I never thought of counting the number of tricks I do in my shows until the day the MC in a mall show I was performing at asked me about it a few minutes before I went on stage.
I said, “I don’t know.”
He gave me the weird look of a five-year-old child who just heard the explanation to the kid’s question, “Where do babies come from?”
“What do you mean ‘I don’t know’?”
“I never got around to counting the tricks I do in a show. Sometimes a perform for 20 minutes, sometimes 30, 45 or one hour.”
“You are to perform for 45 minutes today. I have seen lots of magicians before. They showed several dozens of tricks. How many tricks do you do, so you can have a 45-minute show?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Do you do 50 tricks?” he asked, his confusion growing by the minute.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Not nearly that many.”
“More like 10 or11.”
He went away murmuring. The look of incomprehension on his face seemed to tell me, “How is this guy going to entertain this many people at the mall with 11 tricks?”
For someone who had not seen me perform before, the size of the audience at that event seemed formidable. There were several hundreds of people seated in front of the stage and hundreds more watching from the different floors of the mall.
The exchange I had with the MC amused me, as it triggered thoughts of how my shows (and my choice of material) have evolved over the years. Whereas before I dazzled my audience with a rapid-fire succession of tricks, today I entertain them with shows containing less number of tricks but better routined and strongly staged programs. I now lean more on quality instead of on quantity of material.
I can understand the MC’s bewilderment. He had seen other magicians drown their audience’s senses with a myriad of tricks. He probably couldn’t imagine a magic show performed in a way other than smothering the audience with sheer number of tricks.
Comedy acts count laughs per minute, so he might have thought a magic act should similarly count tricks per minute.
In government, bean counters concern themselves with quantifying everything, even the unquantifiable.
Show them a Leonardo da Vinci, and they may look for the number of brush strokes in the painting but fail to see its beauty.
In the same manner, the booking agent of the mall show—she was there to watch me for the first time—did a bean counting act on me. She was aghast that I performed only for 40 minutes, even though the audience had a good time watching the show. Even though I stopped human traffic in the mall and held them in front of the stage to watch the event and listen to the advertisers’ commercial plugs. Even though nobody stirred nor left their seats while my show was going on.
You see, I am not only reluctant to count tricks but also loath to go on and on after I have already accomplished my mission. Which is to entertain the audience.
Last Friday, I had a corporate show for financial experts in the Philippines. In the printed program which they distributed to the attendees, the event organizers allotted 45 minutes to my show. Before I came on, one event staffer approached me and reminded me I was to perform for 45 minutes.
I said, “Okay, no problem.” I brought a one-and-half-hour show in my roll-on table. I was confident I could do almost any length of show that evening.
In actual performance, however, when I had the audience laughing at my jokes, applauding my tricks and cheering my escape act, I closed the show after the sixth trick. I was on stage for only 30 minutes.
The organizers did not complain. I think they had looked at the picture and did not bother to count the brush strokes.
I love these financial experts. They know things some MCs and booking agents don’t.
Oh, by the way, even after complaining about my short program, the agent that booked me for the mall show re-booked me on the spot after my performance.
At least, even though she had the habit of counting brush strokes, she didn’t forget to look at the picture painted by LEODINI da Vinci. She must have found it pleasing.