Magic and the Power of Patter : Part 1

Patter is what we say as we perform our tricks. I never realized what an impact patter has on the effect. I know its not the magic, its the magician. But the magician can know all the sleights and perform the effect perfectly, but unless he is doing a silent act, which requires no patter, but gestures, its all for naught if his patter isn’t thought out carefully, but flows seamlessly. And of course the timing of the patter and the moves of the trick are like a dance. They are partners. Of course the pros know all this, but if you are not a pro you may not know that patter is a serious business. Books have been written on the subject, Sid Lorraine’s PATTER for one ( and then he wrote More PATTER) and Gene Gordon’s Laughter Legacy for another.

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that the first effect I show 12 year olds and up is the Svengali Deck if they are new at magic. I show them all the old classics which of course are brand new to them. So as I riffle through the deck I always say, “Just put your finger in the deck, anywhere I want, I mean anywhere you want.” Does it get a laugh? Only every single time. It puts them and me in a mood. We are going to enjoy this. (  I think Richard Sanders was here not long ago when I was demonstrating it and he said”Hey, that’s a great line, can I use it?”)

When their finger is in the deck I say “Take out the 3 of spades.” They look at me confused. “Just take the card”. They take the card, look at it and its the 3 of spades. Jaw drops.

“Have you any idea of how I knew that?” Either they say, No, or It’s a marked deck or they are all 3 of spades. It doesn’t matter what they say, it only matters what I say and I have an answer for each one. If they say the latter, I say, “Oh, you’ve seen the trick before.” and they say no, and I show them that all the 3 of spades. And they are so pleased with themselves that they figured it out and feel a little sorry for me that I didn’t fool them.

And then I say, “But you know, anyone could do this if they had a deck full of 3 of spades, so it really isn’t such a hot trick, is it?” They agree.

So  with a wave of my hand, and a magic word, the whole deck changes to a regular deck of cards. Jaw drops again and the trick is sold.

I could have speeded up the trick.. He takes a card, its the same as all the other cards and then  the deck changes to a regular deck, but we wouldn’t have had so much fun. He will still wonder how I did that, but he wouldn’t have had all the emotional stuff that goes with it.

But that is only one aspect of patter and its not even the one I was going to discuss today. There is a more practical and necessary use for it, which I will discuss in my next post. Stay tuned.


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8 responses to “Magic and the Power of Patter : Part 1

  1. Ro Ghandhi

    That is so cool!!! Ro

    Sent from Samsung Mobile


  2. Wonderful post Evy. The first “patter line” that came to mind as I read this was one I’ve heard Michael Ammar use after his “victim” has picked a card: “Would you like to change your mind?” Asks Michael…”No?…so you’ll keep the mind you have then…” That one always makes me smile. 🙂


  3. Jean B

    I’ve seen Teller perform without Penn, unless your him, you need patter


  4. As I said, unless your act is silent.


  5. It’s a vast topic — and this is only the beginning. The next level consists of wrapping the effect in a story, however brief, to increase the emotional engagement of the audience. Most of Eugene Burger’s numerous books are really about that, as are Robert E. Neale’s books and my own small contributions. Thank you for broaching the topic!


  6. I appreciate your input, Ariel. I know how broad the topic is and was at one of Eugene Burger’s lectures many years ago and I use his advice not only in magic but find them useful in many instances outside of magic.


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