Thoughts on products, performance, and doublethink in the magic community.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Paradigm Shift

Some serious brain re-wiring happens to people after they get into magic. The kind of brain scrambling that, for instance, leads previously sane people to believe that it makes sense to spend $1750 on an outhouse.

With non-magicians, this kind of thinking is usually induced by prolonged usage of heavy drugs. And yet magicians manage it without any chemical assistance.

I admit that I presented extreme examples. But it is undeniable that the overwhelming majority of magicians are unable to think like sane people when it comes to performing. They believe that if a trick entertains them, then logically, it entertains their audience. Which is complete and utter nonsense. George Orwell would call it doublethink, or the simultaneous belief of two irreconcilably contradictory ideas.

I'm reminded of a scene in the Wizard of Oz, where everyone in the Emerald City is forced to wear special glasses night and day. Their city seems beautiful, built of green marble and studded with emeralds. But in reality, the city is plain. The city's leader makes people wear tinted glasses to convince them that their city is fantastic and exciting. (Yeah, I read a lot)

Magicians don't wear tinted glasses, but we have other, more efficient things to cloud our judgment and convince us that mediocre magic is entertaining and worth watching. Things like bad jokes. Expensive, ridiculous props. Limp, lifeless patter. Presentations that are forced and unnatural.

These things have no place in magic. Actually, they have no place anywhere. Yet magic seems to be the only type of performance where the substandard is not only accepted, but often encouraged.

People want fun. They want to be entertained. And yet magicians constantly deny their audiences this privilege, while insisting that they aren't "doing magic for themselves." Doublethink again.

Denny, of the magic shop Denny & Lee's, gave me some great advice about this. As I remember it, Denny named several great magicians and said that they could come to a single table and perform a card trick. And Denny would follow with the sponge bunnies, and that's what the people would remember.

Call me insane, but I believe that he's right. Magicians need a paradigm shift in the way they think. Stop thinking of your spectators as spectators and start thinking of them as normal people, which is to say, not like us magicians.

That's a start. Throwing out your gimmicked outhouses would probably help also.


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