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Review: Szechuan Sampler 2.0 by Larry Becker and Lee Earle

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating


Review: Szechuan Sampler 2.0 by Larry Becker and Lee Earle
A baffling bit of mentalism with a Chinese restaurant theme, Szechuan Sampler allows for completely free choices on the part of four participants and ends with a powerful prediction. The effect is self-working and straight-forward to learn and perform.

Unfortunately, the creators seem to be proud of the degrading humor that they’re encouraging magicians to use. In the end, the publishers can be proud of a clever effect, but should be ashamed of their disrespectful humor that’s based on gross and negative stereotypes.

The Prediction

You hand four authentic-looking menus from different Chinese restaurants to four different spectators and place a prediction, a gift certificate, in plain view. The participants decide among themselves who will select an appetizer, entree, side dish and dessert from the menus. All of the items are priced differently in their respective menus. Each price is recorded and added, and when the gift card is turned around, the amount printed on it completely matches, to the penny, the total of the spectators’ selections.

This routine comes with professionally designed and printed menus that are laminated and should prove to be durable. These menus look as if they are from real Chinese restaurants. There are also paper menus that are printed on thin paper and will not wear as well. At your discretion, you can control the effect so there’s a different outcome. As the ads state, the routine requires no forces, gimmicks or stooges. Also, there’s no pre-show work.

It's on the Menu

The routine comes with jokes and unfortunately, the publishers seem to take pride in taking the low road. The ad clearly states, “each menu has hidden cues for some of the most outrageous (and definitely un-PC) gag lines you could possibly imagine, which turn the effect from mere mental magic into belly-spitting [sic] entertainment.” I guess it depends on who is watching.

From a magic standpoint, the questionable jokes are written on the menus and are an immediate indication to any lay person that the menus probably aren’t real ones. If these jokes are so funny and magicians want to use them, can’t you simply publish and allow others to memorize them?

In Bad Taste

Of course, more bothersome is the insulting humor that bogs down the magic. If the publishers think that most can’t “possibly imagine” such gag lines, these racist jokes have been around for decades. Just Google your favorite target and the jokes will spill out by the thousands.

There are lots of people out there who hate magic. And I think a lot of these people were the victims of a humiliating magic routine or witnessed a magician who used his power as a boorish entertainer to embarrass others. It’s so easy to bring up a bald guy or overweight woman and make comments and insulting jokes (to bald guy, “place the card on your forehead”). Afterwards, the “entertainer” asks the audience to give the spectator a hand, as if this makes everything alright after he or she has been humiliated in front of a crowd.

What you say and joke about in private is up to you. But when you drag down magic entertainment with negligence and arrogance, I find this disappointing. And even if you like this effect and have no desire to use any of the questionable jokes, they’re printed on the menus that you hand to spectators. I find this stupid.

-Wayne N. Kawamoto

MSRP: (US) $69.50

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