Years ago when I was a young magician barely in my twenties I did this great close-up trick that I thought would play well on stage, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the audience interested in the trick.
The trick was a great one. It was a classic that was the favorite of my close-up magic audiences, but I couldn’t get an audience of more than a dozen to focus on it enough to appreciate it from the stage. Ugh. Finally, my mentor showed up at one of my stage shows and before the show he told me how to introduce that trick to my audiences to get them to appreciate it. I did it …and it worked.
Want me to tell you what he said?
I just did.
OK. Confession time. Those first couple of paragraphs were a complete fabrication …a cunard …bupkus …a lie …BS. But they got your attention, didn’t they? Telling the audience that they are about to see something special helps them react like they are seeing something special.
Here’s a sample script to give you the idea.
The next trick found its way into the show in an unusual way. I love close-up sleight of hand magic. The kind of stuff that takes months and years of practice. A few years back I was performing close-up magic at a party and afterwards was doing a larger show like I’m doing right now. During the close-up magic time I did the trick I’m about to do now and the host of the party said, “Whoa!! You must do that in your show when you’re performing for everyone. That’s so cool.” Well, I had never thought of doing it in the show before. I mean, it’s only three coins. Three silver dollars. (Take out coins and display them.) But it is a beautiful piece of magic, if I say so myself. So lean in now. Pay extra close attention. Watch.
Then comes three fly, or some other swanky three coins vanishin’, appearin’ and migratin’ wonder.
It’s not the specific words I’m trying to emphasize here. Or even the words in general. It’s their purpose that’s important. Their utility for the show is what I’m talking about.
A smaller (prop-wise) sleight of hand piece is often shorter, usually less laugh-centric, slower, and doesn’t involve audience participation. This doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, that shift in gears can be good for the show, but only if the audience shifts gears, too.
That’s the whole purpose of introducing the piece like that. It gets the audience to lean in, both literally and figuratively. Without shifting their gears, you’ll grind them.*
I’m not writing from theory. I have a piece like this in my act and the right introduction made all the difference.
So if you have a piece like this you’d like to put in your stand-up show, start writing its gear shifting introduction.
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*Could this be the most manly metaphor EVER in a magic blog? Yes. Yes, it is.