FOUR POINTS: Forgetting what you know? Remember your routines easy

June 11th, 2013 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points

Something about jokes defy memory. We never learn this until it’s our turn to tell a joke — and then our mind goes completely blank.

What is it about jokes that makes them so hard to remember? They make us laugh our tails off until we are crying. But for some reason, when someone wants to hear a joke, we can remember that there was this one our buddy told at the bar, and it made all of us laugh so loud that the people at the table next to us moved.

But we can’t remember the actual joke.

Magic tricks can be the same way, especially for the casual magician who practices a number of impromptu tricks but doesn’t have a working set ready to go. Someone will ask to see a trick, and the magician will agree with a smile, then lock up — wondering exactly what trick to do.

We’ve been there, and we know exactly what it’s like. Here’s some strategies to help you remember what tricks you know, so that you don’t freeze like an old computer.

WRITE IT OUT ON YOUR MOBILE PHONE: Every phone we’ve used for the last few years has some sort of memo pad app. That’s the perfect place to write down your working repertoire, those tricks you know how to do and what it requires. You can also notate if the trick requires a setup, signature, or destruction of a card (through writing, marking or ripping).

USE A MNEMONIC AID: This can take you far. Whether you make an acronym out of trick names, or assign a trick to a certain card (With aces I can do a Hofzinser assembly, with kings I can do a Cannibals, etc.), a mnemonic aid will help you remember all the tricks you can do almost instantly.

ASSEMBLE YOUR EFFECTS INTO ROUTINES: Now we’re getting somewhere, because we’re talking about planning, and that’s always a better situation for a magician. If you remember one routine, that means you can remember two, three or four tricks. The routine becomes a mnemonic aid of sorts, and you end up giving a more structured performance.

KEEP YOUR IMPROMPTU REPERTOIRE LIGHT: We’ve seen a bunch of magicians swear by nothing but impromptu tricks. The thinking is this: “If the trick is impromptu, then I can make magic with anything anytime and not waste effort in preparation!” That works for casual magicians, but those with aspirations for more need to pay attention to this point: We’ve seen the effect a little preparation, whether through use of a gimmick, gaff or advance setup, has on a magic trick. Think of that setup as an investment that will pay huge returns.

Or think of it this way: Magicians rely on the one-ahead principle — staying a step ahead of your spectators. Check out Justin Miller’s Neo Coin Matrix or Divorce for a master class on this principle. When do you want to gain that extra step, in the middle of a routine? Or before the trick even starts? Keep your impromptu repertoire light — the less you know, the easier it will be to remember when your time to shine arrives.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to

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