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Watching Magic-Guidelines for Magicians

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As a magician, I’ve run into my share of problem audiences and pain-in-the-neck individuals and hecklers. But surprisingly, some memorable problems have been caused by my fellow magicians, particularly beginners.

It’s difficult to imagine that common courtesy would have to be explained. But here are some guidelines for magicians when watching other conjurors.

Magic, Not Football
Please don’t offer your running commentary as if you’re announcing play-by-play action at a football game. You’re part of a crowd watching a magic routine, not John Madden. I’ve had situations where a magician had to announce every move or discuss it with someone else:

“Did you see his pass?”

“Where is the card now?”

“What routine is he performing?”

“Whoa, he changed the handling...Daryl does it like this...”

Or worse:

“I wouldn’t do it that way..I would use Dai Vernon’s such and such move...”

”I Do This Too!”
At times, I’ve had a magician in the crowd who had to exclaim “I do this trick,” or, “I can do that move.” I’ve even heard, once, “I can’t do that move but can learn it if I want to.” This was from a magician who was knowledgeable enough to recognize a particular flourish and knew its name, and who should have known better. Again, please keep the commentary to yourself and allow the entertainer to focus on the crowd and create the strongest magic possible.

Please don’t offer to do a card trick during or after my set (I’ve had this happen many times). To start, you’re not welcome to use my cards or props. I may have already snuck a gimmick into the pack for another set or culled the deck into some particular order for a later trick. And please don’t bring out your own cards or other props to offer a trick.

I’m being paid to gather a crowd and entertain them. Your offer to perform a trick is preventing me from doing my job. In a few isolated incidents, I’ve actually run into those who wanted to perform their ball & vase, disappearing hanky and other tricks. And sad to say, these guys weren’t kids.

Let’s Fool the Magician
And for those of you who dabble with magic. Perhaps you’ve fooled a few friends at the office with some simple tricks. But please don’t show me your basic card tricks. The “three pile card trick?” I wrote the instructions here on the site. And that goes for “cops and robbers,” your four ace production or assembly and others.

I’m puzzled as to why beginners think that they can perform a trick that a professional magician wouldn’t know and insist on showing it. I can recall an event earlier in the year where a chef at a hotel pulled me aside to show me a trick and said “This will blow you away.” I politely watched, but the trick didn’t blow me away and I was well aware of the method. (At least it was based on a Down’s palm and not the usual French Drop.) Meanwhile, I was trying to get onto the floor to begin my set.

Impress Me
I’m happy to meet fellow magicians when I’m performing. But please don’t ask me to perform a trick especially for you. And especially, don’t ask me to “dazzle” you with my “best” trick.

When I’m working, I’ve usually decided what I’m performing and probably have it already set up. At a street fair or other event, you’re an audience member just like everyone else and you’re welcome to watch. But please don’t ask me to deviate from my planned performance to try and impress you. And what’s with this need to be impressed and pass your test?

If you truly love magic and want it to have the greatest impact on lay spectators, please help your fellow magician and try not to detract from a show in any way. If you allow us to do our job, we can entertain the crowds and bring-up the level of what magic can be in lay spectators’ minds.

And when more spectators walk away with a positive feeling toward our art, they’ll be asking you to perform good magic as well. We’re all in this together.

-Wayne N. Kawamoto

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