Alright, I talked about gimmicks, which I find interesting, because, you know, they change the timing of a trick. They also unfortunately, change the economics of a trick, because in a lot of cases, there are some things you just can’t do, as a person, unless you’re absolutely amazingly good. Back in the day, the magicians had to work to be that good, but these days, there’s an economics to it that creates the category of, well, moneygicians.
I want to share a few short videos here, and let me tell you, magic as a community, with its particular kind of patter, can be really uncomfortable to share freely. Anything you look at here, the channels are probably okay, but also, don’t be surprised if like, one of these dudes is into NFTs or something. If you chase videos in this space you might wind up seeing someone doing old timey patter about dames and oh, take my wife, and yaw, ya see, and that sucks, especially to see people still doing it in like, 2019.
Look, I’m not going to print my own deck of cards with a double backer — a playing card with identical sides, each side showing the card back. I’m just not! But back when Dai Vernon first started doing things with double backers, they were either accidental misprints or, and I know some magicians did this, they were hand made, with the magician learning all sorts of things about making a card so they could split one in half down the centre, and apply the back of one to the back of another, using the right glues to restore it, and that was some craft.
These days I can just go buy a deck of ordinary playing cards that include a double backer. I don’t want a flashy set and I absolutely don’t want a marked deck — the more your deck of cards looks like a thing a magician buys, the more likely people are to assume the deck has something shifty about it. I like when props are completely examinable, and that means the gimmicks I like tend to be cheap.
If I gimmick the ten of clubs in my deck, and that ten of clubs comes from a deck of cards that costs four dollars, it’s not hard to have a second ten of clubs to sub out for the gimmick, you know?
Anyway, that means I tend to think of gimmicks as things to make not things to buy. But also, I don’t want to discourage interest in the gimmick, so I figured I’d show some gimmicks that I think represent the boundaries of ‘time invested’ to make for the effect you get. This is a trick for transferring a coin that lives on the outside of you deck box for a box of cards, promoted here by Sankeymagic. The video is ten minutes long, and features some bookkeeping stuff, but generally, that’s the simple point: There’s a coin glued to the box, so when you do a transfer of a coin off the box, it’s not getting transferred, and you can handle the box however.
I love this gimmick because it’s so unassuming and you can keep it literally constantly. You might not be comfortable with it, but for me, the deck for cards lives in my pocket, and the gimmick being on the box and also changing the way the box handles and feels is really cool – to me, this kind of gimmick is just inherently easy to keep in mind and make safe. The trick is a little expensive – after all, you need a coin, and if you’re not in a space you can recover it, any lapped or grounded coin is going to run the risk of being lost – and it does limit the kinds of coins you can use for a trick, but these days, people are unlikely to have coins on hand to do those tricks anyway. Who wants to handle money?
Alright, that’s a really simple, easy gimmick to make. By comparison, check out an extremely complicated gimmick to make that gets you a really vast effect. This involves busting out the needle and thread and making a multi-door, angle-specific, tool-focused gimmick that means you need to keep the right kind of pen around to make the effect look its best.
Have I made this gimmick? have I heck. This is however an example of how the level of artistry that goes into a gimmick is itself, a handcraft project. Remember when I described ‘gluing cards together’ originally? This is at that level. You can buy it, of course – I’m sure there are people selling versions of this gimmick! – but if you dont’ want to, you have this option and the pieces for making it aren’t expensive, they’re just detail focused.
Turns out a lot of magic stuff is detail focused, who knew.
Alright, though, that’s my opinion of gimmicks, but I’m a schlub who does magic tricks for little kids who… are now teenagers. That’s weird. Hm, don’t like contemplating that. Point is, I can talk a good game, but what about people with expertise? After all, the tricks I’m describing are props, but that’s not to say they’re the only way to do the tricks they’re showing, and professionally made, industrial machined devices can definitely get you easier effects…
But are they better?
The answer is in any situation, ‘it depends.’ What you need and want to use in a performance is limited. If you’re doing things at a distance and you can afford it, I’d say buy gimmicked shit because you’re safe and nobody runs the risk of seeing or handling your props. They’re another way to outsource control.
But the tricks I like, they’re impromptu, and gimmick I work with are cheap, because it costs a lot to look cheap and, me? I can’t afford it. I have to be authentically cheap, after all.
Finally, I want to show you while I’ve got your attention on magic videos, I want you to check out this piece by Daniel Roy.
First things first, I think Roy is a great magician, though I am not so skilled or aware as to tell you how he’s a great magician. I think he uses a very understated, calm style, I think he does a good job of making his actions feel slow and reasonable, he doesn’t do much of the flair or distinctive moements you might be used to when you see a more old-school style handler at work. Like, I like Sankey’s work but when you see enough of his work you’ll see how much of what he does is presentation that’s designed to make some exaggerated movements seem normal, just because you’re used to them.
Anyway, the thing about this video I like is that after Roy shows you a good trick, he then breaks down what Monte is. Not the trick – the card mechanics, I could guess at what he’s doing at each stage but I would be guessing – but rather what the whole setup of Monte is and what it’s for, and why we love using it as a framing device. It’s a game designed to scam you and you shouldn’t fall for a scam. Particularly, and vitally, in my opinion, he underscores that there are lots of other things about you that are vulnerable while you are being conned.
Magic is a performance, magic is for play, and you can get that safely and should respect those who can do it, because they’re (we’re?) the honest ones who’ll tell you we’re lying.