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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » ’Grabbers’...who are they and what do they want.? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Chad Sanborn
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This is a common complaint among magicians. I have put much thought on this subject, and this is what I have come up with.

When was the last time you saw someone grab at another kind of performer?

Sounds like an odd question, but think about it. You have probably never seen someone grab a prop from a juggler or actor. The question then becomes why?... what is the difference?

Well, the difference is in the mindset of the audience. The juggler, actor even the mentalist is predisposed of any kind of trickery. The audience believes that what they see is exactly what is taking place. The guy has learned to juggle 3 balls, or has some amount of ESP. They believe in the performer.

The magician on the other hand, is different. He is an admitted fake. He admits he uses a trick. So naturally we are all curious as to what that trick is. Which is exactly why you hear people exclaim "how’d he do that?". (Which is a bad remark, and not a good one.) People automatically know it was a trick and are therefore pushed into wondering about the "how" of the effect rather than the effect itself.

How then can this train of thought be circumvented? Well, in a couple of ways. One is to move magic back to the dark ages and make everyone think that we have ’powers’. Or we can overcome this with entertainment. (not magic, but entertainment)

Magic is, by itself, to most people not entertaining. It’s challenging. That is why most magicians add lots of comedy into what they do. Comedy entertains. The comedy aspect takes the edge off the audience so that they aren’t as challenged by the magic.

I know that alot of you are thinking this is c**p. You will point out that "Copperfield" is very entertaining. Yes he is. To other magicians and women. He, too, uses alot of comedy in his show.

As a test to see if I am right, try this... Show someone a trick with a coin or cards. Then tell them a joke and ask them to remember each one. A week later ask them to tell you about the trick. Then ask them to tell you the joke. Chances are you will get a vague description about the trick. But you will no doubt get the joke back verbatim.

Think about this, How many comedy clubs are there? How about magic clubs?

hmmm... I think someone is trying to tell us something.


I have enough thoughts on this to fill a book. Hmmm... not a bad idea.
Tom Cutts
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Hi Chad,

I fully agree with your premise. A "magician" that gives his audience nothing more than a cunning array of stunts Smile is asking for his audience to rise to the "challenge" to find an answer by grabbing or asking how. Indeed if all he has to say is "I tricked you.", then he is no magician at all.

Two things come right to mind from your post.

1) I doubt you will hear the joke verbatim. Most people are not good at remembering jokes and those that are use and change them to suit their needs. OK, so that is a rather pickyoon point.

2) Does this mean the use of comedy overshadows the magic and, as such, dillutes it. I don't think that is a good thing. When it happens I start to see a comedian who uses magic as a vehicle, not a magician.

This is some great food for thought and indeed is brought to light in the "Magic as Art" section of AM/PM's latest issue. You know Chad, the one your magic poem is on the cover of. Smile

It should be shipping in a couple of days. Smile

Dennis Michael
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When a challange is issued, whether verbally or non-verbally, you will have your grabbers. More often, it is the young crowd that grab, once again to prove a magician wrong that he can't really do magic.

When magic is presented properly, with showmanship and quality presentation, it becomes entertainment and the challenge is gone. The need to know how it is done becomes secondary to the enjoyment of the effect.

Copperfield has never protrayed, "Look what I can do, now you figure it out." attitude. Grabbers occur when one shows a coin in one hand then it disappears and the only option in the mind of the viewer is it is in the other hand. (What is the purpose of disappearing a coin like this, other than saying sub-consciencously, "I can do 'real-magic'", a bold challenge to the viewer.)

A comedy magician has the best of both worlds, he uses a medium and makes it clear he is not taking magic seriously, its pure fun...period.

Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule such as skilled sleight-of-hand artists. That's another whole issue!

Dennis Michael
Scott F. Guinn
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Ok. I am a comedy magician. But I can do a whole show of comedy with no magic and I can do a whole show of magic with no comedy. Each is very entertaining. Each is strong enough to stand on its own.

The answer to the problem you pose is in routining, audience management, experience, construction, presentation and attitude.

If a musician hits a wrong note in a song, we don't blame the chord or the instrument. If a juggler drops a ball, it's not the fault of the spheroid. And if a magician has "grabbers," it's not because the trick or premise is bad. the problem in each of these cases lies with the performer, not with the performance art.
"Love God, laugh more, spend more time with the ones you love, play with children, do good to those in need, and eat more ice cream. There is more to life than magic tricks." - Scott F. Guinn
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I usually reprimand grabbers by making them look silly with some kind of comment like well little kid can I have my cards back?
they always submit.
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Grabbers, what do they want? Quite simply, interaction and to be noticed. Since I've starting thinking from that viewpoint, finding answers to the problem has been a lot easier.

Making them look silly will spoil any chance of interaction.

Jeb Sherrill
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While I see a great deal of truth to your statements, I can't agree with them altogether. Comedy is indeed a great way to take the heat off the "challenge factor", but hardly the only one. It IS probably the easiest to pull off, assuming you are good with comedy in the first place, but it's just one way. If you want it really easy just become a mentalist. A group of believers won't grab for anything but their wallets. Your example of Copperfield is a good one. I find however that both men and women like watching him. It's not just because he mixes a little comedy into his act. It's that he has a certain attitude and stage presence that people warm up to easily and enjoy watching. It may be a tough thing to do right, but experience can teach you how.

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Peter Loughran
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Although I specialize in Illusions I still haven't had really that many grabbers come my way when I am performing close-up magic in an intimate setting. However, I did find most of them to be female, and a majority of them also being slightly intoxicated.

As soon as I saw a hand comming forward I would simply say "Don't worry, I will let you examine everything as soon as I'm finished performing the routine." Amazingly, even in some cases where I didn't let them examine anything after I had finished, they had completely forgotten about that and they were just baffled and couldn't help but only think of "WOW! That was cool! How did he do that?"

By this time I had either walked away or moved onto another trick. Now you will only need to say that once and they will normally never try and grab again during your performance. You are simply setting the level of behaviour in ther minds subconcienously and in a very polite and professional manner! Give it a try, you will be amazed at how well this really works!

I did try this once as a joke to see what would happen ... I simply said "If you want to see the cards, your hands have to be clean, so if you don't mind washing them first..." I thought they might be insulted, but to my suprise this young lady went and actually washed her hands, when she had come back I had already switched the deck and let her examine them to her heart's content! Now that's funny! However, she did fall into the catagory of being slightly intoxicated!

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