Posts Tagged ‘Magician’

Magician characters on TV usually let us down, but we believe in NPH

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Usually if a TV show features a magician as a charater, it’s a tribute to the old top-hat-and-tails type, ready to saw a lady in half, or a modern interpretation of a David Copperfield style of stage magician. The kinds of magicians we love to watch usually don’t get featured on TV shows: There’s no close-up masters, no deception artists, no guys who do their work just sitting at a table with a deck of cards. (That’ll change in a few weeks on SyFy — more on that soon.)

That’s why when we hear our buddies tell us about magician type of character in a TV show, we just smile politely, while inside, we get filled with dread and make no plans to record it on our DVR.

But “American Horror Story” is not an average TV show. And Neil Patrick Harris is no ordinary actor.

In one of his first TV appearances since “How I Met Your Mother,” NPH will play an illusionist named Chester starting tonight on FX’s “American Horror Story: Freak Show.” His character appears to have a psychotic drive right at home with some of the other murderers in that show, and also appears to have a creepy ventriloquist dummy that “relaxes him,” so in terms of a TV representation of a magician, we’re not that excited.

But Harris has a strong history in magic, and that gives us faith that this upcoming two-episode arc won’t be cringe-worthy (in terms of our non-magic buddies associating us with those kind of magicians, anyway).

His interest in magic is well-known: Harris is a former president of The Magic Castle, one of the finest performance venues for close-up magic in the country. He also was the director of “Nothing to Hide,” a stunning production featuring Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimaraes — runs in Los Angeles and New York City drew critical acclaim.

Producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have been doing incredible storytelling on “American Horror Story,” and Harris is one of the best actors in the biz. He’s gonna fit right in with the freak show, and we’ll enjoy watching.

YOUR TURN: What’s been your favorite portrayal of a magician in a TV show or movie (besides “The Prestige,” because we all know that movie is awesome)? Let us know in the comments below.

Canadian magician making most of appearance on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’

Monday, May 5th, 2014

We’ve long complained about the awful treatment that “America’s Got Talent” has given to magicians. And we’re pleased to see that the U.K. version, “Britain’s Got Talent,” is nothing like its American counterpart.

Namely because the show just introduced us to a magician who got our attention. Meet Darcy Oake.

Be honest: How long did it take for you to realize he was doing a dove act and it was cool?

The Canadian magician has wowed on the show, impressing the salty Simon Cowell, who said that Oake is the best magician they have seen in eight seasons. He’s impressed a lot of us at E, too, for a number of reasons — mainly, because he had us riveted throughout that short routine.

“He did for a dove act what Blaine did for close-up,” said Brad Christian, Ellusionist founder and CEO, who also said there’s a lot to learn from this short video:

  • ~ His appearance. The street wear set him apart from other stage magicians, because he had a style we can relate to.
  • ~ Check out the restrained routining. Everything is precision, yet relaxed and confident. No flashy moves, no gestures, no dancing. When he holds up an egg, you know it’s an egg.
  • ~ There’s a lot of confidence here: Because he is relaxed, he doesn’t NEED to have the big flappy arms and wavy fingers that most stage magicians use. Because of that, he commands attention — and we pay it.

We can’t wait to see more of Oake, and to hear how he does in the show. We agree with Cowell: He could win it.

What did you learn from the performance?

FOUR POINTS: Criss Angel’s return to TV is good for your magic

Monday, October 14th, 2013

We hear the feedback, we read the comments, and we get it: You don’t like Criss Angel. From mild annoyance with his reliance on TV tricks to outright disgust about how he treats other magicians (such as Dynamo, Jan Roven and Joe Monti), Angel doesn’t count many magicians among his Loyals (the name for his die-hard fans).

His new show, “Believe,” is an extension of the Las Vegas show he’s built over the last three years. Following a similar format as “Mindfreak,” the show highlights 11 illusions, from a straitjacket escape to that falling sword illusion — you know, the one that looks like it was stolen from Jan Rouven and failed pretty badly during the live execution.

But the reactions we hear from you about Criss: Wow. His show hasn’t even aired yet, and already we’re hearing about it. Magicians are complaining about how a performer that relies on camera editing, stooges and special effects is dominating the magic landscape.

Most magicians see failure. We see opportunity.

Us? We are THRILLED to see him back on cable TV. From the look of his teasers, he’ll be basing each show around a signature illusion. And the first segment appears to be a collection of close-up magic. If it’s more Mindfreak, then what may be bad for Criss Angel is good for the rest of us. Here’s four reasons why.

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FOUR POINTS: These non-magic books are must-reads for magicians

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

When we dive into magic, we tend to choose the deepest of the deep ends. That’s part of the thrill of magic: This art is so full of brilliant secrets that we stay underwater after the dive. From books to videos, from tough techniques to performance philosophy, we swim so deeply that we grow gills.

So much so that it’s easy to forget that there are other kinds of books out there, covering a myriad of subjects.

All of which can help your magic.

If you have a burning desire to take your magic further to the point where you want to make a career from it, then you are going to have to be more to the world than just a magician. You must be a networker, a dreamer, a promoter, an entertainer, a worker and in all other respects a regular Renaissance person. Because of the nature of being a magician, more is expected of magicians than other people. We must learn to be so many other different types of experts and have command of many other situations.

Unfair? Sure is. FOR THEM.

The work that this art takes gives us a head and shoulders advantage in virtually any situation we can think of. Our members are more than just magicians — they are accountants, fitness trainers, attorneys, opera singers, journalists, marketers, restaurant managers and more. From the pros who have a day job to the pros who do nothing but magic, our members have a dizzying breadth of experience.

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Would Paul LePaul be a flourisher?

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

Paul LePaul is a historic figure in magic for many reasons. The creator of the LePaul spread, LePaul bluff pass and author of “The Card Magic of LePaul” is respected and admired for his love of performance and his precision manipulations. When we look for magic quotes to publish on our Facebook and Twitter pages, we visit his work often.

In fact, we printed one of his quotes yesterday on our Facebook page:

“Much of the charm and beauty of card magic lies in the skillful and adroit handling of the pasteboards. Flourishes, therefore, are a very essential part of the stock-in-trade of every manipulator. Do not underestimate their value; they play a very important role in arousing interest and have a terrific appeal to the imagination of an audience.”

A couple of people were quick to point out that LePaul was talking about basic flourishes, such as fans, cascades, spreads. That kind of thing. The point being that LePaul wouldn’t dive into the world of non-magical flourishing, what with all those crazy cuts, throws and such.

That got us thinking: Would he?

If LePaul were alive today, would he be a flourisher?

Man, do we wish there was performance footage available today. We’d love to be able to watch him perform. Judging from research by the Conjuring Arts Research Center, LePaul was a polished performer who prioritized precision and panache, all with an eye on pleasing his audiences. He didn’t talk much, and didn’t use complicated displays.

In “Card Magic,” published in 1949, Robert Parrish writes that he could play to a small room or a large room with equal aplomb, because he had enough showmanship to make a small card trick play big. When writing about LePaul’s version of a Ten Card Trick, he wrote that “…When three cards disappear from a packet held by a spectator and are found among ten cards of differently colored backs, to the accompaniment of fine comedy, the effect is as impressive as that of a major stage illusion.”

LePaul was also known for his manipulations. From the vaudeville circuit to the hotels and nightclubs he filled, his act was based on his manipulation routines.

Whenever we get chances to dive into card magic history, we see two major paths that magicians can follow. One is that of Dai Vernon, who is a self-assigned protege of S.W. Erdnase and who brought casual, non-flashy, efficient yet subdued moves to the card magician. The other is LePaul, who showed that expert manipulation, which clearly pointed to practice and skill, could indeed be magical. (These two paths are very close together, have plenty of spots where they intersect and both lead to the same place, so we don’t advocate choosing one over the other.)

The most revealing passage of Parrish’s preface to “Card Magic” deals with how much importance LePaul gave to practicing:

“LePaul was a successful professional magician from the beginning of his career because he found a medium and style which suited his personality and because he spent a great deal of time practicing his manipulation. He realize that even to layemen who could not appreciate technical accomplishments, his work would appear the most magical if his sleights were executed with absolute precision.”

Parrish also noted that his two main idols were Nate Leipzig and Howard Thurston — Thurston is significant because, like Jim Steinmeyer, we believe that he bested Houdini for the claim of greatest magician in the world.

And that gets us back to the main question: Would LePaul flourish non-magically? What would he do with Sybil, or an Anaconda Dribble, or Daniel Madison’s Cardistry?

We think he would embrace those moves. And perform then magically.

We don’t think LePaul would ever abandon magical presentations. LePaul was a brilliant magician because he was a brilliant performer. His innovations were based on simplicity, and he carefully chose his material for each audience. So if he were alive today, we’d like to think that a handful of flourishing’s modern moves might appear in some of his routines. But never at the expense of his love for precision and performing.

It’s worth your time to research him. The Conjuring Arts Research Society has recently opened up a display of LePaul’s personal notebook. And if you haven’t read “Card Magic” yet, do so.