Monthly archives for May, 2011

Finally Open and REVIEW: Timmy Toilet Paper

Whew, this week has been BEYOND exhausting. Thursday and Friday saw me drive 16 hours and when I finally got home, my wife and I worked late in the night Friday night to get her hair salon (and my hypnosis clinic) open in time for Saturday night.

Oh, that’s right – in the last week, my wife put in notice (30 day notice) to leave her former salon and finish up our new one…but the other salon owner put up a hissy fit and decided to throw her out in a week, leaving us scrambling to get everything ready so my wife’s clients didn’t decide to go to another salon.

The good news is the majority of the hard work is over and we can start to enjoy life again.

Before I forget, I know new people check out this column each week so here’s my pitch to sign up for my free ezine, “Cause And Effects.” In each monthly issue, I write an article about real world performing, marketing or magic philosophy. I also share weird road stories and more! Shoot me an email to: crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

I’m still beyond tired but I wanted to get a review up this week. This week I’m reviewing Timmy Toilet Paper by Tom Burgoon. It’s available for $199.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=14662

EFFECT: A very funny do as I do routine with toilet paper turns into a startling 50-foot mouthcoil production.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: An extremely well produced notebook with several pictures and routine ideas. You also receive a DVD with five live performances of the routine. You also receive a free package of white mouthcoils (which, if ordered through Hocus Pocus, you’ll have to mail in a certificate. I received mine in about 10 days.) You also receive a signed copy of Tom posing with Timmy and a certificate of performance rights.

I also had to mail in to receive my certificate…and, nothing against Tom, but I felt silly getting a signed picture of Tom. I simply don;t collect autographs. Just not my thing.

MY HISTORY: I’ve been doing my own mouthcoil routine for years. Simply put, in my view, the mouthcoil is one of the greatest production items in history. My routine is set to music and is always a crowd pleaser.

My reasons for buying the Timmy routine is the fact that often, I will perform for the same audiences multiple times, especially when I perform my night time family fundraiser show (shoot me an email to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net if interested in booking high dollar school fundraiser shows) so I wanted to have a different mouthcoil routine that was comedy based.

QUALITY IN INSTRUCTION: Tom does a good job teaching the routine and the effectiveness of his handling is evident in the fact that I watched Tom’s performances several times and a key move blew past me every time. Tom’s handling of this key move is a study in performing a move on the off beat and the more I watch it the more impressed I am.

Simply put, this routine is not only funny but a fooler as well.

Tom also gives plenty of other suggestions for enhancing the routine and stretching it out with bits of business, including a bit that lends itself nicely to the classic Paper Balls Over The Head.

Most importantly, the routine is not difficult to perform, allowing you to (c’mon, say it with me) concentrate on your presentation. As a stage performer, I’ve gradually removed most of the technically demanding stuff and just bond with my audiences, so to me, this is a good thing.

ANGLES: Because of Tom’s handling, you don’t want anyone directly behind you and probably not to the extreme sides, but in most situations you’ll be fine. Additionally, once you understand Tom’s handling, you may easily change it to something more angle friendly if you’re a street performer.

THE CONTROVERSIES: Several years ago, Tom published the routine in Genii as an illustration in the construction of a routine. Apparently, Tom’s intent was to show the construction of a routine for reasons other than allowing others to actually perform it.

While I found this to be odd, having never read the article, I cannot comment on whether Tom’s intent was clear or not. All I can comment on is the fact that Tom has the right to put out a product and charge what he wants and we as consumers can choose whether or not to buy it.

With that out of the way, the second controversy involves the performance rights the purchaser has. Tom has restricted the performance rights to NOT include the Magic Castle and NOT to include TV rights (of any kind) and NOT to allow purchasers to put clips of the routine on one’s own demo video.

I’ll address the three exclusions separately from my own perspective.

Because Tom is so well known in the magic community, I personally would never perform this at the Castle because many magicians who see me do it would know it was not my creation, so that exclusion makes sense.

The second exclusion is mildly irritating – not performing it on TV – but as a school performer, I do not really aspire to be on TV so to me, no big deal.

The final exclusion, not putting it on my demo DVD, I found very offensive. So if a school wanted to see clips of my show, I could not include any Timmy clips. While I have a large enough collection of working material, this still irritated me.

I suppose it wouldn’t bother me so much if it was stated in the ad copy but it’s not. Others on different forums have claimed that from a legal standpoint, the terms are not enforceable because the purchaser was not aware of the conditions and did not sign anything upon purchase.

I can’t comment on the legalities and again I do plan on performing this (in 2 days I’ll be breaking it in for the first time) so I will use this, but I wanted readers to be aware of the limitations.

MY RECOMMENDATION: I love the routine and find some of the subtle nuances of Tom’s handling to be the most deceptive handling of the mouthcoil I’ve ever seen. The routine is funny without being offensive and is interactive as well. A mouthcoil routine is always pleasing to lay people.

I found the demo DVD exclusion irritating in terms of permission to perform the routine.

I highly recommend this routine in terms of real world performing, but I will take two points off my score because of the fact that the exclusions were not mentioned in the ad copy, which I find extremely unfair. 8 out of 10.

NEXT WEEK: Personality Readings Plus Book Test by Paul Romhany

Questions? Review requests? Email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net

Best,

Cris Johnson

Two Class Acts and REVIEW: Cody Fisher’s Silk 2 Egg

I’m back, better than I have been in a few weeks.

Before I get into this week’s review, I want to thank a couple of class acts in magic – first, Paul Romhany for private reasons. I’ve never met him face to face, but over the last several months he’s really been a great friend, always quick to lend support when faced with challenges in my personal life – and there’s been a slew of ‘em in the last 12 months. Thanks, Paul.

Secondly, I want to thank Nick Wenger. Those of you who have purchased Nick’s effects, such as his Spirit Bell through Bob Kohler and his Planted effect know he delivers the goods. Well, I hired Nick to build me a custom electronic prop for a specific themed corporate show that I do many times a year. The resulting product is AMAZING! His customer support is great, too. If you’re looking for a particular magic prop that doesn’t exist yet (an odd thing, I know!) contact Nick – he may be able to help you out. His email is nickwenger@verizon.net. I have NO financial connection to Nick, but I love his stuff.:)

On to this week’s review (which will be a bit shorter than normal because it’s a shorter booklet). It’s Cody Fisher’s Silk 2 Egg! It’s available for $40.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=17224

EFFECT: The Effect: The magician takes a silk and places it into his hand. One magical gesture and the silk is now an egg! The silk is shown to have magically transported to the magician’s pocket! The magician proceeds to let the audience in on the secret by exposing the fact that the egg is hollow and he was using two silks. Now that the audience completely understands, a volunteer is brought onstage, given two silks and a gimmicked egg and told to copy the magicians every action.

This is done and both the magician and the volunteer have magically transformed their silk into an egg. The magician says that this is the EASY way to do the trick; the more advanced version is to remove the silk (sticker) and crack the egg to show that it is actually a REAL egg!

The magician says that he feels the onstage volunteer is a quick learner and they are instructed to do the same with their gimmicked egg. To the amazement of the onstage volunteer they do just that! They pull off the silk; it is actually a sticker now! They crack the egg into the glass! Their egg is 100% REAL too and they have NO IDEA how they did it!

PRODUCT DETAILS: An extremely detailed manuscript with color photos, illustrations and extremely detailed description.

DIFFICULTY: IF you’re familiar with the traditional silk to egg effect, you have an idea of the difficulty. It’s maybe a 2 or 3 in terms of technical difficulty and maybe a 3 or 4 in difficulty in terms of spectator management. NOTE: I do not consider this a difficult routine in any way, but I want to emphasize that spectator management, while not difficult, is crucial for the success of this effect…but it’s NOT difficult.

When you read how the effect works, it reads as very ballsy, but really, this is not difficult for the experienced performer who is already comfortable interacting with audience volunteers.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Phenomenal. These days, I prefer learning magic by DVD, but I can’t imagine a printed booklet that could teach this effect any better. Cody’s done a great job with this. An easy 10 out of 10.

MY THOUGHTS: WOW. That’s my reaction in a nutshell. First, a bit of history…I’ve got my own handling of the silk to egg effect and it’s always been an audience pleaser. After 12 years of performing it, I consider silk to egg to be a very reliable ” go to” effect. I would never dream of changing it until…

I read this! In all honesty, Cody called me a few months ago and told me about this. Hearing him excitedly describe it made it sound very cool, but I’m not good at absorbing instructions verbally (when someone explains things to me verbally, I often forget it instantly.)

After receiving the booklet, I was thrilled with how this plays. Also, let’s be clear: this is a WORKER, meaning it will play for laypeople!

So many effects created these days are pipe dreams and really aren’t suited to the pro who cranks out 200+ shows a year. This one is really a worker within reach of any pro.

What I like about this is the amount of detail available to the working pro – things like transporting the real eggs, how to make your own egg “sticker” a la the Viking stickers, blocking, and most importantly, how the easygoing, fun script suitably conditions the onstage volunteer to cooperate with you…without becoming a stooge! That’s another key point – there are no instant stooge aspects to this, as the volunteer will be just as amazed as everyone else.

It’s not often that a new twist on a classic effect comes along that truly advances the original effect and this truly is the rare exception – you’ve got all of the benefits of the classic silk to egg with the fun interaction of an onstage volunteer (most other handlings are solo effects with the performer alone onstage) melded with an unbelievable twist ending.

This, along with Shoe Business, goes on my short list of best effects of 2011. It’s an instant classic and comes with my highest recommendation. A 10 out of 10.

NEXT WEEK: Timmy Toilet Paper by Tom Burgoon.

Questions? Review requests? Contact me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net

Best,

Cris Johnson

So Sick

Hi all,

As you can tell by the headline, my health has once again failed me. The stress of my travel schedule coupled with the stress of opening the salon and starting my hypno-biz means my body has given up again. I’m pumped up full of antibiotics and just trying to get through the days as I continue to be very busy with shows. I’ll be back next week for a review, probably when I’m holed up in TX traveling for shows. Thanks for your understanding. Stay tuned…

Cris

The Home Stretch and REVIEW: Stretching The Truth

Hi all,

Today is May 4th and my wife Libby is scrambling toward the finish line, graduating from college on May 14th, after three years of hell. I say “hell” because in many of her classes, her teachers showed unabashed favoritism, poor teaching techniques, ambiguous instructions and much more. She’s got a pile of projects as teachers keep it up right until two days from graduation.

My beef isn’t the work, but the fact that in class after class, the skills and techniques she was to learn (web building classes) were largely left undone – in class after class, teachers did not get around to finishing the material they were supposed to teach, leaving Libby with an incomplete education.

Argh!

Oh well, onto this week’s review: Stretching The Truth by Tim Gabrielson and Jim Flagg. It’s available for $295 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=9594

EFFECT: You and a randomly chosen audience member will entertain the crowd with an hysterical 7 minute comedy mind reading effect, where you will be attempting to draw a picture of the “volunteers” chosen animal cracker.

You and the audience seem to be one step ahead of the “volunteer” on stage due to you finishing the silly drawing of their animal on the comedy off beat, so only the audience can see and not the “volunteer” on stage.

However, in the end you will completely amaze everyone when the last animal drawn visually changes on paper before their eyes into the correct animal. This drawing is then torn out and handed to the “volunteer” to keep, with an astounding gasp from the audience.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A thorough DVD that explains the handling of the routine and construction of the gimmicked pad and gimmicked cookie container.

You also receive a script, two sketchpads, tape, an exacto knife, two boxes of animal cookies, a piece of metal, a portfolio, and a lot more stuff that’s too much to list.

QUALITY OF STUFF: Most of it is basic stuff from an art supply store or an office supply store, so the quality is good but not earthshattering.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Tim & Jim do a good job of explaining how to construct the gimmick, using multiple camera views to get a close up of something during the construction process. It’s not perfect, though, as there are times when the camera was on a long shot and you don’t get the best shot for something or, maddeningly enough, the camera would dissolve to a new shot just as Tim did something crucial….or, my biggest beef yet, Tim would hold up something and say, “Do this” and then they’d have a not-so-great shot of what he was doing and he then would say, “You wind up with this.”

That kind of stuff REALLY annoyed me for reasons I’ll get into in a moment. Therefore, while the lighting was good and there were in fact multiple camera angles, the instruction was not perfect. Nevertheless, when I finished, my gimmick did in fact work perfectly. 7 out of 10 on the instructions…if you’re like me, you’ll need to re-watch things a few times.

QUALITY OF ROUTINE: If you’ve watched the demo video online, you know this routine is a variation on the classic Cardiographic or Sketchpad Card Rise by Martin Lewis. Lewis is in fact “thanked” at the end of the DVD, which I guess qualifies as crediting.

MY THOUGHTS: First of all, I have to say the original Sketchpad Card Rise instilled in me an amazing feeling of magic when I saw Copperfield do it on one of his TV specials 20 or so years ago. I LOVE the effect, but the problem with it in recent years is the fact that it’s so easy to get and perform. If you buy a marketed version, pre-built, it’s around $100, which is cheap for a 5 minute stage effect, or even cheaper if you build your own after watching Lewis’ wonderful “Making Magic” video.

I myself used Lewis’ effect in my night time Family Night school show for many years, but I dropped it 6 years ago as it got to the point where I’d get into the effect and you could hear the mutterings of people in the audience who had seen it before.

I’m not against the classics of magic, but the Sketchpad was so overused and when everyone knows the outcome of this kind of effect, well, many modern audiences don’t have the patience for it. (Oh sure, it’s all in the presentation and the journey, but still…)

So that brings me to Stretching The Truth and my desire to do a similar effect, but with a twist.

First of all, I love the routine. It’s funny and surprising with the classic “Magician in Trouble” plot that is resolved wonderfully. Although the package comes with a written script, honestly, if you’ve watched the demo online, you’ve seen the high points. The fact that you’re using animal cookies for a humourous “mind reading” experiment is novel and cute.

Now, as much as I like this and as functional as my gimmick is after building it, i have to add that I HATE HATE HATE building my own props. It’s just not me. Argh!

I actually put off buying this thing for two years as I was hoping a pre-built version would be released. Nevertheless, my fears were unfounded, as after 3 hours, I had a terrific prop that will serve me well.

There’s been some questioning online about how long it takes to build. Some say one hour….me, it took three hours. Bear in mind, I’m an absolute doofus when it comes to building props and is usually something I avoid at all costs, so if I can do it, just about anyone can.

My advice: worry less about the time it takes to build and concentrate on making the prop the best you can….if I found my attention wandering, I’d walk away and take a break, so it was probably really only two hours…maybe.:)

ANGLES: The angles on this are actually better than the Sketchpad Card Rise because of a neat little addition Tim has made which will help your side angles a bit. It’s this addition and a few others that really show this baby has been ironed out in the real world.

MARKET: I’m putting this in my for-all-ages-family show, but I can also see this appealing to adult shows because of the comedy and the mind reading premise.

VALUE FOR THE PRICE: It’s a good value in terms of the structure of the routine, the instruction coming to the gimmicks and the little details when it comes to ironing out the kinks of the performance, but in terms of physical stuff, I’d say no….the value of this is the intellectual property and not the physical stuff you get.

OVERALL RATING: This is a good product. I’m not thrilled with the building aspect, and I would have gladly paid a hundred or more extra dollars to get a pre-built one, but it’s a great routine. I’ll give it an 8 out of 10…great routine.

NEXT WEEK: Cody Fisher’s Silk2Egg

Questions? Comments? Sign up for the Cause & Effects ezine? Email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net

Best,

Cris Johnson