My Long (And Eventually Happy) Journey
To Get The Exact Rope Routine I Wanted
Invisible Knots opens my show on luxury cruise ships.
It’s six+ minutes of laughs, amazement, and interaction
you can easily drop in your act.
All the props fit in your back pocket,
yet it plays to the back of row of a big theater.
If you’ve done card tricks for 5 minutes you have taken out a deck of cards to perform a trick, and before you do anything else, a spectator says …
“Oh. I’ve seen this one.”
Unless you are about to do the Twenty-One Card trick, this probably isn’t true.
Replace a deck of cards with a length of rope and you have the same challenge …magnified tenfold. It’s magnified because you probably are actually going to do the trick they expect, the cut and restored rope. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do a cut and restored rope. It means, more than ever, you have to over-deliver.
The start of over-delivering is
deciding exactly what you will deliver
“Exactly” is the key word there. The more detailed pictured you paint in your head of what you where you want to end up, the better chance you’ll get exactly where you want to be. Here’s the picture (in the form of a checklist) that I painted for my rope routine:
✔️#1 I wanted it to progress and build to a strong finish.
I want to take the audience on a trip with a beginning and climax. The rope is cut and restored twice. Two more ropes are introduced, then all join to become one giant length of rope. I first saw this ending decades ago with a Professor’s Nitemare set with ropes gaffed with magnets. That brings up the next point …
✔️#2 I hand out all the ropes during the routine for quick examinations. So no gaffs, including magnets.
✔️#3 No onstage volunteers.
Why? In some venues it’s helpful, if not necessary, to have routines that don’t require onstage volunteers. Plus, in a volunteer laden show, a routine like this is a boost to pacing.
✔️#4 But there IS interaction.
Go back to #2. Handing out the rope for a quick inspection does more than get rope “certified normal.” It gets me the name of the spectator. I can quickly establish a rapport with the individual and, more importantly, establish him or her as another character in my show.
This rapport is the basis for laughs and running gags throughout the rest of the act. That friendly, humble rope inspector — who never even had to get out of his seat — becomes a co-star in your show.
Additionally, this supplies the not so small perk of being able to say, “And let’s give a big round of applause to John!! You were incredible, my friend.”
✔️#5 The knots have to fall!
Cut and restored rope routines have the cut ropes restore in different ways. Some use a simple cross of the arms, or a knot that slides off the end of rope. I wanted the restorations to be the knots falling off the rope.
Picture it. The rope is cut. The pieces are tied together. The rope is held out in front of my chest and neither of my hands are touching the knot. It appears so stinkin’ fair. Then the knot falls off the rope and the rope is whole.
The falling knot restoration happens four times in the routine. Twice when a single rope is cut then at the climax, when two knots at the same time fall off when the three pieces are “restored” into one giant piece. None of the knots are pulled off, but rather apparently fall by themselves untouched by your hands.
✔️#6 Sixth, but not least, I want fertile ground to make the funny.
A funny script can be that.
Certainly, audience interaction be that. See #4.
And, for whatever reasons, the knot falling off the rope center of the rope does play intrinsically funny. See #5
✔️#7 Adding up the previous points, this routine should be a solid six plus minutes of entertainment.
✔️#8 I didn’t want to need to replace the rope each show.
Now understand, this is the least important checkpoint, as the routine is about the audience’s needs, not mine. BUT …if I can have my cake and eat it, too, where’s that fork?