Dear Jerxy: Transitioning


Dear Jerxy: The post you wrote on the process you go through to acclimate people to a different style of performance was exactly what I needed. I've followed your blog since almost the beginning and it changed the way I approached a lot of my performances. Sometimes this translated into bigger and more intense responses than I've ever received from tricks. But sometimes it seemed to lead to confusion. Not anymore. I have my own variation on the path you laid out to transition from simpler effects to the immersive style and it's been working extremely well for me. I'm having more fun and so are my friends.

Currently Undergoing Nice Transition

Dear CUNT: You didn't actually ask a question there so it's strange for me to shoehorn your email into a Deary Jerxy post, but I'm nothing if not resourceful. I'm going to use your email as a chance to talk about something I use to help me gauge someone's interest in traditional magic and to establish a baseline with them that I can then use to differentiate what they're about to see. It's a tool you can use to more quickly transition into something a little different than the "typical" close-up magic trick.

And that tool is the RAT. Every repertoire should have a RAT. A RAT is a:


My current RAT is Cameron Francis's Deceit Treat. 

This is about the most average effect in magic. I don't mean that as an insult. That means half of all magic is worse than this. The trick is fine. It's just not the sort of thing that will grab their attention by being super visual, or capture their imagination with an intriguing premise. It's a fooling but bland trick. The number of five star reviews for it on Penguin is... odd. This should not be a 5-star trick in your repertoire. Again, I'm not saying it's a bad trick. It's not a bad trick. It's just not a great trick either. 

But why bother performing an average trick? The purpose is to establish a baseline that we can then use as the "standard" that future effects differ from. I use this sort of thing when I'm hanging out with someone for a day or a weekend and it's not feasible to use the full induction process as outlined in the post mentioned in the original email.

So I will perform the RAT for someone in a very straightforward style. Average thru-and-thru. Now we see how they respond. If they're really into it, then great, I can transition to stronger stuff and get even better reactions that. If they're not into it then I can use that reaction and build on it.

Let's say I get the sense they're not that impressed. They say, "Oh, yup, that's my card. Neat." I can join in with that sentiment. "Eh... yeah. I guess it's not so great. I'm a little rusty. I haven't been practicing this sort of thing much." And then I go on to explain why I haven't been working on that type of trick much. 

"I've actually been spending a lot of time working a trick that only happens in your mind."

"I actually found this old book my aunt kept that outlined these weird rituals, and that type of thing is much more interesting to me these days than these sorts of tricks."

"I'm not really into the sleight-of-hand type stuff as much anymore. I've been intrigued by some things on the fringes of science"

Now I transition into some other style of effect and I'm using their reaction from the first trick to justify showing them the second.

But you still might be saying, "Why bother showing them an average trick first? Just go into what you feel is the better trick." 

Here's why:

1. A lot of my "better tricks" require a certain level of faith/commitment/investment from the audience. Leading off with that can feel awkward for people. But if you start with a trick that doesn't require much from them, and establish that you know what you're doing on some level, you can ask for more with trick #2. It's like if I had some weird sexual fetish. First I'd just bang you the normal way, so you can get comfortable with me. Then I'd get all freaky on you.

2. The contrast between the standard trick and some of the more unusual presentation styles I enjoy is something I want to highlight. But you have to keep in mind that most people have never seen competent sleight of hand magic in real life. They don't really have a grasp of magic done the "traditional" way, so they're not going to be able to appreciate what's interesting about a deviation from the norm. It would be like if you had never had pizza before and your first introduction to it was some bizarre variation with a white sauce and grilled asparagus. You might enjoy it, but you wouldn't really grasp how this was different from the standard. But if you can demonstrate something with a typical trick, then the differences inherent in the next trick will be magnified

Again, I don't subject people I perform for regularly to average tricks. If they're people I will be in touch with long-term, then I use the slow burn method described in the other post. This is something I use with the people who pass through my life for a brief period. The Really Average Trick establishes a standard that I can build off of or transition away from in a way that feels natural, rather than just hitting someone new over the head with something crazy and unexpected.