Thanks to those of you who have written in with ideas for the next round of magic focus-group testing that’s scheduled to happen in November. Whether we end up using the idea or not, it all becomes grist for the mill and leads to more thinking and processing of ideas. So it’s all useful, even if it’s not used.
Here’s a small thing we are going to look at. It’s a very simple idea, but this is my favorite sort of thing to test because it’s binary, so we only have to look at two options. And, going into it, I feel like I could make a compelling argument for each option.
The idea is to test Card to Wallet. There are two main styles of CTW. One where the card is palmed and you reach into your pocket to get the wallet. The other, the card isn’t palmed—so you can show an empty hand when you reach into your pocket—but then the wallet usually has to come in contact with the deck in some way.
Which do you think ultimately produces a more amazing effect? What contributes more (consciously or unconsciously) to the impossibility of the effect: seeing an empty hand go into a pocket, or seeing the wallet never come near the deck? I don’t know. As I said, I could argue for both. It may be that they cancel each other out and are equally strong (or not that strong).
We’ll see. I don’t even do card to wallet. I’m just curious.
Let’s see how accurate our hive mind can be at predicting what the outcome of this testing will be. Vote below which you think will be seen as the more powerful effect. (Just to be clear, people will see one version or the other. And then we’ll compare the scores of those separate groups of people. It’s not a situation where people will be seeing both and choosing which was more amazing. That would unfairly bias them towards whichever they saw first.)
The most amazing Card-to-Wallet I’ve seen was performed by my friend Andrew (who has my favorite ambitious card routine in JAMM #3, the best card to mouth I’ve seen in the upcoming book, and also created the Connect Four trick I wrote about here.)
A group of us were out one night and the subject of card-to-wallet came up (he may, in fact, have been the one to bring it up, that scamp.) He borrowed a deck of cards, had one selected and signed, shuffled the deck, and handed it back to the person it belonged to. His hands were completely empty and the deck was back in the case. He reached in his pocket, pulled out his wallet and the card was inside.
We were blown away. What made it more amazing is most of us were magicians and we knew the trick he was about to show us. It wasn’t a surprise.
We quickly realized it must have been a stooge. He must have had a duplicate signed card already in his wallet. A corny, but effective method.
Except he didn’t. There was no stooge. No duplicates.
Here’s the method. The deck is truly borrowed. The card is freely selected and signed, shuffled back into the deck and controlled to the top or bottom. Then, in a gesture when asking for the card case, the card was shot from the deck with the Lennart Green Top Shot (or something similar) into a topit. Then he gives the deck back with empty hands and reaches into his pocket with empty hands where he loads the cards and removes the wallet.
The flicking of the card was invisible. The deck was held (briefly) near the opening of the jacket, as someone handed him the card case, so it’s not like it was traveling through space for a great distance.
I can’t say how useful a method it would be for a normal performing situation, but on that night—when he made it seem like an impromptu demonstration, not something he was literally suited up for—it really killed us.
Speaking of the testing we do, a few people have asked about the logistics of it and how we go about gathering the people to test on. If you want some of the boring details, they’re here. (If not, scroll to the bottom of this post for a dumb, dirty magic idea.)
When we first started, we used Craigslist exclusively. We would put up an ad stating we were looking for focus group participants. That’s about all the information you need to provide and you’ll get 100s of responses (in NYC, at least). The problem with this method is one of scheduling. The flake-out rate was huge. Sometimes over 50%. You can over schedule to try and account for that, but if everyone does show up, you’re screwed there too. So that was annoying.
Once this site existed and we could use the funds from the reader support to pay for these things, we brought in a company that specializes in focus-group testing. With a professional organization handling the scheduling, we had much more consistent groups in regards to how many people we wanted to test in a given timeframe. The problem with this method is that it’s super expensive. You’re paying the participants for their time and you’re paying this company to organize the people and usually you have to pay them for a room and staff (even if you don’t really feel you need them). We did this a few times but it was cost prohibitive.
So then we went back to Craigslist, and it was during that testing that we had a revelation. We were once again in a situation where we had a time-slot that was supposed to be used for an audience of four, but only one person showed up. One of my friends who helps out with these projects just went down to the street to see if he could scrounge up some more participants, and he was back up with three more people in a couple minutes. And it dawned on us all, “Why don’t we just do it like this all the time?” We’re usually in Manhattan, there’s no shortage of people. And we can more easily get people from all over the country by grabbing tourists. Also, if we go the Craigslist or pro-Focus Group route, then someone from Brooklyn, for example, has to carve three hours out of their day to go into Manhattan and take part in this group for $40 or whatever. But if they’re already in the area and they have some free time, then we can offer them less money (say $20 for 20 minutes of their time) and its a better deal for them. And we can be more flexible with our time. Instead of trying to schedule groups of four every 30 minutes for a couple days, a week in advance—we can grab four people, work with them for as long or short as we want, then grab another group right after. Just doing it on-the-fly seems to be better for everyone involved.
So now it usually some combination of these techniques (usually we’ll do some form of pre-scheduling for larger groups) but we’re leaning more and more on grabbing people as we need them. (For this reason, we usually book a conference room or rehearsal space near Central Park, where it’s not hard to find people with some time to kill.)
Testing magic on an overly critical lay-audience is the best thing you can do to create stronger methods. I’ve said it before, but don’t test on magicians. They suck for this sort of thing. Don’t test on people who know you. They have their feelings for you wrapped up in their analysis. And the girlfriend/wife test isn’t all that valuable after a while because they usually become totally burnt out, or almost as knowledgable as any magician.
The critical stranger is your best sounding board. But focus groups are prohibitively expensive, unless you have a bunch of guys splitting the cost.
Here’s your free alternative: Badoo, Omegle, Chatroullette, HOLLA and a bunch of others. These are all sites/apps where you can video chat with strangers. You’ll feel awkward at first, but you’ll find a lot of people are thrilled to find someone who want to show them something other than a hard dong.
Say you’re a magician working on a trick. Ask them to help you by being as critical as possible and calling out anything that doesn’t look fair. You have to ask or you won’t get honest feedback.
I’ve tried to put myself in positions where I have a regularly refreshed group of live humans to perform for. But when my situation doesn’t allow for that, I’m happy to go online and try stuff out on strangers. It’s a fun time.
Here’s one for the ladies. Or the gay males. Or the easily confused. Or anyone who finds themselves with a penis in their mouth.
It’s an adaptation of this trick, Gumerang.
Be set up for Gumerang with some white gum. Perform fellatio on your new lover. When you sense he’s reaching his climax, stop and say, “I bet you’re wondering if I spit or swallow. You’ll see.” Get back to work and allow him to finish in your mouth. Secretly swallow (sorry, gotta do it) but act like you still have a mouthful. Grab a Kleenex and act like you’re going to spit in it. The gum will go out of your mouth, swing up and come back down. Now make a big show of swallowing what’s in your mouth. Now turn to the guy and in a sexy manner say, “I do both.” And give him a wink and push him down between your legs because fair is fair.
No, white gum doesn’t look like semen under close examination (if his semen does look like white gum, I’m sorry, but he probably just gave you a disease) however it will work for the brief moment it’s in view.
When you’re done, log onto the Magic Cafe and vote for Gumerang to win the award for Trick of the Year 2018.