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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Effectiveness of Mentalism ? (4 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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avik_d
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A strange thing came up inside my head earlier this year when I went to watch an evening
performance in an auditorium in my city by one of the most celebrated German Mentalists.He did
a quite nice show, with classical stuffs, with a few of his own creationss thrown in. I myself
am a performing magician, and I enjoyed his performance immensely. His performance was very
interactive, and I believe the entire audience enjoyed it pretty well.

When I was coming out of the auditorium after the show to start for my home, I overheard a few
comments from other fellow spectators.

"He's amazing !! I've never seen anything like before.."

"Charming personality I must say. My sister would have started seeing him if he'd stayed in
this city for a few days more... "

"How did he read the minds of the guys he called up on stage ? I don't know, may be they are
his own staff.."

This last comment caught my attention.

Specatators, even when they're amazed by the performance, essentially will try to dissect the
methods behind the performance on their way home, and if they are unable to do it, they'll
fall back on the easiest explanation available (which is unfortunately available, for
mentalism).

The volunteers are stooges.


My question is not easy to put down, but here it goes:

"Unlike Magic, how strong is mentalism for the spectators other than the one directly
involved?"

Most of you will answer "Extremely Strong", but I've started thinking otherwise. Help me get
rid of this thought.

IMHO, Mentalism is essentially a personal thing. It helps connecting with the spectator on an
intimate level. I believe Mentalism is most striking for the spectator who's directly involved
into it. But not for others. Magic has got a visual aspect in it, which presents the
performance in the same manner to each and every person present in the audience, whatever
their individual reactions might be.

Is it the same for Mentalism? The volunteer may swear that it was not pre-arranged, but how
many of the others are going to believe it? They may be entertained, but definitely not like
the volunteer guy who actually interacted with the performer.

I myself have performed mentalism for groups before, and received applause from them, the most
coming from the direct "victim".

Now I'm tending to think otherwise.

Am I wrong ? I'd be happy to be.
Best,



-Avik
MrThomas
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Thank you Avik for that input. One question evolving from your thoughts is: How to prevent the audience to think of pre-arrangements?
In Bob Freaking Cassidy's The Artful Mentalism Vol.2, one chapter deals with exactly this question and your question as well. According Cassidy, it's the one issue, many performers forget to work out. In respect to Bob and his work, I'll not give the answere. It's his to do so.
As you may guess, I'm delighted by that book. It's full of "good thoughts".

Best,
Thomas
avik_d
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Thanks Thomas for the reference. I might as well pick up that volume and go through what Bob suggests.

However, I'd also like to know the personal thoughts of fellow Café members in this regard.
Best,



-Avik
Marqus
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Great question, Avik, as my mind goes through this situation also.

I guess the way I would accomplish the fact that I am not using stooges is to randomly choose the spectator to help with the effect by means of throwing out a lightweight ball, a frisbee, a balled up paper, etc. & then letting that person toss it to someone else or point to someone else. Then when the selected person is on stage helping with the effect, review how they were chosen.

I, too, am going to pull out my Mastermindreader Cassidy book to check what Bob suggests.
Mindpro
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I think your thoughts and post recognize and identify a few very and important things.

1. Audiences will want to believe what they have just experience dis real...or at least could be. This is unlike magic that is known to be a trick, an illusion, a slight or misdirection. Therefore the results will affect people more directly or as you said personally. Even if the performer tells them he has no special psychic abilities they will still likely believe it is so or possible. UNLESS, the performer mentions magic or something similar - illusions of the mind, mind magic, etc. The mention of "magic" can and often does change or discredit audiences beliefs.

2. Audiences do perceive mentalism and magic as being different

3. I don't care how great the performer is and what type of performance venue from street to pub to corporate to major theater - people will talk. Audiences come out of the show with the common bond of what they just experienced. This combined with what they have just seen is believed to be real or plausibly real, they will need to talk. To friends, strangers, it doesn't matter. It's just simply our human nature. More than just talking they will often want to talk to the people involved on stage to get their take and to drill them with questions - among them the realness or legitimacy of what they just experienced and what just happened.

4. Again by human nature, they will try to figure it out - to come up with a method, reasoning or explanation. They will try to guess, reverse engineer it, and if they can't find a "logocal" explanation they will then by their automatic default settings start considering and perhaps even justifying it with far-fetched logical explanations and justifications - he used some kind of electronic device in his ears, he had someone feeding him information, their audience volunteer must have been in on it (someone they know, a stooge, actor or the performers assistant or staff member), it was a trick (gimmicked) or special prop or device, he or someone must have talked to them before the show or had something discussed or prearranged previously or in advance, and many other laymen perspectives, explanations and justifications.

Not understanding and addressing and preparing for these weakens mentalism. Believing these things don't happen is both delusional and also weakens mentalism. Understanding the foundational differences between performance magic and mentalism is crucial and lack of such weakens or reduced mentalism to "just tricks" or "just a form of magic" in the eyes and minds of the audience. Remember, they are mot coming to see a magic show, they believe or want to believe this is something real, different and much more.

and finally...

5. It's not just entertainment!!! So many performers always end their justificatios with "it's just entertainment" or "as long as they were entertained", or similar. This mentality leaves much on the table, much misunderstood and unfinished. Truth be told it is much more than just entertainment. It is an experience, often a personal one, often unlike anything they would typically see or experience.

Performing mentalism is a responsibility. A responsibility to the audience and one of which the performer much carry and remember at all times, as it's impact is not just left on the stage or in the performance. Many of today's "mentalists" not only don't understand this, but they can't handle it. They can't handle this responsibility. Mentalism is much more than just executing your performance.

Magicians can say whatever they want when they say mentalism is just a part of magic. It's is much more. When done properly it's impact is far greater than most magic. Besides being a performer, I have owned an agency and booked mentalists and magicians for over 35 years. I hear it regularly when companies, theaters, fairs & festivals, colleges, cruise ships and other clients and venues call. They say "we want something different. We've had a magician before but we really want to have a mentalist or a hypnotist." I hear this on almost a daily basis and have for years. The reason? When I talk to these people they believe two things - 1. that this is real, the true thing, and 2. that it's much more powerful and impactive than most other types of entertainment, including magic. You would be amazed at how often they specifically say they DON'T want magic, but want a mentalist. Even if they may not truly understand everything a mentalist does, they know that this is their interest and what they want. They believe it to be two different things.

Your thoughts are thoughts that all interested in mentalism should think through deeply, as it is the foundational layer of good performance mentalism.

I also believe this is why so many true mentalist performers are often against this "magician turned mentalist" that still operates and tries to perform mentalism from their current magic mentalities and perspectives.
sandsjr
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There's no eliminating this. The beautiful thing about mentalism is a lot of people believe, however some will never believe. The firm non-believer will always come up with some rationale, no matter how off base it is. Even if you toss out a paper ball. My personal feeling is the trade off of not being able to pick the participant isn't worth what you get in return, which is slight to nothing In the mind of a cynic that is. Think about the magic equivalent. With out of this world presented by a magician, you hear comments the hand is quicker than the eye. People come up with some explanation no matter how ridiculous it is to us. Unfortunately for magicians, everyone knows there is some trick. Not so for us.

With regards to your question about how strong mentalism is versus magic for the entire audience, very strong! After my shows I get a big chunk of the audience coming up to enthusiastically shake my hand and tell me how much they enjoyed it. I will tell you I consciously engage them. I speak directly to them, all of them. If you have any doubt on how much the whole audience experiences what you are doing, look at Derren Brown's shows on YouTube. There are plenty of audience shots that demonstrate this. Of course, your material and presentation should be strong too, that's a given.

Mentalism rules! I've done Magic my whole life. Now I regret to say I don't like it so much anymore.

EDIT, I just posted my comments and saw mindro posted his at the same time. I will leave mine up even though it appears I've duplicated some of what he says at first glance.

EDIT, I just read Mindpro's post, powerful and on the money.
mastermindreader
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Yes- I've discussed this issue at great length in my book and, basically, it is easily overcome simply through the proper use of major effects.

But the worst way, IMO, to select volunteers is by throwing frisbees or paper balls etc. That might be fine in cases where the volunteer only has to call out a number or something simple. But if the effect requires following directions, a reasonably intelligent participant, etc. why would you risk having the town drunk, or a loud-mouthed jerk, catch the item?
Scott Soloff
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Quote:
On Jul 9, 2014, mastermindreader wrote:

But the worst way, IMO, to select volunteers is by throwing frisbees or paper balls etc. That might be fine in cases where the volunteer only has to call out a number or something simple. But if the effect requires following directions, a reasonably intelligent participant, etc. why would you risk having the town drunk, or a loud-mouthed jerk, catch the item?


Good point!

Scott
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sandsjr
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Come on Scott... I said the same thing...

Quote:
Even if you toss out a paper ball. My personal feeling is the trade off of not being able to pick the participant isn't worth what you get in return, which is slight to nothing In the mind of a cynic that is.

Just cause I don't have long flowing white hair...


Actually, Bob, at the castle in the lobby someone commented on your show, "He had to have set that up with the people." The good news is there was no logical route to what really took place. Regardless, there's nothing you can do to prevent this from happening 100% of the time. Some people just have to justify it. You can't lose sleep over it, it happens.
Scott Soloff
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Bobby,

Smile Sorry, my bad.

Best,

Scott
'Curiouser and curiouser."
sandsjr
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You remembered that.
mastermindreader
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Quote:
On Jul 9, 2014, sandsjr wrote:
Come on Scott... I said the same thing...

Quote:
Even if you toss out a paper ball. My personal feeling is the trade off of not being able to pick the participant isn't worth what you get in return, which is slight to nothing In the mind of a cynic that is.

Just cause I don't have long flowing white hair...


Actually, Bob, at the castle in the lobby someone commented on your show, "He had to have set that up with the people." The good news is there was no logical route to what really took place. Regardless, there's nothing you can do to prevent this from happening 100% of the time. Some people just have to justify it. You can't lose sleep over it, it happens.


Yes- in short acts that is always a problem. In longer shows, though, there is an added element that helps to eliminate the "they must have been set up" theory- so many participants are involved throughout, that one would have to conclude that almost everyone was in on it.

Of course, there will always be people who will assume that as well, rather than exercise some critical thinking skills.
sandsjr
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Quote:
On Jul 9, 2014, mastermindreader wrote:

Yes- in short acts that is always a problem. In longer shows, though, there is an added element that helps to eliminate the "they must have been set up" theory- so many participants are involved throughout, that one would have to conclude that almost everyone was in on it.

This makes sense.
David Thiel
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What are the two greatest "hooks" mentalism offers?

1) People are interested in people. Is it of interest to you to learn the circumstances of a pretty girl's first kiss? Is it interesting to know what's number one on that man's bucket list? Would you like to know who your boss would LOVE to sit down and have a conversation with if time and distance weren't an issue? When you bring the HUMAN element into mentalism, you are not only presenting an amazing demonstration...but you are also uncovering some INTERESTING information.

2) If he can do it...maybe I can too. Think about it. A magician cuts a woman into thirds and puts her back together. Yup...it's visually interesting but you KNOW it's a TRICK, right? If he were doing it for real, you'd expect buckets of blood, police...a lot of screaming. But she's just smiling serenely out of the box at the audience. The interaction between performer and audience in this instance moves on the cusp of the trick: how did he do that?

But when someone is reading minds -- something all of us have at least heard SPECULATION about...and the demonstrations get more and more convincing, some members of the audience are sitting in their seats entertaining a delicious idea: Maybe I can do it too...or at the very least: Maybe it IS real. THIS is the biggest difference between a magic show and mentalism. Of course people are going to wonder how it (whatever 'it' is) was done...but the 'what if it's real' component is much bigger for the mentalist.

In other words the magician says "catch me if you can" and the mentalist says "here's a tantalizing demonstration."

I've seen mentalism that was dry as toast. LONG and self indulgent crap where the performer is blathering on about things so long that, in my head, I hear that 'wha-wha-wah' trumpet sound Charlie Brown hears when his teachers are droning on. Personally (and only personally) I am bored to death by Add-A-Number, Magic Square etc effects. Numbers are mostly sterile things to me...and they all smack of the performer showing off. (I mean if I COULD really read minds, would I use this ability to predict a total from five or six random numbers? Probably not -- but again...this is only one opinion, so don't get all upset...) I am interested in PEOPLE -- and who they are on the inside.

What I'm saying is that if the performer is actually revealing something interesting...if he's taking me on a journey...if he's showing me fascinating things, I'm in. And I'm not sitting looking to find out what the trick is...or how it's done. I'm delighting in brushing up against something that just might be extraordinary.

So the short answer to your question is that mentalism CAN be 'extremely strong' or 'extremely tedious' depending on the performer. It needs to engage the audience in order to be the first -- and engage only the performer to be the latter. If only your volunteer is applauding, and the audience isn't, perhaps you need to think of ways to bring them into your show.

Bob suggests that you open your show with a "Major Effect" -- and since I've been doing this, I've seen how effective it can be. But there's more to engaging the audience than the opening. All of what you do should be calculated to bring the audience along with you deeper and deeper journey into "amazing."

Have a look at Chuck Hickok's remarkable "Mentalism, Inc." for great notes on how to design a mentalism show. Study Bob's "Artful Mentalism Volume 2" to really learn the impact starting with a Major Effect can have...and a ton of other things you really need to know.

Hopefully this is helpful.

David
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sandsjr
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Nice post David.

Sure, just think of movies for example. That stuff isn't happening to you directly but you most definitely feel what's going on.

I get to work the Magic Castle a lot downstairs in the cellar. I can tell you without fail when people hear I'm not a magician, I'm a mentalist, their faces light up... they get excited. That's almost a major effect in itself. And theyre at the Magic Castle... not the Mentalism Castle! Smile

One of the other side benefits of doing lots of shows there is you get to hear what people are saying when they walk out of the shows of others. It's eye-opening man! Great way to get a look at what the audience "really" thinks!
Scott Soloff
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David,

Helpful as always.

One very small disagreement: Add-A-Number prediction has always received a very strong response for me. The stipulation is that context is crucial.

Another possibly interesting point: Using a Major Effect to open a show is a very sound way to build an act. However, personally, I do just the opposite.

No welcoming remarks, no major effect, no rapport building - Straight into the first demo with one participant in the audience. Then the opening remarks.

I built my act the same way that I write novels - second chapter first. It may be somewhat unconventional, but have had great results with it.

Thanks for adding your point of view. Always insightful and useful.


As always, best wishes,


Scott
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Scott Soloff
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Bobby,

You type faster than I do...

Scott
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saysold1
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Quote:
On Jul 9, 2014, Scott Soloff wrote:
David,

Helpful as always.

One very small disagreement: Add-A-Number prediction has always received a very strong response for me. The stipulation is that context is crucial.

Another possibly interesting point: Using a Major Effect to open a show is a very sound way to build an act. However, personally, I do just the opposite.

No welcoming remarks, no major effect, no rapport building - Straight into the first demo with one participant in the audience. Then the opening remarks.

I built my act the same way that I write novels - second chapter first. It may be somewhat unconventional, but have had great results with it.

Thanks for adding your point of view. Always insightful and useful.


As always, best wishes,


Scott


Thanks Scott - interesting food for thoughts
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mastermindreader
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I'll have to disagree with you, Scott, about doing a one-on-one effect first. The idea is to engage everyone as quickly as possible, which is the same reason many novelists will start a book "in medias res."

A minor effect as an opener makes the rest of the audience passive observers and then you have to bring them back (if you haven't already lost them).
ajb6864
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Avik,

I think it is interesting that you use the word "victim" for the participant.

Alan
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