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I stumbled upon the following observation eons ago: “Unfortunately, some magicians who do sleight of hand and display skill are rarely, in my opinion, doing magic. Pick one or the other. Do you want to display skill or perform magic? You might as well be a juggler (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course!).”
Surely, there are more than two choices. A third choice would be doing sleight-of-hand that is, at the same time, magical and entertaining.
In the hands of Juan Tamariz, a deck of cards behaves magically but doesn’t look like being juggled. And while you’re trying to keep up with him, you get gas pain from laughing at his antics. Juan Tamariz is a sleight-of-hand god who performs beautiful and entertaining magic, notwithstanding his zany character.
The same thing can be said of Bill Malone and David Williamson. Because their techniques are flawless, they produce visually aesthetic magic that is at the same time entertaining.
Their technically demanding magic may not be the type of skillful magic referred to in the above observation. I admit that children’s magicians need not acquire Jeff McBride’s manipulative skill to perform at, say, a birthday party. They preen in somebody’s small living room doing magic as if they are on a large stage in Las Vegas. Sometimes the seriousness of their magic at a birthday party is so ridiculous it’s funny rather than serious.
That’s kinda confusing statement. You may not understand it fully. I don’t.
But here’s what I mean. There is appropriate time and place for every type of magic. The magician’s responsibility is to match his magic to his venue and audience.
Out from the debate of skills versus fun is an unassailable lesson. Magic that requires manipulative skills impresses an audience made up of magicians. Magic that is entertaining impresses lay people, even without dazzling display of skill. It makes them feel they have gotten their money’s worth for hiring a magician.
Now, the situation is not all black and white. There is gray in between, lots of gray. As observed above, a technically difficult magic can also be entertaining, as the magic of Tamariz, Bill Malone, David Williamson and countless others demonstrates.
But as a general rule, a display of skill magic entertains magicians but not always the lay audience. While magic filled with comedy, fun and theatrics, though lacking in dazzling display of digital dexterity, entertains lay audience but not always magicians.
Are you performing to impress magicians or are you performing to entertain non-magician clients?
Build your act and perform your show in the style your particular type of audience will appreciate. If you can do that, you will endear yourself to them, whether they are magicians or lay people.