Thursday, July 20, 2006


As I am jumping atop a soapbox, I want to be careful to say that these are the things that I believe and work for me. Everyone is different and as the saying goes, “one man’s wand is another man’s stick.” (Do not read anything into that!)

Briefly, I believe that...

1) We are all in this to elicit a response from our audience: gasp, laugh, or applause. To say otherwise is to be a fool or a liar. We all seek our audience’s approval.

Think of these acts: Johnny Thompson, Eugene Burger, Max Malini, Lance Burton, David Blaine, Mac King, Harry Blackstone, Harry Kellar, David Copperfield, Doug Henning, Tom Mullica, Matt Schulien, Houdini, etc. Each one of these acts is different. Each act is uniquely individual, (yet each has a precedent.) Each one has reached the heights of our community.

But I will wager that the thing first in their minds is their audience, not self-expression. Their acts were chiseled into form by the sharp edges of the audience. If something pleased the audience, it stayed in; if something did not, it went into the garbage. They did not keep stuff in that wasn’t working because it was an expression of self. The audience determines what part of you they want more of and what part they want less of. Successful magicians learn from their audiences. Their acts exist by the good favor of their audience. The main problem is most magicians never listen to their audience.

2) “Magic” is a word that has many meanings, it this instance I am using it to describe the experience one receives when seeing a trick. Magic does not exist...except in the minds of our audience. To go further, it only happens in the minds of a layperson. Although it will rarely and briefly happen in a magician’s mind also. Magic is not in our cards or our hands or in our minds.

If you are skeptical, try this experiment: First, perform your best trick for yourself, in a mirror. Second, perform the same for another magician. Third, perform the same for the first stranger you meet on the street. Where did the magic occur?

Magic is created by the congruent and incongruent images we give to the spectator’s mind. You can’t fool yourself. You can rarely fool another magician, but the magician’s mind moves quickly to the intellectual exercise of the method. You can only create magic in the mind of someone closed to the secrets. Other “arts” can exist in a vacuum. Painting, poetry, dance, music can all exist without an audience. I can argue that acting may be able to exist without an audience, but I am weak on that subject. I waver because magic and acting are so closely allied. However, magic cannot exist without an audience. By extension, we do not exist without an audience.

I’ll speak more to the differences between the MagicianCentric (egocentric) view of magic and the AudienceCentric views of magic in a later post.


mooseandsquirrel said...

Is the word "balance" in your dictionary? The best performers know how to balance their needs with the needs of their audience. Where do you think the idiosyncrasies that distinguish the magicians you listed came from? The expectations of the audience? Or from within those individual performers?

You are right when you say that plenty of magicians never listen to their audience. But many magicians listen only to their audience and not to any creative voice inside themselves. They have no creative voice. They are stuck in the place they were in when they first became interested in magic. They only want people to look at them and applaud.

chgomagic said...

Perhaps you should actually read what I wrote. I said they put their audience FIRST. Again, everything they do in their acts exists because years of audience approval has kept it in. The best performers are themselves and don't have to think about putting themselves into their acts. It happens automatically. They then adjust to the audience because no audience, no act, no magic.

ecoli said...

How very very wrong you are. Nothing occurs automatically. Years of work may eventually lead to being comfortable enough to be yourself onstage. Many magicians never discover who they are because they are too busy being someone else -- usually the "I'll say anything to make you laugh" person. When they are rewarded with laughs, applause and money, they think they have done a fine job. And as we all know, that ain't necessarily so.

chgomagic said...

Nothing occurs automatically? Can you be really sure about that? No happy accidents. No stumbling around until you hit the right thing? I agree...many magicians never are comfortable with themselves on stage, but that is job for an analyst. A defect in their personalities and not because they are following the cues of the audience.