still be involved, just not the center of attention.
Lesson eight: Boys are hard to read.

Next, a girl. A young lady in the middle did nicely and she was as sweet as all get out. No problems with her at all. Finally I went to one of the few adults within reach. A nice man who was sitting to my right, on the floor, with his young (4 or 5ish) son in his lap. I asked him to pick a card and he whispered, “let him” while motioning to his son. What to do? The boy was definitely too young to recognize and remember a card, so I made a deal. I said to the man “Well, why don’t you both do it?” That worked. The man took the card, noted it and handed it to his son. Everyone was happy.
Lesson Nine: Sometimes the mid ground can be just as good.

Let me take a step back here. I have three cards selected by three different people, but in reality you cannot trust people too much. All you need is one person bent on making you look bad to … well, make you look bad, so whenever a card is selected I tell the helper “Don’t forget to show it to your friends and family around you.” And they show their card around. That way, they are less likely to try and mis-name the card and if they do there are witnesses to correct them.
Lesson Ten: Expect some people to be sneaky and underhanded.

Now here comes a problem of mine. I cannot, for the life of me, remember names. It’s a curse I have suffered with for all of my life. I have lived next door to the same people for four years. I’ve had countless conversations with them. They told me their names years ago and I cannot remember them, and so much time has passed that if I were to ask they would probably think I was some kind of idiot. So when I am doing a show, and I have helpers, I make sure to concentrate really hard. They say their name; I repeat it back to them at least three times in the course of selecting, noting and returning a card. It seems to work, this show I only forgot one name out of four. I’m batting .750.
Lesson eleven: Buy a Harry Lorayne book and use it!!!

Now the fourth volunteer. At this point I use a female because I have some lines about how well she is dressed. I then show her how to stand, and place the papers I am going to use in her outstretched hands saying “I need you to hold these papers just like this and every time I have to use one I will stick a quarter up your nose and take one.” This line is intended to relax the helper. Once she laughs, she is going to be ok and will be more likely to laugh in the future. A bit of psychology here but if a helper on stage is laughing the more likely the audience is to laugh with her. I don’t know why this works, but it does.
Lesson Twelve: A relaxed helper is a better helper.

I don’t mean to keep drawing this out like this. I thought this would be a two-part blog entry but I need more room. Just one more entry after this one, I promise.

Nest post: The knife goes through the card, not your hand.


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