Note: everything you are about to read is true. I should know; I was there. You may doubt this as you read it, but I swear on the unopened pack of Tunnock’s Teacakes I’m having after lunch today, that it is all true.
I met an amateur magician at a wedding a few days ago and a conversation we had sparked an idea for a blog post that I began writing. Then, last night, I met another amateur magician, who did something that cemented the blog post idea, so I KNEW I had to write it.
Let me explain.
The first magician I met at a wedding was a lovely chap. I’ve been to two weddings now as a guest where there was a magician who had been booked to entertain the guests. I don’t know if the Magic Circle has official rules about how you should act on these occasions (I’m imagining that there is a secret handshake, nod or code word that has to be given on the sly, to show that I’m a fellow magician), but it has the potential to be a bit weird.
My tactic when I meet a magician has always been to be quite open about it (probably something inspired by this blog post). I always approach the magician, introduce myself and make clear that I’m going to be cool (I’m not going to follow him round all night, steal his ideas, or try to make him look bad), and to let him know that if I can be a stooge for him, I’m happy to do so. Besides, it’s always nice to meet other magicians and entertainers.
The first magician took this approach, After I performed for his group. He took me to one side, introduced himself and we chatted. Whenever a member of the bride/grooms family does tricks, I mention that THEY should be the one doing the magic, not me. “Oh no, I could never do that. I can do it at home, in my bedroom”, came his response, “but doing it for family and friends terrifies me. I’ve tried it and I forget where I am in the trick and lose my place, or, even worse, I get tongue tied and forget my patter! I don’t know how you do it; interacting, remembering people’s names, making them laugh AND doing the trick”.
It’s not just about the tricks.
He then made reference to a point where one of his group had interjected and said something funny during the trick, and how that would’ve really thrown him off. Beginning magicians often mistake these interruptions as heckles, when they’re not. Often, they are exactly the opposite. You’ve actually created an environment where they feel comfortable and have confidence in you and your performance; so much so, that they want to join in the fun!
This is a good thing!
So, that was the first instance that inspired me. The second occurrence happened last night (I’m presently writing this at 06:30 on Sunday morning!), and was slightly less professional.
I was booked to perform at a wedding reception. I got there nice and early, set up my pockets with my cards, coins, ropes, cups, balls, rings, rabbits, Puerto Rican pulley system, complete with double layer conveyor belt (don’t bother Googling that), when the wedding photographer came over and introduced himself as an amateur magician.
Cool, I thought.
Wrong, I was.
I was thinking that, as a magician, he’ll know the perfect moments to capture reaction photos when I’m performing for guests.
“I’ll be able to get some great photos for my website out of this!”
When I was performing for groups however, I noticed that the photographer would come over and just watch. No photos. Just watching my act.
After he watched my magic at a particularly responsive table, I noticed him go over to the same group about 5 or 10 minutes later and start doing tricks – his version of tricks I had just done at that table!
My first thought was to pull him to one side and say something (which, in hindsight, I probably should have done), but I didn’t.
Instead, I thought about it for a moment.
What’s going on here?
Here’s what’s going on: he picked an easy table. He followed me round, saw that one table was really responsive to magic (after I had spent time entering the group, breaking the ice, getting them on my side and creating a fun environment for them) and then cherry picked that table to perform at.
He needed a warm up guy!
He didn’t go to a table that I HADN’T performed for; the unknown.
And there’s the difference between a professional magician and an amateur (and, why you should always book a professional magician).
A professional magician does the work. Not just the easy tables.
Anybody can do a few tricks when conditions are absolutely perfect and the stars align. It’s performing magic when it’s hard that makes a professional magician. It’s performing for the groups that look challenging, or that you feel might not respond as well as that group of teenage girls you’ve just performed for. Or performing when you don’t feel like performing, because you’ve got a headache or because Aldi ran out of Tunnock’s Teacakes so you’ve had to make do with their own brand version. Or when the music is loud and you’re hoarse from shouting.
I always remember a quote from a famous magician, sadly no longer with us, Eugene Burger, who once said (and I’m paraphrasing):
“It’s fine to be able to perform magic when you want to perform magic, but it’s being able to perform magic when you DON’T want to that counts…because it’s Monday, 7pm and you have someone waiting for you to perform.”
A professional knows how to do the real work of his craft. They’ve put in the hours; they’ve got the experience, and they know what’s needed to get the job done.
You can trust them to do the hard tables.
Always book a professional.
Reminder: there is a bit more to this story and, as you read this final part, I feel the need to remind you that this is totally true, and not fabricated in any way. I say that because you’ll be doubting me in a moment.
As I was leaving, I collected my bag from behind the DJ booth (a great place to leave your magic bag), and mentioned the photographer/magician and how I had seen him perform for a group.
“Yeah, he came over to me before too”, said Dave the DJ (a lovely chap by the way and a great DJ). “He told me that he has a better version of the Pioneer setup I’m using…because he’s a DJ too”.
You couldn’t make it up.
And remember, I definitely didn’t.