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!


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.



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