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49 entries from March 2008

Sunday night at The Comedy Festival

No ILLUSIONARIUM shows today, just RAZORBLADES at night.

To be honest, we were reluctant to do a show at all, in fact the show that's on before us in the same theatre cancelled at the last moment when only three people turned up. But we had two Ticketmaster bookings so we thought we should honour the commitment they made to us by booking in advance.

In the end, we had 6 in the audience (which was 300% better than the show in the larger theatre last night!) and we all had a good night. INSANITY was reduced from six volunteers crushing one bag each, to one volunteer crushing five.

I think he must have really felt anxious during that scene because when Sudoku told him to tie me up he really took it out on me! He handcuffed my hands between my legs and ran chain, very tightly, all around my body so I was hunched up.

Then, when he was instructed to put the plastic bag over my head and tape it around my neck, he was reluctant at first then went mad with the tape - he did about four or five around my neck then taped the bag to my chin, then over my mouth... once again, I was very close to not escaping at all, let alone getting out in time for the final scene. But... if I'm going to put myself in that situation who am I to complain...

Friends Tim You, Tristan and John Cairns were in the audience. John agreed the show was definitely very different to ILLUSIONARIUM and they all said they had a good time. Tim and Tristan said it's hard to know when to applaud because a lot of the scenes aren't structured like traditional magic tricks... so I either need to restage some of them or just let the audience enjoy them in their own way.

We get a break from RAZORBLADES tomorrow with just two ILLUSIONARIUM performances and an evening off!

Saturday shows

Yesterday's daytime shows were great with Sue-Anne especially getting some tremendous compliments about her performance of the Floating Table and her stage presence.

In the evening however, though we had a reasonable crowd of 15 for the RAZORBLADE show, it was a very odd night.

First, when Sue-Anne introduced the show, no-one applauded. I finished the opening effect of (Razorblade Eating) and no-one applauded. They were all enjoying the show, but for whatever reason, just sat back and watched. It pointed out the crucial importance of audience response in the show. On previous nights we've even gotten "whoops" and "yeahs" which really spur me on, but working to attentive silence was really tough.

What made it even worse was the fact that my Needle Thru Arm failed last night. It wouldn't "go through" if you know what I mean... I just pretended it had but didn't show the actual penetration. Sam Powers was in the audience and he was very complimentary about the way I just carried on as if that was the way it was presented every night.

Then I had trouble with 'Fleshwound' which almost resulted in me really slicing my arm open, and I had another near miss with the knife through finger!

When we got to 'Insanity' where I ask for six volunteers I feared the worst, having had no audible reaction to that point, but two people immediately got up and came up onto the stage! Then another two, another one, and finally one more... very odd indeed.

Finally, at the end of the show, there was a big round of applause and a few cries of "Fantastic!".

Tonight, we need to make it clear to the audience they're not watching TV...


Magic Faker of the Month - Simon Crack

Simon Crack seems to be the UK's answer to Dave J Castle (that is, if his WHOIS listing is correct): Administrative Contact:
    Crack, Simon 

    17 Forester Close Pinewood
    Ipswich, Suffolk_England IP8 3TF

He runs a series of exposure sites where he tells anyone and everyone how magic tricks are done.

And his philosophy about exposing magic?

Isn't exposing magic tricks wrong? Well yes and no. I believe if you are giving away the secret just for the sake of it, then yes. For example you show someone a trick then immediately give away the secret - what was the point of that? I'm not here just to crudely expose magic, but to teach people who have an interest in the art.

He adds

It is not intended to be a 'Magic Tricks Exposed' or 'Magic Tricks Revealed' type of site - it's true that I am giving away free Street Magic secrets but I am trusting you as a fellow Magician to keep them between you and me, ok? ;-)

He then offers the secrets off a whole series of marketed effects, created by people like Anders Moden, Sean Fields, plus - just like good old Dave J Castle, he offers "tutorial videos" on effects like Dynamic Coins, Self Folding Bill, Hummer Card.

He's more than happy to reveal other people's secrets, but a little shy about being "revealed" himself. He doesn't speak on the videos, and he doesn't show his face (instead offering us the traditional "magic torso")


However, I was able to locate on video where he does reveal more of himself that he may have intended.

Anti Gravity Water Magic Trick - For more amazing video clips, click here

Like David J he has videos all over the web on Revver, Metacafe, Vimeo and YouTube.

I have written to him, as have many others. Why he does this I have no idea, but he does offer this little insight on his main page:

P.P.S Want to learn a magic trick that lets you build a successful and profitable website like mine? Learn the secret HERE.

So, it appears that the real purpose of his site is to get people to visit it, then (somehow) the more visitors the more money he makes. What better way to attract visitors than reveal other people's secrets.

He has, no surprise, Dave J Castle's site in his web links, but he also has the following magic shops in his links as well. Do they endorse his exposure business? I'll write to them and find out.


strange "Digital Magic Downloads for Purchase"

strange "The UK's leading online magic tricks store!"

strange "The largest magic shop in the midlands!"

strange "Magic tricks and supplies for magicians of all ages and skill levels. At MagicCity USA we offer Amazing Magic,
Fast Shipping and a Free Trick with every purchase!"

And here's a surprise discovery. One of Simon's other free links is to a site called A quick WHOIS search reveals we have our own Australian equivalent based in Albury.


Administrative Contact:
Morgenstein, Jacob

Stedman St.
Albury, NSW 2640
+61 02604133***

(Interestingly enough, there is no Stedman St in Albury, only a Stedman Cr and it happens to be 1 minutes walk from where I used to live in Albury. The White Pages also shows no listing for any Morgenstein in Albury at all).

Day four - Comedy Festival

Our last few days have looked a little like this:

  • 7am - Up and preparing
  • 9am - arrive at Northcote Town Hall to set up a full illusion show
  • 11am - doing a very hyper one hour show,
  • 12noon - signing autographs and selling merchandise for 30 minutes
  • 12.30pm - resetting everything
  • 2pm - do the show again
  • 3pm - autographs and merchandise
  • 3.30pm - pack up
  • 5pm - getting home around for two hours of officework, resetting and preparing
  • 7pm - back to the theatre to set up and prepare the other show
  • 9pm - a fifty minute show
  • 9.50pm - tidying up and washing blood off dozens of props
  • 12am - getting home and finishing off officework
  • 1.30pm - getting to bed and trying to sleep with the over-catchy tunes from the Razorblade show running through our heads

It's a pretty gruelling schedule when you're doing it every day for two weeks. Even though we're really enjoying the shows we decided we're going to have to pace ourselves and, as there were no advance ticket sales for tonight's 9pm show, we decided to take the night off and just catch up on officework and sleep - and give some attention to our neglected Lorikeets. (And if anyone does turn up to see tonight's show, they'll get free tickets to see it on any other night!)

Our two day shows today were amazing - so I definitely think we've earned a break. Our 11am show was almost full, and our 2pm show was over-full! It's hard to turn anyone away, though some people don't seem to realise that if you don't book in advance to see a show, you may miss out. Next week we have a lot of bookings for both shows... so who knows what's going to happen!

Meanwhile, both of tomorrow's ILLUSIONARIUM shows are already more than half full thanks to advance bookings, and we have quite a few booked in for SOMETHING ABOUT NEEDLES & RAZORBLADES so it will be back to our regular schedule.

Day three - Comedy

Today was one of contrasts.

Our first show at 11am only had 11 bookings according to Ticketmaster, but we got so many people just turning up to buy tickets at the door we ended up with around 40 or 50. Then the second show was sold out for our sponsors LIGHTFM and we had the HOUSE FULL sign up before anyone arrived. However, we still got about three families and six other people rolling up and LIGHTFM were kind enough to find allow them to sit in on the show as well. Extra chairs were brought in and it was the best show of the season so far.

Tvprofclones'Professor Googalfitz', a character I last played on 'Young Talent Time' back in the early 1980's, is really hitting his stride and developing some very funny bits with the kids in the foyer pre-show. 'The Perdentes' are also evolving with Letitia getting people enthralled with her heart-warming "Disco Dream" story.

It's a lot of fun doing the same show in the venue day after day yet having the freedom to modify it whenever and however you choose.

Yes, we'd love a third person to operate our sound and lights for us... maybe a fourth or fifth to carry the props on and off too... hopefully we can add more of those production elements into future seasons at Northcote.

The contrast was this evening's 'SOMETHING ABOUT NEEDLES & RAZORBLADES'. We had a tiny house of only 7 people! (Raymond Hendra and Nigel McCullagh among them).

During 'INSANITY', with 7 people up on stage with me that audience was reduced to TWO PEOPLE!

But surprisingly, despite the fact that 80% of the audience were performers and had some idea of how some of the effects worked, the show played really well and they all stayed back after and chatted saying how much they enjoyed the whole experience.

Fingers crossed word of mouth will spread fast enough and we'll be able to draw some big crowds for the remaining shows because it really is a wonderfully different show to perform.

More Indecent Exposure

Tim Trono had some interesting thoughts on the increasing level of exposure in the magic world.

He said, regarding this post:

"I absolutely agree with what you said. 

Just exposing magic secrets for exposure cheapens our art. I think in light of my thoughts this is important to point out.  I also think such cheap exposure hurts our art in that it STEALS from the creators.  I don't think it all about the secret but I also don't think it is fair to take someone else's creation and to openly post it. 

This is base, unprofessional, uncaring, and low class. The fact is is that magic is NOT a huge money making venture as it is really a niche market in the scheme of things. When some dirt bag takes an item and openly posts another person's creation they have to understand they are stealing and they are making creators and producers think twice about releasing items in the future... if you put out a DVD or a trick or a book and it is on line illegally and unethically within a day it invariably impacts sales and thus the desire to take the time, effort, and expense to release an item."

I think the rest of his thoughts should be compulsory reading. He's hit it right on the head. Take a look.

"I find this post interesting… interesting because it is not based on reality.  In one post the writer states “Ideally, I guess, they don't want magicians selling tricks to just anyone. Tricks could be passed on from one master to their apprentice, or perhaps sold one-on-one to people considered worthy, or people who'll sign some sort of legally binding secrecy agreement.”.   In fantasy land I’d agree.  But that is not where we are in society today.  Today is the information age… you can learn everything from David Copperfield’s Flying to how to build a bomb to the latest news that happened just moments ago from around the world on line, on TV, etc.   So the fact is that we have to contend with this reality.  EVERY TIME there is any magic seen on TV or other large venues there is an almost immediate surge of posts or discussion of how it was done – some by magicians, some by laymen, and some by those in between.  I have SEEN a magician do an effect at the Magic Castle, as an example, and other magicians immediately begin reworking it – either for their own internal feeling of well being “that they know how it is done” or to unfortunately take and use the idea without permission.    So the idea that there are secrets is a farce.   But that is not a bad thing.  Let me make a comparison to other arts … painting and acting.  Anyone can buy an art book and start painting.  However, there are many many more people like myself that prefer to buy art pieces or to see them in museums, or to enjoy them in galleries -  pieces created by “true” artists that have mastered their craft, artists that know how to touch us emotionally. We lose ourselves in these works of the masters.  Likewise, anyone can stand in front of a camera and TRY to act.  There are, however, actors who have studied and practiced and when we see them in movies, plays, etc. we totally buy in to the reality and we cry, laugh, we experience fear, or we experience the many other emotions they wish to impart.  I think magic is very similar.  The secrets are almost irrelevant.    There simply are no more secrets.  So it’s more about the experience.  It’s about making them enjoy, suspend disbelief, and to question whether what they saw was actually real. 

And who chooses who is “worthy”?  I have seen some well established magicians who should not perform.  I have also seen some young upcoming magicians who would blow your socks off. 

I’d also bring up a few other points of why I think the current trend is not completely harmful to magic.  I recently spoke to a person I greatly admire for his ethics, thinking, etc. – Paul Richards of Elmwood Magic.  At Magic Live last year Paul and I were talking and Paul stated that although he hears there is so much junk on the market he’s never seen more good magic as well.  I’d agree.  I have been actively involved in magic for 32+ years and I have never seen such a flow of great ideas and material.  Certainly there IS the junk, but I guess the old saying “is the glass half empty or half full” applies.  Paul (and I) prefer to look at it as half full. I am just amazed at some of the unbelievable thinking I see now a days.  There seems to be no limit in people pushing the envelope to create absolute miracles.

I conducted a interview with Paul Harris for Reel Magic Quarterly #1 and unfortunately only a small part of it aired due to time constraints. One thing Paul discussed that really stands out in my mind is how the “technology” has so significantly improved.  As an example, it used to be that a magician had to use a Pass, a Zarrow Shuffle, a Palm, etc. but with some of the new techniques that have been created over the last several years the difficult techniques have been replaced by easier and possibly better techniques.  This scares many magicians to acknowledge this as it makes the line between magician and laymen that much thinner.  Certainly one can USE more difficult techniques if one wishes to feel they are having mastery of the art.  But the truth is that one can often achieve the same result with simpler techniques that have come to fruition.  These techniques would almost inevitably not been discovered if we did not share, if we did not encourage new independent thinking, etc. 

In 2006, I worked remotely with David Blaine and his very creative crew of people in preparation for his special.   During this time, several magicians very close to David were concerned that his involvement in commercial releases after his special was blasphemy.  David is probably one of the deepest thinkers in magic, and I have an incredible amount of respect for him.  When he talks I listen very closely.  Many people do not see or are not aware of this side of David.  Anyway, David advised that the second he did something on TV there would be a plethora of people that were either openly speculating and discussing his effects/methods or capitalizing off of his work (and the artists he works with and pays).  So isn’t it better that the ORIGINAL routine come out instead of some cheap knock off “similar to what David did on TV”?  Isn’t it better that the various artists such as Paul Harris, Andrew Mayne, Jay Noblezada, Doug McKenzie, Juan Pablo, etc. that worked with David get acknowledge for their creations and make money instead of some other person riding on their coat tails?  Also, to watch a master like David is a true lesson in magic.  As an example, last year I went out to dinner with David, Cyril, and a few other friends.  Later the manager of the restaurant asked David to do a few pieces of magic.  David did Ambitious Card.  I have seen many many magicians do Ambitious Card and it was nothing more than a cool card trick.  When David did this, it was an experience, it was TRUE magic.  There were no secret techniques you or I don’t already know.  But instead it was how David did it, it was his own belief in the magic, it was his own understanding of who HE is and what he can pull off.  When people see David do magic, they think they have seen the REAL thing.  If you or I use the biting coin, the Raven, the Rising Card, etc. we are just doing tricks.  With David and other select people they are doing REAL magic.  So it clearly goes well beyond the simple trick. The trick is not what makes one special or different or cool… it is how it is presented, it is knowing who you are and what works, it is not having to hide behind patter that no one believes or jokes that cloud the magic moments, it is about so much more.  But THAT stuff is hard to learn, hard to master… so we try to falsely believe that the mere knowledge of the trick, the secret is what makes us special… it is not.

Change is scary.  Change from what we are comfortable with can make us feel inadequate.  However, we must come to realize that we cannot plug the dam and live in a world of denial.  We have to face the fact that the line between the magician and the layman is very thin… the way to make yourself a true master is not through the secret of a few tricks or methods but through personal understanding, through making the experience something more than tricks, through being real to who you are and thus obviously understanding that, and so so much more." 

Tonight's Razorblade Show

Just back from cleaning up after SOMETHING ABOUT NEEDLES & RAZORBLADES (the blood gets into everything!) Last night we had Tom Stevens, Jason Varga, Brendan Croft, Alex Bremner, Ben Whimpey and a few other notables in the audience, and we got some great constructive feedback. Tonight Rex Reeve, Adrian Kebbe, Michael Sullivan and Anthony DeMasi were in the audience and again we were given some great ideas.

It's really wonderful when magicians are able to support each other and help each other improve. One small detail for example - during INSANITY (our version of SMASH & STAB) one person slammed his hand down so hard on a paper bag it blew another person's bag over (and boy, did that guy look relieved!) However, it did reveal an inherent problem. My solution had been to hope it wouldn't happen... but now it has happened I realised my solution was pretty useless. Rex Reeve suggested blu-tac on the stands which we modified to double-sided tape. Now, when we put the paper bags on the stands they'll be pressed to the tape and stay in place. Brilliant!

Tonight's show was better than last night's because we used some ideas including: A better camera to show the knife slicing through my finger (we were using a wireless micro camera but it seemed prone to interference), some "foot lighting" (because shadows from above were making it hard to see the thread being pulled through my throat), and last night I dreamed up a way for the video image to remove a jacket when there was nobody on that side of the stage to take it for him.

There was one problem. Tonight the guys who chained and handcuffed me did what appeared to be a sloppy job but was actually really hard to get out of. As I'm doing the escape to music (in a body bag with a plastic bag taped over my head) I ALMOST didn't make it in time. Add to that in my panic to get out of the chains, I lost my orientation in the pitch black of the body bag and couldn't find the opening to get out of it! Lesson learned, give the volunteers a few helpful instructions so, if nothing else, the escape will actually LOOK challenging. I don't want to go through all that effort again on what looks like a really loose tie!

Tomorrow night is our first "official" night (the last two nights have been previews) so we're really looking forward to our "Premiere"!

Hope you can be there!

Day Two - Comedy

Today's performance of ILLUSIONARIUM in the larger, cooler, Studio 2 were MUCH BETTER! We were both much happier with the larger space, better sight lines, and brighter atmosphere. The first show was very small with only 20 people or so (and some very young children) but the second was great with VERY enthusiastic family groups arriving very early (and getting visits in the foyer from the Professor as a pre-show bonus) and great reactions all throughout the show. 400% on yesterday's shows!

Speaking of yesterday's shows, a reviewer from 'The Groggy Squirrel' came along and her review is now published HERE. It does seem to be a positive review, but I have to admit... I've never been described as "well preserved" before!

Comedy Festival Day One

What an exhausting day it's been!

Up very early this morning (Sue-Anne was up at 3am preparing!) and into the Northcote Town Hall before 9am to set up for our two 'ILLUSIONARIUM' shows.

Normally, a show like this would have a lighting & audio tech plus a stage hand or two... but we're trying to do it all ourselves. Maybe too ambitious and the 11am show ran a little long (70 mins) and we decided to drop one sequence. Plus, the theatre was incredibly hot and we have a LOT of costume changes... at one stage I was wearing three costumes over each other!

In the end we decided to eliminate The Perdente's Sword Box - the costuming was very complicated and it left a huge mess on the stage.

We also decided to leave the audience lights on in the second show and the second show went 100% better than the first. It was tighter without the extra illusion, and we weren't as frantic backstage.

The theatre was still quite warm despite the fan they brought in, but tomorrow we move into the larger, and much cooler theatre, so we expect the show and the reactions to it will get even stronger.

We had about a half full house for Show 1, and 3/4 for Show 2. Lots of parents with young children, plus a few teens with an obvious love of magic which was great to see.

After the ILLUSIONARIUM shows, we prepared for the 9pm show SOMETHING ABOUT NEEDLES & RAZORBLADES. This show has been a very hard "sell" as a lot of people have worried it would be too "gross" for them. Honestly, I've been worried as I've had no idea as to how people would react.... but we were REALLY pleased with how the show went. (And a big WELL DONE to Sue-Anne for teching a show she'll never actually get to see performed... ever!)

The show itself is very different, with some very bloodthirsty effects linked with an odd storyline and weird multimedia character who got quite a few laughs.

The show does have it's fair share of tense moments, "Insanity" being one of the strongest, and at the end of the show, the audience didn't want to leave. (Though, the position I end up in, it's rather hard to do an encore).

We've got another good size house for tomorrow night's show, but we need you guys to SPREAD THE WORD about it for Thursday and later in the week.

Tell your friends, family and come along yourself! As it turns out, it's rather a good show and totally unlike ANYTHING you've ever experienced before!

And you've never seen the Linking Rings until you've seen 'Everybody Hurts'  *g*.

Hope to see you at The Northcote Town Hall sometime this week!

Attention Convention Organisers!

Last night I had a dream of a very different type of Magic Convention.

The Convention was designed to encourage magicians to learn to work together instead of competing against each other.

It was run over five days, and staged more like a 'Magic Festival' for the public rather than a traditional convention.

Each night there was a public show in a theatre, attended by both delegates and the public, but here's the big difference - each show was performed and staged entirely by registrants.

  • When you register, you have to specify if you are registering as a performer or a backstage assistant.
  • Registrations close a week or so before the convention.
  • When registrations close, all registrants are divided up into five teams comprising performers and backstage assistants.
  • Everyone is notified of who is on which team, and email loops or separate websites are set up so members of each team can co-ordinate with each other no matter how faraway they are. (Of course, if it's a local convention it's much easier because you can have face to face team meetings).
  • The teams essentially have the task of staging one of the public shows and can do so in any way they choose. It can be a traditional MC/Act show, a storyline show, or any other format they can come up with... the more creative and unusual the better!

I'm sure there would be a variety of activities during the day to keep registrants who weren't working on that night's show busy, but I can't remember that part of the dream.

Anyway, if anyone decides to stage a convention in this format, drop me a line, I'd love to attend!