Deception works in layers

Conjurer's Coffee Break - Episode 018


- Hello, welcome back.

- This episode sort of extends last week's on misdirection, so if you haven't checked that one out yet, you might like to do that first.

- Today I wanted to talk about deception.
- Ah, one of my favourite things.

- There's a great idea in magic, which I heard from an interview with Teller. And it's the thought that if you show someone the secret of a trick, and they say, "is that it?" They haven't fully understood the trick.

- To explain a little further, they've missed all of the subtleties, all of the seemingly minor decisions that accumulate together to make something truly deceptive, and magical.

- I really like the image of the swan swimming along the water. From the surface, it looks elegant and smooth, but underneath there's so much work going on.
- However, the image breaks down slightly, when I think about misdirection and comic timing, which I spoke about last week. That doesn't feel like a pair of legs spinning. It's not active work, but rather, it's my spidey-sense knowing what to do, when, through years of doing it previously.

- Here's what I tell my students instead:
- Deception works in layers.

- All of those layers combine to make something incredible.
- It's like a lasagna.
- Another one of my favourite things.

- Anyway, there's the physical stuff you do with your hands, but there's also the misdirection that we spoke about last week, plus there's your attitude, or what do you think about what you're doing.
- As I've mentioned, my performance style is very conversational, slightly self deprecating. I want the magic to sort of sneak up on the audience.
- And there's the psychological word play.

- I highly recommend listening to Kenton Knepper's Wonder Words.
- The original version was on cassette tapes, remember those?! But now they are available as a download. I'll leave a link in the notes for this episode.

- I often tell my students, your script is part of your method.
- I mention this in the performance rubric I created.
- You can hear more about that in a previous episode, but at the highest level of accomplishment, I say, "Your presentation helps to both disguise the method and improve the effect."

- One of my favourite examples of this is having someone shuffle the cards, take one out, and then put the card back, and then give me the cards.
- Later I will say, you chose a card. They say, yes. And you shuffled the cards. They say, yes.
- They did both of those things, but I reverse the order.
- I'm encouraging them to remember the effect incorrectly.

- Remember, there's a difference between the effect you are presenting, and the remembered effect.

- As well as all of this, there's also ways to help someone remember the magic better.
- I mentioned last week, about slowing your speech and drawing people in, but you can also say things such as, "and you'll remember this next bit for the rest of your life."

- or, when you give out a playing card, which let's be honest is a pretty crap souvenir, you might say something to encourage them to keep it and talk about it. I say, "pin that up on your noticeboard, and you'll have a story every time someone asks about it." or " you could take this into work next week, and tell all your friends about your weekend."

- You're colouring in the experience for them.
- And magic is a whole experience kind of thing.
- As I've mentioned a lot of time, that comes down to interacting with people, being present in the moment, confidence, improv, timing, your belief in what you're doing, and more.
- It's a difficult thing to do all of those things, and for beginners, I would recommend focusing on one thing at a time, and working up to it.
- Try working on your ability to be present during a performance.
- Then try to interact with people, and improvise a little, rather than just performing a static trick.
- Write a script that you feel is yours, rather than is copied from another magician.
- Then as your confidence grows, add in elements of physical misdirection, and psychological misdirection.

- To be really great magicians, we shouldn't just be demonstrating tricks, we should be aiming for magic.
-That takes work, I know.
- With my students, I often talk about polishing a routine.
- It's good, but lets polish it a little and add another layer.

- Anyway, I hope this episode has been useful and provided some food for thought.
- You can contribute to the conversation, by leaving your thoughts and questions on the blog post that accompanies this episode at
- If you're enjoying the episode, then please share it with your magician friends and colleagues, and don't forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from.

- As ever, thanks for listening.

Additional Show Notes

- Magic seems simple from the outside, but as you learn more about it, you realise that it actually has a lot of depth. In fact, I once heard that the mark of a true expert is someone who knows how much they don't know! Now, that's a meta!

- I encourage you to think of magic as a whole experience thing. It's not just the trick, it's everything, what you are wearing, how you talk to people, what gets said before and after.

- I've spoken previously about "performances on rails," which isn't a great thing. Instead, I would suggest trying to be present in that moment. To find the show, or as they say in improv, "find the shiny thing." i.e. what's the thing that connects the audience? A great magic performance, like any great performance, makes you feel like it's happening just that one time. You say something like, "Wow, we were so lucky to be here on this night!"

- And here's the external resource, I mentioned in this episode:

Wonder Words - Kenton Knepper

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