Greatness in Magic

June 21st, 2008 | Jason Brumbalow | Filed Under General, Products

Greatness is defined (amongst other things) as:


  • Remarkable or outstanding in magnitude, degree, or extent
  • Of outstanding significance or importance
  • Superior in quality or character
  • Powerful; influential
  • Very skilful
  • Enthusiastic
  • Very good; first-rate

 How does this help us in our magic though? How can we assume these characteristics and combine them into our presentations?


One school of thought is that we should always strive to be different, and in being different, staying true to yourself and your own ideals you will become the best you can be.


I personally feel that this is just like every other rule in magic – there to be adhered to where possible, but broken when necessary.


How do we start to become different though? How does being different lead to greatness?


Every single person reading this blog is unique, the product of different experiences, different cultures and upbringings, different social circumstances – so why should we all perform the same routines?


I’ve been guilty of the following before, but as soon as I reached the aforementioned conclusions, I’ve strived to retain some of my individuality into my presentations, to attempt to remain apart from my peers.


Think back to your entire repertoire – everything you currently perform. How much of it follows the exact same script that came with the instructions or on the DVD? How many of your effects have you re-scripted or added your own touches to?


Take the 2CM effect for instance, do you use the same cards that were shown on the DVD you learned from? Why do you do this?


Why not change the initial cards into two cards that two separate spectators think they’ve been holding all along?


What about the ACR? How many of you can honestly say that you’ve put together your very own take on it? Have you considered the strongest finale you can possibly put together for it?


Whilst doing this though, please don’t fall into the “too perfect” trap – heaven knows, I’ve been there before, and for every minute we spend attempting to prove that we’re not using duplicates, we’re not using gaffed decks or crimps, we’re possibly forgetting that many spectators would not even consider these things.


Often, the more perfect an effect is, the more a spectator will dismiss it as “He just did something when I wasn’t looking.” – If a spectator even considers that you made some secret move, you’ve lost the battle.


I’ve just returned from a two week vacation, and as you can imagine, I took a couple of decks and some reading material with me – I spent some of the time reading, a little time performing, but most of my time considering this article and how I was going to use my experience to hopefully help guide you to dizzier heights than I could ever reach.


One of the friends that I was vacationing with is a manager at a bar that I’ve worked at before, and he’s seen me perform on countless occasions, so he’s used to seeing what I’m capable of – yet he’ll always ask me to perform, constantly trying to “catch me out”


He’s a good friend, but he also knows that there’s no such thing as magic, which as you can guess, makes my job so much more difficult.


There *is* one thing in my favour though, he’s completely enamoured with Out Of This World – it’s an effect that he’s seen me perform on numerous occasions, and has burned my hands every single time – always waiting for me to make some secret move that would separate the cards out into the right piles.


Some of you may balk at performing for someone like Ant, maybe you’d call him a tough cookie – but to me it’s the ultimate challenge. If I can pull something on Ant, I won’t have a problem with spectators who I’m in full control of.


To cut a long story short, I performed Stigmata for him whilst we were away, having very carefully structured his mind to knowing that I was unprepared to perform.


We were walking down a road, past some shops (one of which I knew sold playing cards), and I steered the conversation towards magic, gently ribbing him for not believing that I *am* capable of real things.


I went so far as to tell him that he could purchase any deck of cards he wanted to, at any time, and I’d do something that he’d never seen before, and would never believe possible.


Then I went into the store to get a drink.


He’d fallen for the bait, and followed me in. My carefully worked route through the store led me past a pack of playing cards, and he couldn’t resist challenging me – with an air of “Let’s see you prove it then Mr Fancy Pants Magician!” he bought them.


We got back to the hotel, with him holding the deck all the way, and into the bar, and handed him the deck to shuffle.

To cut a long story short, about 40 seconds later he was speechless – completely speechless and had *no* frame of reference with which to compare the event to.


Through careful planning and structuring of the moment, I’d create almost the perfect effect – and it only played for one person.


Sometimes I see Magicians balk at the amount of preparation they have to put in to perform an effect, for the payoff – I guess they’d never consider going to the trouble I went to, to perform that one effect and get that single moment of pure astonishment – and *that* is a shame.


Whether your pet effect or routine plays for one spectator or an audience, if you’re working towards creating that little bubble of altered reality – if even for a moment or two, then *nothing* should be too much hard work.


Magic is entertainment, and the ultimate goal of our art should be to entertain people – to take them away from their perception of reality, maybe even to make them forget their troubles for a few moments and be able to concentrate on something that can entertain, confuse and amuse them.


The more time you spend preparing for a performance – whether it’s even just showing your pet spectator (the first spectator you’d show a new effect to, whether it might be your mother, father, sibling or friend), or preparing yourself for a day on the streets – the more time you spend preparing for it, the greater the effect will be.


How can you achieve greatness in your magic? Put yourself to the trouble of being different, prepare thoroughly, and make sure that *no* effect requires “too much effort”


  1. Very nice post, I enjoyed reading that.

  2. All I need to say is thank you. Lately, I’ve lost interest in my magic to the point where I just can’t motivate myself to practice as much as I need to. This post has caused my spark to return! Thank you!

  3. Clifford, Goa , India on:

    Very well said , The hard work put into an effect will never go to waste. As u have correctly pointed out the sole aim of our existence as magicians is to entertain, to lift the spectator away from reality . regards Clifford , Goa, India

  4. Ben Wright – ‘Sir Andum’ on:

    I absoloutely agree. I have been waiting to see a post like this for some time. So many people I know and see take the original trick and perform it like a copy. Originality is what makes a performance. Everyone knows the magician stereotype – black coat, cape, dinner suit, moustache. :) It doesnt work in modern day. So thats why people changed their performances.
    When you look at the most accomplished magicians now days, (chris angel, Jeff Mcbride, David Copperfield) they were all innovative performers when it came to the presentation. You cant expect to create beauty (which is what we do) by copying someone. How can you love what you do if you dont put yourself into it and how can you expect others to love your magic if you dont love it yourself.
    thanks for the post!