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49 entries from November 2008

Congratulations Cary

Cary, you are the lucky winner of our 2000th comment prize!

Just drop me an email with your mailing address and your selection of any one of our DVDs and I'll pop it in the post as a bonus Christmas present for you!

To all our commenters thanks for keeping this blog going. Blogs really die off quickly when nobody joins in the discussion. Plus, in all the excitement about the 2000th comment (well, it's exciting for me, and Cary, at least!) we passed over 205,000 views!

All I can do is to thank those who enjoy checking us out every day, and encourage you "lurkers" to post a few comments now and then too.

You may have noticed the new Lijit Search tool on the top right hand column. Not only is it an effective search engine, but it also lists the most popular search words and that helps me to know what you're interested in reading about.

So once again, thanks, and Cary... email me.. we have a DVD waiting for you!


Last week, when we had to rearrange our show at the last minute (the one we've been performing on the corporate circuit for the last ten years because another performer new to the circuit has started using the last twelve minutes of our show to close his show with) our show ran about ten minutes shorter than it was booked for.

So I offered to do an hour of close up for the client and entertain at every single table. He happily agreed.

Unfortunately, I had absolutely nothing with me. (We had expected to whiz in, do the stage show, whiz out, so I just packed what we needed for that show).

Somehow, I was able to do an hour of close up for ten tables... using nothing!

I ended up performing:

  • Psychokinetic Time

  • An improvised mind reading effect using a centre tear.

  • Balls over the Head with bread rolls

  • Ring Link (I found one rubber band)

  • The Stand on A Chair routine (from 'Cunning Stunts')

  • Blow a napkin in a bottle (from 'Cunning Stunts')

What tricks would you do in that situation?

Christmas Cutbacks

In The Saturday Herald Sun and article entitled 'Ho Ho Ho Hum' discussed the massive cutbacks in the Corporate Christmas Party business this year.

Part of the article concentrated on entertainment:

Entertainment providers have been hard hit, too.

Go Kartsport Racing, Controversy Corporate and Event Theatre Australia, which did the Myer Christmas Parade and represents thousands of entertainers nationally, report far fewer bookings.

The latter has been savaged by the downturn, with just 25 Christmas party bookings compared with 100 last year, and the average spend on a basic entertainment package down from $30,000 to less than $15,000.

‘‘We had one company booked into a venue with food, grog and entertainment, and now they’ve pulled out and are settling for a barbecue on the roof of the office,’’ says owner Elissa Meyer-Thomas.

‘‘Usually, it’s saturation. There’s a plethora of jobs.

‘‘But it’s not happening this year — the phone is just not ringing as much.

‘‘Now it’s chop, chop, chop. Companies big and small are opting not to spend that extra couple of thousand.

‘‘Entertainment is the first thing to go when money is tight. They downsize on food. Grog is the priority.

‘‘We put on a masquerade ball for a big corporate last year at Scienceworks. The theme was Phantom of the Opera.

‘‘We haven’t heard a squeak out of them this year.’’

Meyer-Thomas says one is feeling the pain.

‘‘It’s not just me. I speak to other theatrical agents all the time and they are certainly feeling the pinch.

‘‘It feels like there’s a noose around our neck.’’

Christmas Festivities

I was chatting to a magician on the phone last night and he was talking about how a lot of companies are booking entertainment, then cancelling their entire functions a week or two later. He sees it as simply a reflection of the current world economic situation.

So I wasn't surprised to hear from a client, who was interested in having me entertain with a show and some close up magic at a Christmas luncheon in mid-December, ringing this morning to cancel. Their function was still going ahead, but "in light of the current financial situation" they had a meeting with their directors who decided it would be more "appropriate" to replace the entertainment at their staff Christmas party with a guest speaker who would talk about superannuation.

Merry Christmas!

Yes, I'm cheesed off...

Okay, I've been letting this slide by to some extent, but after today I've had enough.

Most performers spend years developing their shows, and a lifetime perfecting it. They try to craft routines into "signature effects", pieces that people will associate with them and them alone.

Here in Australia Phil Cass is known as 'The Guy Who Cuts The Tie', and though Phil didn't invent that particular routine, he made it his own and out of respect no other Australian professional magician would do that particular trick - especially if they were working the corporate market as Phil does.

Same goes for Raymond Crowe with his Hand Shadows, and now his Dancing Jacket routine.

Back in the 1980's I started doing what I call 'The Arms' or 'The Great Whammo' where a volunteer wears a funny jacket and does the magic ala what is now marketed by Kevin James as 'Instant Magician' (you can see it on this video clip).

Until a few years ago I was the only one doing this routine in the Australian corporate market, and it continues to be the hilarious finale to our show. Then I got a call from an agent who said "Hey, I just saw Matt Hollywood doing your jacket routine."

The other trick I've developed into my signature effect is 'Soda Resurrection' (now marketed as 'Healed & Sealed'). I first started performing this in 1997 and you can read the whole saga HERE and watch part of the routine which climaxes in 'Healed & Sealed' here.

A lot of people have recognised and complimented me (and Sue-Anne) on the work we've put into making this trick the show-stopper that it is today.

In a nutshell, what I'm saying is that it's taken me over ten years to hone 'Soda Resurrection' (and twice that on 'The Arms') into tight, funny signature pieces that have generated a lot of shows for us and made our reputations both here in Australia and overseas.

Last year I spoke to Matt Hollywood when I found out he had added both 'Healed & Sealed' and 'Instant Magician' to his show.

In true magician-speak, Matt explained that his versions of each trick were "completely different" to mine. Of course, to an audience describing each effect, they are identical.

Why did he add the tricks to his show when he knew they were the signature pieces of another magician competing for the same jobs in the same Australian corporate market? Good business? Bad business? Lack of respect?

I spoke to Matt at length about how annoyed I was that, with all the other routines in magic available to him, he should take those two pieces. Yes, 'Healed & Sealed' is a marketed effect, and 'The Arms' is an old bit (as are the Cut Tie and the Hand Shadows). But he knew they were features of the Ellis & Webster show... why not make his act as different as possible?

He replied that, out of respect, he wouldn't do 'Healed & Sealed' at corporate shows in Melbourne, and a week later he did it on several national TV spots.

He also broke his word to me because, as I discovered today, he has continued to do it in Melbourne at corporate shows.

We got to our Golf Club show today and the client said they had Matt Hollywood last year. The only tricks he remembered were "the can trick" and "the funny jacket".

That meant they had seen the entire second half of our show last year.

Thanks a bunch Matt.

Luckily, we were able to improvise and change a lot of material around, but why should we have to change an act that's taken 10-20 years of work because someone decides the best place to find new magic is from other people's shows.

I phoned Matt at 1pm this afternoon and, after his voice-promised he'd call me back in no more than one or two hours, I left a message telling him how disappointed I was that he'd broken his word to me and asking him to call me.

He hasn't called.

(By the way Matt, chatting to the guests after, they figured out how the can trick they saw last year worked. If you insist on doing it, either practise more or start wearing a mask!)

So, am I out of line calling Matt on this, or is it open season and we should all just add Hand Shadows and Cut and Restored Tie into our acts as well?

The Christmas Rush has begun!

Even though our calendar between now and Dec 19 has over 30 bookings so far, between 9 and 11am this morning we've taken another six!

Looks like people are suddenly realising "Hey, it's almost Christmas! Have we booked our entertainment yet?!"

But it's not just Christmas functions, some are conferences and there are three 40th birthdays coming up, and we're just heading off to do a show for a corporate golf day luncheon.

Despite the economic downturn, this is turning into a very busy season at Magic Unlimited!