In my last post, we talked about how important it is to embrace who you are to differentiate yourself from your competition. Now we’ll go into something totally different, and I’ll start things off with a gift.
Go to http://www.4aceproductions.com/styled-3/files/presentation-worksheet-on-steroids.pdf
There you will find my presentation worksheet which I use to develop my routines. This is a valuable resource that I want you to have so you can truly appreciate what your brain is capable of. I will refer to the worksheet below.
Now what follows is the process I went through to create the children’s routine that I have been doing for over 20 years. It’s practically an exploration of the steps I took to create the effect. (I like the word ‘effect’ because it means something that invokes a response. That’s why I strive to take ‘magic tricks’ and turn them into ‘magic effects.’) This effect that I will be discussing is a classic trick readily available to magicians.
I will not be revealing the method of the effect because it is the intellectual property of others, but you can obtain this information for yourself. What we will be discussing instead are the presentations of the tricks and the process I went through to arrive at the presentation.
Let me be clear though. I am not saying that if you follow my process step by step, you will create a unique presentation without struggle. My goal is not to supply you with another trick to perform, but for you to see what can happen if you put a little creative thought behind the effects that you already have.
With that said, let’s get started.
Props: clatter box, 2 pairs of baby socks, devil’s hank, and sound effect box
The evolution of this routine started when I purchased a bargain-rate clatter box. It was cheaply made but it was reliable.
I thought about my options. Rebuild it? No time. Buy another higher quality model? Too expensive. Use the current box but paint it? Too much work. Don’t change a thing and think about the possibilities? Let’s see.
I decided on the last choice for two reasons. First, I didn’t have the money to buy anything else. Second, I felt lazy and sitting in my chair thinking seemed like the right thing to do. So I asked myself, “What could this cheap old box be used for?”
I looked at the box and thought it was like an old trophy case—a mighty small one. Maybe it could hold a child’s trophy, but it would still be too small for that. A baby trophy, perhaps? (Kids laugh at baby things.) But what could be a baby trophy?
I thought, “How about a pair of bronze baby shoes?” It seemed like a good idea. However after some experimentation, I found that the baby shoes were much too cumbersome and heavy to fit in the box.
Then one day while doing the laundry, sifting through the whites, it hit me: BABY SOCKS! Kids think socks are funny and smelly which leads to some easy laughs.
So there began a concept that I hoped to build a format for. A pair of baby socks would disappear and reappear in the clatter box.
But there was a problem. The presentation lacked that Hollywood favorite—motivation. Why would a pair of socks fly across the room?
At this point, I pulled out my performance worksheet and started brainstorming. During the process, I remembered that about two months before (keep in mind that this routine is over 20 years old), David Copperfield had flown himself across the stage in an incredible illusion called “Flying.”
I thought, “What if these old baby socks were David Copperfield’s?” This got my brain rolling and it helped the presentation on numerous levels.
- It gave the routine a name—Copp’s Socks.
- The name gave the routine impact because it featured a popular magician’s name.
- I had the “motivation” for the flying socks.
The first stage in the development of the routine came about by answering the questions in my presentation worksheet (the brain squeezer). Now mind you, I don’t ask these questions, jot down an answer, and say, “I’m done!” I can spend hours, even days, brainstorming on one of the questions.
When thinking of ideas, never be satisfied with one answer. Go for multiple ideas. It helps sharpen your creative edge.
For example, I came up with this list of potential names for the clatter box routine before I settled with Copp’s Socks:
- The thing-a-ma-jig box
- My grandpappy’s an-ti-que
- Trophy case (This name lead me down the path I talked about above.)
- Hitchhiking silk (This was before I thought of the baby socks.)
- Lost & Found
- From Here to There
- Magician’s Treasure
- A New York Efficiency Apartment (I know, I know, but it popped into my head.)
- The Box-o-Mystery (Hey, what can I say? Sometimes you’re just not creative.)
- Mail-order Silks
You get the idea. Keep going until your brain hurts.
Now I had a rough framework for a fun and unique piece. It was time to add some life to the routine, so I pulled out my presentation worksheet once again and answered some more questions.
- What is the basic effect?
- What does your volunteer do during the routine?
- What if?
- What is funny about the routine?
- What jokes come to mind?
- Where are the non-moments in this effect?
After days of brainstorming over these questions, a number of things developed. First, I thought of the old joke where you ask the kids whether they would like to see the socks fly visibly or invisibly across the room. Of course they respond visibly so I throw the socks across the room.
Then I wanted to work around the guilt of the child that destroys the box. That’s when I decided on the sound effects box.
I have this little sound effect box on a key chain. The box has a number of buttons on it and each makes a different noise when pressed. I explain that when the kids press a certain color, the socks will magically appear in the box. But what happens is I tell them the wrong color and the box falls apart. The children, upon seeing my concern about the box, quickly and happily inform me that it was my own fault for giving the wrong color.
Next, I tried answering this question: What if I were auditioning for the magic castle? How would this routine be unique?
I came up with the following answer: To start the routine, I would ask if anyone has heard of the famous magician David Copperfield. Upon getting positive responses, I would explain that he actually flew onstage, but his first “big” trick was making an airplane disappear.
At this point, I would get a volunteer on the stage and say, “Instead of making a plane vanish, I will turn Matilda (or whatever the child’s name is) into an airplane.”
I would then hold a silk in front of Matilda’s face but in a way that the kids can keep an eye on her landing gears, and then I would proceed to put an airplane nose piece on the child. I would dramatically whip the silk away and the kids would hopefully start laughing. I would then pick Matilda up and zoom her around like an airplane.
Then for an elaboration on the theme of collecting David Copperfield’s baby socks, I thought why not show other parts of my “collection”—Doug Henning’s toothbrush (this was written long before his death), a mothers’ day card from Harry Houdini (again, this is over the kids’ heads but some of their parents may pick up on it), and an old jacket of Siegfried and Roy that is all shredded up and of which I’d say, “Sometimes those cute white tigers play rough” (again, this was before the tragedy that happened years later and that makes this inappropriate to use today).
All of these thoughts came about because I asked myself important questions. The result? See the final script below.
Copperfield’s Baby Socks
Do you know what a collector is? Well, I collect items of famous magicians like this lovely number. (Show the shredded jacket.) This is one of Siegfried and Roy’s jackets. Apparently, one of their big tigers wanted to play!
Or this—an actual mothers’ day card from Harry Houdini. Never mind!
Of course, I can’t forget this (show the toothbrush), Doug Henning’s toothbrush.
Now, inside this box is one of my favorite pieces. This box was my grandfather’s first magic trick, but he got the box from his dad in 1903 which makes this box (pretend to be counting numbers in the air)… OLD! But inside this valuable box is something very, very special.
How many of you have seen or heard of David Copperfield? Have any of you seen him fly? He’s a great magician, and inside this box I have something of David Copperfield’s.
Can you help me for a moment?
Have you ever seen David Copperfield fly?
Would you like to see me fly? Sorry, but that would make the cost of the show outrageous.
Now another one of David’s great tricks was to make a plane disappear. I can’t do that either, but what I can do is try to turn Matilda into a plane. Would you like to see that?
All I need is this silk and your belief that anything is possible. We place the silk in front of Matilda’s face. Now watch closely. Ta-daaa! (Whip the silk away to show the airplane nose on the child.)
Now just stand right here while I open the box to show everyone what’s inside. (Open the box and display the baby socks.) Here they are, an actual pair of David Copperfield’s (pause) baby socks!
What? Aren’t they neat? (Hold them in front of the child’s nose.) What? I washed them.
These are David Copperfield’s baby socks. No really, it’s true. You know how I know? These socks can fly. Watch, I’ll show you.
Do you want to see them fly visibly or invisibly? Visibly? Okay, watch! (Throw the socks then motion them to be returned.)
Look at them go! Wow, they’re just like a boomerang.
You want to see them fly invisibly? Okay. Matilda, please hold the magic box (close the box), but please be careful. As I have already said, this box is an an-ti-que. (Overhear the child correcting you.) Pardon me? (Pause.) Oh, sorry. Antique for the English major here in the second row.
Now I will attempt to make the baby socks vanish. I need someone to hold this handkerchief. How about you?
We’ll make a bag like this and you hold all four corners like this. Perfect.
The socks go into the bag. Hold the bag so everyone can see it. Now for some Copperfield sound effects! (Bring out the sound effect box.)
Press the blue button and the socks will vanish. Watch! (Push the blue button then pull the handkerchief out of the child’s hand to show that the socks are gone.)
Oooh, look! The socks have vanished. Now Matilda, push the orange button and pull that knob and show everyone that the socks are inside the box. (The box falls apart. You feign shock and horror.)
I said open the box, not destroy it! Oh, you know what happened? I think I was supposed to push the green button not the orange one, so I guess this mess is really my fault.
My box, that box, was worth about $200 dollars. Now it’s worth about 50 cents. Oh well, at least the socks made it.
Give Matilda a big round of applause!
That’s it. True, it’s just a clatter box routine, but it’s all mine. I started with the box and the rest came out of me. I must tell you, it definitely brings life to the kids who watch my show. They scream, laugh, and howl throughout the clatter box routine. And I’ll tell you something else. It feels really good to know that I’m the one responsible for all those smiles and laughter. There’s no room for ego, just time to enjoy the moment.
That’s all for now. Next episode, I will share a close-up routine that you and your audience will love.