Monthly archives for September, 2012

MURDER is Back, The Joy of High School Performing and REVIEW: Dan Harlan’s Bizarre Show DVD – Pack Flat Series

Hello all,

Well, the school season is in full swing. One market that many magicians always seem to overlook is the high school assembly market. With the right message and the right content in terms of effects, you can not only make a ton of money in this market but also have a really great time performing. High school audiences really enjoy mentalism and some of the more ‘weird’ kinds of effects out.

Two days ago, I did my first high school gig of the new school year. Not only did the PTO parents who booked the program have all kinds of great things to say about the program but several teens told me after the show how much they loved it.

Many magicians shy away from these shows because teens can be viewed as being a “difficult” audience, but with the right show, it can be the most rewarding experience you may ever have!

I’ve put my 15 years of high school performing experience into my latest product, “How to Make A Ton Of Money Performing in High Schools.” You get my messages, my marketing, my complete lineups, emails, complete scripting and a total ‘hot to’ manual of high school performing! Check it out at Hocus Pocus!

Also, for a VERY LIMITED TIME ONLY, I have re-released Murder By Magic! It’s up and available again at Hocus Pocus but it’s ONLY going to be available until the end of this year, so take advantage of this RIGHT AWAY as this will be the very last time I ever offer…EVER. I debated with myself for months and finally gave in to the pressure from several magicians, but after this year ends, it will be gone FOREVER. Act now.:)

On to this week’s review: It’s Dan Harlan’s Bizarre Show from the Pack Flat, Play Big DVD series. It’s available from Hocus Pocus for $34.95.

MY THOUGHTS: Unlike many magicians, I got into Bizarre magic and mentalism before I got into closeup and kids’ magic. As a result, when I see a good bizarre themed release, I really get excited. Over the years, Harlan has released a lot of good material. In fact, this DVD was apparently produced at the same time as the previous entries in the “Pack Flat” series. The setting is the same, with the most annoying L&L audience ever – the same group that was present for Dan’s other DVDs. They even wear the same clothes, so I can only assume that was a LONG day for those people.:)

Interestingly, with Dan’s newest Pack Flat releases (again, held back from nearly a decade ago when they were first filmed), the L&L group’s reactions are more muted. For some of the gorier effects, many attendees turn away and actual applause is minimal…and all of this is to be expected at a Bizarre magic show….trust me, I know.:)

I’m going to go through each routine in turn and offer quick thoughts on each.

BOOK OF BLOOD: As the pages of this dusty old journal are flipped through, they gradually get bloodier and bloodier. As one might surmise from the video preview clip, this effect is based on a classic kids’ effect. The way this principle is used here looks terrific. Interestingly, a Bizarre magician by the name of Joe Givan created a similar effect in Tony Andruzzi’s New Invocation magazine from the late 80′s/early 90′s. Dan’s construction is much easier than Joe’s and the storyline is good, too. Big thumbs up from me. 10 out of 10.

NEEDLE THRU ARM: This is indeed the methodology for the Classic Needle Thru Arm made most famous by Harry Anderson. Dan’s presentation is good and most importantly, he has a great script line that gives justification for the one key move in the routine. Dan even reveals how to make your own Needle, though I’m lazy and prefer to buy the prop.:) One caveat – Dan recommends a “certain something” that he feels makes the ‘work’ easier. I’ve got years of experience performing this effect and Dan’s secret ‘aide’ actually makes the trick fail, and quickly, as it ‘fails’ in the explanation section. Over the years I too have used this secret something and it can foul up the trick. Therefore, I respectfully suggest you ignore this secondary secret ‘aide’ Dan recommends. For that reason, I can only give his teaching an 8 out of 10. It’s great ‘cept that faulty bit of advice. That being said, it’s a classic effect.

PSYCHOTIC SURGERY: This is essentially a torn-n-restored card effect to give the audience a rest from the blood. While I agree with Dan’s reasoning that you can’t have gore in every routine, I felt that this torn and restored card effect was a yawner. 5 out of 10.

DEVILED EGG: This combines Dan’s classic Starcle with an egg that emits blood when cracked open…as well as a kicker ending involving a spectator and a knife. I felt the routine was OK until the end with the knife. I really think the routine sputtered to a close. I think the first two phases of the routine are quick good as Starcle is a classic and the visual of the ‘blood egg’ is great. 7 out of 10.

SHARP TASTE: This is Dan’s solution to the razor blade mystery – eating blades, then eating thread, then causing the blades to be threaded when you pull them out. I’ve used a few different version of the razor blade effect over the years before finally settling on Steve Spill’s needle routine, which is cleaner and safer than this effect. Dan’s routine, while visually impressive (though not without flaws) is unbelievably dangerous. Dan warns viewers over and over how stupid one would be to do this routine and he’s right. Dan’s method is sooooooooooooooooooo dangerous that I cannot believe that he even put it on DVD. Much like the Russian Roulette routine put out by Larry Becker using guns, I cannot in any way shape or form recommend his method. ZERO out of 10 – only because it’s soooooo dangerous and possibly deadly. Dumb method. There are so many safer ones out there, the best version that I’ve seen is Scott Alexander’s The Blades – looks great and is safe. I prefer Steve Spill’s needle routine. The point is, there are safer ways out there.

BABY BALLOON: The method for this “popped and restored” balloon effect is so easy that Dan devotes maybe one minute to it in the explanation. I thought the effect was just OK. The L&L audience didn’t react much either. 3 out of 10.

PSYCHIC SURGERY: I’m amazed Dan put this in a show simply because it involves getting fake blood all over the stomach of a volunteer! Interestingly, I myself have performed this years ago a few times for teen audiences. Long story short, on the FOX TV network, they once ran a special and it was called “Psychic Secrets Revealed” or something to that effect – this was at least 12 years ago, maybe more. In the special, secrets of fraud mediums were revealed as well as Psychic Surgery complete with authentic footage of ‘healers’ doing this to take advantage of grief stricken people trying to heal a very sick loved one.

The history of this fraud is amazing and the script, if you choose to perform this, writes itself. In essence, it appears that you perform a real ‘surgery’ on a volunteer! This is very freaky when done properly. Dan’s version simultaneously adds a classic magic prop and handling to make the routine easier to manage but the ‘innards’ that Dan pulls out is pretty innocuous. That being said, Dan adds a lot to the handling that I wish I had thought of back when I was performing this. 10 out of 10, with the huge caution of staining a person’s clothes – if ever there was a good time for a shill, THIS is it. While no one has to be ‘in on it’ and it will work with a cold spectator who is unprepared, the likelihood of staining clothes means it’s best to rehearse with someone before the show!

THE SPIDER AND THE FLY: A delightful poen frames this ring and rope routine. Similar to the ring and rope penetration routine on Jeff McBride’s Commando Act, this looked good and was a more suitable ‘break from the gore’ than the torn card routine earlier. The rope representing the web of the spider in the poem actually works well.

OVERALL RATING: While there were a few items I did not care for and one that I REALLY recommend you do NOT do because of the danger, the ‘thumbs up’ routines nudges me to a good rating of 8 out of 10. I enjoyed this DVD and for the RIGHT AUDIENCE, many of the routines can be a lot of fun.

REVIEW: Stati-Kid by Tom Burgoon

Hi all,

Cris Johnson here, back with another  review! Before I get into this week’s review, I want to do a quick “Flashback” to an earlier review! One of the things I had wanted to do was re-visit certain effects that I review and see if they hold up after repeated use.

The effect I want to re-visit is Andy Nyman’s “Big Reaction.” When I reviewed this effect, I gave it a stellar review. I thought the storyline of the effect as well as the bulletproof and easy methodology made it a winner for me.

Well, it’s months later and I’ve had the opportunity to run the trick through a few corporate close-up gigs. There are nights where I’m doing the effect 20-30 times in one evening. During my ‘field testing,’ I’m happy to say that the effect consistently gets the biggest laughs of any close-up effect I’ve tried in the last 5 years. I haven’t added much to my close-up sets over the years as close-up is not a main focus of my professional work: maybe 6-8 close-up gigs a year, but when I DO close-up, it’s gotta be great.

Right now, the Big Reaction is my favorite close-up effect…period! It gets me applause at every table/group and really fries people. Love it!

I also want to thank Paul Romhany for his kind words about my “Murder By Magic” program. Paul’s really taken this idea and run with it! If you’re interested in me bringing this back, send me an email to: crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. I may be persuaded to let Paul put it back up on Hocus Pocus.:)

Okay, back to this week’s review: It’s Stati-Kid by Tom Burgoon. It’s available for $65.00 from Hocus Pocus.

EFFECT: Essentially, you ‘magnetize’ several spoons and cause them to adhere to a kid!

WHAT YOU GET: You receive a written routine detailing the handling, set-up, scripting, added bits of business, pro tips, alternate ideas, and more. The instructions are well-written and there are points where Tom’s sense of humor comes through. Great stuff! You also receive the spoons, royalty-free performing music, secret stuff, etc.

QUALITY OF STUFF: As I already mentioned, Tom’s writing is spot on. His explanations are clear and some of his scripting is inspired. The spoons themselves are simple lightweight spoons. Nothing too advanced in terms of equipment but they do the job just fine. The music is a great added bonus and fits the routine perfectly.

DIFFICULTY: In terms of physical handling, the routine is extremely easy. That being said, much of the work comes in the prep to make things flow smoothly come show time and it’s in this area Tom’s experience comes through. When I read the secret, it was exactly what I suspected (really, watch the video and think what the simplest method is!) and almost made the mistake of brushing past the rest of the instructions. I’m really glad I did not as many of Tom’s set-up tips and performing tips really make this flow smoothly. The work is simple, but go through Tom’s material carefully.

MARKETS: This works best as a kids’ effect, as Tom readily admits. He claims he’s done it with some success with adult shows, but this is a kids’ effect through and through. Know that this routine works best as a prelude to a more ‘amazing’ trick, as this is intended as a comedy bit and not as a stand-alone effect.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: The second I saw the video I knew this would fit wonderfully in my family shows. It’s such a funny visual. What you see is what you get: if you like what you see on the video, support the effect’s creator as Tom is very generous in letting the routine play out in a free video, just as he did with his Timmy Toilet Paper release.

My only point of contention is that Tom has once again reserved TV rights for himself but he has NOT mentioned this in the ad copy so you don’t know this til after you buy. I find this irritating and unfair. Also, I wonder about things like this…I myself don’t do a lot to get on TV, but in schools, occasionally a local TV crew will come by and film a chunk of my show and tag it on the end of a news broadcast as a human interest thing…so if a local TV crew films my show and Tom’s routine happens to wind up on the air, am I going to get nailed by Tom’s lawyers? Add to this the fact that I normally do not know until AFTER the show that I was even being filmed and you can see my concerns.

RATING: This gets a solid 8.5 from me. I think the routine is inspired and the value is great for what you pay, but Tom’s withholding of the “exclusive TV rights” thing until after you buy it really irks me. That being said, this is a terrific value.

REVIEW: Tricky Trashcan

Welcome back, dear readers!

I’m currently on the road, as School Season has ‘kicked in,’ so this week’s blog will be a little brief. This week’s review is one that I’m very excited to start using…

It’s the Tricky Trashcan by Wack-O Magic. It retails for $229.00 from Hocus Pocus.

AD COPY: It’s another Hocus Pocus exclusive.

Environmentally friendly magic!

This new concept and routine are about recycling or magic transportation!One for the older kids, one for the younger ones.

It comes with all the major props for TWO great routines!

It looks like a trashcan, but it’s not just a trashcan! It’s also the perfect utility prop!

The size isn’t too big, (and it’s not really TINY, that’s just it’s name,) it’s JUST RIGHT at 10″ x 10″ x 14″ high.

It’s the ultimate family show Utility Device! It’s not JUST a Duck Bucket…it’s something that EVERYONE has seen before!!

It comes with TWO routines by Storyteller/Consultant Walt Anthony.

WHAT YOU GET: You receive detailed written instructions outlining two different routines – one for younger kids and one for recycling shows, preferably for older kids. You also receive two props – one for each routine. I’ll kind of tip-toe around what each prop is, but suffice to say these props are NOT usual magic fare. You also receive the Tricky Trashcan itself, housed in a sturdy orange bucket to transport the prop. This is a nice feature, as it keeps the prop safe and protected!

ANGLES: As this prop is based on the same methodology as the Duck Bucket, you can rest assured that this prop can be used surrounded.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTIONS: I’m often cautious about using the written instructions that come with a kid’s prop in that they are often childish and include horribly outdated jokes and bits of business.

However, the two routines included in this prop are quite good. The younger audience routine is cute and charming and while the routine does NOT include any messages of recycling, the fact that the prop is a trashcan fits into the routine itself. The routine is charming and cute.

The second routine is strictly a recycling/conservation routine that gives a lot of good food for thought for grade school children. There isn’t much humor in this routine, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad routine…rather, it’s thought-provoking. The routine may just be a bit on the advanced side for younger kids and my opinion is that this routine would best play, as written, for grades 3 and up.

However, a bit of adjustment can easily be made to use the routine for younger kids.

Interestingly, despite the fact that this prop is based on the classic Duck Bucket, neither routine talks about using live animals, so you’ll have even more performance options.

QUALITY OF PROPS: The two props for the routine are good quality routines. The Tricky Trashcan itself is very nicely built and a good value for the investment. That being said, my prop did have a problem…one of the pop rivets on the hinges came out. It’s going to be a quick enough fix, but it did irritate me a tad.

The trashcan itself is good solid and extremely well built otherwise.

OVERALL SCORE: I’ll give this a rock-solid 9 out of 10. The prop and included routines are of high quality. I only take a point off because of the damaged pop rivet. Highly recommended!

REVIEW: Imperial Botania

Hi everyone,

It’s back-to-school time!! I’m gearing up to get my school shows back on the road. With that in mind, this week’s blog is going to  be a quick one…

This week’s review is the Imperial Botania. It retails for $649.95 from Hocus Pocus.

EFFECT:

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: The Imperial Botania comes in two parts – the inner tube and outer tube. It also comes with a spare blossom to create the idea that a single blossom is transformed into this beautiful bouquet of flowers. A single sheet on ‘care and feeding’ is also included.

EASE OF EFFECT: The technical demands of the effect don’t get much easier than this. Just one quick motion and voila! Instant bouquet of flowers. A 1 out of 10 on the ‘difficulty scale’ to be sure.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTIONS: The single sheet is very sparse and does not even cover the actual performance of the trick. That being said, it does cover some techniques for keeping the blossoms looking their best and lasting longer. As far as actually performing it, you’re on your own…but a simple pull of the outer tube, and you’re in business.

QUALITY OF EQUIPMENT: This is where this release really shines and justifies the high cost. First, the blossoms and flowers have absolutely gorgeous coloring and really ‘pop’ from the stage. The blossoms are also well made, too, ensuring longer life. Finally, the colors selected really make this piece look nice because every color in the spectrum is NOT included. There was restraint in the amount of colors selected.

This is something that I wish other ‘flower magic’ providers thought about. When I was a kid first getting into magic, I always immediately rejected any form of ‘spring flower’ magic because, as Jeff McBride once said, “it looked like a clown exploded,” in that there were just too many colors.

Additionally, as mentioned in the ad copy, the metal tube has a textured covering, which prevents fingerprints and scratches and also looks great from stage – the textured surface really is enhanced from stage – since it will not gleam brightly, the tube will not ‘upstage’ the flowers themselves.

WHY I BOUGHT IT: While most of my stage shows are set, I picked this up as a replacement for a change bag routine I had been doing…it was a white silk with a black outline of a tree on it and after the trip through the change bag, the tree silk was suddenly full of color.

For the right age group, it always plays extremely well. I’m assuming that a more 3-dimensional routine where one tiny blossom changes into a brilliant bouquet will play…well, brilliantly.

RATING: This gets a solid 9 out of 10 from me. It’s getting harder to find spring flower-type magic of this high quality. I love mine and if you’re into this kind of effect, I recommend getting it as the quality is outstanding.