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Topic: The danger with danger
Message: Posted by: Sealegs (May 1, 2008 11:16AM)
On the 'Guest of Honour' part of the Café Rick Maue said, regarding danger routines such as russian roulette or smash and stab type effects:

[quote]In short, they are either a dumb trick, or they are a jackass stunt[/quote]
and
[quote]If your show needs an element of danger to be compelling, then your show is simply not compelling--and that is the problem that needs to be addressed.[/quote]

I've been thinking about this and it seems to me that virtually the same thing could be said about any class of effects. Take Metal bending; it's just a dumb trick. If your show needs a demonstration of psychokenisis to be compelling then your show is simply not compelling.

Or; a prediction effect; well I say effect but of course it's just a dumb trick. If your show needs a demonstration of precognition to be compelling then your show is simply not compelling.

Rick goes on to say,
[quote]....I have only heard of one “spike” routine that made any sense at all...[] it [] had a wonderful sense of theater..... Other than that, everyone else just says, “The effect plays great.” Well, to me, that is not enough.[/quote]

Seems to me that this is something completely different and something I can understand. Disliking the way many perform an effect is one thing but that's not the same as dismissing an effect because it's a 'dumb trick'. Any effect can be viewed as just a dumb trick.

Rick points out quiet rightly that this class of effect is seen by many to have the elements of success built in; requiring the performer to add little or nothing. That doesn't make the effect dumb it makes the many performers doing these effects in this way dumb.

The worst successful conclusion of such effects does indeed suffer with the things that Rick goes on to attribute to these effects. A disrespect for the audience, an appeal to the lowest common denominator, the bare bones of the effect taking the place of the performance of an effect. In other words a lazy, thoughtless presentation. Again any effect can be subject to this.

However if the intrinsic elements these danger effects contain are not merely left to BE the effect but are instead used as a strong platform on which to build a piece of theatre then I think there might be a very good reason to include them in a program.

If I see 10 comedians doing unfunny routines about relationships I don't think, materal about relationships isn't funny, I think those comedians aren't funny.

Likewise if a singer wants to create dramatic tension in their show they are more likely to do so using material that has built in potential for drama within the lyrics. ie maybe something from Les Miserables rather than say the hokey cokey(pokey)

Rick ends the thread saying;
[quote]And finally, to those that are favor of the danger routines, I respect your opinions, and I hope you can respect mine. After all, remember that opinions are like internet connections--everybody has one. So let's simply agree to disagree.[/quote]

Well I'm neither in favour of, or against, 'danger' routines.

And as I'm in favour of, or like, the routines like the one that Rick apparently likes; and I also am certain to dislike the ones that he dislikes, I can't agree to simply 'agree to disagree' because in fact I think we both agree while seemingly disagreeing.

Neal :)
Message: Posted by: tboehnlein (May 1, 2008 02:00PM)
I do not believe the effect to be a dumb effect, presentation is everything. The effect is nothing more than a bank night effect with a differant object. The effect can be presented with out the danger premise premise at all, I do & many others do it with the danger only being known until the effect is over.
Message: Posted by: andyfisher (May 1, 2008 04:57PM)
I also find the element of danger to be a valid theatrical frame which, if combined wih good blocking, scripting etc, can be anything but 'dumb'. I have given a lot of thought to this issue recently because I am working on a routine that will use Outlaw's Scorpion in conjunction with CP3.

I believe that as performers, danger routines tap into an archetypal narrative - the 'hero' journeys into a dangerous land, tests himself and faces annihilation before winning the elixir which he brings back to the tribe - this myth is pan-cultural and may be seen played out again and again in contemporary film, theatre and literature - look at Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Cirque De Soleil.

The audience are invited to share the journey vicariously so that when the performer avoids the threat, a cathartic moment is shared also - we root for the performer to return unscathed because it gives us hope that 'things will be OK, even if it can seem bleak at times'.

Now, I suspect that some might dismiss my take on the effect and suggest instead that the audience simply hope to see the 'idiot' performer get what's coming to him for doing something so foolish...and perhaps one or two will operate from that level, but in my experience, far more of the audience play out the dynamic I have referenced here.

I am aware that there are 20 awful routines out there for every gem but that does not negate the potential of the effect. I do NOT like to see the audience forced to walk the hero's path unwillingly - so forcing the spectator's hand down on the 'safe cups' by way of entertainment is NOT something I would ever condone but to face and overcome danger was the underlying power of Houdini's grip on the hearts and minds of his age - and he was surely the epitome of 'compelling'?
Message: Posted by: joanmonse (May 5, 2009 02:47PM)
Hi,
I'm reading your opinions about this type of effects and are really very interesting.
Please, let me to invite all of you to watch a video piece from my mentalism tv program.

http://www.vimeo.com/4418799

This performance is discussed on this thread:

http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=311072&forum=15&9

Hi,
I'm reading your opinions about this type of effects and are really very interesting.
Please, let me to invite all of you to watch a video piece from my mentalism tv program.

http://www.vimeo.com/4418799

This performance is discussed on this thread:

http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=311072&forum=15&9

In other very important forum, "The Mentalism Sanctum", very experienced PROS wrote opinions like this:
(PLEASE, READ BEFORE: The next ones, are fragments of posted opinions. I've mentioned the original sources, the specific Forum and also the Author's names, for ethical reasons and with all my respect to The Magic Café rules):

"Joan begins by playing a very beautiful piece on the piano. He obviously has the full attention of his audience. Then he moves on to the effect and the pacing and presentation is wonderful. There are no dead spots and he handles all his assistants with total professionalism.
Then when the ending comes, and he is smashing his hand down on the various balls of newspaper, the realization sets in that here is pianist whose hands are so important. The tremendous "thumps" as Joan smashes down each ball, amplified by the trunks they are sitting on, is a direct contrast to the gentle piano playing earlier. It all makes sense and yet doesn't come across as hokey!
It's great theater and I encourage you all to take a watch."
Author: Richard Osterlind

"There's one more thing which makes it work -- our friend Joan makes the effect itself clear. It is NOT determining where the Scorpion is; the effect is READING THE MINDS of people who know where the Scorpion lies. Much different effect. Much better."
Author: Mormonyoyoman

"I hate to use this term because it's overused in mentalism nowadays BUT, even though I didn't understand what you were saying, your non-verbal communication speaks volumes. I understood exactly what was going on and you have a lot of charisma. I'm really not a fan of the Russian Roulette theme, but the tie-in with the piano really made it work. Richard hit it exactly that as you're watching it you start to realize the damage you can cause your skilled musician's hands."
Author: Steve Pellegrino

Thanks in advance!
Best,
Joan Monse
Message: Posted by: Chris K (May 5, 2009 03:48PM)
[quote]
On 2008-05-01 17:57, andyfisher wrote:
I also find the element of danger to be a valid theatrical frame which, if combined wih good blocking, scripting etc, can be anything but 'dumb'. I have given a lot of thought to this issue recently because I am working on a routine that will use Outlaw's Scorpion in conjunction with CP3...[/quote]

It's the internet, so I know people like to cling onto words, like the word "dumb" which has been repeated over and over again. However, I don't want to put words into Rick's mouth, so I report exactly what I know, then follow-up with my analysis.

FACTS:
1.) Rick can and does use an element of "danger" in his show. He puts a razor up against his arm, in fact. I won't go into any more details but if his "trick" fails, he slices his arm. In theory.

2.) Perceived danger and real danger are different things to the performers but not to the audience. In every instance where a "dumb" performer has hurt himself and/or a spectator, they thought they knew the difference. They didn't. I am specifically referring to russian roulette and smash&grab type effects (as Rick was as well).

3.) Putting yourself in danger when you don't have to may be thrilling but is "dumb" when you are performing. I suppose this could be an opinion but I'm stating this as a fact. Read the first part of that sentence if you want to debate it, that is the key part ("when you don't have to").

Ok, those are the facts, here is my interpretation.

Rick is saying it's dumb to include dangerous effects where the result is not under the performer's DIRECT control. Failsafes fail. Youtube and personal experience should have taught that to anybody who's performed even a teensy bit. SOME magicians, though, have blinders on. They think failsafes can never fail. There's a video of one such magician smashing a spectator's hand onto a spike on youtube as proof. And for anybody who thinks "their version" is immune, just remember that the peformer in question thought the exact same thing.

Instead, you can introduce danger in a more controlled way. The example I gave about Rick, for example. Everybody was on the edge of their seat and yet there was nothing to go wrong. Even if the effect "failed", Rick still had final control of whether to slice his own arm (something that is always true, versus relying on a magnet or subtle marking which, again, OBVIOUSLY can fail).

As is obvious from the posts, what Rick said about SPECIFIC effects where generalized to every effect. I don't want to get into a basic lecture of slippery slope and other logical fallacies but I'll give an example of how this reflects either poor thinking or lack of understanding.

You can die if you drink too much water.
Water must be bad for you since you can die from drinking it.
Don't drink water.

Sad, right? Hmmm, is this any better?

Rick says effects of type A-1 are bad.
If some effects are bad, others must be bad too.
Don't do tricks, they are all bad.

Actually, that is even worse, to me.

Obviously not to everybody though. I wonder why...
Message: Posted by: Sealegs (May 5, 2009 06:05PM)
You can check out Rick Maue's interesting thoughts on this subject for yourselves by clicking [url=http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=255783&forum=250&2]here[/url]

Neal
Message: Posted by: SWNerndase (May 6, 2009 02:22AM)
As I read Maue's thoughts on this, it seems that his terms "dumb trick" and "jackass stunt" are not referring to the effect itself, or even the class of effects, but how an audience will perceive the situation.

A smart person watching a version of russian roulette (spiker, etc.) is likely to assume there is a trick to it, and therefore there is no REAL danger. We don't know how the performer knows where the dangerous thing is, but he must somehow know--showmanship aside. If the audience believes there is no real danger, it becomes a "dumb trick." OR...

The audience believes there is risk and danger, in which case they may conclude they are watching an idiot. And the term "jackass stunt" is appropriate.

There is either no danger, or this performer is a fool. It's a "dumb trick" or a "jackass stunt." I second Mr. Maue's analysis.

(I did admire Mr. Monse's touch of playing piano to illustrate the value of his hands.)

SWN
Message: Posted by: Destiny (May 6, 2009 02:40AM)
[quote]There is either no danger, or this performer is a fool. It's a "dumb trick" or a "jackass stunt." I second Mr. Maue's analysis.[/quote]

If only life were so black and white.

I spent a decade performing two shows a day with crocodiles and another two with the worlds most dangerous snakes.

The danger was very real.

I never got hurt(much).

That did not make the danger any less real.

The shows I performed provided valuable education about wildlife, the environment, and the natural dangers of my region to locals and tourists.

I don't see how danger used sensibly in a magical context is any different, and I certainly use danger for entertainment in my show.

This discussion seems to have a large element of "this is what is suitable for me and therefore is suitable for everyone."

Destiny
Message: Posted by: bobser (May 6, 2009 02:59AM)
It can sometimes seem dumb to choose the word dumb. Especially when the thing your describing is being proffered by many top performers around the world.
Message: Posted by: SWNerndase (May 6, 2009 09:34AM)
Performing with dangerous animals (crocodiles/snakes or tigers for that matter) is completely different than the effect under discussion here (hand spiker roulette.) Rick Maue chose the word "dumb." I was clarifying what I thought he meant and using his words. (Perhaps I shouldn't speak for Mr. Maue, maybe that's not what he meant at all.) And of course what is suitable for me and the conclusions I've arrived at are not gospel. It's often been the case that I decide some effect or other is awful for whatever reason, and then another performer appears with a genius presentation that makes me eat my words. Maurice Fogel and the air rifles is an example of a successful "danger roulette" routine that overcomes these objections.

I speak from experience on this, having performed both russian roulette with pistols and a hand spiker version countless times. The routines get a great reaction, and there is always palpable tension in the room. Especially with the pistols. I have dropped both from my program because in talking with my audiences, I arrived at the conclusions stated above regarding their perception. (No real danger, or he's a fool for doing this.) I wouldn't presume to be laying down the law, and eagerly await the day I see the genius presentation that makes me rethink my position.

SWN
Message: Posted by: Destiny (May 6, 2009 10:35AM)
I don't see the difference.

Having 30 years experience across a wide range of entertainment I see it all as 'bums on seats'.

Why was there palpable tension in your audience if they believed there to be no danger?

I believe my audiences expect action as well as the cerebral in my show because of my entertainment history(which I use to promote myself).

I play it exactly as I played wildlife shows - this is dangerous, but I know what I am doing and wouldn't do it if I thought it would go wrong. However life sometimes throws a curve ball. I don't actually say this - it is subscript and understood by the audience. Afterall it is pretty much what real life is about.

I believe the trapeze artist is giving us the same lesson.

Do we think trapeze artists to be dumb?

Do we think they are playing to the lowest common denominator?

Are trapeze artists disrespectful of their audience?

I would never remove the action from my show. My audiences appreciate the balance - they like that a thinking person can also play with fire (as we all do - that's real life.)

Destiny
Message: Posted by: mumford (May 6, 2009 11:02AM)
I agree with Destiny and so do some top pros. The element of danger as a theatrical device was one of the big building blocks of Houdini's career.

Penn & Teller close their show with an elaborate double Bullet Catch. Burton was tied to the tracks of a speeding roller coaster. Blaine has been buried alive, frozen in ice, etc.

Copperfield has closed his TV shows with dangerous escapes from barrels being thrown over Niagra Falls, exploding buildings, a straitjacket while hanging upside down over flaming spears, etc.
Message: Posted by: Anthony Jacquin (May 6, 2009 11:48AM)
Mark Elsdon recently performed a spiked routine at Tabula Mentis. I knew the method but it did not stop me from believing in the premise for the effect and part of me thinking he was going to blow it. Very good presentation.

As he stated afterwards, if you think you might get it wrong you should not be driving. 'Don't hit the cars, don't hit the cars. Doh. I hit it'.

Very funny.

Anthony
Message: Posted by: Ken The Klown (May 6, 2009 01:27PM)
"No real danger"? Tell that to Chris Korn, Kevin Burke, or any of those poor saps on the Internets.
Message: Posted by: Sensio (May 6, 2009 02:04PM)
Maybe the attitude as well as the general premise of your show may enhance or lower the value of a "danger" stunt...

Once I performed the spike effect with only 2 cups, i.e. 50/50. Guess what: the reactions were stronger than performing it with 4 cups... It was more convincing that I wanted to risk myself (indirect pesudo-explanation I gave: muscle reading) by using my "special" powers but in only one revelation step...

Less is more...
Message: Posted by: Destiny (May 6, 2009 02:24PM)
I've done it with 2, with 4, with a dozen.

It works with all the numbers - though I have some quirky aversion to four.

The 4 cups just look wrong sitting there - no idea why.

I should say that while my show contains theatrical presentations of apparent danger, I am no daredevil now and nor was I when I worked with dangerous animals.

I don't drink or do drugs and I'm a naturally cautious person and perhaps overly obsessive about knowing the ins and outs of anything I'm working with.

I have always considered myself in more danger driving to and from my shows than during them.

Destiny