This was a helpful exercise for me in determining the type of magic I wanted to perform (and in other areas of my life as well). If you're a bit adrift in identifying your focus as a performer, this may be helpful for you as well.
Let's say I ran a matchmaking service (something more one-on-one than my dating service Equestrian Singles). Perhaps I would ask you to give me a list of women you find attractive and would like to date. I might also ask for a list of women you find unattractive and wouldn't want to date. Those would both be useful lists. But I think the most helpful list in identifying a direction to move in would be a list of women you find attractive that you wouldn't want to date. This would help me identify the deal-breakers and the qualities those women had in common that were somehow more significant than your innate attraction to them.
I asked myself a similar question regarding magic: What magicians do I want to fuck?
No, that wasn't the question I asked myself. It was, "Who are the magicians you like watching, and who you think are good performers, but whose style of performance you're not drawn to?"
This first time you ask yourself this question it's obvious and easy. I think of David Copperfield and Penn and Teller and other stage performers. I like their work, but have no interest in performing in that style.
Now I ask myself the question again, but narrow it down by adding in the details of who was included after my the first round. (Stage performers were excluded, close-up performers were included.) So now the question is: Who are the close-up magicians I enjoy watching but wouldn't want to perform in their style myself?
That knocks out a lot of funny and talented performers—in fact, some of my favorite performers. What do they all have in common? They all perform in a highly-scripted, very "professional" manner. That style doesn't interest me. I prefer an unscripted, more natural, casual style.
So I ask it again, but with this new information incorporated. Who are the natural, casual close-up performers I like and who I enjoy watching, but whose style I wouldn't want to mimic in my performances? And the answer to that question for me was people like Dani DaOrtiz, Greg Wilson, and Peter Turner. I like to watch those guys, I think they're talented, and I enjoy their creations. But I wouldn't want to perform in their styles. Why not? What do they have in common?
For me what they all have in common is that their styles are very intense and forceful and almost domineering in a way. Not in a bad way, but just in a way that a lot of their material depends on a quick and animated manipulation of the spectators.
When Dani DaOrtiz forces a card he deals off clumps and spits out words like, "You tell me where to stop. I don't care. Right here? I don't care. You tell me. Ya-dah-dat-dat-dahh. Here? There? Keep going? Stop? You tell me. I no care... I no care."
When Peter Turner is revealing a digit from a cell phone passcode, a verbal stream comes pouring out. "I see you keep people at arms reach. Have two genuine friends, a lot of acquaintances. Just fell out with a friend over the phone a couple of days ago. Which is something you've told no one. It's the number 8." He says all of this in 7 seconds.
When Greg Wilson performs he grabs people by the wrist and shoulder, directs them to where he wants them to be and where he wants them to look. "Stand over here. Look at the pen, look at the coin, look behind my ear." Etc.
Dani is trying to use the pace of his delivery to get you to say stop at a certain point. Peter is trying to get in a lot of vague information along with something he knows is accurate, so when the spectator says "yes" to the number 8, it seems like she's saying yes to what came before as well. Greg is trying to get you used to him being physical with you so he can steal your watch or wallet.
These are all valid techniques but they don't mesh with my preferred style which is beyond relaxed and low-key.
I just don't like anything that feels like me manipulating someone in any way: verbally, psychologically, or physically. You can see that throughout my work. In the JAMM #1, I describe a way to hand someone a bent coin (or any other changed object) without them noticing because I don't even like folding someone's fingers over a coin I place in their hand. 3rd Wave Equivoque and The Reverse Psychology Force were developed as ways to take the pacing of those classic techniques out of the performer's hands and into the spectator's.
My ideal performance dynamic is me curled up on the other end of the couch as you walk though the effect yourself without my apparent manipulation. And what pushed me in that direction was not watching performers I dislike, but watching performers I liked and seeing the things they did that didn't resonate with me. There isn't a ton to learn by watching people whose work you the. And there's probably a limit to what you can get out of emulating the people you love. But there's definitely something to be gained by watching people whose work you respect and admire, and then being propelled by the areas where your ideologies differ.