Every time Rick Lax posts a video on his Facebook page, I get an email from somebody making fun of it, and suggesting I make fun of it too. Here is what I hear the most:
- Asking people to like a video before watching a video seems like the height of desperation (or implying that they need to hit like to "lock in their answer" or something like that).
- He chastises people for "stealing" his tricks and making their own versions of his videos when he didn't create the tricks in the first place.
- A lot of his interactive tricks are awful.
- His voice is painful to listen to.
Here, so I don't have to field your emails anymore, are my responses to these issues.
- That's just playing the game. Even with the heavy-handed "please like my videos" stuff, he's looking at maybe a couple percent of the people who watch a video actually "liking" it. Likes and shares are the currency of Facebook. He's, understandably, trying what he can to get those numbers up.
- Yeah, but I understand the inclination on his part. First, he's not going to mention that a lot of these effects are ancient on videos he's making for the public. That doesn't help him in any way. Second, he's trying to set up a brand. He's a "deception expert" who does interactive tricks on Facebook. When people copy him it undermines that brand and undermines the notion that there's anything special about him as a performer. "Wait... is this 12-year-old who just performed the identical trick a 'deception expert' too?" It's a double-edged sword really. He can rack up millions of views on a video because it's not too provocative. But at the same time, because the videos aren't really personality-driven they're open for anyone to just make their own version.
- Ok, I agree with you. (He had one recently where he asked you to think of how many calories were in a bagel and then you were supposed to be amazed when he determined the last number in those calories was 0. Everyone (in the U.S. at least) thinks of calories in factors of 10 because that's how they're labeled on our food.) The problem Rick has is that he can't limit himself to posting on Facebook when he has a good idea. It's a marketing tool for him, so he needs to churn out content whether it's good or not-so-good. So if he has three good ideas per month, that might be better than you or I would have in a similar position. But it feels worse because he has three good ideas a month but makes 30 videos. So his batting average seems so much lower
- If Rick wants to transition into more TV work or stage work (and I have no idea if he does) he needs to try to come across as more genuine. This is based on feedback I got when I pitched him for a television project I was involved in. I think Rick speaks in what he thinks is a presentational and confident manner but it can seem inauthentic to adults (who are probably not his target audience).
That's the other thing. Rick's Facebook tricks are not, primarily, geared towards adults. (And certainly not towards magicians.) His most recent post, as of this writing, tells you to share a video or else be cursed and visited by a disembodied hand. And obviously any trick with a math formula like, "Choose a secret number, now add 4 to it, now subtract your secret number..." is not something you try on high school graduates. So to complain and say, "Blech, this isn't good magic," kind of misses the point.
It would be like watching this kid's video and being like, "You know... I don't think he's a great hardcore rapper."
The thing is, Rick is trying to do something very difficult. There are three good interactive tricks and he burned through them in his first few videos, now he has to try and repackage that content and expand his brand to keep people entertained. It's easy to criticize an individual video but it's not like there are a bunch of other people doing what he's trying to do better.
It would be especially easy for me to criticize. Rick and I have opposite goals in magic and in our online presence. I don't ask you to "like" my posts. In fact, I don't give a shit if you literally like my posts. You have to go out of your way to share things I write or interact with me.
But that doesn't mean I don't respect what Rick is trying to do.
And even if you can't respect it, don't waste energy hating the guy. There is a lot you can take from his Facebook success. Do yourself a favor and scroll through some of the videos. It might be a surprising education for you. Some videos have 50 million views. And some, while high, are nowhere near that much. And it has nothing to do with how strong the magic is. In fact, the videos that most magicians would think are the best tend to get significantly less views.
No, it's not "the stronger the magic the more views" it's "the more interactive the magic the more views." I think this is telling. And while "views" aren't the sole metric to define good magic, they are a pretty good metric to define engagement. And don't you want your magic to be engaging? The truth is, Rick interacts more with his spectator's in a Facebook video than most magicians do when they're sitting across the table from them. When, in reality, it should be fifty times more powerful to be in the room with the person.
Let that be what you take from Rick Lax's Facebook videos and extrapolate it into your live performances. Don't just be demonstrating an ability at your spectators. Instead make it clear that this moment requires their presence; that it's feeding off of their input and interaction like a living entity.
Coming Soon: In a past issue of X-Communication, I mentioned a post I would be writing soon called Presenting the Unpresentable. That should be up in the next week or two. In the past few months I've approached presenting certain kinds of "process" heavy tricks from a different angle—partly inspired by what I was discussing above—and have had a lot of success with it. So that will be coming soon. If I get enough likes on this post.