Mailbag #14


I just read your post about presentation vs. context. I think the central idea you're getting across is one of method vs story. Humans are incredibly effective at storytelling. It's baked into our DNA and a way for us to engage our memory and other senses to get our point/ideas across to our listener. Storytelling is quite literally a survival skill for our species and it's no wonder when used in magic, makes our audience focus and engage. Your example about Ghosts etc. Is a very involved story that an active participant would engage in and remember because it is being told - as a story - something we have evolved to detect as a pattern and automatically engage with. So, I think the moral of this posts story ( :p) is: if you want an audience to remember your performance - tell them a story with a trick embedded within. If you want your audience to forget - present them a trick ;).

Here are some really cool articles that support your hypothesis:


The problem with using "storytelling" with magicians is they say, "Ah, I know. I'll tell a story about a blue-backed card who got jealous and became a red-backed card." Or something like that.

What you want is to create a "story" where the spectator is a "character" taking part in something

“Presentation” is about adding a story to a trick. “Context” is about making the trick a story.

I've watched Brian Connor's Big Brother. I imagine that you know it because he talks about you but it's basically the trick of coding a card to your Google Assistant.

My question was: do you have any justification if anyone tries to make his/her Google Assistant name a card in the same way and getting no results? That is the only weak point I can find. —JP

I don’t own it, so I can’t really comment on if what I’m suggesting would work with the method, but I think the simple answer is that your presentation can't be "this is something that all phones can do.” It has to be your particular phone/google assistant that is compromised/modified in some way.

  • You "hacked" it

  • The government is spying on you specifically and has messed with your phone.

  • You have a beta version of the upcoming operating system that has some strange features.

  • Your phone was struck by lightning and is acting weird.

  • All your electronics are acting up in a "Maximum Overdrive" type of scenario.


Or something along those lines.

[Re: A recent question on close-up pads.)

Small-size mouse pads are usually big enough to double as closeup pads. I get them for five bucks at the computer store. The non-skid rubber black ones are my favorite. If you’re sitting close enough to your desktop computer you can grab the mouse pad and say, “here this makes it easier” before performing a trick on it. Or at a cafe you can pull one out of your backpack and identify it as a mouse pad.—CW

In the right situation I think that would fly. In some situations, carrying around a mousepad would be as strange (if not stranger) as carrying around a pad to do card tricks on.

My general rule—if I have a trick that is surface dependent—is to move the performance of that trick to an adequate surface, rather than moving a surface to the trick. This makes perfect sense in an amateur situation.

Mattresses, couch cushions, blankets, carpeting, yoga mats, etc. Keep your eye out and you’ll find other “natural” close-up pad surfaces.

Talking about robbers entering the front door/back door/etc using different parts of the deck is a bit clunky. I think it's a bit nicer to say they're robbing a skyscraper and they're robbing different floors. Then you say the police arrived so the robbers all ran up to the roof (riffle deck to indicate this) and they ziplined/helicoptered away. That's how I was shown it as a kid. —KM

Hmmm. I see your point, but I doubt anyone gets too hung-up on that. “Hey! This isn’t very bank-like!” Although your version certainly ups the ante on the action quotient. A skyscraper! Zip-lines! I’m into that. Hell, I’d encourage someone to do a full 109 minute version that completely re-enacts the 2018 film, Skyscraper, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson


I myself a working on a version where the deck is an actress in a gang-bang porno and the four Jacks are the men in the film. “One inserted himself in her bottom. One in her vagina. One titty fucked her. And one went in her mouth. Just then, the director said, ‘We only have this Airbnb for two more minutes, let’s finish up!’ And they all… jacked-off…on…her…face.”

[Hold for applause.]