In April I performed 92 tricks for 72 different audiences. (“Audience” = a person or group of people.)
60 audiences saw 1 trick.
8 audiences saw two tricks (6 audiences saw two tricks in one setting, the other 2 audiences saw two tricks on different occasions).
4 audiences saw four tricks (over the course of the month).
55 of the 72 audiences were friends, relatives, acquaintances. 17 of the audiences were strangers.
The average audience size was 1.7 people. 77% of my performances were for one person. The largest group of people I performed for was 12.
80 of the 92 tricks were planned. 12 were done impromptu.
52 performances were of a trick or presentation of my own devising. 19 were tricks I was trying out in order to potentially review for the X-Comm newsletter. 21 were other people’s effects that are in my regular repertoire.
One of the most time-consuming parts of doing this site the way I want to is finding people to perform tricks for without burning those people out on tricks. If I’m dating someone or working on a short-term project with people, they may end up seeing tricks more frequently. But generally I try to not show people more than one trick a month, on average. That’s still 12 tricks a year. That’s still a lot, I think. And—while I don’t track this closely—I try to make sure that at least a third of the time we hang out there is no magic involved (unless they specifically request it).
So, imagine that, you’re in a position where you want to perform a trick, on average about three times a day. But you don’t want to perform for the same person more than once a month. And you don’t have regular co-workers you can perform for. It’s forced me to become a little social-butterfly. My social circle has probably grown by a factor of ten since starting the site. It takes a lot to be a professional amateur magician.
My most performed trick last month was performed nine times. It’s called The Wuzzles and it will appear in the next book (although probably under a different name). It’s a strange one. I had the original idea about two years ago and was just going to throw it on this site as kind of a jokey method for a 50/50 prediction trick. But it got a much stronger reaction than I anticipated. The presentation grew since then. It takes about 5-10 minutes to perform, depending on how you go about it, and it evolved into something I thought was impossible: a truly engrossing and baffling single 50/50 prediction. One that sticks with people. There are certainly a number of tricks in the next book that are much more overwhelmingly powerful than this one; but this one really seems to eat away at people for a long time. And it’s got an interesting method. It essentially uses exposure in order to fool people.
I visited 18 different cafes (42 visits total) and spent $320 on coffees for myself and others in April. That’s almost $4000 a year in coffee costs. And I don’t even really like coffee. But a cafe is an ideal place to perform (for my purposes). Obviously it’s a great place to meet people you know for a quick hang-out. But it’s also one of the most ideal places to show something to strangers. People are seated, there are tables, it’s not super loud, and many people are there alone. Contrast that to a bar where people are often standing around with a group and music may be blaring. I’ve certainly shown magic to people in bars on occasion, but very rarely anything long-form they can get truly engrossed in.
At a cafe it feels completely socially acceptable—at least in the US—to turn to the person next to you (assuming they’re not absorbed in something else) and start up a conversation with them. It’s relatively normal. At least more so than bothering someone at the library or trying to flag someone down in a mall. And, of course, in a coffee shop it’s perfectly natural to have books, food/drink, silverware, napkins, sugar packets, money, loyalty cards, computers, games, playing cards, etc.
So the $4000 annual coffee shop budget may seem exorbitant, but it’s also kind of a necessity for what I’m trying to do. I think of it as renting office space.
You might think, “Can’t you just sit at home and come up with ideas? Can’t you just imagine how these things will play out?” No. I can’t. Maybe someone can, at least with a different style of magic. But with the social style of tricks, I just see no way of getting an accurate read on this sort of thing without actually performing them. I don’t really believe in magic theory. I believe in testing things out and getting results and talking to the audience and getting feedback. That doesn’t seem like “theory” to me, that seems like “magic science.”
The need for testing is magnified when it comes to “trick-adjacent” ideas. I’ll have an idea for a little “extra presentational” bit and I’ll have no clue how people might react. I may think it’s going to be very clever and then use it in five performances and not a single person will notice or comment on it. Or it may be something that they end up latching onto more than the trick itself. It’s impossible to know.
In an upcoming post, I’ll talk about one of these ideas that I included in many of my April performances. It’s a nearly imperceptible bit of theater you can add to many tricks that seemed to intrigue a number of the people who saw it last month.