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Performance Advice From Los Angeles Magicians At The Magic Castle

I was fortunate to grow up in Los Angeles and be part of the Magic Castle Junior Program, a mentorship program for magicians 13-20 years old. The leaders, almost all Los Angeles Magicians, didn’t teach us tricks, rather, they gave us performance and career advice, often counseling us on how to make it as corporate magicians for hire. 

One piece of advice I think about to this day is “Never ask a question you don’t know the answer to.” Though magicians from the previous era didn’t interact much with audience members, today, it’s become the norm for performers to engage with audience members and on-stage spectators continuously throughout the show. It’s hard to script every interaction because you don’t know who you’ll bring on stage, you don’t know what people will say or do, and that’s of course part of the fun of seeing a magician or mentalist perform–no one knows exactly what will happen. As a performer, the uncertainty can be stimulating, but you can also find yourself asking questions without actually knowing where the conversation is going. This is often not a problem. But if I ask, “How are you?”–a seemingly innocuous question–I don’t know if you are going to respond with “Not good, we just came from a funeral.” Not much needs to be said on the unfortunate effect this would have on the room’s mood. And some unforeseen answers to apparently innocent questions can ruin a show. Trial lawyers also observe this rule for similar reasons.

Talented comedians can have full portions of their act spontaneously written by their interactions with audience members. But magicians and mentalists are not comedians and we are treated and rated on a different metric–we are supposed to be in control and commanding of the timeline and ambience, whereas comedians are given the space for failure. The comedian’s job, I think, is far more difficult than the magicians, so perhaps they’re given room for the occasional half-landed joke whereas everything a magician or mentalist does has to work. Therefore, when you have the urge to ask a question of a spectator, it’s vital to recognize that that interaction has the potential to doom the entire show. I always think “In what way could their answer work against me or the show?” I’m grateful for the countless professional tips I picked up at the Magic Castle and think of them often when I perform.