So, maybe every Friday you perform a card trick for some friends before your weekly poker game, or maybe you regularly show some co-workers a trick during lunch in the break room, or maybe you just perform a trick every now and then for your wife. Whatever your typical pattern is, you’ve decided you want to disrupt it in some way in order to transition into some different performance modalities. Here are some ways you might want to go about it that have worked for people I know. You probably won’t use them in isolation. These are elements that can be combined. I use these techniques as well, not for the purposes of transitioning into a new style of performance, but because I think it’s important for the amateur performer to mix things up with his usual audiences from time to time. (More on that in a future post.)
The Hard Reset
Just take a break from performing for people. This is the most blatant type of pattern interrupt because it is literally just an interruption. If they’re used to seeing you perform something once a week and you take a couple months off, then you’ll feel more freedom to come back with something different because rather than an abrupt change in performing styles, you get to establish a style from nothing as you reintroduce magic into your encounters.
Taking some time off has the additional benefit—as Erdnase tells us—that the spectator will regenerate their “magic hymen” and you get to pop their “astonishment cherry” all over again and fill them with your “wonder ejaculate.” Erdnase really had a way with metaphors.
You can ease people into a change in styles by leaving some evidence of an impeding shift in a place where they will see it.
Here’s the sort of thing I’ll do:
You and I are co-workers. Every week I show you a new card trick I’ve been working on. This is really straightforward card magic. Right out of Scarne on Card Tricks.
One day you stop by my cubicle and see a book called: Psychic Energy Manipulation. “What’s this?” you ask.
“Oh… nothing. It’s just…. I don’t know. I’m looking into it. I’ll let you know if it leads to anything.”
When a week passes and I come up to you and say, “Hey remember that book I was reading? Can we try something?” I can now transition into something very different from card tricks, but it doesn’t feel so abrupt because I introduced the potential change long before the actual performance.
At some point just announce that you’re going to be doing something different with your magic.
For example, if you’ve taken a break from performing, someone will say, “You haven’t shown us any tricks recently?”
“Oh, yeah. Well… I’m sort of re-learning a different style of magic. I’m not really concentrating on the sleight-of-hand stuff anymore. I’m learning some more esoteric stuff.”
Now you’ve perfectly set the stage for transitioning into a new style of performance in a way that won’t feel odd or out of the blue. In fact, they’ll be anticipating it.
Getting people open to a more immersive style of magic is just a matter of getting them accustomed to the idea that you’re going to be showing them magic in a less direct fashion. The relationship isn’t always going to be, “I’m the magician and I’m going to show you—the spectator—a magic trick.” They need to understand there’s going to be more to the “game” of the interaction.
Here’s a fun way that I would transition away from a traditional style with a context that is stupid yet gently immersive.
This would work well for me because I like saying dumb things seriously.
Let’s say I’m hanging out with some friends. They ask if I have any new tricks I’m working on.
“Magic tricks? No. That’s the old me. I’m not into that stuff any more. It’s just childish nonsense. It doesn’t help anyone. And it’s certainly not a viable business opportunity.”
I get up and walk over to the end table and remove something from the drawer. “I’ve got a new passion now. I guess you could say it’s still ‘magic’ related. But this is real magic. The magic of…,” I open my hand revealing a small vial, “essential oils.”
My attitude is so completely humorless that I must be joking.
“Essential oils have been used for thousands of years to promote health and cure diseases and to help people in 100s of ways. I’m really just looking for some motivated people who want to join my team and make some money working from home in their spare time.
“Here, smell this. It’s bergamot and citrus. This is known to help with memory and focus. Let me show you how well it works. I just need something for you to focus on… hmmm…. I don’t really know… oh, a deck of cards. Perfect.”
And from there I’d go into a card trick but in the context of a demonstration of the memory benefits of this essential oil.
Obviously it would be clear what’s happening very early on (unless you’re the sort of person that would genuinely try and get your friends engulfed in a multi-level-marketing essential oil business) and they would get the “joke” of it. But that’s okay. What you want them to get used to is the idea of a trick being presented as something else. That the trick is going to exist within a broader fiction. And that you’re asking them to play along with it but you’re not asking them to believe it. They need to get that concept first before you move on. And doing your first few presentations of this style in a humorous manner will help make that point.
If you were a member of a remote tribe that had never interacted with the outside world for hundreds of years, I couldn’t sit you down at a movie theater and expect you to enjoy a film. You’d be wondering what was going on. Are those people on a stage? Are they gods? Is there really a battle going on or some monster coming towards us? Only after you understood that these were images projected on a screen and the people were acting out a story, could you learn to relax and allow yourself to get caught up in the experience.
It’s the same with this style of magic. You want them to fully understand the fictional element of the interaction. Once they do, you can approach it with a much more serious attitude and can create immersive presentations that aren’t just humorous. They can be scary, romantic, nostalgic, life-affirming, etc.