An older magician once told me “There’s only 2 reasons a magician goes to a magic show. To make fun of or to steal.” With his new appeal fresh in the news, I remembered this old clip of a little known magician named Orenthal James Simpson. That’s right. O.J. Go ahead and watch the clip if you haven’t.
Now let’s see how I can sort this into what I can steal and what I can laugh at.
First, Bea Arthur’s lines about a “smile more dazzling than his golden awards” and “all-around Mr. Wonderful” makes me giggle. Accolades like that, from a Golden Girl no less, have gotta be worth something in Lovelock Correctional Center. But let’s focus on the magic.
Now I realize that this is Circus of the Stars and this is not what these folks are trained to do. OJ, at this point, was used to being on the field, not the stage. He feels a bit awkward at first, fumbling with the scarf in his hand. He explains that he’s rather new at this, as his eyes flit around the audience. We know he knows we know he’s an amateur. Then he tells his story of being inspired to do magic by Muhammed Ali. Strange inspiration, like being inspired to paint by Tony Bennett, but it works as the misdirection to produce the cane. He’s used his knowledge of his awkward nervousness to lull me in, hit me off guard with a name drop, and produced the cane in a way most magicians don’t. And I like it. It’s not the usual flash vertical appearance. It’s a slow, horizontal appearance and it looks very nice.
Ideas stolen: Embrace the awkward energy that comes at the beginning of the show, the bit before you get your “stage legs” workin right. Sometimes, just the tiniest tweaks on an old effect can make it seem new again, or Goodwill new.
Laughed at: The awkward hand-off to the assistant after.
He then goes into a silk-thru-cane routine. After the first penetration, he seems to have gained his stride and stage legs. Then he establishes his character: football player. He lets his character share about his life and then made an analogy using magic. This gives him the freedom to talk comfortably instead of sounding rehearsed as he goes through his routine.
Stolen: Make sure the script reflect your character and make those scripts about something you are interested in and can talk freely on.
Laughed at: Another awkward transition. (1:45) “The great thing about magic is how things just appear out of nowhere”. Not here. I think it came out of her butt while you were digging around there, but that could just be me.
As he ties the white and blue scarves, he starts to head down the dread “Path of Explanation“, the needless narration of what you are doing. But only long enough to establish what he’s doing. He then goes to a character reference about hand injuries, spiced up with name dropping. Name dropping can work for you, too, if not overdone.
Stolen: Have a script prepared for the procedural parts. Explanation minimal.
Laughed at: “In Buffalo, our colors were red, white, and blue” That applies to all NFL team, Juice.
The byplay between him and the assistant about the candle, sucked. But I liked the idea of her holding the flame as he walks away. Stolen.
His movements during the jumping color sequence was a bit awkward, but again, he used it to lull you before producing the bird. Then another awkward hand-off and an oops at 3:45. Bad steal. Don’t wanna start a habit of those. He then transforms the bird into a scarf, and we come back full circle. He looks the same as he did when he first came onstage. Subliminal callback. Neat idea. Stolen. And he needs to push it further. He needs a finale or it will feel like a pointless journey. But then, wait…what the hell is that in the background? Her dress? Has she been wearing that the whole time? Looks like it was designed by a lazy hooker. He then calls all the kids (using “sweetheart” which is bad enough to use on little girls, but creeps me out when used on little boys) to cheer as he produces Bea Arthur.
What to do: Use nervous energy or awkwardness to an advantage. Slow down when you are nervous. Try things in other ways than the way you’ve always seen them done. Recognize the lulls and procedural moments and script accordingly. Keep scripts consistent with character. Write scripts on subjects that interest you. Keep explanation to a minimum. Keeping a flame stationary while moving the fuel source, looks cool. Subliminal callbacks. Come full circle, then push one step beyond. Talk to kids like you would talk to an adult. Include naked pictures of Bea Arthur on a list of demands so you can plead insanity later. (Guess OJ never saw Airheads)
What not to do: Murder my ex and her boyfriend. Get cocky about getting away with murder and write a book. Rob people at gunpoint at Palace Station. Remind a fellow inmate of my dazzling smile.
Thanks, Nevada Inmate #02648927. I’ve learned from you. Now I will return to laughing at you.