Clown Magic, part 1 – an introduction
Welcome back to our ongoing how-to seriesâtoday, we’re going to begin discussing clown magic, how it is similar to âstandardâ magic, and how it differs.
Letâs begin with getting some definitions out of the way. By âmagicâ, weâre discussing the sleight of hand and âsleight of mindâ (pun not intended) popularized by David Copperfield, et. al. We are not discussing anything unholy, unwholesome, or that God would frown upon. Thatâs magick (or magyk, or…), and something we’re not going to touch with a ten-foot pole.
Another disclaimer: Mr. Copperfield (and all other performing magicians) aren’t doing anything âmysticalâ, etc.âthey are doing things that we’re not expecting, and taking advantage of some presuppositions that our minds make. Hereâs a short example. Thereâs a magical prop, called X-Salted. Itâs a gimmicked salt shaker. The presentation is as follows: the magician comes on stage, and starts pouring salt out of the shaker. He stops, unscrews the top of the shaker, and dumps all of the salt out of the shaker. He screws the lid back on, and turns the shaker upside down. Salt continues to pour out of the top of the salt shakerâfor minutes. Since we (as adults) âknowâ that that salt shaker top can’t possibly hold that much salt, weâre astoundedâit must be magic! The answer, of course, is that our perceptions have been fooled, and the salt shaker lid holds more salt that we think it would. Children aren’t fooled by this illusion, since they haven’t âlearnedâ that rule about space.
In fact, thatâs a good rule to remember about children and magic. Children havenât learned many of the rules that adults take for granted, which magicians use to fool adults. This means that some wonderful magic tricks, including personal favorites, don’t work well for children. If thatâs your audience (as it is for many of us clowns), keep that in mind.
One final point before we start getting into specifics. Some people, especially clown ministers, have problems with performing magic, either because they feel that itâs unBiblical, or that itsâ simply dishonestâwe’re effectively lying to the audience, aren’t we? To answer the first problem, the âmagicâ that we’re talking about here is not the âmagicâ of the old Testament (or Simon the sorcerer from the Book of Acts, for that matter). Even a casual reading of the Bible shows the âmagicianâ of the text claiming supernatural powers, claiming to contact the dead, put curses on people, etc.âwe’re not doing that. The second question has more merit, however. Are we being dishonest by performing sleight of hand?
There are two answers to this question. First, are we being dishonest when we claim a puppet can talk? Technically, yes. Is an actor playing the part of (Mark Twain, Moses, etc.) being dishonest? Technically, yes. Are we being dishonest when playing the part of a magician? In the same vein, technically yes. If you’re not bothered by the inherent âdishonestyâ in performing a skit, using a puppet, etc. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over any âdishonestyâ in doing a magic trick. But what about plain, bold-faced lies? Like âhereâs an ordinary deck of cardsâ or âmy hand is completely emptyâ or ânothing up my sleeveâ? Then donât tell lies; I don’t (or at least I try not toâGodâs still working on me 🙂 Besides which, saying âThis is an ordinary deck of cardsâ simply draws attention to the cards, which probably isn’t what you want anyway. Weâll talk about this in detail in the next segment.
Next time, we’ll see how clown magic differs from âmagicianâ magic. See you then!
Bibliography for clown magic
- Clown Magic, by David Ginn
- Creative Clowning by Bruce Fife, Tony Blanco, Steve Kissell, Bruce Johnson, Ralph Dewey, Hal Diamond, Jack Wiley, Gene Lee
- How to Be a Compleat Clown by Toby Sanders
- Mark Wilsonâs Complete Course in Magic by Mark Wilson
- Modern Coin Magic by J. B. Bobo
- Now You See It, Now You Donât : Lessons in Sleight of Hand by Bill Tarr