Get Better By Being Worse

I recently tried a new ending for a routine I’ve been performing for over a year.

The routine has become solidly funny and very much in my performing character’s wheelhouse. The routine is similar to a multiple selection routine with cards, in that an ending sequence isn’t needed, but it certainly is a plus. A good ending can certainly help and it puts a bow and applause cue on the finish.

My old ending was good …but not good enough.
To repeat, the routine doesn’t need an ending segment, but I’m convinced the right ending would bump it up several notches.

So like you read, I tried a new ending. I was confident going into it.
“Yeah, this will SCORE!” I thought. I got a little artsy and craftsy, building a flap card for the ending gag. Bounced the idea off a trusted magic. buddy.

“Yeah, this will SCORE!” he said.

At this point, I was looking at a TWO SCORE guarantee!! My magic buddy and me!

Show time arrives.

The new ending (a visual gag) probably took twenty seconds of stage time.

And …
It wasn’t as good as the one that wasn’t good enough. In fact, to be honest, it sucked a little.
Thankfully, it was sandwiched between strong laughs and interaction in the routine that lead up to it and the routine that followed it.
But that new gag? Crap.


Thank YOU, SNL reference of yore.

AND THAT’S PART OF THE PATH TO GETTING BETTER

Eventually, I’ll figure out the ending for this routine. In the meantime, I’ve abandoned the semi-good and not-good ending. Quality of performance over quality of minutes. Every. Single. Time. It’s currently a very well-received routine, but I still want that last piece of the puzzle …some day …must keep trying …

So what’s my point?

If you read my books The Show Is The Mother Of Invention (the reprint arriving from the printer any day now) and my latest book, The Kids Know Best (in stock and shipping), you KNOW how much I value writing magic routines.

With that in mind, I wanted to address a hurdle people have to overcome with introducing newly written material in their show. Ready?

Quit being afraid to die for a few seconds.
(Comedy death is temporary. Great jokes are immortal.)

Bounce the new line or brief bit off some trusted magic or comedy confidantes. This is wise, but is never surefire.

Until you know it will play well, put the new lines in for a few seconds at a time.
If it kills, great!
If it semi-kills and shows promise, fine tune and try again.
If it dies a quick death, get over yourself, learn from it and try again.
If you have sandwiched the new untested seconds between tested and proven seconds of material, you will notice the death much more than your audience, if they notice it at all. Trust me.
This is the path to being a better performer.


Is this fun? Well, to be honest, yes. But it’s only fun if you kill your ego and you embrace it. The greatest comic that ever walked the earth, Norm MacDonald, was known for his wonderfully eccentric version of living this. If he killed in a show, afterwards he’d stay backstage and play poker with the other comics. If he died — and especially the highest (lowest?) level of dying, known as “walking a room,” where people walked out of the show — he would do a meet and greet with every remaining audience member as they left. Hail Norm.

What is the alternative?

Not creating and not writing leads to being a collective clone of other magicians. A collage of others comedy conjuring. Ugh.

This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to perform classics.
This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to perform material that is sold by other performers, in fact, that’s often a GREAT idea …hint, hint … visit our store.

It means it’a bad idea to parrot classics. By parrot, I mean doing verbatim performances. Both my recent books have more to say on writing and getting new routines in your show, but let me sum up this post with this summary. Best read in Mr. Miyagi voice.

Killing the ego & dying on stage
is the only way to live forever.

Until Next Time,

Doc Dixon

PS: As always, be sure to visit the store. Here are the two books I mentioned in the post.

PS #2: I just received great news from Joe Diamond, talented mentalist and recent Fool Us performer. This is the kind of reaction that Psychic Cents receives!

More from Dixon Magic …

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When The Room Is Shaped Like A Barbell

I posted this on my personal Facebook page a few days ago:

For Magicians:
At a country club gig tonight.
People seated to right and left, no one in front.
What’s this mean?
Gonna be a good post at Dixon Magic.

And this is that post. (And I’ll end this with a Facebook post from nine years ago.)

I arrive for the gig. It’s an after dinner stand up show for about 100 people. My contact tells me, “In the past day we had thirty more people sign up, so we had to change the set up. It’s different than what we discussed.”

Like the “dance floor of death,” the “barbell of death” is one of those classic seating nightmares.

Here’s a rough idea of the layout of the event. Looks a little like a barbell, doesn’t it?

People seated to the left.
People seated to the right.
Me, looking straight ahead at an empty (and well stocked, thank you for asking) bar.
No riser.

Before I get into how it worked out, let’s set a few ground rules for the discussion:

Rider Schmider

Be Kind & Patient

So what did I do?

There were stools in front of the bar. There was room for two rows of ten chairs in front of me. I suggested chair moving to the client before the show started and, surprise, we were on the same page. Between the bar stools and chair moving, I can have about a third of the audience in reasonably good position.

But how to get the people there?

While people were arriving and waiting for the meal to begin, I walked up to several of the tables and introduced myself and chatted. I placed a priority on the tables that would be farthest from me. Before I left each table I said:

“By the way, because the layout of the room is a bit challenging, we are inviting a few people to come up and sit in chairs that will be up front. And the reason I’m asking you is that we are only asking the most attractive people.

Then ten minutes before my show, the host invited people to come up front.

It worked.

And there was a surprise benefit. The group that came forward were self-selecting. They were the most eager to be close to the fun. And they were fun.

OK, so the audience is seated as well as possible in this barbell-shaped setting.

What else helped?

The biggest visual element of my act is ME. My face. My movements. Easy to see.
The audio element is the script and the situations created. A script is something that is heard, not seen.
What needed to be seen in the act was easy to see in this challenging setting.

Related to that, I’m not doing a manip act. Again, the visual element is made up of myself and the volunteers.

Sometimes I do the chop cup on stage. Not for this gig. Nothing that is a table tied routine like the cups.

I am 6’4″. Being tall helps.

I made sure I played wide. Several times I might have looked like I was watching a ping pong match. I walked into each of the side sections (lobes?) for some of the bits, trying to do all I could to maximize engagement in a challenging setting. I addressed people from the deep sections of the audience.

In one of my routines I have two people come up and sit in chairs. In this show they sat on barstools. This routine being the longest one in my show, the bar stools were a big plus.

I was booked to do a 45 minute show and did, but I had props for about 80 minutes of material in my case. It’s nice to have options.

So what would not have helped?

Complaining.
Saying things to the booker like, “But we said …”
Saying things to the booker like, “I can’t do the show because …”
Telling anyone to move. I asked them with them with a flattering joke.
Calling attention to the challenging seating during the show.
Shoehorning in material (like the chop cup mentioned earlier) that had no chance of working.

Summary

This is far from the worst room layout I’ve had to deal with. Once the show started, it was very manageable. And I’m sure you’ve probably had worse, too. I get that. I’m just the old man here sharing a road story.

Do what you can before the show to bring the seats in closer and to make the show a success.
If this involves furniture moving, just do it.
My client is the client. Not the room. Not the venue. Move seats.
Moving chairs is better than a great classic palm.

A related situation happened to me a few years ago. Nice proscenium stage. Great tech. Big room. Oh, and the front row was 10-20 feet away. Ugh. Thankfully, the chairs were movable. So having arrived about four hours before show time, I moved dozens of chairs from the back row to the front row until the front row was an acceptable distance from the stage. While I moved the chairs the meeting planner didn’t think my furniture moving was necessary. After the show she said, “You were right.” Good for her. She got it. I don’t write that with an “I told her so” attitude. I write that with a “It’s not her job to know why the chairs should be close. It’s mine. It’s her job to allow me to do the best work I can, even when she doesn’t completely understand.” And she did. Kudos.

It’s about the show, not the “I told you so.”
Don’t spend a moment saying, “But my tech rider said …”
Could that be a conversation for after the show? Maybe, especially if you still have a great show. But before and during the show that energy is better spent dealing with the challenges in front of you.

Finally, as I finish up this post let me say there are times when you have to be firmer than I have written about on these pages. This is especially true when it’s suggested you do anything that involves risk — “I know it’s a low ceiling, but we still want the fire eating routine” — or when it will ruin the entire how — “Set up in front of the giant wall of floor to ceiling mirrors.”

Here’s a Facebook post I wrote about nine years ago, when I was feeling some rant vibes.

A rant for my fellow magicians. Forgive me, this one’s been a long time coming and I’m writing it as a reminder to myself as much as anyone else…

I see/hear/read magicians whining about less than ideal show conditions.

*sigh*

It’s kind of like a plumber complaining about a pipe that’s hard to reach. So what? Do your job. It’s not the pipe’s job to make the plumber’s job easier. And the homeowner doesn’t want to hear the plumber whine about the pipe. The homeowner has one job: pay the plumber. The plumber has one job: to fix the sink.

If you’re a plumber, fix the sink.
If you’re a performer, rock the room.

Yes, I know bookers can fail in the critical ways — bad sound, bad lighting. This ain’t my first rodeo. But if we take the approach of “I will overcome,” we have a better chance of delivering the goods than taking the pretentious prima donna approach of “oh, the pain”. (Those last 3 words are best read in the voice of Dr. Zachary Smith.)

If you can’t do the job, don’t take the gig. Or put more eloquently, when the show conditions are sub par or even subterranean and you ask yourself, “What can I do? What can I do?” look at what one wise man told this singer when he started whining.


Until Next Time,

Doc Dixon

PS: As always, be sure to visit the store. You’ll find several routines, like Invisible Knots and Maweege, that ever kill in “barbell shaped rooms”

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Nearly 40 Years Of Classic Passing

Recently a magician friend posted a performance video online that used the pass in a visual way. By visual way, I mean the selection was placed face up in the middle of the deck and visually arrived on top. I posted a comment along with the video you see below.

I commented, “As I begin to type this it occurs to me I’ve been doing the pass nearly 40 years. So, one, I’m old, and, two, my pass isn’t as near as good as it used to be lol. While rocking the wrist isn’t bad, I don’t think it is preferred for a *visual* goal.When you rock the wrist on a visible pass revelation, you are taking the top out of the deck out of view for a moment– the opposite of what you’d want for a visible revelation.If you want to showcase the appearance, I think it’s preferred to let the top be seen, do the pass, and the selection appears.I shot a quick video of a riffle pass. This isn’t as good as I used to do it, (cue 🎶 I’m not as good as I once was …🎶 ) but it illustrates the point about letting the top of the deck be seen.”

Now here’s what surprised me:

In the day since posting that comment and five second video, I received many messages asking for pass tips, instruction, etc. While I far consider myself an expert on it, I have put in some road miles with it.

So, sometime over the next few days (weeks?) I’m going to post a password protected video with some advice. It’s free, but you have to be on the newsletter list to access it.

If you’re already subscribed, you’re good to go. If not, this is your cue to sign up. It’s free and you get some good stuff!

Best,

Doc Dixon

PS: As of this writing, less than FOUR hours left on the presale for Invisible Knots, my favorite rope routine. Time to save ten smackers!

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Where’s Your Comedy Anchor?

What’s a comedy anchor?

I can definitively answer this. Why? Because I made up the term. HA! Yes, making up words and then using them like they are an established “thing.” This kind of evil genius is usually confined to politics, but why should government employees have all the fun?

A comedy anchor is — and remember, I made up the term so brace yourself for some arbitrary defining — is someone in the audience you can go back to for callbacks, comedy, and interaction. Once in place, they are a reliable resource like an anchor is to a ship. Despite the arbitrary definition, a comedy anchor is very much a real thing.

EDIT: After a chat about this post with a magician friend, I want to make clear I am not talking about a running gag, though this is similar. A comedy anchor is (and once again, I get to define it lol) an audience member that can be referenced and interacted with multiple times throughout a show. While that’s similar to a running gag, it’s not the same. This person — the comedy anchor — becomes a character in the show.

Let me give you a real life, improvised example. I said to a woman in her 70s in the front row, “May I ask your name?”

Instead of telling me her name, she replied, “You may.” This got a big laugh from the rest of the audience, as her tone made it obvious she was messing with me.

I let the laugh ride, then immediately replied in tongue in cheek rant mode, “So, how long have you been an attorney? Or here I am, trying to be polite, and Her Royal Highness up here, is ‘oh, a peasant!” I know this reads dry in print, but it was very funny. And very importantly, the woman thought it was funny, because we were playing with each other.

I referred to her teasing a few times throughout the rest of the show. She became a comedy anchor for that show. My show was better because I had a comedy anchor.

What makes a good comedy anchor?

The anchor is established EARLY in the show. That means more opportunities for you to smartly use (not overuse) the ploy throughout the show.

It’s based on good-natured fun, NOT harshness. In the example I gave it was self-evident to everyone that I liked her and she liked me, so when I referred back to the interaction, there was no downside or meanness. If she was a heckler or awkward, then referring back to it makes the audience revisit the prior unpleasantness.

A good anchor is best when they WIN at the end. Late in the show while another spectator on stage was helping me, I leaned towards the anchor and said, “I apologize. He’s giving me a much harder time than you did.” Both spectators laughed. Winning at the end gives the anchor’s participation a bit of a story arc throughout your show.

Comedy anchors are best when PLANNED. The example I gave was unplanned, as I obviously can’t rely on that spectator response (“You may.”) in each show.

But what if you did plan a comedy anchor for your show?
What if a comedy anchor was a resource that was scripted into your show?
What if the callbacks to the comedy anchor were also scripted into your show?
THEN YOUR SHOW WOULD BE MUCH, MUCH BETTER.

Two Ways to Get Your Comedy Anchor

#1 Start writing. If there’s a running theme in my books The Show Is The Mother Of Invention and The Kids Know Best, it is the value of writing. Knowing is half the battle. If you know the value of a comedy anchor, you’re half way there to having one.

#2 Get Invisible Knots. (Yes, shameless product pitch.) My rope routine, just released, has a built in comedy anchor in the script, and will help you create other comedy anchors in your show.

Until Next Time,

Doc Dixon

PS: Surprise bonus sale!
If you go to Maweege, you’ll see there’s a sale on that, too!
Maweege can incorporate a great callback to the comedy anchor established in Invisible Knots.

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The Value Of Schmaltz, Plus The Greatest Valentine’s Day Trick & 2nd Greatest Wedding Trick

Schmaltz is a delightful Yiddish word.

Webster defines it as “excessive sentimentality.”

I would reply to that definition by saying, “Excessive? Not if the audience loves it!”

I spent a good portion of my holiday season performing Christmas themed shows for a decade long client of mine. In every single show I performed Snowstorm In China.

No, I didn’t say, “It never snowed when I was a child.” (That’s David Copperfield’s script.)
No, I didn’t bring out a snow globe. (That’s the genius of my friend, Peter Samelson.)

My script centered around a traveling the world as a performer after growing up in a small steel town only a few miles from the venue. The script is tailored for the venue, and has laughs, interaction, and, yes …

It has schmaltz.

I apologize for nothing.

If the decision to perform Snowstorm In China rested in my preferences, I would have stopped long ago.
If the decision to perform Snowstorm In China rested in the trick itself, I would have stopped long ago.

The decision to perform it rests in experiences like the ones I had after the first year I performed it. In the second year patrons came up to me and asked, “Are you going to do the snow trick?” This didn’t happen only once. It happened many, many times. I got the message. The Snowstorm returned. The audiences loved the …schmaltz.

Schmaltz Can Be In Card Tricks, Too!

I created the routine Heart Transplant decades ago and recently came across a hidden, unknown stash of the necessary gaffs.

I like to think of Heart Transplant as the #1 Valentine’s Day routine and the #2 wedding routine.1

It’s a variation of Vernon’s Plucking The Pips where hearts are “plucked” from one card and “put” on another, except that the hearts end up in odd places and break, only to restored in the end!

That’s the plot, but here’s the feeling.
At the end of the trick you’ll be holding a four of hearts, with none of the pips in the right place and one of the hearts is broken.

Then you ask …a little girl, grandma, the new bride …to touch the messed up four of hearts. You show it now and it’s as it should be and you say,

“That shows a lovely lady can mend a broken heart, and now our hearts are in the right place.”

You will now get an involuntary “ahhhhhh” from everyone watching. They will love you …and that schmaltz.

They are available now as long as supplies last.
Get yours now in time for February and Valentine’s Day.

Comes with gaff and online video instruction of several handlings, including the one in the video.

I confess, while the video shows you the routine, it can’t begin to give you an idea of the warm feelings the ending line creates.
Only common sense will do that.

US orders only Heart Transplant is only $20 plus free shipping  


WANT HEART TRANSPLANT FOR FREE??
Place an order over $100 and we’ll toss one in your order as a gift!
Offer expires January 31, 2024

Best,

Doc Dixon

1 You gotta give props to Anniversary Waltz, but who says you can’t perform both?




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The Crazy Holiday Rush Post

How crazy can the holiday rush of shows be?
I meant to post this 2 weeks ago, but forgot. That’s how crazy.

I read the posts of magic buddies running from one gig to the other during the holiday season, some doing three or four venues in a day. While I currently try to schedule my bookings to avoid that wonderful madness, I am not a stranger to it. Plus, with a home office, a wonderful wife, and 6 sons at home, my life is crazy to start with.

All that being said, here are a few reminders that will hopefully make the rest of your holiday season saner.

#1 Remember that it’s often amateur hour

No, you are not the amateur. The meeting planner is. That’s not a slam on them, as event planning is a specific skill and you can’t get mad at Mary from HR for not fulfilling your mic requirements as detailed in your show rider. Even with all the pre-event discussion due diligence beforehand, surprises come up. For many groups, the holiday party might be the only real event the plan all year.

Be pleasant. Be professional. Roll with it.

If they tell you things are running a little late (and they always tell us that), be kind, because you have already allowed for that in scheduling …you have already allowed for that, right?

The goal is to deliver a product they will want to buy again.

#2 Bring your paperwork

“OK, your stage show will begin at 8pm”

“Stage show? There must be a misunderstanding. I was booked for an hour of close-up magic during the cocktail party.”

“Oh, no. You were booked for the after dinner show.”

Being able to bring up the corroborating emails in seconds on your phone will go along way to keeping you looking like a pro. And then if you can follow up with, “I can perform my after dinner show for you. Let me email you an amended agreement,” you are golden.

#3 Pack for teddy bear

You’ll be performing at a banquet that you booked six months earlier. You were told repeatedly it’s “adults only.” Then you’ll show up and see a couple of eight year olds in the audience. Your show can be performed in front of kids, meaning no blue material, so you’re fine in regard. What you might NOT have is a routine to showcase the kids.

I wrote an entire post about packing for teddy bear, the term I use packing a props for the unexpected kid in the audience. Give it a read.

#4 Pack for the next show

When I do more than one show in a night there are things I double pack so they are ready and waiting for me for the next show. Examples (from my act and others): a cards/envelope rig, a torn and restored newspaper, a filled shot glass, egg with a sticker on it (in that case it’s a back up of a back up), a second stacked deck, gypsy thread set up.

I do not want the fuss, not matter how minor, of having to worry about these tasks.

#5 Be Bulletproof

You probably want to rethink anything that has sensitive angles and demanding light requirements.

#6 Snacks, mints, coffee, hair

A hungry magi can morph into hangry magic. Nobody wants that. Breath mints are good, too. Caffeine? Your call, but my blood is 73% Turkish coffee. A small can of hair spray kept in your case will keep the hair where it should be.

#7 Your check

Here’s a story told to me ten years ago after a corporate gig by an audience member. He said this happened in the eighties.

“It was our national dealers convention. Over a thousand dealers from across the nation were gathered in the theater. Our entertainment was Bob Hope. He was to be paid $250,000. I was backstage with him about two hours before show time. We gave him the check. He said it wouldn’t work because his contract specified a casher’s check, and this was not a cashier’s check. He would not perform without the cashier’s check in hand. I couldn’t believe it! Thankfully, one of the members of the board was also on the board of the bank in town and he was able to go to the bank — after hours — and get the cashier’s check. I lost all respect for Bob Hope at that point.

And I gained new respect for Bob Hope at that point.

As the Holy Writ says, “the laborer is worthy of his reward.”
As Stan Kramien said, “No dough. No show.”

Don’t let client absentmindedness delay your check.

#8 Pack small, play big, and live large.

You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? Details here:

#9 Have a spot for a handicapped child in your show.

Kids LOVE to help the magician. And that means kids of all abilities and challenges. Back when I was performing 250 school assembly programs a year, I knew what routines in my show were handicap accessible, and with different degrees of ability in mind. I didn’t even have to change the material. A little forethought, preplanning, and adapting on the fly is all it took.

The kid got to be the star. He gets to feel the other kids cheering him on and being envious of him. The entire audience feels the warmth of the child’s happiness.

By the way, what you just read is a paraphrase of an entry from my latest book. Details here:

#10 Have fun.

You’re doing magic tricks for money, for Pete’s sake. Love it.

Merry Christmas!

Doc Dixon

PS: While you’re here, check out the store, including my latest release, Psychic Cents.




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The US Thanksgiving Edition 2023!

Tomorrow is the BIG DAY here in the U.S.!!!

Yep. Thanksgiving! Sure, you could celebrate the day without performing magic for your kith and kin, but what kind of weirdo does that??

TWO OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD SUGGESTIONS TO MAGICIFY
THANKSGIVING DAY!!

I realize most magic dealers are all screaming “BUY BUY BUY” this weekend. Not the Old Man here. Nope. Not ol’ Doc Dixon. I’m a giver.
Like Ann-Margret1 traveling half away around the world to entertain the troops.
Like Bob Backlund jobbing the strap to Diesel.
Like a politician chumming for votes without the statist ickiness.
Yep. I’m a giver.

These write ups will not have detailed methods, as if you’re reading this page, you should already know a few ways to do each trick.

#1: Selected card in turkey’s butt.
(Dunninger2 used to kill with this.)

Someone is forced to select a card. Then the card is lost in the deck. The cards are spread facedown. One card is face up in the deck. It is NOT the selection. (What sort of 2 faced treachery is this?? Hint. Hint.) The rest of the deck is searched. No selection there, either. Later in the meal, long after the magician is forced to leave the dinner for, well, you know, any number of awkward offenses, the meal begins. Upon reaching in the stuffing filled avian anal cavity, a card is found.

Is it the selection? Probably, but who cares? By this time Uncle Stan realizes he already lost five large on the Cowboys and is seeking solace in a bottle of Jack.

#2 Psychic Marshmallows & Sweet Potatoes
(Francis Carlyle was so impressed he stopped punching his twin brother.3)

  1. Pick two random single digit numbers.
  2. Add them together.
  3. Multiple them by 9 to get a new number.
  4. If the new number is one digit, go to next step. If it has more than one digit, add all those digits together to get a new number and go to next step.
  5. Subtract five from that number.
  6. That last number is your magic marshmallow and sweet potato number.

Bring out casserole. It looks like this:

Prepare yourself. Ladies swooning in three, two …

Wait. Don’t tell me you’re not having the sweet potato casserole with marshmallows?? I pray for your soul. Next thing you know, you won’t be having the green bean casserole with French’s® Original Crispy Fried Onions! My grandfather didn’t fight the Ruskies at Little Big Horn and Iwo Jima so you could commit culinary heresy.

Oh well.

Happy Thanksgiving!
If you’re reading this, I’m thankful for you.4

Doc Dixon

PS: Check out the pre-release special on my latest book here & save 10 smackers.

1 I once met Ann-Margret on a movie set. #Merica
2 Could have been Kuda Bux. To be honest, it’s been a long day and I forgot what name I originally arbitrarily chose for the joke.
3Joke based on a true story.
4 Probably

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We ALL Have Limits

I never thought that the desire to troupe a great show smartly and successfully would be controversial, but (sigh) …I read some stuff online …(I know. Stop. Stop. Stop.) …and here we are.

I confess, it hurts the Old Man’s feelings when he sees some performers misunderstand what “pack small & play big” means. Or to be more exacting, it hurts the Old Man’s feelings when he sees some performers misunderstand what “pack small & play big” means to …the Old Man. (That’s me.)

When I say, “pack small & play big” I’m not talking about some jabroni trying to do a lame packet trick that wouldn’t play for three people in front of three hundred people. Geesh. We all know that can be a suckfest of non-Fox-Lake proportions. It’s bad for the audience and it’s bad for the performer because he’s expressing himself in a selfish me-me-me-ME way! Ugh!!

The heart of play big is taking whatever limits the situation puts on you and delivering the best show you can.

The heart of pack small is acknowledging limits, whether those limits are a briefcase, carryon case, a carryon case and a checked bag, or the trunk of your Honda Pilot. And we all have limits.

Event planner: “So, I saw this act in Vegas and I want you to do the same thing. I want Johnny to lie down on a couch. You throw a sheet over him. He then floats up in the air. You pull away the sheet and he’s gone. Then he appears at the back of the room, jumping up and down, blowing a whistle. If that’s too much, please keep in mind, the whistle is negotiable.” 

Magician:You’re going to need a way bigger budget and room.” 

Reality: Every gig has limitations. 

These limitations can vary with:
Venue (Theater? Living room? Meeting room? Outdoors? School?)
Reset (Four different schools in one day)
Time (Do I have five minutes or fifty to set up?)
Travel (The thin model sawing doesn’t even fit in my checked luggage.)
And of course, budget.

There are magicians bringing in four cases to a gig who might wonder why I bring only one. To them I ask, “Where’s your Asrah levitation?” 

The point is, we ALL set limitations. What varies is where the limitations are. To paraphrase a very old punchline …

“We’ve already established what you are. Now we’re just negotiating the price.” 

We are limited in one way or another. All. Of. Us. Are.

It’s only when we embrace those limits and the reality that accompanies them can we fully embrace what to do with our show and for our audiences to give the BEST best performance we can.

Want to learn how to pack small and play big, and live large
for adult audiences?
Want to learn how to pack small and play big, and live large
for family audiences?
These books will help you.

NEW!!
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Work Hard In A Smarter Way

Below is a excerpt from my new book, The Kids Know Best – Packing Small & Playing Big for Kids/Family Shows

I recently saw a pic of a school show magician’s stage set up. He had one of those big, branded show backdrops. And from what I could tell, the rest of the set up could (not including sound system) could fit in a carryon case. I looked at the pic and thought, “This guy gets it.” It reminded me of my set up when I was performing two hundred fifty school programs a year. 

The backdrop comes out of the wheeled bag. It sets up in two minutes. BOOM-done. It’s a big item, yes, but it’s also a SINGLE package. A lot of visual impact that can be unleashed in just 2 minutes, then resets right after the show. 

And the rest of the show fits in a case smaller than the backdrop. Two cases and done. 

Like I said. That guy gets it. 

Then I see other pics of kid show set ups. Here’s an example.
Two pop-up banners.
A third curtain backdrop.
A suitcase table.
Two to three magic boxes, like production boxes, rabbit wringers, or the ol’ MAK Magic dagger live stock vanish. A Botania.
A floating table.
A vent doll.
A Stratosphere tube with the accompany last ball vanisher
A spring raccoon.
A dove.
A rabbit.

And the show is thirty-five minutes. 

I want to say to that second magician: 

You are working hard. Too hard. You can work better and smarter. 

The show won’t be just as good with fewer props. 
It will be better. 

Yes, you can continue to bring all those props to a kid show. 

But you could also bring …
A better script.
Developed routines. 
Purposeful prop design. 
Audience participation.
A message. 
Proven show structure. 
Bonus: quicker set up and tear down time. 

But you can NOT do all those things
AND bring all those props. 
Why? 
Because the show would be three hours long. 

When you write good scripts, fully develop routines, use smart audience participation, have a good message, and a solid show structure, you will out of necessity get more and higher quality entertainment time from fewer props. 

A better show that’s easier to troupe can be yours to share with your audiences. 

This is not about working lazier and delivering less. I don’t buy into the “it’s just a kids show” mentality. 

It’s about working smarter, harder in the creation and planning of the show, and more streamlined in the trouping of the show to deliver a BETTER show. 

Tentative release date: Black Friday, November 24, 2023.

Until Next Time,

Doc Dixon

PS: If you’d like to learn many, many MORE ways to pack small and play HUGE to the back of the room, order my new book, The Show Is The Mother Of Invention. As of August 28, 2023, the second printing is almost sold out with only about 10 books left. Act now!

PS#2 If you’re looking for a great packs small plays huge SKILL routine, check out Reign Man, the KING of All Magic Square Routines!




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1More formally, a manipulation routine, but I’ve always used and heard the term “manip” when talking with other magicians, so that’s what I’ll use here.

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The Power Of Multi-Tools

Magic isn’t the only thing I geek out on.

Here are a few topics I geek out on to one degree or another:
Universal monster movies, Robert Parker Spenser novels, chili, economics, Doctor Who, Norm MacDonald (is this starting to read like a very odd dating website profile?) and, the starting point for this post, multi-tools.

Proof: A tweet from 2018.

I like taking the multi-tool concept to parts of my act, meaning I like it when a single prop can serve more than one purpose within the show or case. Obviously not every prop should be expected to do this, but there are dividends when it happens with a few.

This idea can manifest itself theatrically with callbacks and running gags.
It can manifest itself functionally with better case packing.

FIVE BENEFITS:
#1 If a prop does two things, it’s one less prop to pack.
#2 It allows space for other props.
#3 It can give a thematic unity to a show
#4 It can provide an awesome callback to an earlier routine.
And perhaps the most rubber-meets-the-road benefit
#5 In case you need extra time in your show, you won’t panic. You’ll immediately realize, “I’m good. The XYZ prop can also do this.”

Here are two ideas for applying this to DixonMagic routines:

#1 The teddy bear appears at the climax of Corn Hole Zero. “What’s that tied around the bear’s neck? Is that a green ribbon? No! That’s the spectator’s $20 bill that vanished earlier in the show!”

So now CHZ delivers the climax of your borrowed bill routine, too!

#2 Perform Reign Man: King Of All Magic Square Routines with a book used later in the show for a book test.

There’s a nice topical synergy that happens with this when the book is especially meaningful to the performer.

Now, if you have Corn Hole Zero or Reign Man, you’re welcome LOL. You have a way to further integrate both of these routines in your show. If you do not have these routines, you have yet another reason to purchase them 😉

What can you do with this multi-tool approach in your show?

Obviously, only you can answer that question. The point of this post is this question is a good one to ask. Here are a few off the top of my head:
a miser’s dream bucket can catch the water from a hydrostatic glass
a cocktail shaker can be a miser’s dream bucket and a container for Shake, Shuffle, and Twist
a deck of cards can perform six card repeat, card across, and card in mouth
a tossed deck plus a faro shuffle from other cards becomes a Koran deck
a Himber wallet can contain a six bill repeat and Kaps’ Eleven Bill Trick.

Right now DixonMagic is in the midst of the Canada/Amazon sale, named in honor of a road trip I’m taking in a few weeks. There’s not better time to get a big bargain on great magic. Details below.

Until Next Time,

Doc

THE CANADA/AMAZON* SALE!

*Again, the Amazon RIVER, not the website

Corn Hole Zero   Normally $195 SALE $175

Maweege       Normally $65  SALE $52

Reign Man      Normally $125 SALE $100

MonkeyShines ebooks  Normally $35 SALE $27

The Show Is The 

Mother Of Invention  Normally $35 SALE $30

Emergency Show

Handbook      Normally-Free SALE EVEN FREER!

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