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30 entries from December 2008

A look back at 2008

It's been an interesting year. Filled with highs and lows as years tend to be, and we'll be taking a break from the blog for the next few days, returning on January 1, so with 396 posts since last January 1, I thought it might be a good chance to take a look at the year that was 2008.


It began for us with Jackie the Bandit joining us as Spark's new companion.

On TV we saw magic evolve into reality TV with Celebracadabra and The Next Uri Geller hitting screens in Germany (after it's success in Israel and the USA as Phenomenon), while here in Australia Gold Coast magician Christopher Wayne campaigned to get on Big Brother.

We turned our attention from Magic Fakers to Movie Fakers with crazy rip-off films like 'The DaVinci Treasure' and 'Snakes on a Train' like from The Asylum.


Sue-Anne and Lee Cohen headed off to do a show in Hong Kong, Sue-Anne and I headed off and to do a show in Bangkok, and Craig Mitchell headed off to the Blackpool Convention where his reports where praised for their honesty and criticised for their bluntness.

Australia said "Sorry" to the stolen generation, and a telemarketer told me about a new country called Alkbncd.


We presented two new shows for The Melbourne International Comedy Festival (Illusionarium and Something About Needles & Razorblades) and gave daily blog reports on the two week run.

On March 19 the screen of my HTC Touch cracked, and it only took until late August to get it repaired.

The web channel TV Magicians was launched, Penn Jillette appeared as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars, and Death Deying Acts hit cinemas with possibly the worst movie interpretation of Houdini ever.

We took on Dave J Castle and discovered yet another internet exposer of magic secrets, Simon Crack, while Tim Trono of Murphy's Magic made a lot of good points about the serious damage this sort of exposure can do to our art. Tony Blanco sent in a clip where a famous author stated his case against people who steal other people's work, and we illustrated with video how Lance Burton and Penn & Teller would agree that imitation isn't a form a flattery at all...

My post talking about having to take cigarette tricks out of my show was syndicated and appeared all over the internet on hundreds of other blogs and news websites, and Dan Harlan hit the news for all the wrong reasons.


We wrapped up our Comedy Festival season, and got a lot of publicity for something that never actually happened!

We had a visit from Danny Archer, FISM made an official statement about human rights in China, we posted some clips of Sue-Anne and I performing magic on the radio and this blog was nominated for Best Website of The Year!

We discussed options to fight the exposure of magic on the internet and went head to head with the leader of a major magic file sharing forum. James Clark joined the fight and actually got that same forum closed down!

We showed some clips from the British TV magic reality series The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and in the USA The Pendragons appeared on America's Got Talent.

And Telemarketers started getting really aggressive!


We were featured on the cover of Sight Magazine, and Sue-Anne was featured on the cover of Challenge Magazine.

The Australian Institute of Magic was officially incorporated, I did a hoax/magic show for the Education department as Dale Robbins, and petrol in Melbourne hit $1.62 a litre

And Telemarketers tried a new approach where they hung up on themselves!


Sue-Anne was interviewed on national radio, and we were both featured on the cover of Warcry Magazine.

I did another hoax/magic show, this one as Dr Francis Roberts Phd for the Department of Treasury, and Nicholas J Johnson staged the second monthly edition of Melbourne's own variety show The Catchpenny Club.

Micky Wyld appeared on Deal or No Deal, and Queenland Magician Scott Davies got through to the semi-final of Australia's Got Talent.

And Telemarketers got crazier and crazier...


Craig Mitchell travelled to Louisville and sent in daily reports of the action at the SAM/IBM Combined Convention.

The Dark Knight, in my opinion, was movie of the year!

We spoke about an Australian magician who takes what he likes from other people's acts, whether they give him permission or not.

And President Bush together with the European Union decided to send me a whole lot of money!


The Beijing Olympics gave us a taste of what to expect at FISM next year, big announcement was the upcoming Melbourne Magic Festival, with publicity in The Herald Sun and Disney Adventures.

We performed at an absolutely amazing private birthday party, and an even bigger corporate gig at Crown Casino, and Cosentino embarked on an Australia-wide tour with his new theatre show Threshold.

Sue-Anne and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary, and Melbourne magician Jade married his fiancee April before heading back to Malaysia to live.


The Melbourne Magic Festival took off with daily blog reports and more publicity in The Age, The Herald Sun, A Current Affair, and some great reviews. Meanwhile, motivational magician Dwayne Robbins emerged as a part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival and took everyone by storm.

Brendan Croft sent us this very inspiring magic video, our good friend Ali Bongo was elected President of The Magic Circle in London,

Sue-Anne won Best Actress at the Ignite Film Festival for her role in the short film Framed.

Our evil nemesis The Victorian Tourism Centre was finally tackled full on by Consumer Affairs.


We wrapped up the first ever Melbourne Magic Festival with over 3,000 people coming to see 58 performances of ten different shows!

Gold Coast Magician Troy Star started selling his new magic movie on DVD, The Masked Magician returned to TV in the USA with a whole series exposing everything from current illusions to marketed close up tricks, while Criss Angel began previews of his new live show at the Luxor in Las Vegas,

I had a great time at Mitcham Magic,  FISM released an excellent article on Music Rights For Magicians, and Optus finally sorted out the billing for the repair of my HTC Touch phone that broke back in March!

The Asylum brought out even more blatant rip-off movies including Death Racers, Sunday School Musical, and The Day The Earth Stopped.

I got the weirdest volunteer ever during a show in Horsham.

And the Telemarketers kept on trying...


This blog got our 2,000th comment, but it also had it''s most commented on post where I dared to complain about a magician (mentioned obliquely back in July) who was intentionally copying pieces from our show. Some people felt that I was wrong to "rock the boat" by mentioning it, while others backed me up and said his sort of behaviour is what really damages the magic community.

In a similar vein, the newly re-named Victorian Tourism Centre continued to scam people as well.

We found a great online Asperger's test, some great Christmas Gifts, an amazing clip of Jackie Chan performing Crazy Man's Handcuffs, and FISM 2009 released their list of guest artists.

Our good friend and magician David Birchall passed away.

And I had great fun with a Telemarketer who was determined to lie to me about where he was calling from.


We spoke about agents and percentages, Craig Mitchell treated us to a night out at Billy Elliott, and Simon Coronel brought GOB to life in Melbourne,

The Hocus Pocus Magic Exhibit opened here in Melbourne, and I did another two hoax/magic shows as Dennis Kale and Steve Taylor, and we solved the mystery of The Merlin Awards.

I discovered another magician using my name as keywords to activate his GoogleAds, and I gave a slice of the life of a magician at Christmas time.

Have a fantastic New Year and we'll see you again in January!

A Christmas Gift To You

Here's a little something for you guys to play with.

Years ago I used to do Arnold Furst's classic torn and restored sign routine 'FRESH FISH SOLD HERE TODAY'. The premise of the trick was that you saw a guy with a sign and as you explained how each word was not needed on the sign, you torn the words off one by one until there was only one word left. Finally, you restore the sign.

Back in 1980, much to my amazement, I won the 'Teenage Magic Competition' at the Australian Convention of Magicians with the following punny patter. It's chock full of groaners but, for some reason, the audience really liked it.

Feel free to use it and link to it, but I'm reserving the publication rights so please don't reproduce it anywhere else.


I was standing outside the Fish Shop the other day, waiting for SALMON Jack to come along and give me a lift home on their PIKE - when all of a sudden a man came out of the shop wearing a LEATHERJACKET. Now I recognised him at once as he had big MUSSELS and used to work as a piano TUNA. He was carrying a SEINE with WHITING on it which read 'FRESH FISH SOLD HERE TODAY'. I told him that his SEINE was totally unnecessary, and when he said he didn't know what I meant I offered to analyse it for him, to take it apart, so to speak.


Take for example the word 'TODAY', I mean it's so SHRIMPle! Everyone realises that you're selling fish today, and not yesterday or next week, so 'TODAY' is just not needed.


When I tore it off he looked awfully EEL… as if he was going to FLAKE out on the spot. "Good COD," he said, and call me a great big BASS that did not deter me - I've got GUTS, so on I went.


'HERE' is an equally unnecessary word. I mean everyone can see that you're selling fish here and not around the block or up in Bris..BREAM. Then, strange as it may seem he picked up a fish and started to FILLET, and before I realised what was going on he swings back and LOBSTER right at me. But I was having a WHALE of a time… so I went on.


The word 'SOLD' is also quite useless since it's common practise to sell fish and not rent them or put them on hire PERCHase.


'FISH' is probably the most useless word of all, I mean everyone can see that you're selling fish and not… army surplus machine guns or surgical appliances. He didn't hear me that time… I think he needed a HERRING aid.


Now we're left with the word 'FRESH' which, on it's own, means absolutely nothing. Unless, of course, you've just painted the front of the shop… or you're out on a date with me. Actually, my girlfriend loves fish. It was in a fish shop I first FLOUNDER. Now she's gone of with my brother, a fisherman… oh well, am I my brother's KIPPER?

Now at this stage the man looked very CRABby and snapped "Look you FLATHEAD! I've HADDOCK with you! I'll lose my job because of that SEINE." He snapped. He was a nasty SNAPPER. But I didn't want to get into a deBAIT about it, and I did feel a bit GILLty about his SEINE. "Keep CARP," I said "Keep CARP, it'll be alright in a MINNOW." And then… his SEINE was restored. He took it HOOK, LINE & SINKER. "Holy MACKEREL!" he said, "Why on earth did you do that?" To which I replied… "Oh, just for the HALIBUT."

Another Magical Ripoff

The hot topic over at the Genii Forum at the moment is a newly discovered website

The site looks legit, but none of the "faculty" listed know anything about it.

It appears that the domain owners (who seem to own a lot of other questionable domains) have simply lifted the contents of American magician Tim David's site - just open both sites in separate browsers and compare the two - and added the faculty list from McBride's Mystery School.

The worst part for Tim David is that they've left his contact details on the site so, unless you do a WHOIS lookup on the domain owner, you'd assume that he is the one responsible for Magical University.

The aim of the site, as it appears, is to get your credit card details and continually rebill you without providing you with a service of any kind.

Please tell all magicians you know to avoid this site.

Tim David wrote to me saying:

"Thanks for the heads up on this Tim. I’m in a bit of a panic right now, because I’m getting angry emails from some magicians I respect very much. I have NO affiliation with or The Magical University. My real (and legitimate) site is  They have copied my entire site and used it for apparently fraudulent purposes. I’ll be posting more at the forum. Again, thanks for looking into this and not jumping to conclusions…

- Tim David (The REAL Tim David)"

Worst review of 2008?

This year we've seen some magic shows both here and in the USA get shocking reviews. Some of the reviews have been deserved, but this one - posted on Shawn Farquhar's blog - is perhaps one of the harshest press reviews I've read all year!


Duck! It’s David Copperfield

By Lisa Bettany

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I really wished I hadn’t sat in the front row at David Copperfield’s “An Intimate Evening of Grand Illusion” at the Vancouver Centre for Performing Arts.

If I’d just been sitting a few rows back I wouldn’t have seen the wires that controlled the singing and dancing tie, or the slightly concave bottom of the magical “shrinking table,” or the girl that appeared and disappeared in the “reserved” seat next to me wearing three different outfits, or Copperfield’s caked-on makeup and spray-on hair.
Ouch. That was a low blow.

Maybe I’m just too cynical, or I’ve seen The Prestige one too many times, to be impressed with a duck being tossed on stage from behind the curtain.

In Copperfield’s defence, his show was very entertaining, and fast-paced enough to keep me off my iPhone for an hour and a half.

There were great moments, too. He is an incredibly skilful showman, and irritatingly charismatic, even when he made a poor girl shove her hand down his pants to make sure there was nothing in his pocket — not once, but twice. Charming.

I feel a bit naive for expecting to be completely wowed. But I just couldn’t get past the worn, cheap-looking props, and the massive amounts of noxious smoke blown into the audience, and the planted audience members who could hardly manage a smirk at his rehearsed one-liners, and the cheesy kitschiness of it all, to be amazed and bedazzled by the appearance of an old car on pillars in the middle of the stage. Because from my angle, I could see that it was a shell of fake car and the illusion was marred.

How he does a lot of his illusions still remains a mystery to me . . . mostly. OK, fine. The duck told me. And all it took was an Oh Henry bar.

© The Vancouver Province 2008

'Framed' - Channel 7 on Christmas morning

Christmas morning, you've opened the presents and now the wait for lunch begins...

Turn on the TV at 11.30am on Channel 7 and catch 'The Ignite Film Festival'.

One of the movies being aired is 'Framed' by Ben Whimpey of Orsino Images. Make sure you catch this one because it features Mat Unwin, Brendan Croft and Sue-Anne Webster (who won the Best Actress Award for her performance).  Make up was by Lee Cohen, so it was a real AIM team effort!

Summer Movies

I saw Madagascar 2 today and was very disappointed... and very bored.

However, there are two other animated features I'm looking forward to in the upcoming weeks:

and one more superhero movie as well...

Other movies to watch out for:

  • The Wrestler

  • Seven Pounds

  • Slumdog Millionaire

  • Frost/Nixon

  • Yes Man

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

  • Gran Torino

  • Changeling

  • Transporter 3

Movies to avoid:

  • The Day The Earth Stood Still

  • Bedtime Stories

  • Four Holidays

  • Pink Panther 2

Why do we do it?

Last night was one of those nights filled with "Why do we do it?" moments.

I was doing a show for a corporate "Nostalgia Night". First of all I was given the wrong address by the booker (it's a good thing I planned to arrive early!) and had to drive 15 minutes more to get to the real venue. Inside, they had crammed 350 people into a room that seats about 300 and they'd filled the tiny stage with a small band and two trestle tables covered in awards. They were handing out the awards as people at entree and because the sound system was so bad I'm amazed anyone could understand what was being said at all.

I asked my contact if it was possible to move the tables off the stage so I could do my show. He seemed surprised at my request... maybe he expected me to perform in the corner, behind the lectern where the awards presenter was tucked away. That was the only piece of exposed floor on the entire stage! After initially telling me the tables were for the sporting panel segment later in the night, he did agree to move them, which was good.

I patched my headset lapel microphone in and started testing it. The hand-held radio mic everyone else was using was turned up so loud it was feeding back. My mic could only be turned up a tiny bit before it started feeding back too. I did expect it as I've worked that room before. It was funny though because while I was testing the mic a guest called me over to his table and, indicating the hand held mic said "Use the other mic". I started to explain to him that I needed my hands, there was no mic stand, and the hand held was distorting to high heaven.. but instead I just said "Thanks".

The show began and, though challenging to capture everyone's attention in such a noisy environment with such meager amplification, the show did go well. It even went better when a waiter wandered up onto the stage and started flicking lights on and off throughout the room before finally settling on one that actually lit the stage up!

"Why do I do it?" For the applause at the end of the show, the looks of amazement, and the people coming up afterwards saying how much of a good time they had... It's rewarding, in a weird sort of a way, to know that you can somehow create a sense of magic in such a difficult environment.

Sue-Anne, on the other hand, was performing in the beautiful ballroom of Rippon Lea. However, just like my function, they'd crammed the customers in and her promised 3m deep dancefloor/performance space was only 1.5m deep. She was able to use the "boutique" stage behind her as well, but the audience was too close as she was to discover later!

She was doing her 30 minute 'I Dream of Jeannie' stage show and, from the moment the music started and she entered from the back of the room, the audience was enraptured. They clapped along non-stop during her opening linking rings routine, verbally gasped at her floating table, and laughed at the revelation of her McCombical style parking meter production. But it was during the dancing hanky routine that she had a "Why do I do it?" moment.

As Jeannie was running around the space trying to catch the animated hanky, a rather "excited" guest - perhaps caught up in the fantasy of the whole thing - decided Jeannie could use her help. She literally appeared from nowhere and in a flash was up with Jeannie helping her catch the mischievous handkerchief. She grabbed him tightly and refused to let him go! So tightly in fact, that when Mr Hanky was put in his box at the end of the routine and sat up for one last "death throe" it was the end of his performing career.

Sue-Anne was kind enough not to embarrass the lady and simply said "My, you are a feisty one!" as the giggling lady returned to her seat, but inside I'm sure she was saying "Why do I do it?"

Her answer though, is undoubtedly the same as mine. At the end of her show the cheering and applause were loud and long, with people commenting on what a wonderful, magical experience they'd all just shared together.

Why do you do it?

10%, 20%, 30% more!

In the December issue of Magic Magazine Jim Sisti has a new column called 'Real World Methods'. 99% of his advice is fantastic. But there is one point I have to disagree with.

Jim says:

"The agent will mark up your fee when quoting the client, that's how they make money. In some cases the agent will be up front about how much the mark up will be. In other cases however, they will treat that as privileged information. The bottom line here is that if the agent doesn't volunteer this information, as long as you're getting the money you want, you're better off not knowing." 

I'm sure the situation in America is not that much different to anywhere else in the world, but here in Australia agents will add anything from 10% to 30% on top of your fee as their commission. Anything in that range is considered "acceptable" by most professional speaker's bureaus and entertainment agencies.

(As a side note, many performers will ask the agent to take their commission out of the performer's fee and not put it on top. This means that if the client approaches the artist directly to get a quote after they get one from the agent, the quote will be the same, not 10-30% lower, and this sort of arrangement keeps the agent very happy because they don't look like rip-off artists to the client).

Anyway, Jim's theory is that if you price your show at $500 and an agent sells it for you, as long as you get your $500 you should be happy. So, if the agent decides to charge the client $1000... this is fine in Jim's book and you're better off not knowing.

In my opinion, if a client pays $1000, they have a different expectation of a show they pay $500 for.

If I was getting $500, but the client was paying $1000, my aim is to make the client happy so I'd feel obliged to give a much better show! I need to know how much the client is paying so that I can fulfil their expectations.

Not only that, what if they come to me further down the track and approach me directly? Will they be shocked to find that they paid way too much last time? Will they believe it was the agent ripping them off, or will they think it was me? Either way, one of us is going to look bad.

Last week I did a show where the client booked one act at $3000, but he got another gig and sent a replacement artist who usually works for a couple of hundred dollars. The artist was happy because he was paid a little more than normal, the first act was happy because he got almost his entire fee for not showing up PLUS he got his full fee for the other gig he did, but was the client happy? No. They never wanted to book a magician again. They assumed the quality of the act they got matched the fee they paid and they felt magicians were simply not worth what they charged.

There are one or two agents in Australia adopting the "larger percentage" approach. They find out the client's budget ($1000) then approach the cheapest act they can find ($200) and pay that artist what they want... everyone's happy!

Other agencies act as "event organisers" and will take a large budget ($10,000) and book a number of cheaper acts ($2000) and keep the rest as an "organising fee". Whether you agree with this approach or not, at least this doesn't result in the client having a specific price expectation of each act.

In my opinion, if an agency won't tell you how much the client is paying for your services, don't work for them. Trust is very important in the relationship between the artist and the agent. They trust you to hand out their cards and to refer all future work back through them, and in turn you should be able to trust that they are selling you at a reasonable fee.

What do you think?