Mike circa 2004

Mike entertains close up circa 2004

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

Please note that each element of “Bert Allerton’s Rules for the Close-Up Magician“ has been reprinted with the express written consent of Magic Inc. (no part may be re-printed in other media without consent of Magic Inc.) To get a copy of, “Bert Allerton: The Close-Up Magician. “ Visit: http://www.magicinc.net/closeupmagician.aspx

The front door of my apartment is magnetic. For a geek like me this is a huge plus. You see I love magnets and I use them to stick all kinds of stuff to the door. It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing but seeing it would give someone a window into my life. There’s reminders, my car keys, playing cards with the word “friend” written in different languages (something I collect from every language I can), a couple choice Bible verses (Romans 2:12 and Hebrews 12:11), a custom made magic poster…. All the things I need to see before I go out into the world.

There’s one more thing: a page from the book titled, “Bert Allerton: The Close-Up Magician. “ Its title: “Bert Allerton’s Rules for the Close-Up Magician. “ There are ten rules that follow and although they were published in 1958 they’re still relevant (and not just for magicians!)

Over the next ten posts I’m going to take a look at one of the rules, unpack and contextualize it. Before we begin I should tell you a bit about Mr. Allerton; he was born on January 1, 1889 and lived until February 22, 1958. His first career was as an oil salesman after which he became a close-up magician. He worked across the country in nightclubs in various hotels and was unusual because he only performed close-up.

As far as I can tell the rules are not in order of importance although the last one is left until the end as a capital point. The essay begins, “To be a really successful close-up magician you must:”

1. Really love magic and not do magic because you love to show off.

Well that seems obvious right? Sadly, not the case. Unfortunately many people get into magic as a way of coping with social inadequacies. It’s not uncommon for people to do this with other hobbies (blogging for instance) but with magic there is an unplanned consequence.

If you were to read a blogger who consistently presented wild hyperbole as fact you might recognize that he/she was ‘full of it.’ If you ran into someone who always steered conversations toward politics (for example) you might realize that this is their area of expertise and really the only way that they can confidently relate to another person. In either example you would have an understanding that the problem lies with the person.

Magic however seems to suffer from an identity crisis in that the victims of an egomaniacal magician believe that magic itself is to blame. This is a huge obstacle for every magician that has to follow in the wake of a bad magician.

Magicians can be bad for many reasons…the ways in which one can suck are indeed plentiful…but the show off is one of the worst. One of the goals of a good performer is to communicate with their audience and what the show off is communicating is, “Let me show you how great I am.”

It can be even worse if the performer is skilled! The average audience has very little insight into their own experience…that is they may know if they like or dislike something, but very often they don’t know why….
So if you have a performer who is very skilled an audience can recognize it but they can’t connect to him (or her) there’s no identification, no trust, and consequently they can’t really every fully ‘buy into’ the experience. This is extremely frustrating for them –especially when they equate skill with quality. And so they find themselves saying, “This guy is really good but I just don’t like it…I guess I just don’t like magic.”

In an ideal performance there is an amazing exchange of energy. I’m serving you while you’re appreciating me. Your appreciation in the form of attention, applause, smiles, etc. fuel a performer to give even more –it’s an upward spiral. But if we’re both appreciating me…well that’s one too many. And if I’m only serving myself and my own ego while asking you to watch it’s the height of egotism.


We’re full on into the holiday season and headed into the season for charity events so it’s a good time to address a couple issues within the realm of charity functions. At the end of the article I’m going to give you a great strategy for boosting contributions without incurring greater costs.

As an entertainer I frequently hear, “This would be a great chance for you to get your name out there.” And to be honest it almost never motivates me to donate a free performance.

That’s not to say that I don’t donate shows. In fact I do several per year but I do it because I support the charity, not for the publicity. Because I know that doing “free shows” never…ever…leads to bookings.

Part of the reason for this is that people simply don’t value what they get for free. I still recall reading the axiom, “Free publicity only serves to publicize the fact that you’re willing to work for free.”

To people outside the business that might seem harsh. However almost any professional will tell you that (with the exception of televised performances) it’s absolutely the case.

So what can event organizers do? Many times they are given a small budget and after getting the necessities they have nothing left for the “other necessities” like entertainment.

First off realize this: If the likelihood of getting support from attendees increases with the amount of time they spend at your event then you need to rearrange your priorities to favor the things that keep them there longer.

Simply put: as you decide how much to spend the things that hold people at your event need to be moved up the list so that potential supporters don’t leave early. Having great food is nice but once they’ve eaten they don’t need to stick around…and they won’t unless there’s something else for them to do.

Having live entertainment is great because it makes people want to stay longer. DJ’s are a good choice as long as they are excellent. Be aware that there’s much more to their job than playing music and telling corny jokes.

The same is true for Magicians, there’s much more to their job than doing tricks and telling corny jokes. A good magician doing walk around style magic will inspire conversations. They will also know when to pass a small group by so as not to disturb a great conversation.

A great magician is a great reader of people. They will understand that it is the event (not themselves) is the most important thing. Studies have shown that people who have just finished watching a movie that made them laugh are more likely to be generous. People in a good mood give more than people who attend out of a sense of duty.

So how can you get great entertainment without spending your proceeds? Two words: Silent Auction.

Silent auctions are great for holding people at an event to see who wins the items but there are a couple other benefits; First off, it may be easier to get companies to contribute products and services as it doesn’t cost them as much (and a bonus for your organization is that auction items often go for more than their retail value.)

Secondly as a professional entertainer I offer this arrangement: Pay me to come do your show and I’ll donate a show of equal value for your silent auction. I believe that by having me at your event people will stay longer and be in a better mood (which would already pay off the investment you’ve made by having me there.)

Additionally by contributing the silent auction item I’m insuring that your investment doesn’t just ‘break even’ but pays back a dividend. (Note: One might think that this is true only if the item sells…let me say this, modesty aside, if they see me perform – it will sell….)

On my end I’m insuring that my services have value both to the event organizer and to the auction item winner. I’m willing to perform at the winner’s event because they know what the retail value of the show would have been and they will communicate it whether someone asks or simply in the way they treat the performance.

I’m likely to get other bookings as a result. The organization gets more recognition and support. And the winner gets a great show while contributing to a great cause. They also get to tell about the event they attended and how they won the auction which gets YOU more publicity. Wins all around!

Feel free to visit my site or contact me directly at 480-756-3870 for more information or suggestion about how I can help you.

The second annual, “Night of 100 Stars” benefiting local charity Room For Joy is going to be held on Sunday November 7, from 2 to 5 p.m. at The Shops Gainey Village 8787 N Scottsdale Rd Paradise Valley, AZ 85253.
This event will have lots of fun things for you and your kids to do – including face painting, a fashion show for kids, and I’ll be there magic and making balloons for everyone plus much, much more. Find out more: http://roomforjoy.org/news-press/upcoming-events/
About Room for Joy: Imagine the look on a child’s face the first time they walk into the bedroom they’ve always dreamed of. What if their condition meant they would be spending almost every moment, even up to their last moments in that room…One begins to see what a role environment plays in our well being.
Now imagine the pure joy and excitement that such a bedroom could bring to these children after returning from a painful chemotherapy session or hospitalization from yet another surgery. When returning home from the hospital, they are welcomed by the warmth and infinite possibilities of a bedroom designed around everything they love and dream about.
Room For Joy is an organization dedicated to creating such bedrooms and fulfilling these dreams for chronically ill children. Check them out online and then come out to have fun and support this great cause!

When should you be booking your Christmas/New Years/Holiday party entertainers? In a word – NOW! Venues begin to fill up early and so do entertainer’s schedules.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that every detail of your party needs to be worked out before you make the first phone call. You may find yourself taking what you can get rather than getting what you want!

Let’s take a quick look at the pro’s and con’s of using an agent. For our purposes I’m talking about an entertainment agency that offers several acts as opposed to those who represent specific artists.

First the Pro’s: 1. Simplicity – With one call you can get a Magician, DJ, and Character artist without having to call around for pricing, availability, etc. 2. Reliability – As long as you’re going through a decent agency you will get someone who will show up, on time, and have a reasonable amount of skill.

The Con’s? 1. An agent will typically sell an act based on how much money they can make. Unless you are very specific about who you want, you will get whoever is available and least expensive at the time. Again, this isn’t always the case…just typically.

2. An agent is great at having a lot of acts and marketing them – but an agent doesn’t always know what type of entertainment will work best for your event. They also won’t always be able to make good suggestions about what type of room to look for.

For example, let’s say you’re having a small office party with about 40 total in attendance. You could get two hours of mix and mingle style magic. The magician strolls through the crowd performing magic with cards and coins and has interaction with your guests, giving everyone a personal & magical experience. Two hours might run about $800.00

A second option might be to get one hour of the up close magic and a thirty minute stand up comedy style magic show. That’s one and a half hours and it might run closer to $900.00

Even though it’s less time option #2 would be far better. On an average a close up worker can entertain 40 people easily within the first hour. Although they could fill in the second hour by working longer for each group of people, there’s really a much greater advantage to following it with a stand up show.
The rapport built while mingling ensures that the stand up show will be a big hit while having two style of entertainment provides continuity with diversity. It makes the whole night ‘bigger’ and keeps a great flow.
Here’s a money saving tip if this year’s budget is tighter than usual: Consider having your party on a weekday. Many entertainers offer a discount for parties that are not on a prime night.

Having said that remember: The entertainment will make or break your event – a year from now no one will remember what they ate but everyone will remember if they had a good time or not. So if you think a good entertainer is too expensive, ask yourself if you can afford a bad one…..

In my business it’s a cliche’ there are talented performers who can’t seem to get booked and there are lousy ones who are great marketers that get tons of shows.  A great website and slick promotional materials can be purchased by anyone of any skill level.  Additionally someone who’s great at copy writing may have a fantastic sales letter but a sub par show.

But let’s focus on this:  How do you make sure you’re not paying top dollar for a good marketer when you’re trying to hire a good entertainer? After all, the people at your event could care less how professional a performers phone conversation sounded, they want to be entertained!

Tip #1

During a phone conversation a good entertainer should ask questions about your event.  Now don’t be turned off if the don’t go into great detail – a seasoned pro will have done hundreds of your type of show.  By asking for a few details they can get a sense of what will work very quickly.

Tip #2

They should be able to give a couple different options based on the information they get from you and suggest one “stand out” option that will work best.  Occasionally event planners are reluctant to give details about an event thinking that it will somehow affect the cost.

A good performer is interested in giving you the best options to insure that your event is a success.  It’s more important than selling the biggest show because they are genuinely dedicated to providing the best product possible.  Help them to help you by providing them with important details and don’t be afraid to ask questions in return.

Tip #3

They should be able to clearly describe what they will provide for your event.  After they get the details from you simply say, “Tell me about your show.”

If a performer cannot articulate what they would do for your event or the kind of results to expect, you may want to keep looking.  Also ask yourself a question, “Did their answer excite you in any way?”  If they bore you on the phone there’s a good change they’ll do it in person as well.

Tip #4

Personal referrals are probably the single best indicator.  Has anyone actually seen or met this performer?

Unless you’re booking a show for a couple thousand dollars or more a performer might not be delighted to come in and do a personal interview/audition.  But testimonials from friends who have seen the performer in a setting similar to your event should be given a lot of credibility.

Secret tip #5

Ask what they think of another performer that you may be considering.  Does the response sound bitter or mean spirited?  Of course you can’t expect a performer to whole heartedly endorse his or her competitor.  However a confident performer should be a class act – no derogatory remarks or personal attacks.

If you’ve been given the task of putting together an event for your company you may be overwhelmed with all the details.  But take a little time with entertainment and invest an extra percentage of the budget here – Guests will forget many details about an event, but they will remember if they had a good time.

Magic with Mike Fisher (Level 2) Cost $80.00 for 4 weeks. Email for Registration and Class dates

Why is it so tough to learn magic from tricks ordered from online shops? Because Magic has a secret: 1) there are thousands of tricks out there and the guys selling them can make everything look easy (even when it’s not.) and 2) Sometimes tricks come with directions that are unclear or just poorly written.

Mike Fisher has handpicked all the tricks in his new magic class to be the best for kids who are just starting. Not only that, he will take the time to teach everyone the right way to use the props and the little touches that take the tricks from good to great!

The cost is $80.00 for all 4 weeks includes all the tricks, materials and a DVD. Email to register (janet@hoomadetoys.com).

I’ve done several of these events.  There’s always great speakers, snacks and awesome entertainment 😉

Here’s the Details:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

10am – 1pm

Special Event:

Revitalize Your Resolutions

Did you make a New Years resolution for 2010?

Are you already losing momentum?

Want to get re-energized?

Don’t miss this event…..Bring your family and friends and find out how you can get back on track!

(And have Fun in the Process)

Gift Certificates Available

Help your family and friends get started and enjoy the special savings

Complimentary Evaluations for immediate family members:  includes your children, parents and grandparents.

Free Giveaways from our Presenters, Free Magic Show for all to enjoy

Optimal Health Center

3415 S. McClintock Dr. Ste #101 | Tempe, AZ.  85282

Phone: 480-730-9636

Come on Down!

Learn tricks to amaze your friends and family!!! This FOUR CLASS SERIES includes personal lessons, tricks and an instructional DVD! There will be a few other little spiffs as well… 🙂 This class will be ideal for kids ages 7-14. Limit 8-10 kids per class. Magic certificates are available for purchase as a gift item. For registration contact Brilliant Sky Toys & Books at (480) 785-8697. REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. Cost $50.00 for four weeks.

Quick Info:
Date: Thursday, January 21, 2010
Time: 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Location: Brillliant Sky Toys & Books, Ahwatukee (48th and Chandler)

InterContinental Montelucia

My last (big) show of the season was held at the InterContinental Montelucia in Paradise Valley…wow what an amazing place.  Every detail from the decor to the food was perfect and the staff were professional and incredible.

I’ve had the chance to perform in many hotels and I don’t say that lightly!

The show was for about one hundred fifty people.  Very elegantly dressed, but still fun at heart.  I’ve done “mix and mingle” (also called close up) magic for the same group two years ago but this year they were going all out and decided to have “the big show.”

It started slowly with a simple introduction and a few words to the audience.  Then a clever little story that builds to a funny climax and from there into some funny magic punctuated by the real eye popping and mind blowing stuff.

Different shows have different tempos but my favorite experience is charming, funny and then something that just drops the floor out from underneath you.  This is followed by something light and visual that allows an audience to recover and then we’re on to round two where the stakes are higher….

If you’ve ever painstakingly crafted the ‘perfect’ mix tape you know exactly what  I’m talking about.  The thing is that in this approach you take a bit of a risk at first…if the audience doesn’t buy in at the beginning it can be rough.

With this group I didn’t give that a second thought – we had a history and the other times I’ve performed for them they loved me.

This time there was a wild card..one audience member who had had a little too much holiday cheer.  She was vocal and it made the audience uncomfortable.  I’ve worked in comedy clubs and on the street and while I know many different ways to put a heckler down I generally don’t.   So seasoned performers will simply use a facial expression or body language that subtly encourages the rest of the audience to ‘take care of’ the heckler and while that is something I’m not adverse to I typically prefer another approach: I just overwhelm them with positive energy and eventually they have no choice but to get caught up in the ‘wave’.

I’m no stranger to winning people over…my work in restaurants has given me plenty of experience in that arena.  In just a few moments the restaurant magician has to introduce himself, make customers comfortable and be amazing in a five minute span!  Many times I’ve walked up to a table and the patrons have looked at me with apprehension and by the time I’ve finished they are asking for my card and running through the list of people they wish had been there to see me (which is when I tell them to come back and bring friends!)

On stage it can be a lot trickier.  I think the reason is that the audience identifies with a performer so much that if there’s a heckler they feel insulted/embarrassed for you.  If you let them see you sweat, if you appear nervous, if you slip just a little you take a big step onto a slippery downhill slope that is very hard to recover from.

In this case the flow of the show took care of everything.  As our vocalist began the show hit it’s first moment and she was quieted, two bits later she was silent, and by the end I got to hear one of the very best things a magician can hear…. a gasp.  A genuine, unstoppable, heartfelt gasp of amazement – not shock, not a startle, but a response to amazement…

That moment just makes me want to say thank you!  What a great finish to the season!  I’ve attached a shot of the hotel…if you get the chance to stay there (as Obama did while he was in town)  I highly recommend it.

Trevors room

Room for Joy is an amazing charity (you can find out a little more about them below)  Sunday Dec 6th from 3pm-6pm they will be hosting “The Night of 100 Stars” at The Shops Gainey Village 8787 N Scottsdale Rd Paradise Valley, AZ 85253.

This event will have lots of fun things for you and your kids to do – including face painting, a wellness program for kids, and I’ll be there walking around doing magic and making balloons for everyone plus  much, much more.  Found out more: http://roomforjoy.org/news-press/upcoming-events/

About Room for Joy:   Imagine the look on a child’s face the first time they walk into the bedroom they’ve always dreamed of.

A 6-year-old boy opening the door to his very own Yankee Stadium. A 7-year-old girl surrounded by a fairytale filled with castles and princesses.

Now imagine the pure joy and excitement that such a bedroom could bring to these children after returning from a painful chemotherapy session or hospitalization from yet another surgery. When returning home from the hospital, they are welcomed by the warmth and infinite possibilities of a bedroom designed around everything they love and dream about.

Room For Joy is an organization dedicated to creating such bedrooms and fulfilling these dreams for chronically ill children.