Magic tricks have been around for hundreds of years. In fact, the first book containing magic tricks and its secrets appeared in 1584. Magic tricks however were mostly shown at fairs rather than in isolated “magic shows”. In 1845, Houdini (Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin) had his own magic theater. Magic for me however began when my dad bought me my first magic trick when I was 6. Bought at Tannen’s Magic Store in New York City, it was a simple, yet amazing effect that made it seem as if a ping-pong ball was magically suspended in mid-air. After purchasing the trick, I was told the secret and couldn’t wait to go home and show others. In less than 10 minutes of returning home, I managed to show the trick to each member of my family and our next door neighbors.
What I didn’t understand then was that performing magic requires a lot more than simply knowing how to do a magic trick. In over 24 years of watching, learning, studying from the best magicians in the world and performing at thousands of shows for tens of thousands of kids at birthday parties, I have learned what anyone needs to know in order to be successful at performing magic. The following 3 tips will ensure that your child will be able to perform any magic trick successfully; that is, they will entertain while also captivating and amazing their audience.
- Patter, Patter, Patter: What you say (or don’t say) is just as important as the trick itself. Harry Anderson (Night Court, comedian, magician, etc) once said that if after watching a magic trick the audience leaves saying “Did you see the magic trick the magician did?” the magician didn’t do a good job. Instead, people should leave saying, “Did you see the magician that did the trick”. Anyone can walk into a magic store and buy a trick. In fact, most of the tricks the David Blaine, David Copperfield and other magicians perform in Las Vegas and on T.V. specials can be purchased. The difference is what these magicians do with the trick.
The patter is the story part of the trick. David Copperfield is able to take a 90-second trick and by adding comedy and an interesting story, have the trick take 10 minutes. Anyone who has ever watched a kid “perform” a magic trick knows the difference (for better or worse). When I perform for a crowd and ask someone to “pick a card”, there will invariably be a teenager in the audience who says, “I know this trick”. Many people think that the purpose of a card trick is for the magician to find the selected card.
The purpose of ANY and ALL magic tricks should be to ENTERTAIN. Every trick that any successful magician performs should have its own patter. If I spend 10 hours perfecting a sleight-of-hand trick, I am not ready to show it to others until I have also created an appropriate story that goes along with it. Patter is definitely the most important piece of your routine when doing magic tricks.With good dialogue, any simple/”boring” magic trick can be transformed into an awesome and entertaining experience for others.
There is no such thing as “best dialogue”. I love performing magic because I can make every trick my own by adding my own humor and story. I often bring my own life experiences in the story. For instance, at children birthday parties, I used to perform the famous “linking rings” trick. This trick has been around for hundreds of years and has been performed by hundreds of thousands of magicians. (A Chinese magician Ching Ling Foo performed it in the 19th century). Despite being a very common trick, I guarantee no one has ever used the same story that I have.
I came up with a whole story about when I first saw the Olympics rings while on a raft in the middle of the Colorado River. The story is really funny and entertaining. When the trick is over, it is awesome to see people’s reactions and enjoyment, even though some have already seen other magicians perform the same trick. In fact, if the patter is engaging enough, many people won’t even remember having seen the trick before. It will seem as a brand new trick!There is no book that you can read (nor should want to spend your money on) to learn how to create good patter for magic tricks. It just takes practice and creativity.
If you are the parent of a child who is getting into magic, you should definitely record the story they create; it will be hilarious! I have seen some kids come up with some really funny and creative stories for all types of tricks. (My son, Will, who’s 3 tries to have every story revolve around “poopy”; not what I would suggest)
- Be Cool, Calm, Collected, and CONFIDENT : After practicing the ins and outs of a trick and nailing down a solid patter, being confident is a must for any successful magician. During my magic workshop portion of my magic shows, I teach kids not only how to do the tricks and what my patter is, but I also explain and show them two different scenarios. In both scenarios I do the tricks exactly the same; same sleight-of-hand used, same patter, and I demonstrate using the same assistant. The only difference however relates to how confident I am when performing the trick. In the examplar demonstration, I am looking directly at the audience members, smiling, talking as if I was having a friendly conversation with the audience.
In the other example however, I don’t make any eye contact, watch my hands the entire time I do the trick and seem as if I am trying to remember a script. Confidence is key! Encourage you child to practice doing the trick in the mirror. Record them doing the trick to you and the replay the video to look for places in which your child seemed to be lacking confidence. Practicing how to do a trick will automatically make anyone more confident when they perform it to others, but all successful magicians are always aware about how confident they are, how confident they need to seem, and how confident or not confident they seem to be by others. A successful magician must believe that they can do it, and do it really, really well.
- What Now? What Next?: At the end of every trick, magicians have a lot of different options for what to do next. I don’t mean what trick to do next. I actually mean, what should the magician do when the trick is over? When I first began performing at children’s birthday parties in New York City, I often did a trick with a flower that would droop down when I wasn’t looking at it. When I would turn to look at it again, it would be upright. What I remember most about this trick is the ending. Many magicians perform this as a gag trick and it lasts at most 1 minute. I created a really funny story about it, the routine lasted almost 5 minutes, and the ending was hilarious! I never wanted to perform this trick because I too thought of this trick as a gag, and it didn’t add much to my 45-minute comedy magic routine. However, even once a developed the patter, I didn’t k
now what to do at the end of the trick with a flower. Many magicians performed the trick and then put the flower away and took out another trick. Too me, that seemed very “choppy” and makes a show feel like a combination of many different tricks rather than a show with tricks that flow together nicely. For the next 9 years, before I retired the trick (I love having a fresh show every couple of years), I would have a boy and a girl come up on stage. While they were coming up to the stage, I would switch the gimmick flower with a real one. The next 3 minutes involved a hilarous scene that ensued when the boy and girl read from cue cards. The boy gave the girl the flower, the girl giving it back to the boy, and so on. The point is that the trick didn’t just end with me being stuck with a flower. The flower was used in another way to further entertain my audience. After your child show you a card trick, they can certainly said, “do you know how it was done?”. Alternatively, they can say “being able to find your card really depleted my energy and magical ability…I need a nap….or a chocolate chip cookie. 🙂
These 3 Tips will undoubtably ensure that your or your child will become a great magician and entertainer rather than just a great magic trick-doer. If you need a magician at your child’s birthday party, contact me. There is nothing better than learning how to be a great magician by watching one!