Archive for November, 2008

‘Mentalist’ a hit, but creator wonders for how long

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

In anticipation of Tagged by Rich Ferguson, it’s good to see mentalism succeeding in primetime.

Bruno Heller knows his show, “The Mentalist,” is a hit. The show has beaten down tough competition from ABC and Fox — we’re talking “Dancing With the Stars” and J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi drama “Fringe” — and even expanded its audience. However, Heller sees rough waters ahead, according to this interesting report from the New York Times:

But positioned as it is among the 10 top-rated shows, there is a danger that “The Mentalist” may have nowhere to go but down, particularly as the January premiere of the eighth season of “American Idol” looms. As a powerhouse lead-in to “Fringe,” “Idol” threatens to give the night back to Fox. All of that might be why Mr. Heller doesn’t enjoy fussing over the ratings. “I get vertigo if I look at the numbers,” he said. “I know what other shows are around, but I don’t really watch TV because it makes me too nervous. Yes, we’ve got the No. 1 new show now, but you’re not really successful until you’ve done it for a lot longer than we’ve been doing it.”

“The Mentalist” is the story of Patrick Jayne (played by Simon Baker), a former TV psychic who admitted to being a fraud — turns out he’s just more observant than most. Now, he helps cops, led by investigator Teresa Lisbon (played by Robin Tunney), crack cases and bust criminals. The show is a new take on the model established by “NCIS,” according to the report. But what makes the show really work, Tunney says, are the eccentricities of its creator packaged in a familiar pill that’s easy for people to swallow. His views that TV psychics, such as John Edward, are shams are interesting:

“The show is not directed at him particularly,” Mr. Heller said. “You name the TV psychic — they’re con men. I can say that with complete confidence because John Edward is not going to sue anyone for libel on that score. The reason I know that is because the techniques he uses are those carnival psychics and soothsayers have been using for hundreds of years.”

Blogger presents guidelines about how to present mentalism, magic

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

Pardon the bad joke, but mentalism has been on my mind lately — especially after watching the BBC special above.

Specifically, I’ve been fascinated by the different ways mentalists present their art. Some, such as Mike Super and Nate Staniforth, are ultracasual about it, and quick to claim that they don’t have real powers. Mentalists such as Uri Geller, Jim Callahan and The Amazing Kreskin are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Rich Ferguson, the creator of Tagged, gave his two cents during this podcast interview.

So where do YOU draw the line? Whether you know the answer to that question or not, you’ll find some interesting reading in this post on the Ye Olde Magick Blogge. B.D. Erland, the man behind the blog, offered a couple of interesting axioms: Every magical effect has an implied claim to power, and it is inherent in the performance of a strong magic effect for spectators to seek a power-based explanation, whether or not you claim it.

But even mentalists have to be careful about the powers they claim, despite playing in the realm of the more plausible magic. After all, it’s going to be difficult to support the claim that you’re a mind-reader if you have to ask for a spectator’s name before each routine. Again, though, these things can be played with. Performers have been known to secretly get that sort of information before the effect starts, and even trying to downplay the revelation of the name as not really being an effect. Also, you can state that perhaps some things are easier to read than others — for instance, emotions and imagery — and in fact this can open fun doors presentationally, by using emotions and imagery as the motifs necessary to bring about an effect to a successful conclusion.

The post is long, but worth the read.

Quick hits: Blaine may help Jackman, Burton may replace Angel, magicians win awards

Friday, November 28th, 2008

A few quick hits about some of the superstars of magic:

  • David Blaine may get called in to help Hugh Jackson portray his inspiration and role model: None other than Harry Houdini. FOX News reported that magician Ricky Jay is involved with Jackman’s latest role; he is allegedly already working up magic routines for the musical about his life. In addition to Blaine, Cirque du Soleil may be called in for advice. Which leads us to…
  • Criss Angel’s collaboration with the unique circus, “Believe,” was drawn and measured next to a classic of magic by Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Mike Weatherford. The columnist heralded Burton’s show as a great example of classic, traditional magic. But there’s a story behind the story, adroitly pointed out by iTricks. Spoiler: How does Lance Burton’s “Believe” sound?
  • Congratulations to the magicians who won awards at the 2008 World Magic Awards, which were televised on MyNetwork. Though we haven’t found an official list of winners, or a replay of the broadcast, the IBM reports that Jeff McBride won Best Classical Magician, Dan Sperry won Best Original Cabaret Act, Ed Alonzo won Best Comedy Illusionist, Greg Gleason won Best Stage Magician, Kirby VanBurch won Best Illusionist and Franz Harary won Best Escape Artist. The show was hosted by actor Neil Patrick Harris, who is also a Magic Castle board member (who knew?).
  • Mentalist Gerry McCambridge helped a man pop the question. According to Norm Clarke of the Review-Journal, McCambridge “read the mind” of a man who wanted to ask something. The man, who had set the proposal up beforehand, proposed to his fiancee. McCambridge then asked if anyone else — namely Angel and new squeeze Holly Madison — wanted to propose.

Rich Ferguson: The Ellusionist Interview

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Rich Ferguson is not your typical magician. He couldn’t tell you the name of his favorite double lift — or many other tricks, for that matter. But then again, he was practicing magic before he knew he was practicing magic. The unique mind behind Tagged spoke with us about his rough upbringing and how it helped his powers of observation increase to Sherlock Holmes levels.

He also discussed how the main part of Tagged — getting a word written on someone’s skin — is really a small part of the upcoming DVD. He talked about how he presents mentalism, where he mixes it with magic and what poker players find fascinating about his shows. He even gives a little dish on his next effect to be sold through Ellusionist: Serial Biller.

Click the “play” button below for the interview:

Here’s some details about the release of Tagged, which occurs at 4 p.m. EST Wednesday, Dec. 3. The price will be $29.95, and the first 50 buyers will receive a rare copy of Daniel Garcia’s Warning. The below video is referenced in the podcast, and it is a good demonstration of Tagged:

Double Tagged release: Two great effects, two incredible magicians, one day of release!

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Target the third day of the twelfth month to take in two terrific, tremendous tricks.

Part sleight of hand, part mentalism, Rich Ferguson’s “Tagged” is a brilliant system of marking a spectator. Think Stained Skin or Tattoo Joe — only on THEIR arm. Check it out:

Ferguson has spent years developing, field-testing and perfecting this system. It is so brilliant that Ferguson was able to tag Ellusionist founder Brad Christian within seconds. Once you learn, you’ll be able to tag anyone with anything easily.

Also released on Dec. 3: A brilliant effect from Richard Sanders, the creator of Extreme Burn (used by David Blaine in his recent special, “Dive of Death”). Just watch:

Tagged by Richard Sanders is an incredible card reveal. A chosen card is lost into the deck, then miraculously ends up linked on a chain around your neck. The best part: You can hand this impossible necklace out as a souvenir. When your spectators inspect it, they will find the chain threaded through the card. No slits. It’s like an ambitious card on steroids.

As always, keep watching this blog. We’ll have more about the effects, the guys behind them and the deal with two effects of the same name. You can ask questions of Ferguson in this thread on the Ellusionist Forums.

Do not miss the Double Tagged release.