My hobby is coming up with ways to reveal a thought of word. I used to have a long subway commute and whenever my phone would die and I didn't have a book on me, I would fill my time by trying to come up with one interesting way to reveal a word before I got to my stop.
I know what you're thinking:
Andy, I have a few different ways I like to reveal a thought of word. One is, I write it on a clipboard. But occasionally, for an older audience, I'll bust out a chalkboard. But when I'm performing at a bar, I write that shit straight-up on a whiteboard, my man! [hold for high-five]
Believe it or not, I'm not just talking about what surface you write the thought of word on. Or if you say it out loud. Or if you reveal it letter by letter. I'm talking more about the context in which the word is revealed.
"I'm a mindreader." Is the usual context. And that's fine and all, but not really my style. So I end up revealing words by interpreting people speaking in tongues, dog whispering, phrenology, or whatever. Most of these things aren't appropriate for walk-around. But I don't do walk around. I do sit still.
This presentation that follows is one I used last night that went over very well.
It's very long. But I was with someone who liked to talk and tell stories herself, so it made sense in that context. I'm not expecting you to adopt my style of presentation, and even if you do, I'm not writing out these ideas thinking you'll use them verbatim. There is a 30-second version of this presentation too, but that's up to you to figure out. No matter what your style there are ideas to be plucked here.
This is based very loosely on a real kid I used to know and a real obsession he had.
The Passion of Donny Ackerman
"Did you have a weird kid in your school when you were like 10 or 11? Like not just a poor kid, although that can factor into it, but like a true weirdo? Do you remember their name? Ok, hold onto that in your mind for a little bit while I tell you a story."
"When I was about 11, this kid moved to my neighborhood named Donny Ackerman. He was a booger eater of the first degree. Old clothes, bad haircut, and just a weird dude all around. But he was entirely unselfconscious about it. He was loud and obnoxious and hyper. I don't believe he was dumb, but he was definitely a bad student."
"But Donny's true passion was for boobies. Only a couple of girls in our class had anything worth mentioning at that time, but Donny was captivated by those who did. And he would make no secret of undressing any woman in the vicinity with his eyes. If a teacher came in with a shirt that was even slightly low-cut he would hop all over the room, practically drooling."
"One hot summer morning I was walking around the neighborhood kicking a rock around. Which is the type of thing you did in that day. And there was Donny at the foot of his driveway bouncing a basketball. I asked him if he wanted to go into the woods near our development and look at the rabbit (someone had killed a rabbit and hung it from a tree and we watched it rot throughout that summer.) He told me he'd been grounded for peeping in windows and couldn't leave his property. 'I want to stick around here today anyways,' he said, 'I'm working on something big."
"A couple days later I saw him out in front of his house again. He had this big grin on his face and he asked me to come in. I agreed even though I had never been in his place before, nor had anyone I knew. When I got inside there was a musty smell and I noticed a few things in his house that my family had sold in a garage sale earlier that summer and that made me feel strange and sad for him."
"He told me he had a trick to show me and gave me a quarter to hold in my fist. He sat there just breathing for a moment and then I felt a tickle on the back of my hand. A moment later he inhaled sharply and said, 'Open your hand.' When I did the coin was gone. It was amazing. And I knew enough about magic to know this wasn't like any normal magic trick. I begged him to tell me how he did it, and that's when things got weird."
"What Donny told me was that the coin hadn't disappeared. He told me he had just paused time, and while it was paused he had opened my hand, removed the coin, and put it in his pocket. Then he started time back up again. It was an absolutely insane explanation, but there was something about his demeanor that made it seem believable. He asked me if I'd felt a tickle or an itch on my hand right when it disappeared and I admitted that I did. He told me that's like the leftover vibration of being touched when time is stopped. Imagine that. Someone could stop time, manipulate your body in some way, start time back up and the only hint you have is a slight tickle."
"The fucked up thing is that I believed him. I bought into it 100% and I asked him to teach me. The way he described it was like a meditation technique and I didn't fully grasp it. He would slow his breathing in this specific way and kind of push himself into a moment. It was hard to put into words. He hadn't perfected the skill yet, but he could do it every now and again and stay in that moment for a few minutes before he'd get pulled out. I tried to follow his instructions, and while there were times it felt like time was slowing, I could never get it to stop for me like he claimed it did for him."
"After a while I had to go home, but before I left he told me of his plan. He said he was going to master this skill and when he did he was going to use it to see all the boobies he could. He would stop time and look down women's shirts, poke their boobs with his finger, lay his head on them. He was shaking with excitement. And that kind of broke the spell for me, because now it just seemed like I was back with that weird kid again."
"The next and last time I saw him was a couple weeks later. He looked wilder than ever. I was walking past his house and he ran over to me saying, "I figured it out! I figured it out!" And then he did this hopping run back to his house. I'm not sure if he intended me to follow him. But I didn't, and I'm glad I didn't."
"Two days later his mom reported him missing. At first some people said he ran away, but none of his stuff was gone. There was a rumor that went around the kids in the neighborhood that whoever had killed that rabbit that hung in the woods had killed Donny, and eventually we'd find him hanging there too. But I was one of the 100s of volunteers who combed those woods, and we didn't find anything."
"What I soon began to believe was that Donny really had somehow figured it out. And that he hadn't just stepped into a moment temporarily but that he was now living in this other world, and skipping from moment to moment, living out his fantasies."
"You might think that's just the rationalization or faulty memory of an 11-year-old who was maybe just fooled by a coin trick, and then had a friend go missing and chose to believe something fantastic rather than whatever the dark reality was. And I would likely agree with you except for two things."
"The first is this. If you read The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Social Behavior by Hilary Evans, you will find an entry about an incident that took place one year in the late 80s, during the waning summer months in a suburban area of upstate New York. It started with a handful of young girls, but spread to women all over the area up to the age of 45. It was a tingling/tickling sensation in their breasts. Much like the one I had felt in my hand when he had taken the coin from me. Eventually it was labelled an incident of mass hysteria, but it is completely unique in that branch of psychology because, and I'm quoting the book here, it 'only seemed to affect women with ample and/or shapely breasts.'"
"Now, I suppose that could just be some wild coincidence. But I said there was two reasons I know this isn't just some misremembered moment from my youth. And the second reason is this..."
[I place my hand on her shoulder.]
"I can do it now too."
"I'll show you. I mean, I'll try. I don't really have it down. The first time it happened to me I had a 103 degree fever and I was kind of swimming around in my head and at one point I realized my dog was frozen in time and so was everything else around me. Once I had done it by accident I kind of understood what I was going for, and I've been able to do it a few times since on purpose. We'll see if it works. I think there's a good chance it will work. Maybe this is all in my head, but I tend to have better luck when I'm around someone... well... let's just say that you cut a silhouette that Donny would have admired."
"Here, write down the name of the weird kid you were thinking of earlier. Fold it up and hold it tight in your hand and hold that hand in front of you like this. Okay, now look in my eyes. Can you see my hands in your peripheral vision? They're going to be near your hand, but I want you make sure they don't move at all or touch you. Okay, sit up straight, keep your eyes on mine. Try to be aware of any sensations. Ok... I'll be right back."
[ I stare in her eyes, settle my breathing, and then do what I can only describe as a slow motion blink and exhale. At that moment she feels a tickling sensation down her hand. Her eyes open wide and she says, "What the fuuuuccccccckkkkkkkkkkk."]
"Did you feel it?" I ask, laughing. "What did it feel like. A moment? A couple of seconds? I don't really remember what it's like to be on the other end."
"Okay, here's what happened. I paused time, got up, stretched my legs, went to the kitchen, made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, came back here, took your hand, opened it, took out the paper, read the name, folded the paper back up, and folded your hand back around it. And that's pretty much all I did"
"I realize it's unbelievable, but you've held that name tight in your hand, and now I know what it is. You're going to try and make sense of this and wonder if maybe you mentioned this name in the past, or think maybe I called your sister and asked her the weird kid's name in your neighborhood or something, that's not the case. Look at me. I stopped time, I opened your hand, I read that paper. And I can prove it. You wrote this girl's name with a loop in the bottom of the last letter and you didn't close the middle letter completely. Her name is Joy."
["Oh...my...gaaaawwwwwwwwwdddddd," she says, throwing back her head back and pounding her feet on the floor. She opens up the paper and looks at the name. When she looks back at me I am holding a paper plate with a PB&J sandwich on it. I pick up the sandwich to take a bite, but before I do I lean in close to her and whisper...]
"I have to be honest. I took a peek. Your breasts are phenomenal."
- A loop
- A peek
- A sandwich hidden under a newspaper on the end table at my end of the couch.
1. So far I've only performed this twice. The difference the first time was that the card with the person's name on it ended up folded inside-out when she opened her hand and "Your breasts are phenomenal," was written on the opposite side. This all served as more evidence of "things I had done while I stopped time." But I think it was too much. The more beats you have, the more evidence you give, the more it feels like a "routine" or that you're trying to prove something. But it definitely can be done that way (although the handling is more complicated.) For me the three "proofs" in this version are perfect. They feel something magical. They have evidence of something having happened (you know the name when you theoretically couldn't). And the sandwich is like an absurd punchline. That's perfect for me.
2. In actual performance it was less of a monologue than it appears here, but it was long enough already and I didn't want to make it more so by incorporating her interjections.
3. Yes, I really do perform these tricks in these ways. Some of the response I received from Presentation Week seemed to imply that maybe they thought I was just spouting a theory on how one maybe could perform, and how that might go. But that's not the case. I legit perform like this. It's not for everyone. And I'm fortunate to have friends who are interested and willing to play and engage in this type of thing. But more people are up for it than you think. I've spun this type of nonsense for investment bankers and street thugs as well. It plays. Some people just need to be eased into it more.
4. And yes, I really did say that last line. The great thing about amateur/informal magic is you should be able to push the envelope a little, since you know who you're performing for and how they are likely to react. If you come off as a creep in real life, then no, you can't use lines like that. But if you're a normal, fun guy, and you're performing for a fun, flirty chick (in this instance) then you'll have no problem. In this particular case she responded to that line by putting her hand on mine and coyly saying, "You didn't need to stop time to see evidence of that."