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Bill Wilson
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Profile of Bill Wilson
Anyone see my buddy Chester McBain on AFV last night? While visiting the zoo with his family he did a little back palm thing with a card for one of the baboons and the reaction was priceless. His daughter videoed it and her kids thought it would be a good idea to submit it to AFV. It ended up AFV released it online and it went viral and AFV contacted them and advised they were selected as one of the final three contestants for the initial $10,000 prize. Turns out they won the $10,000 prize and are now vying for the final $100,000 prize, with the episode to be aired Sunday, May 8th. If you want to see the video, search baboon is amazed.
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Thanks, Bill for recognizing Chester (and my amazing camera skills! Hahaha) I was totally shocked at one article I read that said they sent the video to Penn and Teller to analyze the baboons reaction! Very neat! I do have to say, being there and seeing it all first hand (and some of the other actions the baboon took), that this baboon was SERIOUSLY AMAZED!!! What a wild couple months we have had! Thanks to all who have cheered us on!!!! So much fun!
Jacene Dickson
2016 AFV Winner "Befuddled Baboon"
Chester M
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Thanks Bill for bringing this exciting moment up! I must say that I’m probably more surprised than the baboon when I saw your post with so many members reading it and only one response, who by the way was my daughter.

What surprises me most is the fact that a video that went viral, especially one that involved magic has not even been discussed on these forums.
I’m finding it hard to comprehend that of the over 50 million views of the video on the internet that no member of the café wants to say they have even seen it.

I’ll be the first to admit that the magic effect that was performed was at most, basic and by far not very impressive by any standards.
However, what everyone does not know is the reasons for and the background of the entire event.

This was in no way planned or staged. This past March we were down in Phoenix Arizona and had time to visit the zoo, My daughter, and fellow performer, Jacene noticed the baboon leaning against the glass looking very bored. She said "Hey Dad, why don't you show that poor baboon a trick". I checked around in my pockets and found a playing card and thought I can do something with this that might get the baboons attention. So, a simple vanish was my choice.

The short video only shows a few moments of what happened. I performed the vanish the first time and the baboon reacted. Wow the reaction was extremely funny and was amazing. So my daughter said do it again and she grabbed her cell phone to record it should the baboon react again. Well to our surprise the baboon did just that, the exact same reaction, a total of four times!

After watching the video on her phone it was decided that it was so unique and funny that why not send it into America’s Funniest Videos. So it was submitted. Well everyone knows the outcome of that.

Now, going back to why my surprise with the forum, well after AFV received the video they put it on their site. Within minutes of it being posted, it started to go viral. As people watched, they often commented. Most of the comments were very positive with the few expected negative reactions. Many of the commenter’s even mentioned that they hated magic, but after watching the video changed their thinking, they had a renewed interest and found it fascinating.

The interesting thing was that the science community started to analyze the baboon’s reaction. They were focused on if the baboon really experienced a moment of magic. Some try to push it off as an aggressive behavior. I can honestly say, the little baboon was definitely not aggressive. I saw her aggressive side prior to her sitting bored leaning on the window, yes, she did show her teeth when she was aggressive. She showed no teeth while watching the magic, her lips covered her teeth the same way we would when saying “O” or ”What?” Others who are experts with primates also discussed the reaction and had just no conclusion. Even Teller of Penn and Teller had some input during one of the interviews, his remarks: ““Nobody, not even a baboon,” Teller went on, “has that strong a reaction to a vanishing three of clubs.” But she did! And that is why it’s so magical.” It was actually the Queen of hearts.

Considering that I was the one that was there, and the magician doing the magic, I believe that the baboon did experience “magic”. If she was aggressive, why would she remain that close to us and sit and wait for me to perform the vanish again and again.

When I continued to read the various articles from reputable names like Scientific America, I started to analyze it myself.

Now, at the risk of sounding egotistical, I have had those reactions from people when performing, close-up in particular. However this didn’t happen consistently. I would perform the exact same piece of magic for different people with most giving a great baboon like reaction while others would just stare almost saying, so.

Going back to the viral video, I began to think I must have lucked out in the sense of choosing the right piece of magic for the audience that I was about to perform for, a baboon. Not only choosing the right piece of magic but performing with the right timing.

After watching the video of the baboon and comparing it to videos that I had while performing close-up, for humans, I noticed that the reaction from the baboon was the same reaction from humans when I incorporated the right piece of magic with the proper timing.

There was a specific reaction sequence from both human and baboon.
They all start in a normal state, the magic happens then the eyes widen or eyebrows raise (they are surprised at something that is out of the normal), then their mouth opens (while their brain is racing to explain or justify what just happened), and finally they want to reach and touch (hoping this will satisfy their brains need to explain the reality).

There were two keys to the reaction, the right choice of magic combined equally as important with the right timing of the presentation.

The first was getting the audience’s interest which needed to be timed in such a way as to keep the interest and not lose it. At a particular point during this time the magic must happen in order to get the first reaction, the raised eyebrows or widening eyes. If I held the card up too long the baboon would most likely lose interest and not pay attention. If the card was held up and vanished too quickly the baboon wouldn’t have noticed what it was and what even just happened.

The second reaction was the mouth opening, a time that I think is when the card vanished and the brain is in the process of determining if that was normal, did it just vanish?

And the third reaction is when the card re-appears and the brain has determined that this was not normal so what just happened, let me touch it to confirm it’s real.

So to put it in point form with the reaction first then what the audience’s brain is probably thinking:
Gain interest – So, nothing new here
Eyes raise or open – What?? That’s not right???
Mouth opens – Something is wrong here, what the???
Need to touch – Hmmmm, is that real, let me see that, I want to touch and verify.

Even though I’ve been performing for 50 years now, I’ve never really stopped and analyzed the precision that is required to get a desired reaction. I think I’ve been lucky to be able to just incorporate these basics without even knowing it myself.
To me, this has actually turned into a lesson in learning; that not all audiences are the same therefore it is critical in choosing the right piece of magic to perform for a particular audience and making sure that timing the sequence of events is right, based on that audience.

Well, there you have it, to coin a phrase “and now you know…the rest of the story”
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Profile of lynnef
I saw it! I saw it! (AND, Very glad to see your post in the Café, Chester!) It was truly primally "amazing". Good luck with the grand prize. Lynn
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