Pick a trick, but not any trick

by Ariel Frailich

Closely related to the selection of a type of performance (see article Magician, mentalist or…?) is the question of which tricks to choose. I’ve already eliminated all the tricks that don’t suit the logic of my type of performance, but I still have more tricks than I know what to do with.

I’ll start by eliminating all the tricks that I should not perform. This includes marketed tricks that I don’t own, and tricks that ‘belong’ to other magicians — unless I have their permission to use them. It also includes tricks I don’t like, because they’ll fall flat due to lack of enthusiasm, and tricks I haven’t mastered.

The next step is to eliminate tricks that tax the audience. This is especially important in card magic, where tricks with multiple, unrelated climaxes in rapid succession can be overwhelming. Other tricks that tax the audience include those that require a lot of counting, calculating, remembering, etc. on the audience’s part.

My solution, then, is to use only tricks that have a single effect, or several simple effects that logically follow each other. For instance, tricks that build by repetition are good (i.e., Ambitious Card, Cups and Balls). So are tricks in which a certain effect has an identical — or opposite — effect elsewhere (i.e., Twentieth Century Silks, transpositions), and many more.

Paradoxically, complex tricks with multiple, unrelated effects can turn out to be the most magical and memorable tricks of a performance. In one such trick, the four Kings are placed between two Jacks and disappear. Then the four Queens appear between the Jacks. Finally, the Kings are found in the card case. Can such a sequence be made logical?

A logical presentation can make an illogical sequence easy to follow, and also makes the trick more entertaining. In the trick above, two cannibals are sent to capture four missionaries, but they eat them on the way back to the village. Upon hearing this, the chief is upset and asks the witch doctor to bring the missionaries back. Unfortunately, the witch doctor had a bit too much to drink, and instead of bringing back the missionaries, he brings back the nuns — last week’s dinner. (The reappearance of the Kings ends the story logically and with a laugh. It’s Michael Powers’ idea and can be found in his ‘A Case of Indigestion’ in his book Top Secret Stuff, and also, thanks to Michaels’ generosity, in ‘The Cannibals and the Witch Doctor’ in my own Card Stories.)

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