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Topic: Help me "sell" miracle tonic
Message: Posted by: CJRichard (Feb 11, 2007 08:06PM)
I'm working on a medicine pitch to tie together my colonial period magic act. The time period is somewhat earlier than the heyday of the big traveling medicine shows. The magic effects I'll be using are (probably) egg bag, linking rings, a slightly modified Whit Haydn "Mongolian Pop Knot," cups and balls, and I might wave around a red silk hanky at the opening.

I have considerable material for the writing of the medicine pitch, based on suggestions from several other threads on the subject here and elsewhere. I've read a few books and articles on medicine shows and I've got a couple of repro Sears catalogs that have great patent medicine advertising. I also have a very good book on actual medical practices during the Revolutionary War period and a couple of old "Herbals."

The thing is, I do not want to actually sell anything, not even souvenir bottles as some folks do.

What I'm asking is how people who do medicine pitch acts structure their shows, particularly if they don't really offer anything for sale at the end. I'm not looking for specific lines or routines. I just need some suggestions regarding how I might arrange the act. I guess, in particular, I'm wondering how I should end it.

I might have to buy some medicine show routines, but I really can't afford to buy a lot of material that might not be of much use. (For example, I got the highly recommended "Great American Medicine Show" by David and Elizabeth Armstrong from the library and found very, very little that applied to my act. I'm kind of glad I borrowed it instead of buying it.)

Please understand, I'm not suggesting anyone give me an actual routine. I'm in search of general plotting ideas. How should the act open? How can I build up a pitch during the act, but then end it without actually having a product to sell?

Thanks for any suggestions.

Message: Posted by: AntonDreaming (Feb 14, 2007 09:33AM)
I know little on the subject of the medice pitch. But a thought comes to mind.

How about doing the show as if you yourself are a proud customer. You would be displaying the effects of some "colonial snake oil" to your audince. You could use phrases like "I just purchased this wounderful elixer" or depending on how true to persona you will be but you could say "way back when people used to sell these mirical tonics". Just a very basic thought. Hope it helps.

Message: Posted by: Circus Bambouk (Feb 14, 2007 08:46PM)
I only have a moment to post, but I hope this is helpful:

In my medicine show, I also do not actually sell any product; however, I do have a lengthy pitch for my medicine. I keep interrupting my own pitch with various asides--proof of my newfound abilities once on the oil, pure entertainments, etc.

The entire show is a pitch, but the pitch ends up veering off into tricks and other routines. I eventually get so far off track that the show ends on a totally different note, same character.

I got this idea by watching the incredibly talented showman, and Magic Café regular Todd Robbins build a crowd outside Sideshows by the Seashore at Coney Island. What that man can do with a dollar bill...

Best wishes,

Message: Posted by: CJRichard (Feb 14, 2007 10:43PM)
Thanks Anton and Brian.

The act I'm piecing together seems to be along the line of Brian's, with the pitch running through and linking together the magic effects. I'm not so sure I want to veer too far off track, though. I want it to be a close approximation of what a real traveling mountebank would do. I'll have to give that some thought.

Your comments are appreciated.

Message: Posted by: Rev.moonchild (Mar 1, 2007 09:29AM)
I fell in love with the Medicine Show . I have a hole 45 min. to and hour show . that is all about the Medicine Show . All the tricks fit within the effects of the remedy . From Start to finsh . I weave the tricks in and out of the pitch .

you said you want to put in the cup and balls . try Catastrophic Cups and Bacteria Balls by John B. Young

There is a lot of pitch books out there .If its in print I bought it. But the one and only Book that helped me the most was The Medicine Show Manual by Tom Jorgenson .

I hope this helps .I know what you are going through ,My show was 8 months of planning

Good luck and have fun
Message: Posted by: CJRichard (Mar 1, 2007 12:02PM)
Thanks for your help, Rev. Moonchild

Message: Posted by: Bob Clayton (May 12, 2007 05:02AM)
Chris, that's a pretty broad question Chris, and I don't have any experience with Medicine shows as I just started my own research into this area. But on your question on how to end it, I'm guessing that you are looking for ideas on how to bring the act to a nature ending instead of an abrupt departure after 15 minutes of patter. One idea I was thinking of was to start out the act by saying that I have 15 bottles of ____ to sell. Then periodically throughout the act I would act like I have made some sales by throwing out lines to make-believe people or even random people in the audience like “I see that the man over here wants one, as well as this man over here, only 13 bottles left”, and a few minutes later “does the woman in the back want one? Two you say, very good! Only 11 bottles left folks” and so on throughout the act. All of this would just be an act of course. The audience would hear me counting down the number of bottles left, with the obvious understanding that the end of the act would coincide with all of the bottles having been “sold”.
Message: Posted by: CJRichard (May 13, 2007 09:14PM)
Thanks, Bob, for another good suggestion.

That's the sort of thing I'm looking for. A way to stay pretty authentic but let the audience off the hook at the end by assuring them there's really no product for them to buy.

Message: Posted by: Bob Clayton (May 13, 2007 09:31PM)
On 2007-05-13 22:14, CJRichard wrote:
That's the sort of thing I'm looking for. A way to stay pretty authentic but let the audience off the hook at the end by assuring them there's really no product for them to buy.
Pricing your product in shillings, farthings, sixpence, etc. will also assure your audience that the products are not really intended for sale.
Message: Posted by: CJRichard (May 14, 2007 07:54AM)
And none of those worthless paper Continental dollars!
Message: Posted by: Michael K (Jul 3, 2008 11:38PM)
If you still want a ding, I would offer to sell just a smell of the tonic, which would be enough to cure a horse.

Or you could have only one bottle and keep taking swigs until it is gone. Al la "I love Lucy" and the vitameatavegimin.

Sorry for the late post. Did you ever find your answer?

Message: Posted by: CJRichard (Jul 5, 2008 01:49PM)
Here and there I found a lot of good information on medicine shows, including some transcriptions of actual pitches. The overall project has been temporarily sidetracked by other stuff. I hope to pick it up again before too long.

Message: Posted by: Fitz (Jul 5, 2008 07:02PM)
I would say that the product is so strong its illegal in 48 states... and at the end of the show you act like you are being busted and you run off stage. If you work with other performers you could have a cop chase you off.

Message: Posted by: Cholly, by golly! (Jul 5, 2008 09:29PM)
You could make your product so expensive no one will want to buy it.

12 easy payments of $99.95 should do it.
Message: Posted by: CJRichard (Jul 5, 2008 09:40PM)
Good ideas, but I'll have to adapt them to "my time," when there were no states and 99.95 would be a really huge amount of money.

The idea of using old-style prices and not recognizing modern currency could do it, but having other re-enactors run me off the scene could work nicely, too.