This entry is about a trick I’ve performed regularly for over thirty years.
Dang. I’m old. But I ain’t dead yet, so get to reading, magi.
When Tommy Downs produced dollar coins out of the air in 1910, those dollars were worth much more than a dollar today. Today a dollar is worth, well, a dollar. Adjusted for inflation*, a dollar in 1910 was worth about thirty-one of today’s dollars. So with only four coins — bam — Tommy made one hundred twenty-four smackers worth of 2023 value appear.
That’s a great steak dinner from 1910 dollars.
In 2022 dollars you are not making enough for a Big Mac.
Moral of the story: Don’t expect an adult audience to get excited about Big Mac money.
All that being said, the Miser’s Dream can definitely be a great addition to an adult audience.
So if not the money, what can the Miser’s Dream be about?
It’s about a display of sleight of hand. Yes, I know that on the sleight of hand effort spectrum where one is the paddle move and ten is Steve Forte, the Miser’s Dream usually requires around a two and a half. That’s the reality, but magic being about perception, this effect can be presentationally sold as a skill piece.
It’s about the loud, clanky coins and a can. I know sound is part of the method, but I contend it’s also a big part of the appeal. How many classic routines actually make some noise? A noise that is inherently humorous? Here’s one: the die box. Now imagine a die box without the nice strong “click.” Kinda lame, isn’t it? The sound sells the joke. The Miser’s Dream is like that.
And please, no half dollars. Full size silver dollars only need apply. I don’t care if they’re fake or if they’re palming coins, but size does matter.
It’s about a blank canvas. Al Flosso. Jeff McBride. Teller. The late, great Dick Oslund. And at the risk of hubris via aspiration, yours truly. All of these performers took the Miser’s Dream in their own direction. It can be a long, short, or something in-between. Do the same. Take it where you want to go.
And there many directions.
Flosso cajoled the kid “Stand up straight, boy!”
McBride doesn’t say a word (at least one the audience can hear).
Teller ends with …well, no spoilers. It’s great.
And Dick Oslund brought up as many as SIX helpers.
It’s about the bits of business. If you’re new to the Miser’s Dream, to get things on the boards, tap into the bits that are public domain and research the published work. This is one of the many times that if a book or instructional video gives you ONE useable addition to your work, you gotta bargain. Then create your own bits.
It’s odd what memories end up lodging in the brain for decades, but I remember twenty+ years ago ad-libbing a new Miser’s Dream bit in a show, and immediately knowing I had something new that would work for years – and I was right. I actually called a magician buddy on the way home after the gig and shared my geeked out enthusiasm. HA!
YOUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FROM THIS POST↓↓↓
So where did that new bit come from? The same place most new bits and gags come from in my show, and maybe yours, too. It came from a spirit of play.
I doubt the first grandfather who pulled a quarter from behind his grandson’s ear was thinking, “OK. I need this joke to score big.” No.
He loves his grandson.
He likes to play with grandson.
So he pulls a quarter from his ear to play with him. I’m a grandpap myself. That’s why I do this stuff.
It’s about playfulness.
I like my audience members.
I like to play with them and have fun.
And most of all, the Miser’s Dream is about the interaction. The trick isn’t about coins or the bucket. It’s about that audience member on stage – their expressions and their laughter.
Kid show performers are fond of saying “It’s not about the destination. It’s the journey.” It’s true with kids. It’s true with adults. It’s true with the Miser’s Dream.