The Cons of Pros

In my opinion, "professional magician" has got to be one of the roughest jobs there is. Not in the sense of the David Copperfields and Derek DelGaudios of the world. I can understand the allure of putting on a parlor or stage show where people are coming specifically to see you.  I'm more talking about those of you in the trenches. Those of you who perform at weddings or bar mitzvahs or table-side at some crummy restaurant. Corporate shows sound hideous. "Sure thing, Nabisco, I'll customize a show just for you." And then you have to spend 2 hours writing "Triscuit" all over your props. No thanks. But, Andy, corporate shows pay a ton of money. Yeah, I know they do. That's called a bribe. That's how you get people to do stuff that no one in their right mind would want to do. 

And performing the same 5 tricks for potentially uninterested strangers is the fun part of the job. On top of that you have to handle all the other bullshit that goes along with being a pro. Shit like dealing with people and their dumb requests.

Here's an email that recently came to magician Rob James. 

When is your event being held?: 13 May 2016
Your name: Caitlin [redacted]
Your email address: [redacted]
Your email address again: [redacted]
Phone number: [redacted]
Type of event: Charity ball/charity event
Location of event: (Name of the town or city): Sunderland
Approximate performance start time: 4pm
Approximate number of guests: 50
How did you find out about Rob James?: Referral from another magician
Additional Information: Hi,

This may be a complete stab in the dark, but I work in a large retailer in the North East. We are holding a charity fundraiser event on Friday 13th of May (this Friday coming) in aid of our sponsored charity and need to come up with an original idea which would allow us to raise £20 in 30 minutes.

Is this something that could be feasibly possible?

Kind regards

Rob's response is below. It's good, but perhaps a bit too sarcastic for my taste. I would have led the woman on a little. My response would have been something like:

Dear Caitlin,

Is it "feasibly possible"? Well, technically I suppose anything is "possible," but I've looked at this damn thing from every angle and I can't find a way to crack it. 

Derren Brown's next special finishes filming this week. When it's over I'll be able to fly in his consulting team so we can put our heads together and see if we can't come up with a way to raise that £20 in 30 minutes.

[One week later]

Dear Caitlin,

Does it have to be £20? Would 15 work? I think we have a way to get to 15. We'll keep working on this. 

[One week later]

Dear Caitlin,

Sorry for the delay. I'm still working very hard on this for you, but we've hit a roadblock. I'm going to Fiji to try and clear my mind for a few days, then I'm headed to Las Vegas. I've got a buddy who owes me a favor. I'm hoping to cash that in and get a sit-down with Copperfield. Cross your fingers.

[Four days later.]

Sorry, Caitlin. 

No luck with Copperfield. His exact words were, "Do you think if I had a way to make £20 in 30 minutes I would give it to you?" Total jerk.

[Two years later.]

Dear Caitlin,

Great news! I think I've come up with a solution to your problem.

[Three days later]

False alarm.


Here was how Rob handled it.

From: Rob James
Date: Tue, May 10, 2016 at 8:26 PM
Subject: Re: Contact form [#12570]
To: [redacted]

Hi comma to you too!

Thanks for your message. I can't say this is something I have been asked before. I am not sure if you saw from my website but I pretty much exclusively specialise in performing magic tricks rather than coming up with fundraising ideas organised by non-specified large retailers for non-specified charities where their primary goal is to raise a score in half an hour. But, hey, I guess you saw something in my website which gave you the idea that I might be able to rack my brain and come up with a solution to your conundrum so, what the heck, I'm game!

Here's my first thoughts. You could ask each of the attendees to donate 40p to your cause, then you'd make 50 lots of 40p which comes to £20. Bingo! Job done. That seems like a logical way to do it. Maybe if some people are Mr or Mrs Grumpy Trousers and don't want to contribute to the pot then you could get 25 of the attendees to donate 80p. Or 12.5 attendees to donate £1.60. And so on and so forth.

That's my best idea but of course you still might not be able to convince enough people to donate. I don't know how big this sort of thing is in Sunderland so they may not get fully behind it. Down here in the south we call it crowdfunding and it's a well known strategy to help fund things like poor people's funerals, cat cafés or really shit films that would never get made ever.

With that in mind you might need an alternative plan of action. Now I don't know about your morality but you could try some illegal minicabbing or perhaps a premium rate phone number scam. £20 coming atcha in no time! As soon as you've reached the target quit while you're ahead and you'll avoid the old PoPo. Or... maybe after a few glasses of vino, one of the more, how can I put this, "liberal-minded" girls you work with in the large retailer could be persuaded to donate a lapdance to anyone who wants to pay £20. Then you'll make the £20 in 3 minutes! Or it could be less. It always feel like less. I think that's because one of the girls is romantically involved with the DJ so he plays really short shitty versions of R&B songs to help his bae rinse more readies (those much sought-after naughty forties) out of the pissed-up punters. Sorry if that suggestion sounds a little misogynistic. It wasn't meant to, and if anyone there says that it is point out that it's for charity and I think legally you should be absolutely fine.

Finally, another idea - and this is a bit crazy but stick with it - you could ask the large retailer you work for to donate their profits for 10-20 seconds during trading hours and I am sure that would generate the £20 that you are after.

Hope that helps