“Bert Allerton’s Rules for the Close-Up Magician. “ Part Seven

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We continue with our next point in the series…
“To be a really successful close-up magician you must:”

7. Routine your presentation, with careful arrangement of effects, psychologically selected and performance tested. The opening is important and should break down as quickly as possible the normal dislike for magicians on the part of so many people, apparently due to unimpressive performances they have previously witnessed.

Emcee for a marketing event

Every effect must sustain interest as a closer-up performer has distractions which no stage performer encounters – music, dancing, waiters, kibitzers, etc. As in any good performance, the climax or concluding effect is exceptionally important. If possible, leave ‘em laughing.

This touches on several of the most daunting aspects of my job. The first and most frustrating is, “possible the normal dislike for magicians on the part of so many people, apparently due to unimpressive performances they have previously witnessed.”

I’ve said it many times – When people see a bad band they say, “Wow that band sucked.” But when they see a bad magician they say, “Wow magic sucks.” It’s painful and there are a huge number of bad magicians out there. Worse still is that many of them are great marketers! They get tons of work (though not for the same client twice….) But still, like a virulent flu, they manage to spread out and infect mass amount of potential clients with a genuine dislike for magicians.

That makes it hard for the good guys to get booked…when I tell someone I’m a magician the first thing they think of is a kid’s party entertainer. Most of the time it’s a quick way to insure that you won’t be taken seriously at all. On the food chain of entertainers magicians are only slightly above clowns (another very much maligned group.)

Through years of experience I’ve learned that I need to survey a crowd before I enter into the fray. One of my favorite types of work is the “walk around” gig – where I’ll be mixing and mingling with guests as they socialize with one another. I know that the key to ‘breaking the room’ is to find that first friendly group and to impress them enough to get a buzz going that will spread throughout the room and into the rest of the event.

Of Equal important is knowing who to avoid. This can be the groups that are heated conversation. Perhaps it’s the group who are too close to the band where I’ll have no chance of being heard (which just causes frustration and ultimately dis-interest.)

As a result of many, many years of doing this I have learned how to win over the ambivalent. I wish I could secretly video the process by which a table transitions from barely tolerating my interruption to clapping, laughing and wide-eyed-opened-mouthed amazement. It is satisfying, but it’s so much nicer to deal with people when you don’t have to undo what a poor performer has done before.

There are a hundred other things that can wreck the moment that I’m working to create…or at least they could destroy it if I hadn’t been through it before and come up with a way to deal. I started out doing magic in bars, dealing with drunks, aggressively inquisitive and downright grabby customers, over protective boyfriends, and people who can’t stand to have their friends pay attention to anyone but them.

On top of that are bands and DJ’s who make up for their lack of skill by increasing their volume, servers and hosts who step right in the middle of an effect to refills drinks….and the list goes on. So how can one possible negotiate this sea of chaos? Good humor and a solid refusal to be thrown off or get angry at any circumstance go a long way.