These are people who theorize about their fields of interest with little benefit of practical experience.
Which makes me one when it comes to writing about armchair magicians. I have no practical experience or profound knowledge about them. Still I will write about the topic regardless of my lack of experience. That’s the hallmark of an armchair expert.
The art of magic has its own share (no, hordes) of armchair magicians. They usually populate online forums where they dispense pieces of advice, ranging from books to run to when you need to research a trick, to information about who created which tricks.
Their wealth of knowledge in everything about magic is as amazing as the latest one-person levitation. The more well-posted and profound armchair scholars of the art can even give you the evolution of tricks, telling you how it developed over time and who developed them when.
While some performers may look down at armchair magicians, I don’t. I find they play an important role in the scheme of things in the magic world. They can be of help when you are researching a trick, method or presentation. Besides, they love magic so much they study it with extraordinary passion and dedication. I love people who do that, because I don’t have the time to do likewise. At least they are doing the work that I should be doing myself.
So if you visit an online forum with a request to be pointed in the direction of a resource for, say, how many ways to secretly load a bill into a lemon, you can be sure an armchair magician or two will give you a litany of methods far more than you need.
See? I told you they can be helpful…
However, if you ask a question needing practical answers, take the armchair magician’s expositions and treatises with a grain of salt. Their answers (based mostly on theories and say-so’s of experts) could be more harmful than helpful. They could also send you on a wild goose chase, and leave you none the wiser by the end of the day.
I once read on an online forum a member’s plea for help with his thumb tip. His problem was that when doing the bill switch using a vinyl thumb tip, the bill would get stuck inside the tip. It wouldn’t slide in and out as smoothly as he wanted, thus upsetting his timing.
One of the suggestions from an armchair magician was to punch a hole at the end of the tip. He theorized that once a magician inserts his thumb inside the tip, the thumb creates a vacuum. Thus the need to punch a hole on the tip. The armchair theorist did not say why a similar vacuum did not occur in a plastic thumb tip.
The solution to the problem, as put forth by Leodini, is far simpler and practical than punching a hole. You can read it here: The Thumb Tip Enigma.
Another example. If you ask on online forums what are magicians’ favorite comedy tricks, you will get answers like, “Tricks are not funny. It’s the performer who makes them funny.”
Which, of course, is as wrong as saying the earth is flat.
But everybody on the forum seems to agree with this statement, just like the way everybody agreed with the Pope at the time of Galileo that the earth was the center of the universe.
Of course, there are funny tricks, just as there are serious tricks, amazing tricks, bland tricks and boring tricks.
Why? Because magic tricks, like humans and monkeys, are not created equal. They have their own individual and intrinsic qualities.
Read the script or listen to the audio of the Vanishing Bandanna. You know it’s a funny trick. It is conceived, designed and written to be funny. It is intrinsically funny.
Now, whether a magician can deliver or perform the Vanishing Bandanna so that it makes people laugh is altogether another matter.
So to the question “what are magicians’ favorite comedy tricks”, one of the correct answers should be Vanishing Bandanna, not “Tricks are not funny. It’s the performer who makes them funny.”
That’s a gigantic hem and haw and a humongous noncommittal comment. Only armchair magicians answer like that. And maybe their friends too. They don’t intend to give correct answers. They only want to repeat something erudite they read from the books in their ever expanding book shelves, so that readers know they have a large library.
But of course I’m just theorizing all this. After all, I’m an armchair expert on armchair magicians.