We realize we’re about rudely butt in on advice that an advice columnist gave to an aspiring magician. And not just any columnist — Miss Manners, the one columnist where you really don’t want to be rude. But, according to a recent column, she left the door open for us, so we’ll barge through and happily help her out.
In her Aug. 12 column, she answered a magic-related question sent by a reader:
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am an aspiring street magician. I have enjoyed the idea of public performance since I was very young. However, I must admit I am a socially awkward individual at times, in part because of being overly cautious of social niceties.
Once I have taken to performing on the streets, how would you recommend I approach potential observers, if at all? I simply must know!
Because we also have some pretty vast journalism experience, we know that people enjoy sending fake letters to advice columnists. The phrase “I simply must know” screams red flag, unless this column is inadvertently from the website of the London Times circa 1900. But we’ll take the writer at their word and offer our two cents. In her answer, Miss Manners recommended talking to a professional, so here you go, “Gentle Reader.”
Miss Manners is right that magic is not a calling for the timid or easily discouraged. We encourage performers to fail — not on purpose, exactly, but we know there are goofs in every magician’s future, so we encourage performers to embrace them, learn from them and learn how to turn a disaster into an advantage.
Worried about social awkwardness? Magic will cure you of that quickly, especially when you consider the payoff. All you have to do is practice your art and fight your fear. Your reward will be watching someone in the throes of amazement. You’ll bring a little magic to their life. For one moment, the world will hold excitement, promise and marvel in a way that they don’t get to see every day. There’s no better addiction.
But excessive caution over social niceties and being polite is no concern. In fact it’s easy to fix, and any magician who wants to perform politely can incorporate manners into their magic easily. All it takes is two short sentences:
“Hello, my name is (blank,) and I’m a magician. Would you like to see some magic?”
In that one sentence, you’ve provided your identity and enough information for a spectator to reduce their uncertainty about you significantly. They now know enough to feel like they have an advantage in the conversation, and can act accordingly. It also sets you up for success, because if they want to see some magic, they will gladly say yes. If they don’t, you’ve given them an out that they can politely use.
There’s a lot more to this subject, GR. If you’re busking, then you’ll wanna brush up on the city’s laws. You’ll want to learn to read people before your performances, so you know the best people you should tell those two sentences. For more reading:
- Project Manager Adam Wilber has a lot more to say about this, including some advanced-class tips dealing with performance. Adam performs for ANYBODY. You don’t even have to dare him. And he KILLS.
- Ellusionist Founder and CEO Brad Christian talked about how he handled the fear during his days as a street magician in the Big Apple. Brad went from a guy thrilled to get his first tips from a guy on the street, to big-time busking on Broadway, and eventually… you know how that story turned out.
But for the most part, keep it simple. Politeness is built in to this simple approach, and we’re pretty sure Miss Manners would approve. We hope to approach her one day and show her what we can do with fine silverware.