Four Ways to Vanish a Coin, Part Three

As originally described here, the Distracted Artist style of presentation is one where the magician causes magic to happen either unintentionally or absentmindedly. If this sounds hokey to you, I understand why. It's because you've seen this style of presentation in a formal show where it's completely ridiculous. 

Magician: "I had no idea these handkerchiefs would knot themselves together!"

Audience: "Well, you brought them on stage. You're dangling them together by the corners. What exactly did you think you'd be doing on stage if not these magic tricks that you're pretending to be surprised by?"

But this style does work for the amateur, for these reasons:

1. You're not claiming magic is "just happening." You're just claiming that you hadn't intended to perform a trick now, under these circumstances. You just did it without thinking. This is logically consistent with a non-professional performance. Not so when you're standing on stage. 

2. It makes sense for such a moment to happen one time in a casual situation It doesn't make sense for such a moment to happen continually over a 45 minute show.

3. People don't really understand what it means to perform magic and practice magic as an amateur. They understand it in relation to shitty card tricks or the magic books they may have checked out of the library when they were a kid. But the things you're doing should seem far removed from those simple tricks. So maybe it is possible to absentmindedly perform a trick. You can noodle around on the guitar without really paying attention. Maybe small magic tricks can happen that way too. In the forthcoming example, the idea is that you were working on your coin vanish so much recently that now you're just automatically doing it even when you don't intend to. Is this believable? Maybe not. But it's relatable.

To understand the mindset, think about coin rolls. If you've ever done them regularly then you know that when you get good enough at them you will often pick up a coin and roll it across your knuckles without thinking. Now just extend that concept to an actual effect.

The Distracted Artist presentation lends itself very well to a two coin vanish.


You're getting a bite to eat with a friend. You pull out a scratch-off lotto ticket.

"Do you have a coin?" you ask.

She puts a penny on the table. You pick it up and go to scratch off the card. "If I win, dinner is on me you say."

You look back at the hand that held the coin and it's gone.

"Oh crap. Do you have another coin?"

Your friend will be slightly confused. She saw you had the coin, but now it's gone. As she goes into her purse to get another coin you explain what happened. "I've been playing around with this new coin vanish and now it seems like every time I grab a coin I accidentally make it disappear. You know, it's like muscle memory. I'm not really thinking about it. It's a pain because I've lost like 4 bucks."

She sets a quarter on the table. 

"I feel like if I'm not super deliberate," you say, staring intently at the coin and slowly picking it up with your right hand.

"And suuuuuuppperrr cognizant of every move I make," you continue to give the coin 100% of your focus as you place it into your left hand. "That it's just going to disappear. You know?" For a brief moment you break concentration on the coin and look at your spectator for confirmation. Immediately you look back at your hand.

"Aw dammit, there it goes again." You open your hand to show the coin gone. 

"Do me a favor," you say, sliding the lottery ticket over to your friend. "Scratch this off. We'll split anything we win."

I'm particularly happy with the structure of this little 90-second vignette. The first vanish is a simple lapping vanish that happens on the periphery. The second is whatever complete vanish you perform. The first vanish catches them off-guard. Then the presentation completely justifies the deliberate actions of the second vanish. And the scratch-off card makes for a nice pretext for everything and a button at the end.

How does this address the Seinfeld critique? With the Distracted Artist presentation the magic is over before it starts. The spectator never has time to feel like they're being set-up. And your role of the magician is not one where you're trying to trick this person. You're just obliviously manifesting these little moments.

Tomorrow we combine these presentations and push them further into the outer limits on a Romantic Adventure.