One of my favorite tricks I've ever developed is my version of Out of This World. It will be in The Jerx Volume 1. And in preparation for writing it up --in fact, to see if it would even be included-- I read through every version of OOTW that I could find, including the book Best of All Worlds by Brent Geris. That book collects about 50 different versions of the effect and I read through it very tentatively at first because I wasn't looking forward to finding out my handling or presentation wasn't original. If you've ever been eating something and out of your peripheral vision you get the sense you maybe dripped something on your shirt, and then you kind of slowly tilt your head down to look -- that was how I was reading the book. I was in no hurry to be disappointed.
But as I read, I was surprised to find that virtually all the versions were the exact same effect: the spectator somehow separates the red cards from the black cards.
Well, no shit, Andy. That's the effect of Out of This World.
Ok, that's true, but I think it's helpful to differentiate the outcome of a trick from the effect of a trick. Yes, the outcome of OOTW is that the cards are dealt into all red and all black, but that outcome can be the result of different effects. The version I write up in the book has nothing to do with the spectator's ability to separate cards. That's just a byproduct of another uncanny event that's going on.
I bring this up for a few reasons. First, that OOTW book, while great, is also a good example of magician-centric magic. 50 different ways to tell what is ultimately the same story. It's fascinating to look at the options from the magician's perspective, but it doesn't help you entertain anyone. I've performed the most clever handlings and I've performed the basic one out of the trade paperback version of Scarne on Card Tricks that I got from a grocery store when I was 11. There isn't a huge difference in the reaction to the trick based on changing up the handling. But you can have a significantly increased reaction based on the presentation, and that, in turn, can VASTLY increase the memorability of the effect.
The big subtext of the Jerx Book is about the power of magic to make memories. As you probably gathered from this post last week about slowing time, this is a big preoccupation of mine. The unfortunate thing about magic is the things we like practicing or thinking about (new sleights and clever methods) aren't usually the things that reverberate with the spectators. I'm just saying you might want to invest some time thinking about that stuff. Or not, I'll do the thinking for both of us.
The second reason I bring this up is because I just came up with a new handling for OOTW. It won't replace my current favorite, but it's pretty damn good.
Out Of This AHHHH!!!!
I've only performed this twice, but it's an incredibly fun presentation for OOTW. I came up with this last week after a friend showed me a new gadget he had purchased. The gadget costs $200. But I have an alternative for you that's just as good and costs, literally, 1 cent.
When most people perform OOTW the presentation amounts to, "Look, you've separated the red cards from the black cards." Sometimes they'll make it about intuition or male and female energy, or some other slapped on bullshit. Or the magician will make it about himself, "I'm bestowing upon you the power to separate cards by color without seeing them." Gee, thanks, Mr. Magician! Please don't let this beautiful dream ever end! Even if you don't explicitly take credit for you, audiences will give you the credit when the only other option is that they themselves have some unknown power. They know they don't have this power so you must have done something tricky.
But what if you could make it really feel like you were training someone to develop some low-level psychic ability. Wouldn't that be worth an investment of a few minutes? Wouldn't it be more memorable if you could truly shift the power of the effect to the spectator?
Introducing Pavlok. This is some weirdo device that you strap on your wrist and shock yourself when you want to smoke or eat sugar or beat-off to children or whatever. This negative reinforcement will, theoretically, get you to stop doing these things.
You're going to strap it on your spectator's wrist and shock the fuck out of them until they're psychic.
Here's what you do. First, you let them know what's going to happen. Don't be a dick and spring it on them. This thing doesn't really hurt, but it is unpleasant. Just let them know what they're getting into. You can dial down the shock so it's very mild, or if you're performing for a real tough guy, turn it up. It's the type of sensation where it hurts you but you laugh about it at the same time.
Give them a deck of cards to shuffle. Take the deck back and hold up cards one by one with their backs to the the spectator and have them guess if they're red or black. Shock them every time they're wrong. After about a third of the deck has been dealt only shock them and tell them they're wrong every other time they make a mistake. At the midway point, stop and take a break. Pour them a glass of water. Start up again. When you're about 2/3rds of the way into the deck, only buzz them every third mistake. Don't make a mention of it. Let them feel like they must be getting more accurate. The implication here being that somehow their subconscious mind is becoming better at picking up the color of the card, or perhaps better at communicating it's knowledge of the color of the card to the conscious mind. You don't need to explain it. When you're done, pour them a little more water, have them do a couple deep breaths, mix up the cards and go into your favorite OOTW.
(Yes, this starts with a shuffled deck, but as you deal through the cards during this test phase and place the cards in a pile, just side-jog all the black cards. After the initial deal through you can strip the black cards out, put them on top and give them a false shuffle or a red-black shuffle and you're good to go. (Of course that depends on which version of OOTW you do, but at most you'll just have to do a couple cuts to get into position.))
If you don't want to shell out $200 for a shocking wrist-band, use the analogue version: a rubber-band. Have your spectator put it on her wrist and place her palm flat on the table. Each time she gets the color wrong you snap it. When you have just a few cards left in the test round, start pulling up the rubber band further and further from her wrist, until you get to the last card and you're pulling it as tight as it will go. Increase the literal and figurative tension as much as possible. If she gets the last one right, show it to her, then gently set the band back down. If she gets it wrong, don't show it to her, but imply she got it right by putting the card down and setting the band back gently.
Some old nerds are going to lecture me. "How dare you treat your spectator like that! I'm sorry, but I don't need to give someone an electric shock in order to make my magic memorable. Blah, blah, blah." To which I say: Go! Get off my site! I don't want you here.
The effect isn't memorable because they're somehow physically or mentally scarred by electric shocks or the flick of a rubber band. What makes the trick memorable is there is an inherent narrative to it. "He put this thing on my wrist that could shock me. And he started by testing me and every time I got one wrong he would shock me. At first I was only getting half right. But after a few shocks I started getting better and better. Then eventually I was able to deal through the entire deck with no mistakes!" You start somewhere and end up somewhere new. That's a progression that affects people. That's what makes it memorable. (As opposed to how OOTW is traditionally presented which is, "Somehow you did this thing." That's essentially a non-presentation. And you can get away with it because it's such a strong trick. But strong tricks can be elevated too.)
Inform your spectator the effects of this training are sadly temporary. "If you want to do it again you'll need to train for a longer time and with something more painful. Do you have a waffle-headed framing-hammer at home?"
If bringing a little mild pain to your spectator isn't your scene, be sure to check out the OOTW routine in The Jerx book, From the Shadows of the Shallow End. It's another presentation that takes people on a journey, but this one is all positive and painless, and it leaves them with a physical relic of the effect that they will keep forever.