Monthly archives for July, 2011

Murder By Magic Q & A and REVIEW: Facelifter by Andrew Mayne

Hi All,

First off,THANK YOU for those of you who have purchased my Murder By Magic: The ULTIMATE Corporate Magic Show course! This has been an incredible winner for me and has allowed me to book gigs I normally would have a tough time selling against other, more established, corporate performers.

I’ve received some questions about Murder By Magic, so I thought I’d address a few of them this week, to give those of you more info to consider so you can choose whether or not to take advantage of the $200 discount that’s going on til August 11, when the price jumps from $795 to $995.

Here we go…

QUESTION: “How much do I have to invest in new props?”

ANSWER: “The real answer is, depending on what routines you already have in your set lists, maybe NO money! I have several effects just for the Murder By Magic show. One custom prop by Nick Wenger cost me about $1000, but it was a CUSTOM job and when I fly to a gig for Murder By Magic (quite often, to tell the truth) I can’t bring it – TSA would kill it – so I most often use an effect that fits in my pocket. That being said, Nick’s prop is amazing and I use it WHENEVER I can…and I tip the workings in the book.

The reality is I designed the show for me and since I travel a lot, most of the entire show will fit in a briefcase as I perform it. Of the version I perform most often, only 1 of the effects would not fit into a briefcase or something of a similar (slightly larger) size.

I’d be willing to bet if you had to invest ANY money into the show, it would be less than $100. Many of the effects are mentalism-based and quite small. Most of the effects could be found in books and/or DVDs most magicians may have. Of course, there are a few “larger/pricier” options that I enjoy performing, but affordable options abound and most play just as well – if not better – than my version.

QUESTION: “How long is the show, and can I make it longer/shorter?”

ANSWER: “The show, for me, runs 50-60 minutes. Again, I designed it for my own corporate work. Most of my clients want either a 45 or 60 minute show. I time it out at between 50-60 minutes as I have found it works best for me. However, the structure of the show is such that a longer or shorter show is a snap. In the book of alternate routine suggestions, I give the buyer an additional batch of routines that would EASILY enable you to stretch the show to 90 minutes, if you wanted to do a full evening show. I’ve done it and while I feel a good corporate show (after dinner, awards, holidays, etc) is best at that 50-60 minute mark, you may feel differently.”

QUESTION: “Can this be adapted for other markets?”

ANSWER: “Yes, in fact, I’ve done Murder By Magic for high school groups and hotel/restaurant owners looking to draw more of a crowd on certain nights. It’s unique and not as intimidating-sounding as a hypnosis show or a (potentially) dirty comedian.

QUESTION: “Are there any restrictions about where I can do this program?”

ANSWER: “The answer is NO – no restrictions at all…although if a buyer were to perform this at a magic convention, I would immediately label the person as not too bright, as the presentation of this is everything and doing it at a magic convention would be like just GIVING it away.:)”

QUESTION: “Are there any costumes?”

ANSWER: “Not unless you want to. I wear my normal “business casual” attire of black slacks, dress t-shirt and jacket, but that’s just me. If you want to play a ‘character’ and/or wear a costume, you certainly may, but if you’re worried about it, no, nothing like that in the Murder by Magic program as I perform it.”

QUESTION: “Do I have to ‘set up’ anything with people before the show?”

ANSWER: “Not at all. When I perform for adults, I perform ‘cold,’ that is, when I walk out to do the show, the only person I’ve spoken to very often is the person who hired me. The ideal situation is when NO ONE knows what form of entertainment is going to take place. NOTHING needs to be ‘set up’ before the show with anyone – no ‘pre-show,’ no assigning roles, nothing.”

Still more questions: Here’s the link for murder By Magic: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=18369

Still MORE questions? Email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

On to this week’s review…It’s Facelifter by Andrew Mayne. It’s available for $13.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link:

QUICK NOTE: I’ve received a LOT of new stuff….in the coming weeks, I will be reviewing the following:

Slingshot
Portable Phantasm Pro II
Frozen Glow
Freefall
Fish In A Bottle
Lethal by Bobby motta

That being said, I have not had time to work on or test these products, so I decided to go ‘into the vault’ and review an older product. Mayne’s Freefall DVD came in the mail today, so he’s on my mind.

Facelifter EFFECT: The magician, at any point in his show, picks up a n old beat-up card board box. He places it upside-down over his head, and proceeds to rip open a hole in the front so that his face is visible. He then lifts the box a full foot above his shoulders, stretching his neck to an impossible length! Next, he twists his head a full 360 degrees and back again. Finally, he removes his head entirely and then replaces it! Unreal!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A fully illustrated booklet detailing the effect, building of the prop and more.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Mayne is a pretty good teacher and writer and the photos and illustrations in the booklet are quite clear. Good work here.

DIFFICULTY IN BUILDING THE PROP: As long-time readers of my blog may remember, I HATE building props. That being said, the time in my life when I was working on this effect was several years ago when I really did not have the money for really decent props. I found the building of the basic box quite simple. The rest of the gimmicks were a little tougher, especially the face, as getting the “face” to look right without distorted features was a little tougher. Still, we’re not talking about a hard build here. If I can do it, anyone can do it.

DIFFICULTY IN PERFORMANCE: Essentially, the basic performance involves you putting a box on your head. Obviously, the actual performance is more nuanced than that, but we are not talking about a difficult effect – a 1 in terms of difficulty, but as you’ll see below, there’s a more intangible difficulty that proves (at least for me) quite difficult to overcome.

MY THOUGHTS: I’ve bought a fair amount of Andrew Mayne stuff over the years and none of it has made it into my “A” performance set list of any kind (corp, kids, etc.) This was one of the first things of his I bought and I really wanted it to work…I guess I was going through my “street magic craze,” and wanted to be the ‘cool guy’ instead of myself.

I really feel that a cardboard box really needs a storyline or some hook as to WHY you’e using a box. In most cases, in the environments I perform, a cardboard box is going to scream “cheap” to my audiences. Obviously there are exceptions, such as Peter Loughran’s Gremlins in a Box, in which a cardboard box adds to the charm/realism/story of the effect, but in this case, Mayne notes this effect is intended to be a quick effect to be done rapidly, without giving the audience a chance to digest the effect. By saying this, to me, he’s kind of letting the cat out of the bag. To me, he’s saying, “Do the effect quick, so no one catches on to what you’re doing.” It’s almost an admission of a low-quality effect.

Also, Mayne has released so many “Make a cardboard and/or cheap version of a classic illusion” type products that I really wonder…is he really filling his stage with a bunch of cardboard box tricks (like his truly dreadful Voodoo Box) or are his products intended as a way to just put one such illusion in a show? I wonder indeed.

With all that in mind, I have to credit him for clever thinking and clear, complete instructions. Unfortunately, the handful of times I performed it, the effect sat there like a lead balloon. Some people even asked me after the show, “What were you supposed to do with the box?” In other words, the effect did not register as ‘magic’ (even BAD magic at all). Still, each of us is unique as a performer, so maybe your luck would be better than mine.

MY RATING: 4 out of 10.

NEXT WEEK: Richard Griffin’s new Slingshot effect!

Questions? Comments? Email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Best,

Cris

BIG NEWS: Murder By Magic is Shipping! And REVIEW: Four Told by Devin Knight

Yes, it’s true – ALL pre-orders for Murder By Magic have shipped! I know the original Pre-Release Special said the deadline was August 11, but I wanted to beat that deadline and get them out BEFORE August because my August turned out to be a lot busier than I thought…and I’m performing a ton of Murder By Magic shows next month in Ohio, Missouri, Quebec and New York! (No joke – corporate groups book year round!)

If you still order before August 11, we will STILL honor the Pre-Release Special of $795, which is a $200 savings…once August 11, hits, the price jumps to $995 and after that, I may pull the product all together before the end of the year. That’s not hype – I make a lot of money doing this show and did not want to flood the market.

If you want details on “Murder By Magic: The ULTIMATE Corporate Magic Show,” follow this link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=18369

I know many people shy away from pre-releases because the product is often delayed, but I really wanted to beat the dealine.:)

Any questions about this, email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

On to this week’s review: Four Told by Devin Knight. It’s available for $35.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=18295

EFFECT: The performer shows a chart consisting of five colored ESP symbols. He invites four people to participate. Each participant is asked to just think of an ESP symbol shown on the chart. The participants write nothing down, they just think of a symbol. There are no restrictions. Each person could be thinking of a different symbol, or they all could be thinking of the same symbol. They do not share their thoughts with each other. The performer begins to get impressions and calls out three symbols. He says, “If I have called out the symbol you are thinking of, please close your eyes and draw the symbol in your mind.”

The performer then tells the participants to open their eyes and clear their minds. He then asks them to concentrate on the colors of their symbols. The performer then begins to call out colors he is getting strong impressions of. He says, “If I have called out the color you are thinking of, please close your eyes and visualize it in your mind.”

The performer does not ask any questions. The participants say nothing; they just close their eyes and think. The performer takes an ESP deck and hands each participant a face-down card. Only after each person is given a face-down card does the performer ask the participants to reveal their thought-of symbols. Amazingly, when the face-down ESP cards are shown, they match each participant’s thought-of symbol.

For a stunning climax, the performer points to several people in the audience and asks if they were also thinking of a symbol. With no questions or fishing, the performer then reveals the symbols just thought of by members of the audience.

All this is done without any pre-show work of any kind!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A specially designed 8 x 11 sturdy card with colored ESP symbols on it and detailed written instructions outlining several ways of accomplishing this effect.

QUALITY OF MATERIALS & INSTRUCTION: The colored ESP card is made of a special material that’s designed to last, so it’s very nicely built. Also, the layout and the colors of the 5 symbols themselves are designed to assist in the effect. The written instructions are very detailed and written in a way that’s easily understood. The instructions are simple black & white text with some illustrations/charts (you’ll understand when you get it) that’s simply stapled together.

I’ve made public my preference for DVD instructions, but that’s only because so many creators of routines do such a bad job writing them up. Honestly, if every routine was this well written, I’d enjoy reading more routines. Top notch!

MY THOUGHTS: Since this is a mentalism effect, alot of the handling details get thrown aside because there is zero sleight of hand with this routine. You do have to “keep track” of a few things in your mind, but honestly, it’s all very easy and Devin encourages you to have a pad or slate to “write your impressions” til you get the hang of it and maybe even after.

That means once you understand the principles at work here, you’ve got a fantastic effect that you can do while concentrating on your presentation.

A minor quibble is not having an ESP deck supplied with the trick but I’m not going to take any points off. Maybe most mentalists already have one, beats me.:)

One thing I want to make perfectly clear is this: The ad copy is 100% true in my book – NOTHING is written down and no one (other than you) says anything out loud. It’s unbelievable how strong this is!

Avoiding hyperbole in magic ads is often tough as how far do creators push things in order to sell their effects yet not reveal the secrets? Knight has walked the line beautifully.

I will say that experienced mentalists reading the ad copy will immediately jump to a classic principle used most often with a deck of cards and while they would be partially right, that’s only a teeny-tiny part of the secret. For me, most of the work was brand new because it’s all non-verbal and it just friedme watching the video on Youtube.

This is cutting edge stuff and Knight is quick to point out other effects that used similar/same principles, but again, this is STRONG.

This review will be shorter than most because there’s not a lot I can really talk about in this review without tipping anything but I feel that’s OK because Knight does a thorough (and honest) job outlining the effect in the ad copy. Brilliant.

The best part is all the variations he teaches, allowing you to use the “handling” (again, mental) that appeals most to you and your comfort level and/or skill set in terms of performing.

MY RATING: This is on my short list of best new effects I’ve seen this year, and is SO good I’m thinking about adding it to my Murder By magic show lineup, which is the highest praise I can give a mentalism effect as it takes a LOT to crack the “starting Lineup” of that show. 10 out of 10.

Questions? Concerns? Requests? Email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net

Best,

Cris Johnson

Outlaw Magic and REVIEW: Principles of Mentalism

Hey everyone,

Wow, what a week! I’ve had much better than expected response to my Pre-Release Sale of my Murder By Magic: The ULTIMATE Corporate Magic Show package! The good news is things are progressing very nicely and I will probably have the package ready to go before the end of this month, meaning I should beat my deadline by nearly two weeks! (Don’t worry, though, as I will still keep the sale price in place til August 11.)

That’s the good news…bad news is this week’s blog will be shorter than normal as I am so swamped with hypnosis work, the Murder package, and of course performing.

Before I get to the review, though, I want to mention an unbelievable item I just received from Outlaw Magic called Re-Animator! It’s a perfect “spooky” prop that looks like an ancient, creaky old machine in which you supposedly bring back to life a dead animal…only briefly.

The prop takes quite a while to build, and not realizing how much work goes into it, I was pretty rough on Rick from Outlaw, badgering him rudely constantly, but I have to say he always responded promptly to all my emails and the product is worth far more than the asking price.

Here’s a link if you’re into the Bizarre side of magic: http://www.outlaw-effects.com/store/golden-gun/re-animator.html

Now onto this week’s review…Principles of Mentalism by Richard Osterlind. It’s available for $25.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=15118

WHAT YOU GET: A well-produced booklet that outlines Osterlind’s views on the performance of mentalism as well as ways to make your performances stand out.

QUALITY: The book is nicely type set with a lovely full color soft color.

MY THOUGHTS: I’ll say it right up front – this booklet should be in the library of every mentalist. This book does not offer a single new effect, but it’s one of the best books on the subject I’ve ever read.

Osterlind has always been one of my favorite mentalists in terms of what is taught. After reading this book, I certainly have even more respect for him. I may not necessarily agree with everything he writes, but the fact that he cares so deeply about his craft makes what he thinks worth study.

Some of the things I agree with include his thoughts on the Power of the Silent Script. In a nutshell, he talks about having a silent script in mind, which in a way is related to the Method style of acting, in which you get your mindset into the idea that what you are portaying is real. To take Osterlind’s idea further, the silent script is not even something that you need to make the audience aware of…kind of like the actor’s technique of coming up with a backstory for his/her character in detailing things that the audience may never hear of.

The advantage of this is that you on some level become an actor, giving more substance to your performances. It’s thought-provoking stuff, to be sure.

Osterlind also talks extensively about the levels of ability. To me, this is one of the foundational cores of a great mentalism show. Essentially, this boils down to starting off slow in terms of “unbelievability” and working your way up. To use real effect examples, this could mean starting off a show with something like a Magic Square, which people can actually learn to do legitimately, placing it in a believable category in terms of what ‘could’ be possible and eventually working your way up to a Confabulation-style prediction…obviously a much more “unbelievable” style of effect.

To relate this to the movies, if you start off with the big robots fighting right off the bat in Transformers, you’ve got nowhere to go in terms of building intensity and interest as the movie progresses. (Of course, for some reason, the writers thought that the best solution to this in Transformers 3 was to fill the first hour of the movie of long, boring sequences of Sam Witwicky searching for a job. Unreal.)

Osterlind shares his views on the use of technology (read: electronics, such as Taste by Bobby Motta). Osterlind seems to come down harshly on such things, as many traditional mentalists do, but if you read between the lines on what he’s writing, I think what he is really recommending to the reader is a caution against jumping onto the latest fad…and one of his examples is the endless variations of the Russian Roulette-stab-kind of effect.

There are, of course, things I did not agree with, such as his views of showing fatigue after a seemingly taxing effect. It’s a nice view and a nice thought, but I firmly believe things like this should be avoided unless you’ve got the acting chops.

I only feel this way because I’ve seen way too many DVDs by respected mentalists trying to “act” as though they are struggling to receive impressions and much of it as laughable, in my eyes, even from very respected workers. I’m not saying NOT to do such things, but merely suggesting that one should not exceed one’s own acting ability.

Nevertheless, even though I don’t agree with everything, the fact that I think about it and consider my own work more deeply shows the positive effect the book has had on my own work.

There’s so much great food for thought in this book and I feel it’s one of those books that if you are serious about mentalism, you MUST buy this…all of this without a single effect!

RATING: 10 out of 10. How could it be otherwise?

NEXT WEEK: The new Four Told effect by Devin Knight

Questions? Email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net

Best,

Cris

New Product Release and REVIEW: John Archer’s Further Education DVD Set

Hello all,

I’ll get to my usual opening rambling, so to speak, at the end of the review, because it’s going to be long, so right now, let’s get right into the review…

This week’s review is Further Education DVD set by John Archer. It’s available for $44.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link:

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: This is a two-DVD set, so here’s the DVD desriptions:

The Further Education Stand Up Show:

Blank Night: John’s extremely clean version of the “bank night” plot is a super-charged routine that is jam-packed with perfect in-built comedy, audience participation and a plot packs in plenty of entertainment value for an opening routine! Something, nothing, mine, yours or… sex?!

De-Ja-Tu: A girl is thinking of a card and a man is invited to deal freely through a shuffled deck of cards. Amidst a cavalcade of comedy, the couple end up with a coincidence that is as baffling as it is entertaining; in short, a brilliant two-person mind reading effect that appears to happen between the minds of the spectators.

One Lucky Number: Serial divination given the Archer treatment! Imagine taking a usually smaller effect and turning it into a full stand-up performance piece! Think serial number, burnt & restored note and signed note in wallet; all rolled into one mega, magical extravaganza!

Soundbox: A hilarious routine in which you gamble everything on a simple game of choice! One box, one lock, five keys and tonnes of entertainment! A well-constructed presentation and excellent method make this a logical, funny and baffling lock and key routine. Bet everything you have on the power of your auditory sense!

Comedy Killer: A brilliant new routine based around a very funny presentation about learning to become a mind reader – your audience will become engaged in your studies with Professor Hoffmann when honing your ESP abilities, before they themselves get the chance to test their own. One envelope, one choice and one stunning climax!

Starstruck: Stars of Stage & Screen are the theme for this popular item from John’s act. A real lesson in how small props can be used to play a much larger routine that is clean and direct mindreading at its very best. A simple plot that can open up a string of revelations that will give your spectator the feeling you are really reading their thoughts.

Stick with It: Multiple audience participation; several random numbers, one prediction and a stunning kicker that will knock their socks off! A multiple number routine like none you have ever seen before. No gimmicked notepads required, this is a really organic approach to the add-a-number plot using a small number of items to create a routine large enough to fill an entire stage.

Streetwise: John’s brilliant book-test that uses remote viewing as a premise, a street map for a prop and a series of revelations with different audience members; this is destined to become a classic and combines all the best elements of the best book test routines to take your audience on the ultimate mental journey! Please note that although the prop is explained in full, the book itself is not provided and needs to be purchased separately.

BONUS: John’s Professional Close Up “Set” Performed & Explained:

Just for You” & “52 Leaver: A two-person effect that is IDEAL for the walkabout performer and is one that combined mentalism, playing cards and a very special trick for “YOU.” This is a professional “set” that is perfect for the strolling performer that wants to present powerful close-up mentalism in a commercial environment. It has all the best elements of a memorable close-up set, it will keep them talking long after you move on and best of all… it is ready for you to learn and add to your repertoire immediately.

WHAT YOU GET: The first disk is the show while the second is the explanations, like many disks. The show itself is in front of what looks like an audience of around 100 people, performed from start to finish, so you get to see John transition from routine to routine.

The second DVD is John, either by himself or with Peter Nardi, as he/they explain and discuss the routines.

QUALITY OF DVDs: I own John Archer’s other two DVD releases (Educating Archer and Blindfold Tips) and I felt the lighting in this third release was not quite up to snuff as the first two releases, but that’s a minor quibble. John is well-miced both for the show and the explanations, so everything is easily understood and enjoyed.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: There are two sides to this…first of all, John explains everything in extreme detail so viewers understand EVERYTHING well….not quite everything, more on that in a bit…

So, instruction is great, but what about John’s sense of humor? I’m pleased to report that his sense of humor is on full display here, as John riffs on Nardi, people who buy magic DVDs and so much more. Honestly, John is so quick with his wit that each time I watch the DVDs, I catch a new gag or random aside that sends me laughing hysterically. In many ways, I’d almost say Archer is magic’s version of Robin Williams – brilliantly funny and oh-so-quick with a joke.

He’s also refreshingly honest, as he admits his Burned Bill routine was not up to his usual standard at the taping. (He explains why and it’s a good reason.)Don’t worry, despite the missteps, it’s still a good routine.

QUALITY OF MATERIAL: John performs a lot of great stuff. Honestly, the very first effect, Blank Night, is worth the price of the DVD set. John’s routine is very enjoyable, but the ‘secret’ is incredible. This is the effect that “Fooled Penn & Teller” and I was so happy for John when it happened.

In short, this version of bank night allows the bills to be pulled out of a large envelope….unfolded. It’s clean, fair and looks incredible. If it fooled Penn & Teller, it will fool your audiences. Probably the BEST working of this classic plot that I’ve ever seen…and I’ve researched tons of great methods before settling on the one that I have used for 8 years…though now I have to learn John’s!

Other stand outs, for me, were his presentational solution for the 7 Keys to Baldpate. So many performers kill the key selection process, causing the pace of their show to come to a GRINDING halt where the keys are selected, tried in the lock, etc. John’s routine is solid and entertaining, with some nice twists from other presentations. Unfortunately, he does not tip the workings of his lock, as it’s a marketed item, but he does tell you where to get it. Really, though, the routine is worth it.

I also liked his card effect where it was a “mind reading between two spectators” kind of plot. THIS was STRONG, and since this concept, two spectators having the mind reading seemingly occur between them, is one of my favorite plot devices in mentalism. I’m definitely doing this.

I felt his booktest was very good, and while he did not tip the workings, (It’s his own, which he’s releasing) I was OK with it simply because there are a zillion good book tests out there, so I simply enjoyed the presentation, John’s pacing, etc.

Another standout was his providing anew method to his routine, Comedy Killer. In the first Archer DVD set, John provides a hilarious and brilliant routine for Kenton Knepper’s classic Kollossal Killer (sp?) which used Kenton’s special wallet. This method uses NO special wallet and is more appropriate for stage. Good stuff.

John’s closeup set was also very strong, as it was a true worker’s set, in that it could be done anywhere, and only ran around 5-7 minutes long. Honestly, in most corporate strolling situations, most people will only watch 5-7 minutes of good magic.

The other offerings on the set were good, but did not captivate me like the ones I mentioned specifically did. It’s all good stuff, so this set is severely underpriced in my view, so get ready to get practicing, which brings me to…

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY: None of Archer’s stage material is very difficult from a technical standpoint, with effects ranging from 1 to maybe 3 in terms of difficulty. The closeup stuff, for me, was a tad more challenging, so I’d put that stuff at maybe a 4 or 5. Well within reach, but more technical finesse is necessary.

OVERALL RATING: Are you kidding? BUY this set! The tricks are great (especially Blank Night) but the true value is watching John perform, learning from his timing, his pacing and so much more. A true inspiration. 10 out of 10.

Now, I’m proud to announce a pre-release special on a new product I’m putting out there, and if you order it BEFORE AUGUST 11, 2011, you can save $200!! Paul did not get a chance to get it up on the main Hocus Pocus website yet, so I’m going to paste the ad copy below. Check it out and if you have any questions, let me know – email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. As I said, the actual ad should be up at Hocus Pocus next week, but for right now, check this out below and I’ll be back with a new review.

+++++++++++++

I’ll let you in on a secret: magicians LOVE the corporate market.

Okay, maybe it’s not much of a secret after all, but it’s easy to see why the corporate market is so appealing to magicians. Here are just a few reasons:

• The fees can be really good

• Because you’re performing for adults, your themes, plots and scripting can be much more sophisticated than for kids’ shows, meaning a more rewarding experience for you, the performer!

• Many corporate banquet / convention events are large affairs, enabling aspiring stage magicians to haul out their really neat effects

• Unlike some markets, corporate groups have events all year long!

• The fees can be REALLY good

• Corporate magic shows offer performers a great deal of opportunity for creativity

Let’s talk about that last point for an instant: creativity. I’ve been performing corporate magic programs for audiences all across North America for the last 15 years and I can assure you that many corporate groups have seen it all. I’ve heard audiences say, “Oh, the magician we had last year did that” far too many times in recent years. True, classics in magic and mentalism are classics for a reason, but presentation is key…more on this later.

There are a couple of solutions to this.

First, the enterprising magician can create completely new effects with totally original scripting. In an ideal world, this is a great solution, but creating an entire show from scratch with effects that NO ONE has ever seen before is quite a challenge!

The second solution is to take great effects that are proven audience-pleasers and structure them into the framework of an incredibly unique script that alters the audiences’ perceptions of what they are seeing from a simple ‘magic show’ to live theater!

I’m Cris Johnson, writer of the weekly Hocus Pocus Trick Talk blog and while I’ve made it clear that school programs are my favorite shows for the last decade, I’ve been doing corporate shows consistently even longer. Also, in the USA, I can count on roughly 7-8 months of solid work from the school market (with summer months, spring break, holidays and especially weekends all eating into my potential booking calendar)…leaving roughly 4 months out of the year that I need to fill. Happily, many corporate events take place on weekends, when school is not in session!

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The Power Of Themed Programs
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If you’ve followed the teachings of Max Maven, Eugene Burger and other wonderful magic philosophers, you already know the power of framing your effects, that is, giving an individual effect a ‘hook’ or reason for being, something other than mere exposition: “Now I’m going to cut the rope…Now I will hold the ends of the rope…” Ugh!

Framing individual effects is highly effective in terms of increasing the involvement of your audience. Taking this idea to the next level, the professional performer can appreciate the value of adding a thematic element to the entire show (in the corporate world, most clients expect a 30, 45 or 60 minute performance for a typical “after dinner” event.).

In his “Nothing” DVDs, Max Maven talked extensively about a unifying theme to a series of effects that built upon each other. Max’s theme for the “Nothing” show was more subtle. In my case, I’ve structured my banquet corporate show around an incredibly commercial theme…

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Introducing…Murder By Magic!
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If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a ‘murder mystery,’ I’ll give you the thumbnail description: Typically, a group of 3 to 6 improvisational actors assume certain roles in an after-dinner event and they incorporate the audience in ways to help move the plot along, discover clues, and eventually find out, literally, ‘whodunit!’ Hotels and resorts often turn the concept into an entire weekend of interactive entertainment.

I LOVED the idea and eventually set about crafting a one-man murder mystery combined with magic, mentalism, comedy and music!

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The Plot
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In “Murder By Magic,” there is a murder, an investigation, the revelation of the murderer and most surprisingly, a fantastic ‘plot twist’ that NO ONE will see coming! The show is very funny, interactive and unique. The way volunteers are selected is different and even the show introduction itself sets the mood instantly and gets big laughs.

Attendees at the show wind up assuming different rols, such as a chief of police, the coroner, and even the murderer!

Critical KEY points:

• No “acting” is required of ANY of the guests

• There is NO “pre-show” of ANY kind in my version of the show

• You will NOT need to “set anything up” with ANYBODY before the show starts. (In other words, there’s no “Okay, I want you to play along…” NONE of that!)

• You can walk in ‘cold’ and do this for any audience, even if the audience has NO idea of what kind of performance they are going to see

• There is NO pre-show of ANY kind in my version of the show

• There is no “blood” or ANYTHING offensive in the show. (Corporate event planners DEMAND clean, appropriate shows!!)

• There are no “costumes” for anyone to wear in my version of the show

• When you start the show, even YOU do not know who the murderer will be! (This is FUN!!!!)

• By the way, there is NO pre-show or “meeting with anyone to set up the plot or characters of the show” beforehand. (Just in case I was unclear!) There IS physically setting up the show equipment for the performance of course, but no setting anything up with your client, attendees, nothing!

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Why This Show ROCKS
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The advantage of this is that unlike a traditional magic or mentalism show, there is an actual STORY going on, one the audience can easily follow. Event planners who hire me INSTANTLY see the value of such a program and many of them hire me even after saying, “We had a magician last year and we don’t want to see another magic show.”

I’ll even let you in on a BIG secret: For several years, I’ve done Stage Hypnosis Shows (VERY popular with HR directors and meeting planners) for corporate clients and quite frankly, I don’t enjoy them because most of my corporate clients’ attendees at the shows are filled with people who do NOT want to be hypnotized, making my job difficult…so when talking with a prospective client, I then explain why “Murder By Magic” is such a better idea…and over 90% of clients inquiring about a hypnosis show make the switch to booking “Murder By Magic” instead…even if they already hired a magician last year!

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The Challenges of a One-Man Murder Mystery
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Since the concept of a one-man murder mystery was so unique, there were several challenges I had to solve to make the concept work in a corporate environment. The challenges included:

• How could I convey the plot while keeping ‘plot exposition’ to a minimum (in many instances, corporate event attendees have the same short attention span as kids!)

• Who was going to be the murderer?

• Who was going to be the victim?

• How would magic and mentalism help propel the plot?

• How interactive could it be?

• What ‘roles’ could audience members fill…WITHOUT acting on their part?

• What would MY role or ‘character’ be?

• How would I sell this to clients?

• How could I incorporate music into the show?

• What will the ‘look’ of the show be in terms of staging?

• How could I incorporate humor into the program?

• What effects would work the best in terms of the show structure?

• How could I make this work for groups of 20 or groups of 500?

Truthfully, there were a LOT of other considerations, but those were the ‘biggies!’ After almost three years of tweaking, scripting, hand-wringing and more, I’m proud to say that “Murder By Magic” truly is THE Ultimate Corporate Show!

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All The Hard Work Is Done For You
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I’ve taken all of my hard work, experimentation and more and put everything into several easy-to-use components to get you up and running in no time. Also, once you understand the workings of the show, it can be easily adapted to colleges and other venues. It was designed specifically for the corporate market and since that market is so challenging (venues, audience sizes, demographics and much more means the show HAS to be flexible to accommodate all the weird conditions you’ll encounter!)

COMPONENT #1: THE SCRIPT BOOK

I’ve transcribed every word of the script into the script manual. You get every joke, music suggestion and more to understand how the plot moves along. I will reveal my thoughts behind why I included certain lines of scripting, why I selected the effects that I did and much more.

I will also break down the structure of the script, why I went into certain directions, why the structure works, and just how easily you can alter the effects selection to fit into the framework of the show.

Additionally, I will include alternate effects that I initially used along with notes about why they are no longer in the show and more. In some cases, effects were pulled because they did not fit into the framework of the script, fit my character or fit the overall ‘look’ of the show and other times, I pulled an effect out simply because I found something else I liked better!

This means I will include ALL the effects I considered and/or tried for “Murder By Magic.” In most cases, these are marketed effects (meaning I cannot reveal the secrets) but once you understand what the “tie in” is to a certain effect, I will also give you alternate effects that you can slip into that spot in the show.

Quite frankly, I wound up developing different versions of “Murder By Magic” for small groups in people’s homes, larger versions for banquets of several hundred people and even a simple version that I can easily carry on a plane. There’s a “Murder By Magic” that uses LARGE effects, all the way down to a version that fits in a briefcase!

I will also tip the workings of a CUSTOM electronic prop I had built for me by magic builder/genius Nick Wenger, giving you the option of contacting Nick for one of your own!! It ain’t cheap, but it’s REALLY cool. (Of course, I also include the source for an alternate effect that you can slip in your pocket, which costs pennies, too.)

COMPONENT #2: THE SECRETS BOOK

As I mentioned earlier, most of the effects in “Murder By Magic” are either marketed effects or taught in respected books and/or DVDs. However, in two of the cases, I developed my own effects for the show including my version of a mentalism classic that I adapted specifically for this program and serves as the CLIMAX of the entire show as I frame it as an unforeseen major ‘plot twist’ in the narrative of the story!
Both of these effects together account for a total running time of 15 minutes…meaning a full 25% of the show is INSTANTLY yours.

I’ll tip the workings of BOTH here in this component. I’ll include copies of the artwork, why each works so well, and of course suggestions for alternate effects/handlings if you don’t like mine. (By the way, both pack flat and fit comfortably in a briefcase.)

COMPONENT #3: MARKETING

Of course, none of this is worth much if you don’t know how to sell it. In this third manual, I tip several marketing tools. You’ll receive the following:

• A copy of my own full-color flier you can include in a physical promotional package when you pitch your services to prospective buyers. Obviously, MY name won’t work for you, but you can benefit from my design!

• Phone sales secrets! What I say, how I phrase things, my overall approach and more. I’ll tip some sneaky Neuro-Linguistic Programming kinds of strategies to increase sales.

• A sneaky, incredibly EASY ‘add-on’ you can include in your proposal that essentially DOUBLES the perceived value of the show…best of all, I GUARANTEE you already have this ‘secret weapon’ right now…and it fits in your pocket!

• A handy ‘cut-n-paste’ email you can send to clients who request info via email. This email is L-O-O-N-N-G and very descriptive and sells the show very well. Many times, after reading this email, a client will call me and simply say, “How do we make out the check?” (I’m DEAD serious!)

• An advertising flier you can model and send to clients. (In some cases, a corporate client may be hosting an event in which they invite their own clients and they’ll be using the entertainment as a ‘draw’ to increase attendance. You’ll receive my full-color flier…along with my analysis of why it works so well.

• Detailed analysis of why all this stuff rocks!

COMPONENT #4: UNLIMITED SUPPORT

I know that over the years when I’ve bought a trick, prop or show-in-a-box such as this, I always have questions. In this case, because this product is so complex (a complete 50-60 minute show with marketing components), I fully expect you to have some questions. Additionally, this is truly “my baby” in terms of themed shows. Over the last 15 years, I’ve completely scripted and created 16 other theme shows for various markets and age groups and I feel this is the BEST script I’ve ever written.

All of this means that if anyone other than me is going to perform it, I want it done well! After purchasing the package, feel free to email me as many times as you like – no limits. Questions about how to incorporate a pet effect of yours? Just ask. Questions about marketing? Ditto.

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“Okay, Cris, This Sounds GREAT! How Much?”
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I’ve wrestled for years whether or not to ever release this. It’s such a unique concept for a one-man magic show that I really wanted to keep it for myself. Unfortunately, with the popularity of Youtube, the Internet in general and the less-than-honest- tendencies of some performers (I’ve had theme shows ripped off before. I know who did it and I’m still fighting some people on it), I decided that at least I want credit for this, so I’ve decided to let my baby go.

But what to charge…

On average, I earn about $1850 for a one hour performance of “Murder By Magic.” I’ve occasionally done shows in the $800 range 30 minutes or so away from my house for small groups of people. Quite often, I book the show for the healthy fee of $2495.

In fact, I recently booked the “Murder By Magic” show for the fee of $2495…and then a week later, someone from another company in the same city called me to tell me they had heard about the show from the first company…he then also booked it for the same fee!

Now I know that there are corporate magicians and mentalists out there who command a LOT more than that for a one hour show in the corporate market, but despite performing 250 shows per year (many of them in the corporate market), I have not fully immersed myself into the corporate market.

What this means is any corporate specialists out there can certainly use their skills to make a helluva lot more for one show than I currently do!

Because I don’t want everyone doing this show, I was going to charge a fee of $4995 and not include any marketing materials or support. I then decided to cut that in half, to $2495, because I could then in the advertising I could realistically say that the fee of the package could be recovered in ONE performance, as I have done several times.

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But You’re Not Going To Pay That Amount!
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After talking about it for a while with a few people in the business whom I trust, I finally settled upon a fee of $995, which is a steal when you see the reactions this program gets.

Let’s face it – many of us pay a LOT more than $995 for a single effect, and that single effect may run 30 seconds to 5 minutes in actual live performance time. For the same fee, I’m handing you a complete 50-60 show along with actual performance effects (with a total running time of 15 minutes or more), marketing materials and support to maximize the value of your investment.

Imagine yourself, making a ton of money in the corporate market…people smiling, laughing and applauding…and never having to worry about hearing, “Oh, we saw a magician just like you last year.”

For this investment, you will be forever perceived on a higher level by your clients because you won’t just be presenting a ‘magic show’…you’ll be delivered a comedic, interactive theatrical experience…the Ultimate Corporate Show!

Regular Price: $995.00

These will be ready to ship by August 11 (if not sooner) so as a pre-release special, you can take $200 off of this making your investment just $795.00…but only until August 11, 2011

Hypnosis Success & REVIEW: 21st Century by Oz Pearlman

What a week!

This is the time of year my business usually drops off, at least in terms of school shows, but I’ve been extremely fortunate to be doing hypnosis shows and more importantly, my clinical hypnosis (designed to keep me home more often) is shaping up as well. Two nights ago, I did a free hypnosis talk for 30 minutes at my chiropractor’s office and immediately booked 3 clinical sessions…off an audience of 6 people. Needless to say, I was delighted!

This month’s issue of my free ezine, “Cause & Effects,” will be a few days late as the recording of hypnosis CDs as well as my performance schedule have hindered my projects. Patience as it will be in soon…

Also, my next product will be announced very soon, probably in the next week or so. It’s going to be the full script of my one-of-a-kind corporate show. It will include scripting for all effects as the show has a complete plot and storyline. It’s not a simple unifying theme like what is talked about in the books but an actual plotline. This plays incredibly strong and clients are always super-excited about it. I make anywhere from $800 – $2500 when I perform this…hitting the $2500 mark more often than not. I know there are corporate guys who get fees much higher than that, but I’m simply not as agressive in the corporate market, so you may have more success.:)

This will NOT be a simple $30 book, either. This will be a detailed course on how to present this show with alternate trick selections if you decide to go the briefcase route or other variations if you go the ‘fill the stage’ route. It’s going to be priced high, but I will be doing a pre-release special where you can save a LOT by ordering early. Stay tuned…

Questions? crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net

This week’s review: Oz Pearlman’s 21st Century Phantom. It’s available for $29.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=9611

EFFECT: A spectator is given a choice of several dozen celebrities’ names on the back of business cards. She shows her selection to everyone else but not you. You take a blank business card, fold it, and using some small carry-around-with-you scissors, begin cutting, as though making a paper doll. Finally, once you finish cutting, the spectator names her selection and you unfold the cut-up card…it’s cut into the EXACT likeness of that celebrity!

WHAT YOU GET: A very well produced DVD. You also receive some celebrity patterns you can use to gimmick up your business cards for the revelations.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: First rate. Oz teaches the preparation of the props and the handling very well. There are closeups where there needs to be closeups and in particular, I felt the audio commentary option over the performances was a great touch and I’d love to see others use it in future DVD products. (Max Maven’s audio commentary in his “Nothing” show is awesome as well.

Lighting is good, though I don’t care for the ‘standing in front of a black background’ way of teaching in a DVD. It’s a personal taste and not a big deal to me, but I even prefer L & L’s early releases with the bad chromakey background.:)

DIFFICULTY: The angles for this effect are excellent. Although not completely angle proof, Oz teaches viewers how to ‘shield’ the workings if you’re surrounded. Also, the ‘working’ is fast and easy, so anything fishy is not ‘in play’ very long. The ‘moves’ are very simple, rating around a 2 or 3 only because coordinating the ‘moves’ with your physical blocking and scripting is beneficial to the deceptiveness of the effect. From a purely technical end, the moves are at most a 2 and probably a 1 in difficulty.

MARKET: I can see this playing for teens, college kids and adults. The real strength is the offbeat revelation – people are simply not expecting it. It’s visual, unique and makes for a helluva giveaway. I don’t think little kids would get as much out of this, but I could be wrong.

MY EXTENDED COMMENTS: All of the performances are in the real world – most of which are in corporate settings. The performances felt very ‘real’ to me, as I could sense the mood of the room. Corporate audiences are a strange breed of animal, as people in many events are smirking, skeptical, yet they act very much like overgrown kids, laughing and poking fun at their co-workers. If you go in with the wrong material, you’ll get eaten alive, but with the right material, corporate performing can be some of the most rewarding experiences of your entire career and it’s evident that Oz shines in this environment. He performs the effect at a brisk, confident pace without a ton of exposition in order to maintain interest.

Also, he goes into great detail about a fast way to instantly convert the cut up biz card (which is a bit flimsy) into an awesome souvenir that is durable and is a GREAT advertisement for your services. This is incredible and I was so impressed with this as it’s evident Oz is a working pro.

That’s all the good stuff. Not for the stuff I did not care for…

To do this effect, you must cut out the celebrity ‘cut outs’ on each biz card…though Oz teaches a simple way to do two cards at once, it’s still a lot of prep for an effect that, theoretically, you’ll be doing multiple times in an evening…and my opinion is, if you’re doing this for a corporate event, people WILL drag you over to another group and say, “Hey do thast for him!” (That happens to me all the time with my Perfect Corporate Opener. Ask me about it at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net)

So the prep’s a pain in the butt, from my end. Second, to do this as Oz does, with multiple outcomes as well as the way to convert the cut up card into the souvenir, you’ll be devoting MULTIPLE pockets to this effect. If you’re doing a formal closeup show, as people like Eugene Burger talk about, this is not an issue, but if you’re like me, you’re going from group to group and you can’t haul a suitcase of crap with you…it’s all in the pockets, so that’s a huge consideration.

Finally, you actually do real snipping and cutting with the scissors, meaninglittle bits of paper do collect on the floor. If you’re at a Holiday Banquet Room, for example, I think this will fly by unnoticed, but at some higher end black tie events or especially in a client’s home, I can see you getting the “raised eyebrow,” to paraphrase the great Alfred Hitchcock.

FINAL RATING: This is an awesome effect, albeit one I’m too lazy to prepare (LOL, just beig honest!) with some pocket considerations. I recommend it if the prep work does not throw you off. Also, if you’re working for an extremely LARGE crowd and only do one or two effects per group then pocket space is not as much of an issue. I give it 8 out 10 – very very good, but a few stumbling blocks to kep it from being a classic in my eyes. I don’t do a lot of strolling/closeup and therefore when I do it, in terms of prep I’m very lazy.:)

NEXT WEEK: JOhn Archer’s Further Education DVD set

QuestionS? Email me – crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net

Best,

Cris Johnson