Monthly archives for October, 2011

I Have Seen The Light and REVIEW: Look Sharp DVD

Hi Everyone,

Short blog this week as I’m swamped with shows and preparations for several clinical hypnosis sessions I will be conducting next month. I’m VERY excited about this chapter in my career. I also (just today) received word that I have passed another certification in hypnosis, this time of 5-PATH, which is very advanced and extremely beneficial for clients. Good times!

Before I get to this week’s review, I want to mention something that I just recently started performing….the Chair Suspension. For years, anybody who asked me my opinion about the Chair Suspension got a reply something like this: “Oh, that’s crap. Since one of the chairs does not move, no one will like it.”

I used a MAK Flying Carpet for years as a birthday guy, but the angles were horendous and kids would dive to the floor to try and look up the bottom of the carpet to see the secret. After that, I bought an X-type Suspension, which looked fantastic from stage but was a pain in the butt to transport and the angles were a little tender.

I recently bought a chair suspension mostly because of my brutal travel schedule. It’s an easier and lighter illusion to break down and transport and it takes less space. Still, I was worried…

Until TODAY – performed it four times to incredible reaction! I was never so glad to be so WRONG about this illusion. I’m just sorry I didn’t buy one years ago! As I understand it, there are several models to choose from. Hocus Pocus offers the Elite Chair Suspension, which, as I understand, is VERY well made and can handle more weight.

Since I was a “newbie” at Chairs Suspensions, I also bought an e-book devoted to this Chair Suspension from Paul Romhany’s friend Kyle Peron. His email is magic4u02@aol.com. The e-book walked me through the basics, safety, and presentation tips. It’s a good value.

Now, onto this week’s review: Look Sharp DVD (and gimmicks) by Wayne Goodman. It’s available for $29.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=18968

AD COPY: “Wayne Goodman has come up with an idea I can guarantee will be used by magicians world-wide. You would be mad not to carry this!”
- Peter Nardi

Wayne’s “Look Sharp” concept is simple but extremely ingenious. Imagine being able to turn a sharpie marker (something we all use) in to a chosen playing card, even in your spectators own hands. NOW THAT’S A REVELATION!

Wayne’s “Look Sharp” gimmick contains two revelations. One is the full card revelation and the other a very sneaky revelation built in to the design.

Can be performed as a standalone piece or part of a longer routine.
Makes a perfect ending for a multiple card selection routine.
Can even be performed with a signed card!
Ideal for any performing situation

Wayne Goodman’s Look Sharp comes complete with two custom printed Look Sharp cards, a PDF file to make your own Look Sharp Cards and an instructional DVD covering complete routines, bonus tips and handlings. *Supply your own Sharpie Marker**

Look Sharp is something you will really want in your arsenal.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A well-produced DVD and two gimmicks, (which I can openly talk about) and a PDF file which allows you to make your own gimmicks

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Wayne Goodman and Peter Nardi take an effect that could be explained on one sheet of paper anbd expand it, offer different presentations and expert ‘pro’ tips. It’s nice to see an effect get such detail from its creator. After watching this DVD, I have no doubt in my mind that Goodman really fine-tuned this effect for years working in the real world. It’s polished and it shows.

I’d also like to point out that often, magicians gripe about ‘one trick DVDs,” but personally, I enjoy a really good one trick DVD as often, the creator can go into more depth and really give you the professional touches that elevate a mere trick into an effect of magic. (Yes, I’m quoting Eugene Burger.)

QUALITY OF GIMMICKS: Although the PDF enclosure on the disk allows you to make your own gimmicks, I personally won’t be bothering. The supplied gimmicks are printed on Bicycle stock, so they hold up well and more importantly, from sa tactile sense, they feel good. Subconsciously (or consciously, depending on the person), people judge us on the quality of our props and while good props don’t “make the magician,” a crappy prop can sure de-value a performer in a hurry.

Nardi assures viewers that you can also order replacement gimmicks through Alakazam Magic, and while he admits they are kind of pricey, it’s good to know the option is there.

DIFFICULTY: Goodman & Nardi walk you through the basic sleights necessary to pull this off and offer plenty of different handling options. There is even a “sleight-less” option for those dexitery-challenged folks out there. I’m not much of a finger-flinger as I usually work from stage, so happily I was delighted to have this option.

Even the most challenging handlings are within reach of most magicians, as one handling involves tacking the Look Sharp effect onto the end of your favorite Ambitious Card routine. Admittedly, this was my least favorite handling as I find the Ambitious Card plot tedious and boring.

The handling for the Look Sharp effect is not really technical at all – as you might imagine, you’re simply switching a real sharpie for the gimmicked Look Sharp one and it comes down to confidence, timing, psychology and blocking – all of that none-sleight of hand stuff that really enhances a performance.

(SIDE NOTE: On the issue of timing, I discovered today that by adding a 3-second pause before an effect in my stage show, I was able to garner a much bigger reaction than the previous 6 years I did the effect.)

ANGLES: Since the effect of Look Sharp is that of a sharpie marker turning into the selected card, and the effect is built on timing of a switch, angles are not a consideration. That makes me very happy!

MY THOUGHTS: I have to admit, when Paul Gross told me he was sending me this effect, I was less than thrilled to review it. Close-up card work is just not my thing. I was much more interested in the other Alakazam recent release, Confab-SHOE-Lation. As it turns out, I actually like Look Sharp a great deal more…and after watching both DVDs, I think Peter Bardi does, too!

I haven’t much to my strolling set in many years but I think Look Sharp is going in this year, which is about the highest praise I can give it. I’ll give this a high grade of 9 out of 10. Highly recommended for close-up workers.

NEXT WEEK: Mes(s)merize

Best,

Cris

October Marches On and REVIEW: Confab-SHOE-Lation

Hi everyone,

Finally, a day off! If you’re reading this and you’re in the school market, you know that October is typically one of the busiest months of the year for the full-time school magician. I’m sooooooooooooo grateful to be so busy, but also sooooooooo whooped!

Last week’s schedule was insane – last Sunday drove 8 hrs to Maryland. Performed there for two days. Drove 3 hrs to Virginia. Performed there one day. Drove 10 hrs back home. Next morning, flew out to Missouri for a one hour corporate gig. Flew back home the same day. Next day, drove 3 hrs for two corporate gigs. Saturday – a night corp gig 30 min from home. Sunday – back on the road to New Jersey….Whew!

But I’m thankful for the work!!! Next week, I begin work on the November issue of Cause & Effects, the free ezine. To sign up, email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. On to this week’s review…

Confab-SHOE-Lation by Richard Bellars. It’s available for $39.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=19048

AD COPY: Richard has taken the confabulation plot to new heights of impossibility with their shoe reveal!

Richard has been performing Confab-Shoe-Lation in his stand-up act for well over a year and then decided it would be the ideal effect to fool Penn & Teller on national TV.

Richard is a real creative thinker and a full time worker so you know his stuff is going to be practical to use in the real world!

Effect

Imagine your spectators can name any 3 items (no force) and you have predicted them correctly in a note that you have kept safe in your shoe from the beginning of the show.

On this DVD Richard Bellars and Tom Swift (who is the co-creator of the effect) take you step by step through every aspect of the effect, including how to create the gimmick with your own shoe.

*Please note construction is required and you will need to gimmick your shoe to perform Confab-Shoe-Lation

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive a well-produced (for the most part) DVD that offers different presentations and ways to accomplish the effect. Tom Swift (co-creator) and Peter Nardi also join Bellars to discuss different aspects of the effect.

DIFFICULTY: Like many versions of Confabulation, there is usually a minimum of sleight of hand involved so therefore, the technical work is minimal. Pulling off a good Confab- style routine is more about presentation, buildup and (in some handlings) audience management. Like so many other effects in mentalism, this is not technically difficult.

ANGLES: Well, it’s going to be tough to talk about angles on this without mentioning that there are different versions of the effect, some of which are two-man versions and a one-man version. The two-man version’s angles are good and flexible. Once you understand what’s going on here, you can adapt this two man method to many different venues and situations.

The one-man version was something I was a little less than thrilled with. To me, the angles are such that if you use this exactly as Bellars does, your audience can ONLY be in front of you, not on the sides at all. Also, if the front row of your audience stretches out to the right or left too far, you will be busted, unless you are really far back from the audience. You can ‘cheat’ this method off to one side, angling out, I suppose, but I feel it’s too angle sensitive to use as-is.

TWO-MAN / ONE-MAN VERSION? HUH? To just give a bit of background, in any Confab-type prediction (where three or more random things are called out or generated by spectators are shown to match precisely a prediction of some kind) there are two ways of achieving the effect…in a two-man version, your assistant helps you to help you look completely clean. In a one-man version, you must do all the work yourself. I’m not going to say anything more than that for obvious reasons.

In the version Bellars performed for Penn & Teller, it was indeed a two-man version. Like other viewers, I thought it looked fabulous and it fooled me completely.

The one man version involves one simple, quick movement to get things into play, that is, get that prediction into your shoe. The movement is quick, simple and easy. It’s not even a sleight at all. It’s also completely motivated by the gambling presentation Bellars uses.

It’s also the angle-sensitive thing I mentioned earlier and feel it should be reworked to be more angle-friendly for real-world performers. I only mention this because many of my corporate events are small events, 70-100 people, and the round tables are set up in front of me and off to the side, so Bellars’ method would not work for me in those situations. However, if I’m in an actual stage performance, like a high school auditorium, this would work just fine. Happily, this is where I may use this because I believe high school kids would like the off-beat nature of a prediction in a shoe.

TOO-PERFECT THEORY THOUGHTS: Some folks online have blasted Bellars for making his prediction with Penn & Teller as “too perfect,” because his prediction matched Penn’s written “housey” word. Personally, I don’t have a problem with something being too perfect. I bill myself as an entertainer, nothing more. If I really want to impress people with “real” things, they can come into my office for hypnosis.

I decided years ago, when confronted at a few early corp gigs, people asked me about ‘my powers,’ that I did not want that responsibility. So, I don’t try to convince people I’m a real psychic, so the Too Perfect Theory is something I tossed out the window. If that’s not your preference, you can certainly alter the prediction to be ‘off a bit’ to seem ‘more real.’

THE GIMMICKED SHOE: As the ad copy states, you have to gimmick a shoe. Bellars shows his original prototype and comments on what a pain in the ass it is. You can do it yourself, but as Bellars points out, you’ll probably be much better off taking it to a shoe cobbler.

The way the shoe works is very simple and is something most people (ie magicians) would not suspect, so I like it in that realm.

So, gimmicking the shoe, while elegant in its simplicity in terms of working a gig, is a pain to do. You’ve been warned.

WHY A SHOE? Others have complained about the lack of logic in having a prediction in your shoe. Peter Nardi, on the DVD, tries mightily to justify it with some scripting and tying everything into the gambling theme. It’s a god try but I don’t feel it’s completely successful. They also try gamely to ‘sell’ the viewer that the one-man version is even stronger than the two-man. I don’t feel it’s a failure, but I really feel the two-man version is the stronger of the two because of how clean it is.

As far as the idea of the prediction being in a shoe, like I said, I like the offbeat nature of it. I think some audiences would be amused by it. I think too often we as magicians dismiss an idea because we have strong traditional ideas of what “should” be done.

OVERALL THOUGHTS AND RATING: I like this, but I don’t love this. I think it’s got potential. I definitely will NOT be replacing my own Confabulation handling with this (detailed in my book, “Cause & Effects: Volume 2″ available at Hocus Pocus) but if I’m doing a show for a repeat client, I can see Confab-SHOE-Lation being a nice followup for those repeat clients.

I’ll give this a 7 – it’s a nice, off-beat idea. If you’re new to Confabulation, I recommend my friend Paul Romhany’s “Dream Prediction Lite” over this as being more practical or even my own work in the afore-mentioned book. But if you’re familiar with Confabulation and looking for a unique twist on an effect for repeat audiences, this may suit you.

NEXT WEEK: I review Alakazam’s new “Look Sharp,” a surprisingly delightful strolling effect.

Best,

Cris

SPECIAL REPORT: Warning to Users of Shoe Business by Scott Alexander & Puck

Hi all,

Doing a midweek report like this is unusual to say the least, but I had to get this out there. I’ve gone on record saying that Shoe Business by Puck & Scott Alexander is probably my fav new effect for 2011 thus far. However, today I was notified of a potential problem.

First, a quick review – the effect is the magician calls a practical joke hotline and pours a drink into a borrowed shoe, as per the “hotline’s” directions. Of course, the volunteer’s shoe is unharmed. Along the way there are some great comedy lines.

I don’t want to get into exposure, so I won’t discuss the workings of the trick, but one of the comedy lines on the recording involves the “Press 1 for English” prompt that drives many of us CRAZY when we’re calling a business and trying to get a human on the phone. Well, after a couple of lines, we hear a man’s voice say “Rizzle, Shiffle My Nizzle,” or something to that effect. Obviously this part of the recording is poking fun at those annoying voice prompts and maybe poking fun at the “izzle” slang that confuses people not of that generation…namely me.

Anyway, I loved the routine and put it in my night time family show. In the 6 times I’ve used it, it generates huge laughs and a gasp of amazement when the cup of liquid comes out of the shoe.

I performed it last night for a family show in Maryland, audience comprised of around 300 people, different backgrounds, mix of different ethnic groups, etc.

Well, today I received a phone call from the school principal saying that a mother of one of the kids called saying that “izzle my shizzle” part of the recording was offensive. Turns out it was in reference to Snoop Dog’s slang and the “For Shizzle my Nizzle” can be (and is intended to be) translated by Snoop Dog to “For sure my N—–,” with the “n” word for a racial slur. And to boot, the principal explaining all of this to me was a very kind, apologetic African American man.

I had no idea that this “izzle” stuff even translated. I knew vaguely of its orginis in rap (I think) and I’ve seen clips of Snoop Dog “izzling” this slang that I freely admit I don’t “get.” I figured it was nonsensical silly stuff. I don’t care for Snoop Dog so therefore I never investigated it further.

I explained to this principal (who loved my shows) that I had no idea what all that “izzle” stuff meant and apologized profusely. He took it in stride and waved it off.

Needless to say, I will be running the Shoe Business through my audio editor and removing the “izzle” stuff. I LOVE the routine, but my viewpoint as a professional performer is this: if one person speaks up to complain about something, how many more were unhappy yet didn’t say anything?

Now, do I believe Puck & Scott Alexander intended on putting out a product some audiences would find offensive? Hell no. Both are accomplished performers who regularly perform in front of international crowds on cruise ships – one of the toughest markets in the world.

The reality is that some people will be offended at things that other people will not find objectionable. I believed Puck & Alexander were simply, with this routine, poking fun at those annoying voice prompts as well as the confusing-to-an-older-generation “izzle” urban slang.

My knee-jerk reaction is to just lump the complaint of this woman in with the other silly complaints I’ve heard over the years regarding a number of performers. I had one lady complain, 6 years ago, that Rocky Raccoon was “scary” to special needs kids….there were 5 special needs kids wayyyy in the back of the auditorium. The audience was 500 strong. That irritated me. Another complained years ago about my coloring book – despite the fact that the kids LOVED the trick, She hated it simply because she had seen other magicians do it. The point is, people do complain and much of it is warranted.

The difference, in this case, is that the person offended was referencing some slang that translates from a very charged word, emotionally. Being a white male in the U.S., I obviously have no idea what power that word negatively has on people. I can only, for the sake of business, take cautious steps in this case.

It pains me to write this, but again, if one person in my audience complains, there may be others who don’t. I just wanted to warn others of my experience. Take what you will from this. Maybe Puck can record the CD again without that passage? We’ll see.

Know that I LOVE the routine, but simply wanted people to be aware of the negative possibilities.

Cris

The Lion King and REVIEW: Signed Bill To Can Manuscript by Paul Romhany

Hi everybody,

October is here and I’m in full swing in school shows. Before I jump to the review of the week, I want to mention a couple of tidbits….first, just to remind everyone, my “Murder By Magic” product will be GONE at the end of the year. I’m pulling it off the market. I’ve accomplished my goal of laying claim to the original idea of using a one-man magic show as a murder mystery. My goal was never to flood the market (hence the high price tag) as I wanted to keep it fresh for myself, as I use this all year. I’ve only sold a handful of the courses in multiple countries, so if you want a truly unique presentation that’s been specially developed for corporate audiences, your time is running out!!

Next on list is to mention The Lion King…no, not the movie, but the theatrical stage production! It’s been out for several years and my wife and I had the chance to see it a few days. It was phenomenal to say the least! The music, costumes, etc was off the charts awesome! I highly recommend it.

On to this week’s review: In honor of his new baby, I’m going to review Paul Romhany’s Signed Bill To Can manuscript. It’s available from Hocus Pocus for $29.95.

Here’s the info…

AD COPY: Ten years ago Paul Romhany caused a stir in the magic fraternity when he performed his original Impossible Bill To Can routine on national television. He was accused of using stooges because the routine was that impossible. However what magicians did not know was that Paul had worked out a routine that did not use stooges.

In 2007, Paul released the exact routine and version he used on the TV show on a DVD and is still available from magic dealers.

This new version is an alternative to the original Bill To Can routine, in many ways this is more practical for most working conditions. The routine is perfect for magicians who work in private homes, corporate functions or even on cruise ships. Paul has given his complete routine including the exact script he uses word for word. You are not only buying the method but also the complete eight minute routine as performed exactly by Paul Romhany at private homes and corporate functions around the world.

Anybody wanting a strong, commercial and hilarious routine, this is it!

Everything is taught in this in-depth manuscript complete with photos and a completely different method than th on everything you need to get you performing this very quickly. It includes a detailed description of the $100 Bill Switch with numerous photos.

The Effect: At the start of the show the magician hands out a can of baked beans, this can be held by a spectator. Later on in the show a bill is borrowed and signed, it is burnt and after a lot of hilarious bits of business the spectator brings the can on stage. It is then opened and the money inside is unfolded and found to be the signed bill!

This is a real stunner and remember, method and routine is different than the original Impossible Bill to Can.

WHAT YOU GET: A detailed booklet filled with photos, instructions, the script and more.

QUALITY OF BOOKLET: I really like the fact that this is filled with photos, not only detailing the kind of can opener needed to make the working easier but also the photos for the Bill Switch. Paul’s explanations make sense and I had zero questions after I read the book – always a good sign!

ANGLES: If you read the ad copy, you know the handling relies on a Bill Switch in part. The angles for most bill switch handlings are quite good and as this is intended to be a stage or parlor piece, rest assured you are in good hands in terms of angles.

DIFFICULTY: To my eyes, the two most difficult things about the routine are getting the comedy lines/timing down and the bill switch itself. If you already do a bill switch, you can get this routine up and running very quickly. If you don’t already do a bill switch, I can give my own experience as a comparison – when I learned my bill switch method (I use Kevin King’s “Money Morph”) it took me a couple of weeks to really nail down the physical handling. Again, nit difficult, but if you’re new to it, be prepared to put in a reasonable amount of work.

THE ROUTINE ITSELF: If you’re looking for some new mindblowing method, turn elsewhere. The fact that Paul mentions his extensive detailed photos and instructions for the Bill Switch handling rather tips the basic secret, but to me, this is not a bad thing. With this tidbit, the purchaser knows what she/he is getting in terms of the secret.

The real value of this is the detailed routine itself. There were a few times while reading this that I burst out laughing. To get that from reading a script is rare. Another nice thing about some of the comedy in the routine is the fact that one bit in particular will require acting to pull off. It’s not Academy Award acting that’s needed, but it’s different from simply stating a line and waiting for the laugh. i LIKE this, as it gives the comedy a naturalness that’s missing so often from a magic routine.

I know some people will complain about the price – right now there are a lot of people complaining online about “one trick/routine DVDs” and how for 30 bucks you should get more value for your money.

I can certainly see their point of view when I consider some of the one trick DVDs I have picked up in years past, but honestly, for a real-world working pro, having a polished routine with the comedy and routines worked out for you is worth its weight in gold. To give you an example, I purchased a rather expensive prop a few months ago and while the prop itself is fantastic (It’s from Peter Loughran) I am annoyed with myself because the routine I had outlined for it is taking longer to fine tune. In fact, just yesterday I overhauled almost the whole thing. This is not a crticism of the prop – it’s great – but merely my own frustration with myself at not creating a stellar routine for it faster!

This is a routine you can drop into your act with a minimum of effort and this is always welcome.

RATING: I sound like a broken record, but I love Paul’s stuff. I’m giving this a 10 – it does what it advertises, is very funny, is very well taught and part of the method is even tipped in the ad copy. You can go into this purchase well prepared, knowing that you’re getting something for real-world workers and not a pipe dream.

NEXT WEEK: I review “5 Minutes With a Pocket Handerchief,” a kids’ routine I’ve been using for 7 years. Good stuff!

REVIEW: Parasols From Anywhere

Hi everyone,

Time is short, so this week I’m going to get right to it. This week’s review is something I’ve been using for a little over two years now, so I can really speak with authority on this, having performed it in the neighborhood of about 400 times. It’s Parasols From Anywhere by Joker Lam. Here’s the links for the parsols themselves, the DVD teaching it all, and the ‘scabbard’ set, waistband, etc to hide the parasols as they are loaded on your body: DVD- $44.95 -http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=7239 Parasols: – $69.95 – http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=7238 and the ‘scabbard’ set – $54.95 – http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=8782

All are available from Hocus Pocus and if you’re new to this kind of work, you’ll need all three. There are different colors and ‘prints’ available for the parasols and even different ‘grades’ of scabbard sets. I haven’t noticed much different in terms of quality in the scabbard set other than the ‘elegant’ set has some material made of velvert, but this does not impact the workings in my view.

EFFECT: Bright colorful parasols (umbrellas) are produced in various ways!

DVD QUALITY: The picture is clear and Joker does an acceptable job teaching the techniques. He teaches it in his native tongue and there is English dubbed over, which results in a few semantic bits of confusion as some of the translations don’t make complete sense, but overall, I had no trouble understanding his intent.

The DVD also provides closeups and changes to the camera angle where needed to make learning much easier. I will say this – in a few cases, as I was first learning these techniques, there are a few ‘real world’ things I had to figure out on my own, such as not having the handle of the parasol get caught under the waistband. Little things like this shorten the learning curve and I wish some of it was covered in more detail.

Also, one of the ‘holders’ is designed to go in your pant leg and pinned in place. No mention is made of how to hide the glint of silver through your pant leg, making this technique a little less able to be worked in the real world.

QUALITY OF PARASOLS: The parasols hold up reasonably well for day to day use. In 2 years and after 400 performances, I’ve had two parasols wear out and tear. Bear in mind that the production of the parasols is, from the point of view of wear and tear on the parasols, pretty violent, so the quality is reasonable, but certainly not meant to last a lifetime.

MY THOUGHTS: I first began exploring the idea of a parasol act as its a form of manipulation and production that plays HUGE and is very bright and colorful. I had been doing a dove act for a long time and wanted to replace it as traveling with doves is just too difficult for the amount of travel that I do. After trying a few other routines, I tried parasols.

The first thing I noted when I bought the material and began working on it is the amount of material that is unuseable due to severe angle problems. That being said, I was still able to develop a solid routine that plays great in almost all the schools I visit. In my routine, I produce a total of 11 parasols and the routine plays wonderfully for me. It’s a shame that some of the really NEAT productions are so angle-sensitive, as there’s some great looking stuff here.

I can completely recommend this material with the caveat that you really need to watch your angles and keep in mind the venues you work in when putting together your routine. NONE of this material can be done surrounded, so that’s another consideration.

Also, since parasols ‘snap’ open, doing this in someone’s living room is not advisable either. I feel this material is strictly for stage. The more you can control your performing conditions, the more of this stuff you’ll be able to use.

MY RATING: I love so much of this, but can’t use it. However, the stuff I CAN use plays great. I’ll give it a solid 8 out of 10.

‘TIL NEXT TIME: Email any questions, thoughts, etc to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.