Monthly archives for February, 2013

REVIEW: Blank Night by John Archer

Hi all,

Whew! The last week has been CRAZY – I had 6 school shows scheduled in Michigan, with 2 schools a day, Monday thru Weds this week. Monday went off without a hitch, but then the weather reports said the town I was in was going to get covered in snow. The school contact was concerned about getting hit with a “snow day” so we came up with a revised schedule to cram 4 schools in one day…which is something I’ve never done before. My show usually requires 30 minutes to set up and break down, and factoring in the performances, travel time between buildings, lunch periods at schools…anyway it was an adventure!

On to this month’s review:

It’s Blank Night by John Archer! It’s available for $24.99 from Hocus Pocus.

AD COPY: We are so excited to be able to offer John Archer’s Blank Night!

Penn and Teller’s hit show Fool Us had a simple premise: perform an effect that the duo couldn’t figure out. Only two magicians fooled Penn & Teller in the initial show, and one of those was John Archer. He did so with a smart, simple routine called “Blank Night,” and Vanishing Inc. Magic is proud to release it.

“Blank Night” comes complete with everything you need to add it to your next show. Five envelopes are shown and you explain that one of them contains a prize of $100 (use any amount or currency). Audience members choose four of the five envelopes but discover they have only won small consolation prizes (such as a $0 bill, or nothing at all).

Without any suspicious moves, the final envelope is clearly opened to reveal $100 inside! The bills are not folded and are seen clearly being pulled from inside the envelope. No body loads, envelope switches or thumb-tips. “Blank Night” left both Penn and Teller speechless!

Comes complete with detailed, fully-illustrated instruction booklet, specially-manufactured envelopes and gimmicks. Envelopes come blank so that you can write whatever words you would like on them.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTIONS: The instructions are well-written, with some good humor slipped in by Archer. He has a unique writing style and best of all, it’s easy to understand.

ANGLES: The routine is best for audiences in front of you. If you’re 3/4 surrounded, you can pull it off but its going to be tough. And if you’re surrounded completely? As I have said in other reviews, if you’re surrounded performing magic, you’re in hell.:)

MY THOUGHTS: The first time I saw this routine was when I bought Archer’s Further Education DVDs. I was blown away and feel it’s probably the best Bank Night method I’ve ever seen, because the image of the full stack of unfolded bills coming out of the envelope left at the end is not only a real magician-fooler but also a great visual display for a lay audiemce, giving them more to look at than a tiny folded up bill in a teeny pay envelope.

Additionally, Archer’s method is simple to do so with a bit of practice, you’ll have this down in no time. To me, the best commercial stuff out there (as in commercial – performing to make money as a pro) is usually technically easy, which gives the performer the freedom to concentrate on performance. At least, I know that’s what I prefer.:)

Archer’s script is not included, meaning if you buy this product, you’re on your own in terms of presentation.

So, the question is – if you already have the Further Education DVDs, do you need this? My opinion is yes, as this saves you the hassle of making the gimmick yourself. I’ve been told the envelopes required for this are hard to find. I’ve never tried locating them as I’m really lazy when it comes to building my own props. With this release, I’m ready to go and I love it.

HIGHLY recommended – 10/10

NEXT WEEK: Mugged

Bill Abbott’s Pack Smart Table and REVIEW: Rubik’s Nightmare by Michael Lam

Hello all,

Before I get to the Hocus Pocus review, I want to mention a killer item from Bill Abbott – his Pack Smart Table.

Basically, The Pack Smart Table has a telescoping stand, is very sturdy, and looks great on stage. Additionally, both the stand and table top will easily fit into a briefcase, making travel a cinch!

What can the table be used for? Well, I myself use it currently for my Pro Viper. It’s set up on the table back stage and is ready to go. You could use it for a Zombie routine or just about any routine where you need a flat surface. You can use it for close up work too. The sky’s the limit!

In a nutshell, I LOVE this. Additionally, Bill’s customer service is unreal. My table came with a scratch on the underside and despite the fact that I would be the only one who ever saw it, Bill replaced it at no charge.

Check out Bill’s site – www.billabbottmagic.com.

OK, on to this week’s review – Rubik’s Nightmare by Michael Lam. It’s available for $45.00 from Hocus Pocus.

AD COPY: Michael Lam, an Asia star of magic, frequents on Major CCTV channels among Asia regions. For the very first time in ten years, he is revealing the full work of his Rubik’s Nightmare routine.

Rubik’s Nightmare is a two-phase professional routine directly from Michael’s TV repertoire. Gimmickless. Angle proof. NO you do NOT need to know how to solve a Rubik’s cube to learn this. Michael has done his work to sand it down and simplify the process. With multi-angle step by step instruction, you’ll be performing Rubik’s Nightmare in no time.

Rubik’s Nightmare is not a trick. It’s a professional routine that’s designed to kill even in the toughest live TV environment. A great addition to your repertoire and for TV exposure.

If you are looking for a polished material that packs small, and proves to play HUGE, Rubik’s Nightmare is your answer!

Full TV routine included.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive an extremely well produced DVD and a black cloth bag to transport the cubes. Yes, this means you’ll need to purchase the Rubik’s Cubes needed for the routine.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: The well produced DVD does an exceptional job of teaching the routine, especially the somewhat complex second ‘instant solve’ phase, and includes over-the-shoulder camera shots to make learning the routine easier.

DIFFICULTY: The first phase of the routine, where the audience volunteer mixes a cube and you rapidly match it with a second cube, is very easy and very practical. I was stunned by the ease of this and very excited.

The second phase of the routine, the ‘instant solve’ phase, is fascinating because it looks so damn good! This phase is definitely more complex in terms of difficulty. It does require memory work. It’s not a lot, but consider yourself warned. In terms of how this part of the routine is accomplished, it’s similar to another method out there, though not exactly the same.

Additionally, both phases utilize ungimmicked cubes, meaning once you know the secret, you can put the routine together anywhere, meaning if you ever lose your gear, you can run to a store and put together this routine…and yes, despite what some folks on the Café have said, I have recently seen the mini cubes in stores.

SIZE OF AUDIENCE: Because the first phase of the routine relies on seeing the nuances of the cube colors in different orders, and because the routine handling requires the use of a min Rubik’s Cube, the routine is really only suited for very small parlor situations. I would say it’s not applicable for strolling because of the re-set (at least for the second, instant-solve phase).

ANGLES: Angles are pretty well covered, so if you are doing a casual living room style show or similar situation, you should be fine.

MY THOUGHTS: I really like this release! It’s practical, well thought out and in terms of the unique nature of the first phase of the effect, it’s something very different. Really, the only drawback is finding a venue, as it’s really designed for only up to a dozen people and not really great for strolling magic.

FINAL REVIEW: I’ll give this an 8 out of 10…I’d rate it a perfect ten, but due to visibility and the fact that it’s not really good for a traditional ‘strolling’ closeup gig, the routine has some limitations….but it really is super.

Cool New Music Controller and REVIEW: Hanky Panky by Scott Alexander & Puck

Greetings, loyal readers!

Before I get to this week’s review of a stellar trick, I also want to let you in on a REALLY cool way to control your music remotely. Long-time readers of this blog know that I’ve been using Sound Control for the last few years. It was a great little device put out by Jim Kleefeld and was an economical way to control your music, as it was essentially a remote control for your iPod. I love mine and still have two units.

Jim recently tipped a new music controller to me and at first I resisted, as Sound Control was working so well for me, but the more I read about this new unit, the more intrigued I became as it offered several details that Sound Control didn’t, and a few of the little bugs in Sound Control have been worked out.

It’s called Ultimate Control and it includes an mp3 player and remote and once you understand how this little guy works, you’ll see it ROCKS. It is NOT an off-the-shelf product re-worked for entertainers…it was designed and built from the ground up for one-person entertainers like me.
I’ve used it in 25 or so shows so far this year and I LOVE it. Brian offers killer customer support as I had some trouble with it at first…because I didn’t watched the instructional videos all the way through! Brian is a class act and was very patient with me. This gets my highest recommendation and at $450, is very reasonably priced for the working professional. I don’t make a dime off of this but simply want to pass the word along.

You can check it out at http://www.happieamp.com/ultimatecontrol.html

On to this week’s review…it’s Hanky Panky by Scott Alexander & Puck. It’s available for $175 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the ad copy:

This trick packs small and plays HUGE!

Hanky Panky utilizes a classic premise that has stood the test of time, but Scott and Puck have updated it for a modern audience. It’s the 20th Century Silks on steroids!

The five minute routine not only features stunning visual magic, but also has a kicker finale that involves hilarious audience participation and comedy. It is the perfect opener to music, which then evolves into an audience interactive piece, allowing you to showcase your wit and personality.

With the added bonus of the killer Prisoner’s Silk Ending, this is a complete package that can easily find its way into any working pros arsenal.

The kit has everything included. The DVD provides a detailed explanation of our routine, as well as some tips for effective audience management when performing this visual magic and its killer finale.

WHAT YOU GET: Several very high quality silks, including about the best set of 20th Century Silks I’ve ever seen. You also receive the instructional DVD with a live performance of Scott performing this in front of a cruise ship audience.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Simply the best. Both Scott and Puck are on here, each teaching different elements of the routine. What I like most about this (besides the clear directions of the effect itself) are the professional touches…the little tips, tricks and techniques that shave months of the ‘learning curve’ of a new routine. They’ve honed this through hundreds of performances and it shows. Any time I receive this kind of instruction for a single effect, I feel as though I’m attending a master class in magic.

QUALITY OF PROPS: As I mentioned earlier, the silks included are all of the highest quality.

DIFFICULTY: One of the reasons why I did not jump on this when it first came out is because, while watching the demo video, I was convinced that the set up for that killer finale had to be something insanely impractical for a guy like me…Iean, come on – Puck and Scott are on cruise ships with fancy lighting, etc.

Boy was I wrong.

Not only is the set up much easier than I thought (I never read Rices!) but there are no complicated body loads, sleeving or anything like that. To be sure, this is NOT a close up effect, but even a school show performer who has horrendous lighting conditions (like me) will be able to do this. Additionally, the re-set does not look to be too bad, either.

MY OTHER THOUGHTS: I’ll be honest…another reason why I dismissed this release is because the first part of the routine was the tired old 20th Century silks. I’d quit performing that effect years ago when I went pro…it was a tired old effect, right?
No way…I actually got very good reactions for the 20th Century Silks years ago in my birthday party shows, but I guess along the way to becoming a full-timer, I got jaded like a lot of magicians and abandoned the classics. Shame on me!!

RATING: I’m delighted with this release and though it came out last year, I freely admit I’m a ‘johnnie come lately’ and will put this on the short list of my ‘fav effects of 2013.’
10 out of 10 – a steal!