Four Ways to Vanish a Coin, Part Two

Here's a second way to vanish a coin. 

The Peek Backstage

"Can I get your help with something I'm working on?"

In a blog full of brilliant ideas, the notion that this line is all you really need when showing people magic in casual settings is one of the best.

It's the most disarming line in magic. In an art form where the relationship between performer and spectator is often seen as an adversarial one based on a challenge, this line does something pretty extraordinary: it puts you and your spectator on the same side.

Not only that, but it's a universal line that works as well for people who are into magic as people who don't care for it. As you'll see below.

And finally, this approach clarifies what kind of transaction you're looking for with the spectator. "I'm going to show you something, and there is some particular kind of input or feedback I'd like from you." This is a very calming thing when performing for someone you don't know well. Imagine an acquaintance or a new friend said to you, "I'm going to sing you a song! Sit in that chair and listen while I sing." You'd probably think, "Uh-oh... what is this? Am I supposed to clap at the end?" But if I said, "Could you do me a favor and listen to this song I wrote and tell me if it's clear what the lyrics are about?" It would be much less weird. Now you have a job to do other than "appreciate me for my singing abilities."

When I know my spectator well, it makes sense to come up with a presentation that is more intense and somewhat tailored to that person. But for new friends or people I've just met—people for whom I don't yet know their appreciation for magic—I almost never do anything outside of this style.

With something simple, like the vanish of a coin, there is a way to tweak it a little to make the whole thing a little more bizarre and intriguing.

Let's assume you have a one coin vanish that ends very clean, with empty hands.

"Can I get your help with something I'm working on?" you ask. "Just hold still, right there for a moment."

Go through the motions of your coin vanish but don't actually do the vanish. Let's say the coin is now sitting in the palm of your hand.

"Can you still see it there?" you ask. They indicate that yes, they can, and you say, "Damn. Uhmmm. Let's try this." Now you rotate your body a small amount to the left or right (whatever direction is more advantageous for your vanish).

Now you do the vanish again, but this time you actually make it disappear. "Can you still see it now?" you ask, as if there is a coin there still to be seen. "No? Awesome. Thanks for your help, What kind of angle are we standing at would you say? 30 degrees?"

The implication is that some minute change of angle allows this coin to no longer be seen in your hand. For someone who loves magic, this is a fascinating notion. And it's exciting for them to get this peek behind the scenes. 

But the real benefit is how this presentation plays for someone who may not like magic. When people say they don't like magic, what they almost always mean is they don't like magicians. No one "doesn't like" seeing one dollar bills turn into $100s. What they don't like is the smarmy magician, his attitude, and the performer/spectator dynamic. In this presentation style you're not playing "the magician," you don't have an attitude, and the dynamic is one of equals. If anything you're asking for their help so they're the higher status ones. I've found this method can completely turn around previously skeptical or actively antagonistic spectators. People just tend not to be dicks when they've agreed to help you in some way.

How does this address the Seinfeld critique? By giving people a peek backstage and asking for their assistance, you are eliminating the dynamic of the magician being the know-it-all and the spectator being the simpleton. The spectator is now part of your team

Tomorrow, the Distracted Artist vanishes a coin.