The Girl at the Magic Show

Well, just be glad you're not an autism-struck eight-year-old, because according to this woman, it's not quite the welcoming environment.

This was Helder's response:

Now, as someone who has been referred to as "the world's foremost thought leader in magic today," (See The Jerx, September 29th 2016) I have been asked by a few people what my thoughts are on this subject.

The truth is, I can't really form an opinion on the situation without seeing a video or at least getting some unbiased accounts of the incident. The two sides of the story are almost hilarious when assessed in tandem. According to the mother (and you can read more of her account on her facebook page (it's a public post, loaded with hashtags, so I don't feel like a creep directing you there. It was meant to be read and shared.)) her daughter didn't disrupt the show in any manner, and according to Helder he "gently" asked for silence and just asked if "everything was okay." It all sounds so pleasant! How did this ever blow up into a thing?

By the mother's initial account Helder just singled out her daughter for no reason and then turned the crowd against her in a classic example of the "sociopathology of social collectives." By Helder's account this mother is upset because he asked if "everything was okay."

THIS IS WHY PROGRESS TAKES FOREVER, PEOPLE! It's a lot of cover-your-ass responses rather then dealing with the actual issues and what actually took place.

I've tried to look at this situation as just a smart, impartial person and here is what it sounds like actually happened. The young girl, unknowingly, was being disruptive to the show in some way. Helder addressed the situation in some ineloquent manner, and then the people behind the girl made some comment. The mother, being understandably hyper-sensitive to this issue, sees it as an attack. 

I would like to extend an invitation to the mother to tell her side of the story here, or to talk with me over the phone. I have a platform where her story can be told—I'm the most widely read single voice for magic commentary in the world (that sounds like my typical pompous nonsense, but it is, I'm afraid, a fact). Let's spread the word of what really happened. I mean, she'll never read this, so it's kind of an empty gesture on my part. But if she does, I would be more than happy to tell her side of the story. 

This is what I have to say...

To the mother:

Your daughter is adorable, and I have no doubt she is an absolute joy to be around and also probably a complete handful in ways that are both wonderful and frustrating. 

That being said, don't bring any 8-year-old to a show of dull card tricks. I know, you thought it was going to be something cool. A magic show! That will be spectacular! It's not really. It's card tricks. Your kid dodged a bullet by not having to sit through it.

Now, as I said, I don't really know what happened there. Obviously something happened that brought attention to your kid. And if it was just a brief outburst, then everyone should have let it slide. But if it was ongoing for more than a few seconds, it's just not acceptable. Nobody is free, regardless of their situation, to disrupt a show like that for the people around them. I'm certainly not blaming your daughter any more than I would blame a baby crying during a movie. The social contract is that everyone in the room has to be relatively quiet and not disturb the show. This is not about being unfair to anyone with a disability, it's about being fair to everyone in the room. I certainly never got to go anywhere when I was 8. I had no diagnosable issues, I was just a Dennis-the-menace style monster who couldn't keep his little butt in a seat or his mouth shut for 5 minutes. 

Again, I'm not saying your daughter did do anything to disrupt the show. I'm just saying if she did, then getting the boot is what had to happen. 

Regarding the people behind you who said something, I don't think this was an example of sociopathology of social collectives. I think they were annoyed some kid was making noise and disturbing their enjoyment of the show that they had paid for. They too probably should have handled things better. But I understand where they're coming from. I understand where everyone is coming from. And I appreciate you bringing the subject up because it's going to make me more aware of it and make me more patient in certain situations. I would have definitely been like the people behind you thinking, "ugh... why is this kid making noise? Why is this parent letting the kid make noise?" The idea that there might be some greater issue would have been the furthest thing from my mind. I'm sure I would have said something. Most likely to you, not the kid. But who knows. I'm not above talking trash to an eight-year-old. Bring it on, kiddo. Hell, I'd probably threaten a six-year-old if he bugged me enough. I'd do that thing where I point to my eyes with my index and middle finger then point to his, as if to say, "I've got my eye on you." Then I'd do the "zip your lip" gesture. Then I'd do the throat slash gesture. Then I'd be like, "Got it, buddy?" Then I'd run out of the theater at the end of the show, worried he would kick the shit out of me.

But seriously, I genuinely appreciate you raising this issue.

To Helder:

You don't know me. I saw Nothing to Hide in NYC and really enjoyed it. Good job. Hope the new show goes well.

I have bad news for you. When this story came out I heard from a few different people who know you, have worked with you, or who know people who know you, and all of them were like, "Yeah, that sounds like something he might do. He's an asshole. He treats people like shit." And then they would repeat other stories similar to this of you treating audience members poorly. (Which is something else that I hope placates the mother. If he was rude, it wasn't because of your child or her situation, it's because he's a little bit of a bitch who can't keep his cool if things don't go 100% his way.)

I'm telling you this because it's a problem for you in one of two ways.

Either you don't know you come off like this, in which case it's good that I'm telling you so you can perform some self-assessment. Chill out. Read a book on how to interact with people. Stop calling people "dicks." Read this post. When something goes wrong on stage, see it as your opportunity to prove your magic and showmanship skills. Life is like surfing. You don't get a medal for standing on the board in calm seas. The whole point is to ride the waves. Don't flip out if something is going imperfectly on stage. You're not doing Our Town for chrissake, you're screwing around with a deck of cards. You can pause the show and address an issue calmly and get things back on track. You're talented enough. 

On the other hand, maybe you do know you come off this way. Maybe you think that's your schtick. "I'm the cool badass who calls people out." That's not how you're coming off. It comes off as insecure. It's insecure to be bothered by stuff like this. You know how I know? Because I'm a cool badass! We know our own kind. You know our most common reaction when things go wrong? It's this... "Huh? Okay, whatever."

Your girlfriend tells you she slept with another man and is breaking up with you:

Phony badass: "You bitch! How dare you. You're going to regret this. You're ugly anyway." Goes to her house that night, smashes her car window with a baseball bat, starts following her around when she's on dates, threatens to beat up any dude he sees with her.

Real badass: "Huh? Okay. Hit the bricks." Goes out that night and meets a cooler chick.

So you think we get bent out of shape when someone screws up a card trick?

"But you're a dick on this site. I can be a dick to people in real life," you say. This site is an act. Only dullards can't see that. I'm a dick with a heart of gold. And a dick of gold. You're a wildly talented magician. But you're not so good that people will put up with your shit in the long run. 

The Solution

I was thinking about this sweet little girl and how this situation should be addressed. Not in a broad sense. (In the broad sense I suppose if you're a parent of a child that has these types of issues you should inform the theater (which apparently the mom did) and the theater should inform the performer. It's probably also a good idea to say something to the people in the general vicinity. Then everyone should be cool. This doesn't give the kid carte blanche to do whatever they want. But it gets everyone on the same page.) As I was saying, not in a broad sense, but in this particular instance, with this particular little girl, I was thinking how on some level she must have been hurt to get kicked out of the show. Even if she's not processing things identically to the way someone without autism would. And regardless of how much of a prick Helder might be, or pretend to be, I'm fairly certain it wasn't his intention to upset a little girl and her mother. This is a new show, just opening, and he's on edge. There's some kind of disruption and he lashes out. It's understandable. But let's make things right.

1. Helder should visit the kid and put on a special performance for this girl, her mother, and any siblings or friends she wants to bring along. Just like 20 minutes. And do some fun stuff, not a bunch of card tricks 

2. At some point he should tell the girl, "I'm so, so sorry you didn't get to see the show the other day. There was a misunderstanding. I was told you were coming and I was so excited to have such an important guest that I wanted you to see my real fun show, not my boring card trick show. So I had you leave so it wouldn't spoil this show for you."

3. Mom gets two free tickets for her and a guest to see the show again. And Helder pays for a child-care service to watch her kids while she's at the show.

Boom. Problem solved. NEXT!

Humanity's Twins

First, I want to thank David Martinez for sending along the idea that formed the foundation of this routine. It's an idea that is so good that it's seemingly obvious after you hear it. But I couldn't find anyone talking about anything similar online. 

This is a trick that uses Cards Against Humanity cards. Cards Against Humanity is one of the most popular party games in the word. It is a #1 bestselling game on Amazon in both the US and UK. Some of you will say, "Popular?! Well I've never heard of it." As if there's something noble about being disengaged from the world around you. I'm not quite sure that attitude comes across in the way you'd hope. Try this instead: "Popular?! Oh, interesting, I haven't heard about this. I'm completely out of the loop. Tell me about it."

Sure!

Cards Against Humanity is a game where there are black cards with questions or incomplete phrases on them.

Then there are white cards with nouns in the form of single words or phrases. Everyone has a bunch of white cards. Each round a black card is played and everyone submits the white card from their hand that they think pairs the funniest with the black card.

Then the judge for that round chooses which pairing they find funniest (without knowing who submitted what). The funniest answer gets a point.

(It should be noted that many of the cards are a little dirty or offensive. If you're one of the people who emails me to lecture me that "Smart people don't need to use bad words," you won't like this. Grow up, by the way. It's nonsense to get worked up by the language someone uses. Every "smart" comedian of the past 50 years has worked blue at times. "Not Bill Cosby!" Okay, you have that paragon of virtue on your side. "Not Brian Regan!" I know Brian well. I've worked with him. He's plenty dirty in his personal life. Not swearing on stage is a business decision for him.)

I perhaps don't need to go any further. Many of you will immediately see the value in this. This is one of the rare ideas on my site that I think might be equally as valuable to the professional as the amateur. You likely see a whole number of applications where you can substitute out meaningless playing cards, for these cards that are rich in concepts, ideas, and humor.

David's original idea was to use these cards in a Gemini Twins routine.

I particularly liked that idea for these reasons:

  • the cards are naturally more interesting to spectators than playing cards
  • the idea of matching up cards is inherent in the nature of how the game is played
  • these cards allow for an endless amount of "natural predictions" (that is, a prediction that isn't made by the performer, but is something that is naturally occurring in the environment).

What follows is a version of the the trick where everything is very nicely contained. While I created the premise, and the prediction for the version that follows, the original idea to use CAH cards in a Gemini Twins trick is all David Martinez's.

Humanity's Twins

For this version we are going to match up these two cards

with these two cards.

The set-up is like this in the box.

Take out an inch or two of white cards so there is a little more room to maneuver in the box. All the white cards are on the right hand side, facing to the right. All the black cards are on the left-hand side, facing to the left. The black stack consists of this from the bottom up: the two target black cards, the two target white cards, the rest of the black cards. 

Cards Against Humanity is a party game. It's meant to be played with a lot of people. The premise of this trick is that you found a blog post with a procedure for the game to be played with two people. You ask your friend if you can try out a round just to get a feel for it, and you pull out the instructions from the blog and work your way through the steps. (There will be a pdf of these instructions at the end.)

You pull the black cards from the box for yourself and start mixing them up. You can do anything that doesn't disturb the bottom four cards. I would just cut off 2/3rds and overhand shuffle it back onto the rest of the cards. While you're doing this you ask your friend to take out a chunk of white cards. This is kind of a nice moment. In a traditional Gemini Twins routine it's a 2 in 50 type chance. But in this case it's going to turn out to be a 2 in 500 chance. And they're choosing the cards that are in play.

They shuffle their cards. While they do, you double under-cut your two bottom cards (the black target cards) to the top. Then take your stack in right-hand biddle grip. Take their cards in your left hand and place your stack on top so you can pick up the directions to read through them. You've now added the target white cards on top of the white stack. 

The directions will tell you to have your spectator (Player B) select any two black cards. You can force the top two cards of the black packet however you like. I've left room for interpretation in the directions about how the cards should be picked. I say you can use the "Harris method" this is just a generic term that justifies the procedure of any force you want. If you have some weird dealing force you can just tell them it's the "Harris method" for selecting two random cards. I say you can use the "Duo-Cut Method," which could be a cross-cut force or a cut-deeper force. And then I say, "Or any other random selection." So that justifies any method you want to use to force the two cards.

Now the instructions tell you, Player A, to cut the white cards twice and hand them to Player B. What you will really do is double under-cut the top card to the bottom and get a peak at that card as you hand the stack to your friend. 

You will then go through the Gemini Twins procedure which I'm not explaining because this isn't a site where I bother explaining shit like Gemini Twins. Go get your basics under you, son. The first black card you will give your friend is the one that matches up with the card you peeked as per the "prediction." 

So, at the end, your friend has matched up these two sets:

Black Card: Today on Maury: "Help! My son is ___________!"
White Card: Judge Judy

and

Black Card: Coming to Broadway this season, ___________: The Musical.
White Card: RoboCop

Once the cards are matched up and revealed you're going to go back to the instructions to continue reading them. As you do, you'll notice an ad on the side of the printed out blog page. The ad is this:

"What the... that's crazy." Point the ad out to your friend. Don't hit this first one too hard. I'd give it a couple of beets. "That's totally bizarre... what are the odds of that?"

Let the moment happen and then die down. You will flip to the second page of the instructions and start reading about the judging criteria for the game. Hold the page so your friend can see it too. Ideally they will notice the banner ad on this page. If they don't, then wait a couple of moments and act like you just noticed it. Toss the paper down on the table or couch and be like, "That's it. No way. I'm done. That's way too freaky." 

The nice thing is, at this point you can play the whole thing as just a trick that you wanted to try on them or you can play it seriously. The reason you can play it seriously is there really is a RoboCop musical. And that's a real theater it played at and the real dates it was there. So you can kind of play it off as a gag ending or you can play it off as a legit insane coincidence if you want. I just follow the spectator's lead on that. If they're like, "Well, why are these ads on a game website?" Just say, "Hmm... it must be a site where the ads are based on your search history. I don't know. I got the pdf off a guy on a gaming message board. I don't think the site it comes from exists any more." And you've successfully covered your ass. But honestly, if they're being that suspicious about it, I'd just be like, "Dude, it's a trick, goofball."

I never try to force a miracle. I just try to present something fun, different, and amazing and let them take it as far as they want.

I just present this trick to you as an example, of course. There are other ways to do the Gemini Twins routine with these cards, and there are other routines to use the Cards Against Humanity cards in. 

Here's the PDF with the game instructions. They don't really make sense after the point in the "game" where the trick would end. But who really cares at that point. You won't be continuing on.

Gardyloo #14

Not every magical moment has to be a trick.

Extreme tipping on a late-nite Denny's visit.

Part of me hopes the waitress just picked it up, pulled it flat, then went and bought a can of Mr. Pibb with it.


I was excited to find out my insomnia technique from the last post is not a "just me" sort of thing. Rob Dobson sent along a link to this article which identifies a similar idea called the Cognitive Shuffle. It doesn't have the stream of consciousness element which is what I associate with pre-sleep thoughts, instead it's a technique that involves thinking of random objects spat out by an iphone app. I don't know if this more-structured form would work better or worse for me, but his understanding of why it works is basically identical to my hypothesis of why my technique worked for me.


I've been told The Magic Cafe is deleting any threads about The Jerx, Volume One that show up, despite the fact the book doesn't mention that place or Steve Brooks (nor does this site, very much, for that matter). I'm pretty sure it's some lackey who thinks it would upset Steve if a thread about something I did was left up. I've convinced myself that Steve is in no way that corny to get worked up about the mention of my site. But maybe he is? Who knows.

I'm not bringing this up to complain about it. I'm just bringing it up to tell you not to bother.

I think they think I'll be upset if they censor mentions of the site. I'm not. It makes me happy.

Similarly, I think people think I'm bothered if they talk shit about this site or the ideas on it. I'm not. I'm delighted by it. I guess I might be bothered if one of my magic heroes was doing the shit talking, but instead I get emails from those heroes telling me how much they like the site. 

I started this site to propose some ideas that I thought were counter to common magical thinking. And to critique those sorts of ideas which I think lead to a lot of hacky, dull, uninspired magic and that have fostered the perception of magic as being populated by unoriginal, boring, creeps. So when people send me emails saying "this person is talking trash about you" and then send me a link to him performing, I think they expect me to get upset and tear into the guy. But the video is always someone in the mold of what I find terrible about magic. It's always that unoriginal, boring, creep performing hacky, dull, uninspired magic. I didn't expect that type of person to enjoy this site. So I'm not mad that he doesn't. If he did like it I'd probably put my cards back in the card case, put the card case into my ostrich skin card clip from Dan and Dave, put the clipped deck inside a change-bag to vanish it, put the change bag inside a square circle to make it disappear, then kick the square circle off a fucking cliff. Oh, and I'd set fire to my laptop because clearly I don't know how to use it.


You think you've had a bad day? I just realized I'm too dumb to understand the tweets of Chris Ramsay and Daniel Madison.

Going Down and Getting Up

Like much of my non-magic advice—wait... like much of my magic advice too—I have no idea if this will work for anyone else or only for me. But here are two techniques I use in my life. One to fall asleep when I can't and one to wake up easier when I need to.

I'm fairly certain my body is on a 28-hour day cycle. Unfortunately the rest of the earth is not, so I need to conform to regular human cycles and can't adopt this idea.

So there are many nights I need to sleep when I have no inclination to, and mornings where I have to get up where I'd rather just choke myself to death on my blanket because it would mean staying in bed. Here is how I address both of those issues.

Going Down

Very little in life frustrates me, but not being able to fall asleep is one of those things. It's one of the few things in life that can't be addressed with action. If terrorists killed my non-existent wife and kids and torched all my possessions and left me naked in the desert 200 miles from civilization, I would think "Okay, what are the steps to move forward from this situation?" and start along that path. But not being able to fall asleep is a challenge you can't work your way out of.

One night, while frustratedly watching the time pass, I tried this technique: I started thinking nonsense thoughts. By that I mean, I started thinking the types of thoughts I would have if I was on the verge of sleep. Now, I assume most people's minds work the same way mine does (but how the hell would I know). As I'm falling asleep, my thoughts become very stream of consciousness, dream-like, bizarre and disjointed. They're not like waking thoughts, but I wouldn't consider myself asleep yet. So what I do is I force myself to think in that way even though I'm not tired. 

So, for example, I'll imagine an object, say a deck of cards, then I'll zoom into that object so my consciousness feels very small. I'm a speck on the back of a blue playing card. The playing card back transforms into the ocean and I'm on a raft. I'm cutting Oreos into slices, like pizza. And my first grade teacher is there and she says, "The last time we were here was the night Tina was born." And the ocean drains and I'm spiraling, spiraling down. 

And I just go from surreal image to surreal image and not long after, I fall asleep. I don't know how it works. Maybe my mind associates those kinds of thoughts with being tired or maybe those thoughts just prevent any real thinking from being done and my mind shuts off after a while. i don't know. But it works for me.

Getting Up

I have a lot of productivity techniques that just involve lying to myself, and this is one of them. Maybe you're too smart for this to work for you, but I'm not. 

When I had a regular day job I had to be there at around 9:30 every morning. So I'd set my alarm for 8:30, wake up miserably, get ready, and go to work. And it would get to the point where I would push the alarm forward as much as I could, trying to milk every precious moment of sleep possible. So I'd shower at night and make sure all my clothes were laid out and it would take me like 8 minutes to get ready in the morning. But then I was just miserable waking up and I was in a huge rush. So my mornings weren't any better.

Whenever something isn't working, I'll often try the opposite even if seems counterintuitive to what I'm trying to accomplish. And that where this idea came from.

If you have a hard time getting up in the morning, identify the ideal time you should be waking up, and then set your alarm for a half hour earlier. If you're like me (super cool handsome guy) you'll find you have less resistance than getting up at the exact latest time you possibly can. Now, you actually have to get up at that time. You can't hit snooze three times. You have to get up and you have to do nothing of consequence for that half hour. At first, after I realized it was easier for me to get up earlier, I tried filling that half hour with something productive, but that made it miserable to wake up again. So I removed the notion of anything useful and I'd just putter around my apartment, watch tv, eat cereal, screw around on the internet, and then I'd say, "Oh, it's time to get ready for work."

It wasn't a matter of my sleep cycle or anything like that, because I had no consistent bed time, so it must have been something else. Here is what I think was going on. Because I was setting my alarm earlier for no reason, I was getting up at a time I didn't need to. And I think my brain interpreted that as, "Well, if we don't need to get up at this time, and we're doing it, then we must want to get up at this time." And so I felt like I wanted to get up at that time, Is that a plausible hypothesis? Or does it make me sound like an idiot? Well, whatever, give it a shot. If you hate waking up when you have to, try waking up at a time you don't have to and see if it's more pleasant. It was for me.

 

Jerx in the App Store

The Jerx App is now available on the app store. (If you bought the book and you requested a promo code and haven't received it yet, send me an email.)

"$150.00!! Are you kidding me?"

First off, it's not $150. I'm not a monster. It's $149.99.

"Well, you're not going to sell many for that price."

Good! That was the idea.  

When I first had the idea for the functionality of the Jerx app, it was to allow for moments of dual reality for one person as described in this post. And it was specifically made for an effect in The Jerx, Volume One. And thus it was created for the buyers of that book.

Over the months of writing the book and working on the app I discovered a number of other uses for the app other than the one I had originally come up with. It's a true utility app. I consider it the thumbtip of magic apps. The Jerx App - The Thumbtip of Magic Apps™. And I thought some people were going to want the app who had no interest in my style of magic or my thoughts on magic, so they would not be book-buyers. So I put a price on the app that was high, but not unheard of (there are magic apps that are much more expensive that absolutely suck dong). 

So, the app is priced at a point that makes it available to people if they really want it, but also keeps it at what it was intended to be: a bonus for the people who buy the book.

To me, the interesting thing about this app—and I think what makes it particularly versatile— is that, for the most part, the effects don't take place on the phone. While a phone is used in the effects, that's not where the climax of the effect happens (most often). So the idea that an app is involved is, I think, significantly less likely to occur to people. 

I'm not going to bug people here with more posts about the app. And I'm not going to be emailing the owners if there is a new effect added to the half-dozen or so that are currently in the instructions. Instead I will just be utilizing the yellow announcement bar at the top to let people know they should check back in on the effects page.

I will mention that I will soon be adding at least one new effect by a guy whose work I've appreciated for a few years now, and that's Michael Murray, author of A Piece of My Mind. That should be on the instructions page sometime next week. 

Have a good weekend. It's the first full weekend of fall. Go eat a pumpkin, ya blockhead!

Ward Clever

I get it. But the thing to realize is this: they think they're giving you a compliment. They're trying to say something nice. You're like a fat girl with a pretty face. And you're sick and tired of people telling you you have a pretty face or a great personality. You want to hear how sexy you are, or how great you look in that dress. But we don't get the compliments we want; we get the compliments we deserve. 

Most magic, performed in a magician-centric style—that is, a style where you are directly taking responsibility for what's occurring—is designed to make you look clever or to celebrate the cleverness of the trick itself. So what else would we expect? "No, no, magic is designed to AMAZE people," you say. Okay, maybe. But the majority of magic is designed to amaze people with how clever you are. You're able to make cards change. You're able to read my mind (as long as I follow the procedure you've delineated). You're able to make the coins go from one hand to the other. Clever stuff!

Honestly, if you're a professional magician doing walk-around magic, "clever" isn't that bad. "Clever" is the smart person's way of saying, "I was fooled. I'm not emotionally vulnerable enough with this person to suggest I'm in awe of what they've done. But they fooled me. And I'm no dummy. So that was pretty clever."

But you want more. You want people to express the same awe with you as they do with the magicians on TV. People don't say, "David Copperfield is so clever." They don't say, "Criss Angel is so clever." In fact, they're more likely to say, "Criss Angel is functionally retarded." And yet they still freak out at his tricks. If you're a professional magician and you want people to come away with something other than your cleverness, then you have to offer something other than than your cleverness. Good fooling tricks = cleverness. What are you emphasizing other than the tricks? Every superstar magician (in the U.S., at least) has had that "something else" that people are really responding to. David Copperfield put emotional resonance above the tricks. David Blaine valued an enigmatic presence and artistic tests of endurance over tricks. Penn & Teller put comedy and commentary above tricks. Criss Angel put overall weirdness and getting his hair cut at the same place my mom's friends do above tricks. 

Those magicians are considered amazing and incredible and awe inspiring not because their tricks were the most fooling, but because they put something else above the magic. Mat Franco will not achieve that level of cultural relevance because he doesn't have that other thing (at least he doesn't now). He just has tricks.

If you are an amateur it's a whole other story. You have a whole different set of tools you can use to engender other reactions to your effects and to ward off the idea that it's just a bit of "cleverness". Tools that aren't available to the professional. For example, you can perform things in a way that seems genuinely unplanned or unexpected. When you're standing on stage with one of those hoops around your neck that holds a microphone, it's very difficult to pull off the "this was completely unplanned!" schtick.

For a long time I have tracked my spectator's responses to tricks. In this post I described some of my organizational systems for magic. If you scroll down to the spreadsheet with people's names on the left and effects along the top, that's where I track them. If I click in a blacked out square it will bring up a note indicating the date and time I performed the tirck, and the spectator's first verbal reaction to the effect and their overall reaction.

What I've found is the only sure-fire way to get reactions that are more than just a nod to your cleverness is to do what I've mentioned from the beginning of this site, and that is to remove yourself as the entity behind the magic. This works in two ways.

The first way it works is that if you're not claiming responsibility for what's happening then you get to play the role of a spectator too. And, in that way, you are able to model a proper reaction to your other spectators. If you use the "power of your mind" to move something, it may come off as "clever" to your spectator.  But if you're not responsible for something moving—If a deck cuts itself and a card slides out while no one is in the room with it—then you get to react to the effect yourself and demonstrate the type of impact it might have on your spectator. If you walk in the room, see the deck has moved, and immediately turn around and say, "Fuck that noise. I'm out of here." Your spectator won't respond with, "That's clever." Instead they'll allow themselves to see the creepiness of the effect too.

There's a second way this works as well, but to understand it you really need to understand the relationship between the amateur magician and the spectator. It's something I've spent a lot of time thinking about, but more importantly it's something I've spent a ton of time asking people about. I wouldn't be surprised if I've talked to people about their perception of magic and magicians—outside of a formal performance—more than everyone reading this combined. And I can tell you that it can be an uncomfortable dynamic for someone when a person in their life offers to show them a magic trick. Maybe they work with you, maybe you're  friends, maybe they put your genitals in their mouth on the regular. So when you say, "I'm going to read your mind," or, "I'm going to cast a shadow over this coin and make it disappear," they know you're not psychic and you're not a goddamn wizard, so they know it's an act and they play along. And it's easy to play along with during the effect, but at the end, what is the proper response they're supposed to give you for faking this impossible thing? Surely it can't be heaping praise on you as if you actually did it. They assume that's not something you want, that it would be almost condescending of them to act like that. So instead they describe it in terms you might use for someone's talent of faking the impossible. "That's very clever."

The three performance styles I've discussed on this blog and further defined in The Jerx, Volume One are all designed to remove that awkward moment for the spectator of just how they should react to someone claiming to have done the impossible when everyone involved knows it was just an act:

The Peek Backstage acknowledges the artifice throughout so there's no wondering how you want them to interact with you. You want them to interact with you as someone openly demonstrating deception to them. This can actually free them up for bigger reactions.

The Distracted Artist removes the magician's ego from concern because the effect happens unintentionally. And because it is only climax and no build-up you get a genuine response in the moment from the audience.

The Romantic Adventure is all about the journey, not the effect. The effect is, essentially, a real-time special effect in the greater experience you're creating. It's not meant to be commented on in the moment so there's no weird pressure there on the spectator.

So the second way removing yourself from the effect helps get you stronger reactions is that it lets your spectator off the hook. There's is never a sense of: "I'm going to do something amazing. Now what is your response to it going to be?" You've actively removed yourself and your ego from the demonstration and it frees them to give voice to what they're feeling from an effect, rather than just giving you credit for doing it well. It's incongruous to say "that's clever" or "well done" to someone who apparently isn't seeking credit. So instead they say what they're genuinely feeling. "That's crazy!" "That's amazing!" "That's not possible." "That's freaky." etc.

Of course, sometimes a trick is just going to be a trick. It's hard to play off some four-phase pseudo-memory demonstration as anything other than you being clever. So that's probably the response you'll get. That's okay. There are worse things to have said about you.