Here is a stage or parlor idea inspired by an email from friend-of-the-site, Maarten Bosmans.
I’ve never done this trick. I’ll likely never do this trick because I don’t perform in those environments. I can’t say for sure how it would play and it would likely take some tweaking for it to work perfectly. But I’m smart as shit so I can recognize a fundamentally sound idea, and I think this is one.
You come out on stage with a box that says “TIPS” on it, and you set that on a stool.
You tell the audience how happy you are to be performing here at Chuckle’s Magic Cabin (or whatever). You started your performing career busking on the mean streets of Provo, Utah and you’re delighted to have made it this far in your career.
In recognition of those early days, you want to try something. “In the programs you received when you came in [or on their seat when they entered] you were given some Monopoly money. A 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 dollar bill. In a moment, I’m going to start my old street-performing routine on this side of the stage. As I do I’d like you to do the following… Take those bills and mix them up without looking at them. And I want you to blindly remove one or two of the bills. Take the rest of the bills and put them in your pocket or your purse. And then come up on stage and put the one or two bills you removed in my box for tips over here. Fold the money in half and sort of hide it behind your hand so no one else can see what you’re dropping in the box. I’d like you to come up row by row and do that and then return to your seats while I’m doing my act over here.”
I’m guessing you’d probably want in the neighborhood of 40 people to take part in this. Maybe less. So if it’s a small audience it might be everyone, if it’s a bigger audience it might be just a portion of the group who takes part in this.
So now you’re going to split focus. On one side of the stage you will be doing you “old street performing act.” And on the other people will be dropping their tips in the box.
This is a good chance to add some variety to the type of material you perform. Whatever your “old act” consists of, you want it to feel different from the other things you’re performing that evening. So if you do mentalism, maybe you used to do more traditional magic so you’re doing cups and balls or something. Alternatively, maybe your old act wasn’t magic related at all. Maybe you play guitar or juggle. Or your old act could just be awful. That’s probably what I’d do. I’d put on some big clown-y hat and do shitty magic with terrible jokes. Maybe some bad ventriloquism too.
At the end you thank them for indulging you and you point out how your style has changed since those early days.
You ask for someone to help you from the audience. Someone who is in good health and wearing something comfortable as they’re going to be picking up stuff from the floor. Let’s say his name is Jack.
“You’ve seen my old style of performance, now I want to show you the newest thing I’m working on. It’s called flash-perception. And I’m going to demonstrate it with the ‘money’ you all tipped me.” You could then elaborate on what “flash-perception” is, or come up with whatever other explanation/background you want to apply to the coming demonstration.
You pick up a white board and a dry-erase marker. You tell Jack to open the tip box and get ready to dump the contents on the floor (maybe he climbs a ladder to give some additional float-time).
“Now, I don’t know if each of you put in one bill or two, but using this technique of ‘flash-perception’ I will be able to count the bills in the air before they hit the floor.”
You have Jack dump the money out.
Before the last piece even hits the floor you shout, “5708” and write it on the board. “No. That’s way too many,” you say and scribble it out.
You take a step forward so the “bills” are on the floor behind you. You look up as if you’re picturing the money falling. You close your eyes tight then open them. “Okay, there were 66 bills total. “ You ask Jack to pick the money off the floor and put it on a table. Your back is to him so you’re clearly not looking.
You write something on the board. You ask Jack to count how many white bills there are (the $1 bill in Monopoly money). He counts eight. You turn the board around and show it says 8 - $1 bills. You quickly do this with the other values as well. (It would probably make sense to do this with less denominations, just to make it go faster.)
At the end your board looks like this.
You then count off. “Eight 1s, plus ten 5s, plus… [etc, etc] 66 bills total. As I said.”
For the finale you calculate how much money in total is represented there, “$8 in ones, $50 in fives, [etc, etc].. $4000 in 500 dollar bills for a total of $5708… the number that first came to me as the bills were still falling.”
Then you pull your dick out for the celebratory fellating.
The method is simply Mark Shortland’s AmazeBox from our boys Josh and Andi at VanishingInc.
As I said, I think the structure of the routine is pretty sound, and I really love the idea of a performance that involves a different style of sub-performance inside of it.
The one aspect that you would have to figure out with this is the pacing of it all. 40 people might be too many. Maybe it would be better with 20 people. Or, a I mentioned, you may want to not use a couple of the denominations of bills in order to cut down on the categories that need to be counted. The pacing of the reveals would also have to be workshopped. (In my mind, it would sort of build in pace like a Magic Square presentation.) In the write-up above you proclaim the amounts in the reverse order of which you verify them (first you shout out the total dollar amount (although you don’t say that’s what it is yet), then the total number of bills, then the individual number of each bill) it would probably make sense to play around with that and figure out what works best.
I think a lot of performers would be tempted to then say, “And I predicted this all along!” And show that they predicted the number of bills or the total dollar amount or whatever. I don’t think that would be a great idea. If you wanted to drop the “flash-perception” element and make the trick solely a prediction, I think that would be fine. I just don’t think it’s great to mix the two.
As I mentioned, this idea was inspired by an email from Maarten Bosmans. He, in turn, was inspired by this Derren Brown effect where he determines the number of buttons someone has put on a tray. That version uses something pretty sophisticated, but Maarten thought maybe you could do something similar with M&Ms and an AmazeBox. I don’t think that would work, because I’m pretty sure the switched items have to be 2-dimensional, for the AmazeBox. And even if not, you’d almost definitely have a rattling issue. But Maarten’s also mentioned doing it with “fake $100 bills.” That got me thinking in the money direction, which led to the Monopoly money idea which, of course, blows up the impossibility even more because instead of just naming a number of items you can seemingly “perceive” multiple different variations of an item in just a glance. And then you have the “total dollar amount” as a kicker, which you wouldn’t have with just one denomination.
From there I thought of the idea of the audience “tipping” you. Originally I imagined this happening during an intermission of a show. But most small-stage/parlor magic shows aren’t going to have an intermission and I realized it would be so much better if this happened in the context of you doing another type of performance.
I also think that leads to a fairly simple and straightforward transition. “What you saw there was the sort of thing I was doing in my earliest performances. Now I want to show you the newest skill I’ve been working on.”
Thanks again to Maarten for sending me along this path.