Magic and the Power of Patter: Part 3

So today I had a twelve year old boy and his dad in the shop buying magic. Their home is way up north. No magic shops there but the boy did and loved magic.  He was a smart kid. When I  showed him a trick, and when I came up with a line that made him laugh he would say to his dad. “Remember that, in case I forget it.” At that young age, he realized the importance of entertaining as well as doing a trick. Most kids, adults too, are just waiting to see the magic. Yes, they laugh at the jokes, listen to the story, etc. but never dream that it is an integral part of the trick. Rather than focus on what you are saying they are watching carefully, to try to catch you. They bought everything I showed them, went “sleightly” over budget but didn’t mind. It was all good.

In Patter: Part 2 I told you how patter can save a show. I may have told you this story in an earlier blog, and it has nothing to do with magic. Phil was playing piano at the Jazztime Ragtime Festival in 1000 Islands, He was up next and the person playing played one of the numbers he was going to play. It’s like someone does a dove act just before you are about to do yours. He said to me, “Maybe I’ll play something else instead.” I said, “No, your version is completely different than his and you took such pains to plan your program.” He agreed.

Now he was up at bat. He sat down and played a few numbers well, and then played the song before the one we were debating, and a song he knew inside out and backwards, he started thinking about his next number, while playing this one. Suddenly he found himself miserably lost, had no idea where he was in the song, tried a few times to get back to it and couldn’t and then realized if he could find a certain chord he could get back into it and he did and finished the song followed by a weak, pity applause at the end. Eugene Burger said in his lecture that I attended, “If you don’t prepare your words in advance, they will not pop into your head when  you need them.” I guess Phil was the exception that proved the rule. Of course he never planned to mess up like that but it happened.  After the applause “died” down, Phil leaned into the microphone and said, “In case you’re wondering, I learned that song from a broken record.” Everyone laughed and he got a thunderous applause and continued with his next piece with great success.  As I write this I realize that maybe half the people reading this don’t know what a record is, let alone a broken record, nor will I explain. You can look it up on your iPads, or whatever.

The thing is that people want you to succeed. When you don’t they feel bad for you. You don’t deserve an applause, but they applaud anyway, weakly though it many be. There is tension in the audience and they can’t help you. And you tell a joke and break the tension and they are so happy and relieved that they will applaud their hearts out! Actually some tricks are dependent on failing a few times and then succeeding. It’s something to think about and you can prepare in advance as to what to say if the outcome isn’t what you wanted. But you have to think about it.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Magic and the Power of Patter: Part 3

  1. Thank you for the kind words, Evelyn! 🙂 The key to improving the chances of making the audience root for you is to be likeable. Self-deprecating humour — making fun of yourself — is one of the quickest and most powerful ways of getting the audience on your side. It’s well worth cultivating. (And hats off to Phil: love the broken record line, very inspired! 🙂 )

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