You said it: Despite Coby’s crushing, magicians value criticism from laymen

August 27th, 2012 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

Usually, close-up magic is our thing. We have a lot of respect for stage performers, but we’d rather spend a day in the close-up room at the Magic Castle. And because NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” has a terrible reputation for respecting the art we love, we don’t watch it. Sure, we thrill when magicians do great, but the show inevitably sets them up for failure.

But when we caught word of what the show’s judges did to Rudy Coby, we were kind of shocked. We weren’t alone.

You probably heard about how Sharon Osbourne said Coby looked like a Nazi. But what got our attention was how Osbourne and Howard Stern dogged Coby’s timing. Specifically, they said he had none. They were also bummed that there weren’t other tricks going on while Puppet Boy was coming to life.

Timing? Coby doesn’t know TIMING? We call shenanigans. Especially since the show forces magicians to adjust their acts to a 90-second limit.

Anyone who has seen Rudy Coby perform knows that his show is an incredibly engaging act built around the character he has created. The Puppet Boy bit that he did is the very definition of something we are always encouraging our members to do: He put the work into character and made the effect mean something. Coby’s take on that plot is fresh, engaging and awesome to watch, because he puts the work into character. Oh, and he has one of the best senses of timing in magic.

We originally thought Osbourne and Stern were full of… well, they didn’t have a lot of constructive criticism.

But that got us thinking about the value of criticism from people who know nothing about magic. So we asked you on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

You thought that feedback from laypeople was invaluable.

We agree. We got some incredible answers from you on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s some of the responses we got:

Victor Lindstrom: As a working professional it only matters what laypeople think. I value input from my spectators above all else, it only matters what they think. This is one of the first lessons I learned from E, specifically Brad C. Sure, I can do the clipshift, the spin change, and a myriad other effects that generally impress magicians, but to the spectator a color change is a color change; they dont care how you do it or how difficult it is.

Gregory Dobbs: What exactly is a useless comment? I suppose it’s one motivated more by negative emotions then actual critisism. And if someone is trying to be insulting, you either didn’t do your job right, or they’re not sober, either way I just generally listen politely, joke around with them, but not belittle their input, bid my adieus and move on.

Christopher Thisse: You have to look at every bit of feedback you get and decide if it’s something you should take into consideration. Repeated comments usually need paying attention to, as it is something you are consistently doing. Whenever I get feedback, I look at it compared to what my goals are. If the feedback helps me move toward my goal, I take it on board. If it moves me away from my goal, I ignore it. It doesn’t matter where the feedback comes from, but I tend to get more useful feedback from spectators than magicians. Magicians care about techniques, which is not the point. Spectators care about the show, the overall impact. That’s what I care about.

Willie Tsai: In my humble opinion, that’s the only type of feedback that matters!

Michael Utuber: I actually like what they say, regardless of what they say. If my spectator likes the trick and tells me something about improving my talk with the spectators, or try and make the act better, I would actually like it and would gain from it. Even if they say something like what Sharon said about timing. Because if they do, I would try and make some simple adjustments like adding a little something to it to make it better and make it seem like the timing is perfect (in their eyes).

Mathias Nilssen: I value the feedback I get from laymen a bit higher than the ones I get from magicians. Simply because that’s the ones I will be performing for when the effect is “complete” and I feel confident enough to perform it, so when I get bad feedback from laymen on an effect I love it, ’cause then I can go back and work on the effect more to get it even better. But magicians feedback is also very good, ’cause they often know where to look and then, if you can manage to fool them enough so they don’t have bad feedback to you, then you know your routine is pretty much perfect. But still laymen are the ones I will be performing for the most, so I value that a little but more.

There’s one other person we wanted to ask about this, and it’s none other than the coolest magician on Earth. Stay tuned for Ruby Coby’s take on how the show went, his response to the judges and how he’ll use that experience to make his show even better.


  1. I consider Rudy Coby’s Puppet Boy piece one of the most profound and beautiful magic tricks I’ve ever seen in my 10 years of magic experience. It’s right up there with Copperfield flying in my opinion. It’s really unfortunate the judges buzzed prematurely. I don’t think they even heard a word of the song being played. Rudy knows that if the whole point of the trick was the appearing clown, it would be lame. And that’s why it’s merely theatrical misdirection for what I consider to be one of the most beautiful switched in magic. I hope the judges eventually realize what a mistake they made. Also, I felt like the camera was horrible – I there was so many cuts from so many angles, it was very difficult to know what was happening. I fear that the TV audience didn’t know what happened. Eric Buss though, that’s sad what happened to him to. It was a very sad episode for me, that’s for sure. Puck? over Eric Buss AND Rudy Coby? oh wow. This is interesting.