Behind the scenes at Ellusionist.com, we watch a lot of magic videos. A LOT. Whether it’s a new trick, contest entry or someone posting a practice video in the Performance HQ Forums, we watch so many videos that we pick up on trends.
Lately, we’ve seen a lot of this trend: Sportscasting. This is what happens when a magician changes an ace into a king and says, at the same time, “I change the ace into a king.” In other words, the patter simply calls the action happening in your hands.
It’s redundant, and it’s redundant.
It may not sound like a big deal, but trust us. It is. As much as we love watching videos of brilliantly executed moves, what really blows us away are the videos that give the magic impact, importance and meaning. Those are the videos that give us chills, because they show us that magic can be a powerful metaphor to important emotions and incredible events. For example: Christopher Thisse recently won a contest with such a presentation.
On the flip side: When you describe the magic you just performed, it invites skepticism in spectators. If you say, “I change the ace into a king,” and then they see that ace change, then you focus spectators’ minds purely on the HOW of a trick — and that drives us dangerously close to the road of challenge magic, which only Tony Slydini mastered. With the right presentation, we give spectators something else to chew on as they watch, and that’s usually much better for our magic. Why tell someone that a fork is bending, when they can watch it for themselves?
Here’s the catch: You may be sportscasting and not realizing it.
- Saying the words “I” or “we” a lot: Those are red flags that an active verb is coming (more on that in a few bullet points). If we’re saying “I,” then we are drawing attention to ourselves, and that might not always be the best thing. Sure we want eyes on us, but we want to do it in a sideways fashion. People don’t care as much about magicians as much as they care about themselves. We take advantage of that by relating to them, not talking about us.
- Using a lot of active verbs: You know, present-tense verbs. That’s outstanding for writing fiction, but terrible for patter. The exception is if you’re telling a story as part of your patter.
- Using commands such as “watch” or “look”: If you say those words, then keep your mouth shut for the rest of the trick. Using those commands focuses the spectator on doing that exact thing, so sportscalling just distracts them and cheeseballs your routine.
Do you want to challenge spectators with your magic, putting the emphasis on “You don’t know how I did that”? Or do you want to MOVE your spectators and make them feel something; to make them see that your magic is a glimpse into a deeper truth or message? Write a rough draft of your patter, then look for those warning signs above. Your presentation will go from ballgame to game-changer.