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Silly Billy (David Kaye in real life), in his soon-to-be-classic book on children’s magic titled Seriously Silly, observes that in performing for children, it’s not the “destination but the ride” that is important to the little ones.
In his view, it’s not the magic but the bits of business towards the fulfillment of the magical effect that entertain children more.
Let me explain with an example. Suppose a magician does a color-changing-silk routine. He says, “Here is a red handkerchief. I place it inside my fist, snap my fingers and voila!, the handkerchief is now green!”
While that presentation may bring smile to the lips of the grown-ups, or even amaze children, it will not bring down the house.
In a kids’ magic show, the magic must create near-riot situation—children should be shouting, shrieking, jumping, clapping their hands, laughing, etc. When parents see their children having the fun of their life, you will be a hero to them. You will get parents seeking you out in the backstage wanting to book you on the spot for their own children’s parties.
The “ride not the destination” performing strategy is the most difficult lesson an aspiring children’s magician will learn. It took me years to discover this myself. I’ve seen many magicians who perform magic for children but are unaware of this strategy.
As far as understand this principle as taught by Silly Billy, it’s like this (this is only a suggested illustration, not a routine I already do): The magician says, “Kids, here is a red handkerchief. I’ll turn it into green.” Five minutes later, the magical moment happens, and the magician says, “Voila! the handkerchief is now green.”
What happens between “Here’s a handkerchief” and “Voila! the handkerchief is now green”?
That is where you throw in four minutes worth of fun, funny bits of business, wackiness, audience participation, slapstick comedy, music, etc., to induce the children to shout, clap their hands, laugh, and have fun.
Toward this end, you may want to introduce your breakaway wand, breakaway fan, sponge sausages, multiplying banana, toilet plunger, squeaker, and other comedy props.
For a more in-depth study of the “ride not the destination” principle, go to the source. Buy the book from your online dealer, or buy it from Silly Billy himself right here: Seriously Silly.
As for comedy, children don’t catch on easily to verbal gags, but they roll on the floor with laughter when they see physical and visual comedy. So you will do well if you fall on the floor, knock into things, make mistakes, don’t see things they see, get hurt, and be afraid of snakes/spider/bugs.
All these comprise the “ride” part of a magic routine, so learn them as seriously as you learn sleights.