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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Using playing cards - how to get away from "the magician persona" (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Eshla
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So I noticed the other day that a lot of my close-up routines involved playing cards: Hands-off Brainwave, Smokeless, KK, Extreme Mental Effort...

All of these can be/are presented within the context of a psychological effect. But I realised the other day that holding a deck of cards for too much of the performance is definitely not good. I originally held the belief that if I wasn't touching the cards -which I never do- then the "Magic Stigma" would not stick to me; this does NOT seem to be the case.

I have eliminated various effects, and now its down to just two: Smokeless (I couldn't get rid of this, the reactions are far too good) and Card Projection (because its easily the best thought-of-card-to-wallet there is, and it doesn't require me to hold a deck of cards).

My question to you is; what do you do to remove the "magician stigma" surrounding your playing cards? I'm not asking if you think playing cards are right/wrong in Mentalism, but if you do use them at all, how do you justify their use.


Tom
xx
I come from the future to culture you poor sods with fire.
insight
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The issues one has with cards are common to most props, it is why propless mentalism is ideal
Jaz
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I would say that because there are 52 totally different cards in a deck that it's a good prop to use.
ThePhilosopher
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I regularly do mentalism for groups that have seen me before and know me as a "magician." I do quite a bit of magic, but my passion is mentalism and consider myself a mentalist. Even though my clients regularly have been told I am a magician and I do some "magic" during the show, they leave with the conviction that they didn't just see tricks. I often perform in settings that allow me to talk with the audience after the show. When they ask about the mentalism pieces they don't ask if the cards were real, but "how did you learn to read people like that."

So from experience I can tell you it is VERY possible to combine cards and mentalism, and I have had a huge success with it. That leads into, "Well, how do you do it."

I always start with a disarming, but effective effect which I based off ReCapped by Greg Wilson. I then try to educate the group a bit, explaining (in an entertaining way) misdirection, slight of hand, and arrive to mentalism. I may do another strong magic trick and then start with simple (and believable) mentalism. For me, the concept of "belief" is essential. They must believe that what I am doing is possible. I usually do a convincing routine of finding their card in the deck by using body tells. This usually gets an excellent reaction because the way I perform it makes it seems so real. If you start out with strong effects right from the start you will never get a skeptic on your side.

Little by little I work my way up to the closer, which usually hits very hard. The key is belief--I can do a strong effect because I have led them into my world for the last 45 minutes. Slowly they have come to accept what I do is real.

Another essential point is something I mentioned on the topic I just started today (The audience experience): you must provide some explanation for what they are seeing. Just saying, "I'm psychic" or "advanced psychology" won't cut it. How do you read minds? To inspire belief you must give them something to believe in.

They often say that family and friends are the hardest to perform for because they know you don't have any real powers. I don't know who "they" are and if they understand how important belief is. Those closest to me are the ones who believe the most.

I would sum all that up in two concepts: your routine and belief.
- Nathan
ALEXANDRE
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In no way whatsoever do I believe propless mentalism is ideal.

But that may be just me.

I have a couple of sets where I just use cards to demonstrate all kinds of phenomena. Cards are just a convenient tool for me to perform my various experiments.

I always say, don't blame the tool, blame the fool. Some years ago I gave up using a certain prop because I felt it weakened my set. In conversation with some knowledgeable friends, I quickly found out that my problem had nothing to do with the tool, but with my approach to it.

Uri Geller performed with a friggin' spoon. And killed with it. It wasn't the eating utensils that he brought on stage that amazed the crowd, no one thought he was a chef, it's what he did with them.
Dick Christian
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Although I am not one who eschews the use of playing cards in mentalism (but have no problem with those who do), I limit the use of cards to a single routine in my mindreading show and I believe (based on the comments of audience members after the show) that the context in which that routine is presented effectively disabuses observers of the perception that what I do is a "card trick." In addition I very intentionally avoid including in my show anything that is clearly "a trick" or even "mental magic" as opposed to mentalISM. At the same time I realize that a certain portion of the audience (probably 20% or less) will assume that anything I do is accomplished through trickery despite the fact that I do everything I can to avoid validating that perception.

The manner and context in which any effect is presented has a great influence on how it will be interpreted by observers.
Dick Christian
mindpunisher
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The "magician stigma" only exists in the minds of the mentalist community.

If you get the response your looking for and your audience is entertained then you are doing great.

I believe ESP cards are much more prop like and suspicious than playing cards. Because playing cards are everyday life items.

I think mentalists take themselves too seriously. Canasta used cards and is thought of as one of the all time greats. He just entertained people.

Mentalism is just entertainment. You/we are magicians nothing more. It amuses me at the delusions of granduer many mentalists have.
Mindpro
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Very interesting Dick, I agree with your 20% perspective. Could I ask what you classify as the difference in Mental Magic and Mentalism?
David Alexander
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Quote:
On 2010-09-04 17:42, mindpunisher wrote:
The "magician stigma" only exists in the minds of the mentalist community.

If you get the response your looking for and your audience is entertained then you are doing great.

I believe ESP cards are much more prop like and suspicious than playing cards. Because playing cards are everyday life items.

I think mentalists take themselves too seriously. Canasta used cards and is thought of as one of the all time greats. He just entertained people.

Mentalism is just entertainment. You/we are magicians nothing more. It amuses me at the delusions of granduer many mentalists have.


Well said.

I would only add that many here want to be seen as "real" as opposed to being entertainers. There is a difference.
The Burnaby Kid
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The more you use a prop, the more the prop gets the credit. If you were doing fifteen mental demonstrations of various sorts using paperclips, then the paperclips would start to take heat after a while.

Keep in mind that no matter what you do, no matter what prop you're working with, you're using the prop to illustrate a phenomenon. Concentrate on the phenomenon first and foremost, and the routines will fall into place. Also consider that if you pay a great deal of attention to the phenomenon, you'll realize that if it were legitimate, you could probably find ways other than cards to illustrate it.

Quote:
On 2010-09-04 18:19, David Alexander wrote:
I would only add that many here want to be seen as "real" as opposed to being entertainers. There is a difference.


But they're not mutually exclusive.
JACK, the Jolly Almanac of Card Knavery, a free card magic resource for beginners.
ALEXANDRE
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Quote:
On 2010-09-04 18:19, David Alexander wrote:
Quote:
On 2010-09-04 17:42, mindpunisher wrote:
The "magician stigma" only exists in the minds of the mentalist community.

If you get the response your looking for and your audience is entertained then you are doing great.

I believe ESP cards are much more prop like and suspicious than playing cards. Because playing cards are everyday life items.

I think mentalists take themselves too seriously. Canasta used cards and is thought of as one of the all time greats. He just entertained people.

Mentalism is just entertainment. You/we are magicians nothing more. It amuses me at the delusions of granduer many mentalists have.


Well said.

I would only add that many here want to be seen as "real" as opposed to being entertainers. There is a difference.


If I'm not having fun, and if it's not fun for my audience (regardless of size), I'm not interested in it.

The issue with believability varies with each performer of course, I tend to want to be as believable as possible (within the context of an entertainment performance). I have no desire to PROVE to anyone that I am a genuine psychic (though I believe we all are in our own way, but that's another subject). I just don't want my audience to say "Oh isn't he a great trickster? I think I know how he does that...."

If people believe I am "real", great! In many ways I AM, being a real human being, really standing there doing a performance, with a real voice ... that's as real as it gets! Besides, after seeing my performance, anyone in my audience has access to professors, libraries, book stores, the JREF, and all kinds of resources to find "the truth", they certainly don't need me (a performer) telling them what is and what isn't "real".

In my very personal view, many (not all) of those who feel they need to "educate" their audiences are the ones who take themselves too seriously.

I like to leave the puzzles to the 'puzzle-lists', the red nose to the clowns, the juggling to the jugglers, and the tricks to the tricksters.

Playing cards are a-okay!
Aaron E
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I try and use biz cards in place of playing cards when it is possible. I wont give up my ID for anything though!

Coz
Eshla
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I love the Berglas/Brown route of proving afterwards that it was not trickery. This is done is several cases by Berglas/Brown and I like to try and find new ways of doing this.

For example in a routine where I say I am about to show them a wonderful little experiment to do with memory, to do so I will use a deck of cards (cards are often used to test memory, the world memory champion can memorise 13 packs of cards in a row). I note to them that the backs of all these cards are just red, no markings.

I make them look at any card in a deck and hold it in their head for a moment or two. I then read their minds and work out what card they are thinking of (while never touching the deck). Then I say that this was in fact NOT the card that they saw in the deck - that their card (say the King of Diamonds) was never in the deck in the first place. They saw another card and I made them "mis-remember" and think of the King of Diamonds.

To prove this I take out an envelope from my jacket and remove from that the King of Diamonds, on the back of which is written "FORGET" in big black sharpie.

=============================

I'm sure many of you will know how the effect is done, and its not new at all, but so far as I know this is taking the "mind screw" to a new level. It elminates all possability of trickery; as they know that there never was a card with "FORGET" in the deck, and they can see for themselves that there is not a King of Diamonds present there. Thereby you have eliminated slight of hand and you have the "FORGET" writing as a way of proving that this card was never inside the deck in the first place, and it could not possibly have been the card they saw.

I obviously must not make this too "in your face" of a proof, and must mention it only casually, never making it the main focus of the trick. But I think this is a nice way of keeping cards and Mental Magic seperate - providing that small convincer, which just totally eliminates all other logical ideas.

Ofcourse this will never work for some things. I could provide all the "proof" in the world, but if the effect was winning the lottery people would still not believe I was really doing something mental. However the "mis-remembering" tale is both quite amusing and it pulls the victim in, while still retaining the air of plausability.


=============================


Dick, have you ever performed in Britain? It may be just me, but it seems to me that 100% of my audiance believe me to be using psychology. Its the effect Derren Brown has had on the nation, he has put a lot of work into building the psychology angle of Mentalism.

The closest anyone has ever come to (openly atleast...) saying that I was using trickery or otherwise, was in a hotel once when a slightly drunk man kept saying "Its all tricks man". However performing Prevarocator on him 4 times convinced him otherwise.


(I was lucky, I suck at Prevarocator!)
I come from the future to culture you poor sods with fire.
mindpunisher
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It's not that difficult to be seen as real. Do effects for those that believe esp psychics exist. Hang around new agers. Then the most simple of effects will be seen as real. However an average audience will be made up of all types. Not everyone will see you as real.

If you think you can fool everybody into thinking your real you are deluded.

I remember Geller in the height of his career in the 70s and my father saying he was fake.
ThePhilosopher
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Quote:
On 2010-09-05 00:52, mindpunisher wrote:
It's not that difficult to be seen as real. Do effects for those that believe esp psychics exist. Hang around new agers. Then the most simple of effects will be seen as real. However an average audience will be made up of all types. Not everyone will see you as real.

If you think you can fool everybody into thinking your real you are deluded.


If you perform for people who believe in psychics then they will be quicker to accept what you do as real, but even a kid with the newest trick from the magic shop can do that. I remember setting up for one show, when a woman came up to me and started asking questions. "It takes a lot of energy, right? You have to focus a lot... etc." She had been totally conditioned by shows of David Blain. Somehow, I feel that the response I get from these people is cheap. I didn't really earn it.

I personally use the psychological presentation and would not like people to believe I had some type of psychic ability. I think a part of my success has been that I don't claim too much, but use strong effects. Derren Brown (if you like him or not) uses a similar approach. However, this goes into into the argument about being supernatural or not.

I agree with all the comments about mentalist taking themselves too seriously. Perhaps it comes from the from the fact that mentalism (in most cases) is just about secretly getting information. What makes it entertaining is that we take say its mind reading. It can be cards, paper, envelopes, business cards, or whatever, but if the focus is on the props, then you are just a magician with very little variation of effects.

Mentalism need belief on some level.
- Nathan
marklock
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In order to sell anything you have to understand the "frame" of your customer, so you can create a story for your product.

Seth Godin writes about this in All Marketers Are Liars. It's a great read.

I think every great performer finds a "frame" their audience can accept then operates within it.

David Blaine found a new frame that people were living in and utilized it to great effect. The study of Copperfield's and Blaine's "frames" provides interesting sociological insights into the last three decades of our culture.

Choosing the right "frame" can limit or broaden your market, not knowing your "frame" will lead to obsolescence.

So using cards simply comes down to how you are framing your performance for the story you want to tell. But it's important to understand how the audience's frame about cards (and magic and mind reading) impacts your goal.

"Think of a card" is the mentalist's equivalent to the magician's "pick a card". Because only magicians do these types of activities with cards, I'd say it fits in the audience "frame" as a magic trick regardless. Doing a psychic gambling type presentation connects with an audience's "frame" about cards in an entirely different manner, associating cards with gambling and a power they would like to possess in games of chance. An effect in this frame uses cards in a manner most people are familiar and moves them from their association as a magician's prop.

Osterlind's Black Jack Demonstration and Maue's Subconscious Poker come to mind as effects that have a frame using cards that don't feel so "magicky".
Zebaztian
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I think it has also to do with how much card routines you do in your show. If you have one card routine in a complete mentalism show, there's nothing wrong. If you do more card tricks, there's nothing wrong either, but the audience may concider you being a card guy. BTW, nothing's wrong with being a card magician (I love card magicians - gaffed & funky is one of my favorite parts of this Café).
My mind reading routines: http://www.basjongenelen.nl/goocheltrucs/. Scroll a bit down to the English routines.
ThePhilosopher
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I agree with Zebaztian. I almost always include some card mentalism, but I would never do too much. If you can only read minds using a deck of cards, then you will be seen as a cleaver magician.

marklock is totally right about the frame. It depends on your character, your presentation back-story (psychic\psychological), and how you define the trick. A good performer can frame\redefine a magic trick and convince people it is mentalism. At the same time we need to be careful. I have seen kids use a standard force, look at the spectator like he had a bad stomach problem, and then say the card. They look at poor kid and say, "nice trick."
- Nathan
marklock
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Zebaztian, I agree nothing wrong with card tricks. But in mentalism I do think you have to be careful. I don't think the quantity has anything to do with it, it really is your character and presentation. Even one could be wrong if not properly framed.
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