MMmmmm Hot Dog Stuffed Crust, Perfect For SEO

Let’s tackle some more issues with magic presenting. Why? Because it’s one of the more misunderstood areas of magic. Why? Because a lot of people focus more on technique and method than how to present it. Why? Because while techniques and methods are vital, presentational features somehow manage to take care of themselves. Why? Because it’s “easy” to create a story or narrate, throwing in just enough stock jokes to cover the silent spots. Why? Because “everyone knows” you can’t perform silently, so let’s discuss paths to alleviate this. Why? Because I’m sitting at the computer, ready to kill another myth. Why? Because I’ve got a pizza in front of me, and nothing says, “I’m ready to write a column,” like a hot dog stuffed crust, yes a hot dog stuffed crust. Why? Because it’s better than a Cadbury Creme Egg burrito. Why? BECAUSE I SAID SO!

It’s another soundbite, almost becoming cliché: When creating a presentation, you must answer WHY the magic is occurring. The idea is that putting four Jacks into the deck and having them appear on top won’t make sense to your audience. But if you anthropomorphize the cards, claiming they’re robbers escaping to the roof, then the audience can understand the magicSexy Intelligence. This sounds fine and dandy, but it suffers from the dangerous presupposition that our audiences are retarded. They aren’t. We don’t need to dumb everything down and spoon feed them. It makes the magic look bad, and us even worse.

This is more than a personal peeve. The “Why?” rule fiercely pigeonholes our presentational avenues. Let’s look at a classic plot as an example for how limiting this thinking is: Roy Walton’s Card Warp. You all know it; a folded card is able to turn itself inside out when pushed through a second folded card. I’ve seen this trick performed by hundreds of people, yet their presentations tend to fall into only three categories: time travel, other dimensions, and surprise surprise, anthropomorphizing. This is one of the most well-known plots in card magic, so why aren’t there more presentational variants? Simple. They’re all stuck trying to answer *why* the card is turning inside out. Either the card is going back in time to when it was the other way around, or it’s going into another dimension to invert itself, or the audience is led to believe the card is some sort of acrobat/torture victim/porn star who can get into weird positions. That’s embarrassingly little variety for such an iconic trick. Moreover, it’s difficult to pull these types of presentations off without sounding condescending. (“Condescending” means to behave as if one is conscious of descending from a superior position, rank, or dignity.)

Not only does the “rule” limit our creativity, but it’s not even a valid question. As evident from the opening paragraph – and five-year-olds around the world – “Why?” is a never ending spiral that eventually ends with the same answer every time: “Because I said so!” If you answer the question of the Jacks with, “robbers,” you should then answer why you’re using robbers. The answer is that you need a presentation for the trick. You’ll then have to answer why you need a presentation. You eventually get down further and further until you’re answering why you’re even performing, why you exist, and why raspberry flavored candy is always blue. At some point or another, you’ll have to concede with, “Because I said so,” and if you can do it at one level, you can do it at any level. Even the top.

It’s important to realize a distinction. It’s still a valid process to constantly question why you do certain moves and say certain things, but those are questions you ask yourself in the design phase within the context of the trick you’re creating. That’s not something you need to verbally explain to the audience during performance. These are two entirely different things.

So if we’re not answering why, how should we be presenting our magic? You’ve heard me say it before and I’ll keep beating this dead horse with a broken record: you just need a hook. As an iTricks reader, you’ve got an excellent resource for hooks. Your editor, Justin Robert Young, is a master at crafting headlines that hook you in. Study how he gets your attention, piquing your interest, and making you want to keep reading. That’s all magic presentations are about. You want to hook your audience in so they’re captivated and excited to see what’s going to happen next. You want to prime them for the magic, not suffocate them with layer after layer of thick cheese and hot dog stuffed in a golden crust. Keeping Card Warp as an example, think of ways to hook people in. Don’t worry about explaining why the card is about to invert. Just think about how the situation can be enticing. Remember, we have two cards that are about to be folded. That sounds boring on its own. How can we change that? What can we do to spin the situation into a hook? Here are just a few ideas:

- “I’m terrified of the Five of Diamonds and Jack of Spades. I can’t tell you why. But I can show you…”

- “Have you ever wanted to destroy a magician’s prop? Here’s your chance…”

- “I had a trick get over 600,000 hits on YouTube, with everyone crying that it had to be a camera trick. Do you want to see it live?”

- “Decks of cards didn’t always have fifty-two cards. They started out with only two. There was only one trick magicians could do with them back then. You won’t believe it…”

- “I’m going to show you something that scientists and engineers are utterly fooled by, yet five-year-olds can see right through. Let’s see where you fall on the spectrum…”Bewildered Dog

- “This is a picture of my dog. I’m going to try to get that same look on your face…”

With the exception of the first one – which I use – these examples were all off the top of my head. I’m sure you can think of even better ways to create a simple premise that hooks your audience into the performance, excited to see what’s next. And all without even remotely explaining why the card is turning over. Your creativity is astounding, so don’t throttle it with make-believe rules. Why? BECAUSE I SAID SO!

For more of Tyler’s work, head over to cherryvillain.com. They’ve just launched a new members-only section with some amazing resources. You’ll need an invite code. Here’s yours: fiveisalive

  • http://www.facebook.com/smappdooda Bizzaro Galore

    I do think one can go too far with the “Why” especially for card magic. We do have a little bit of leeway to be eccentric as it’s expected by people in some ways. I do however believe that if you give the audience a little bit of truth they believe a great big bunch of BS.

    Give them a hook and they are with you the whole way regardless of how silly. However it has to be something they can understand or are familiar with.

    I like to insult my audience but not their intelligence.

  • HAL

     What is this trick on youtube that they think is a camera trick?

  • Tyler Wilson

    Bizzaro, what’s up, my good man? Yes, of course you CAN answer why, or slather on thick layers of B.S., but I was just suggesting we don’t have to.

    HAL, it doesn’t exist. It doesn’t have to. We lie for a living. I didn’t really place your card in the middle, either.

  • HAL

     I can’t argue with that, but some magicians lies are so obvious, it becomes a joke. I have one in mind right now. A lie that’s a camera trick, isn’t that an oximoron?

  • HAL

     The true skill of a magician can be measured in the amount of card tricks they “DON’T” do. Maybe the other question in your article could be, “WHY” do we have so many card tricks that are the same @$%#^& trick?

  • Exitmat

    Great stuff, Tyler! :)