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How do I start Clowning? Clown Magic part 1

Clown Magic, part 1 – an introduction

Welcome back  to our ongoing how-to series—today, we’re going to begin discussing clown magic, how it is similar to “standard” magic, and how it differs.

Let’s begin with getting some definitions out of the way. By “magic”, we’re discussing the sleight of hand and “sleight of mind” (pun not intended) popularized by David Copperfield, et. al. We are not discussing anything unholy, unwholesome, or that God would frown upon. That’s 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 “mystical”, etc.  They are doing things that we’re not expecting, and taking advantage of some presuppositions that our minds make. Here’s a short example. There’s a magical prop, called X-Salted. It’s 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 shaker – for minutes. Since we (as adults) “know” that that salt shaker top can’t  possibly hold that much salt, we’re astounded.  It 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 “learned” that rule about space.

In fact, that’s a good rule to remember about children and magic. Children haven’t 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 that’s 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 it’s unBiblical, or that its simply dishonest.  We’re effectively lying to the audience, aren’t we? To answer the first problem, the “magic” that we’re talking about here is not the “magic” 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 “magician” of the text claiming supernatural powers, claiming to contact the dead, put curses on people, etc.  We’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 “dishonesty” in performing a skit, using a puppet, etc. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over any “dishonesty” in doing a magic trick. But what about plain, bold-faced lies? Like “here’s an ordinary deck of cards” or “my hand is completely empty” or “nothing up my sleeve”? Then don’t tell lies; I don’t (or at least I try not to – God’s still working on me 🙂 Besides which, saying “This is an ordinary deck of cards” simply draws attention to the cards, which probably isn’t what you want anyway. We’ll talk about this in detail in the next segment.

Next time, we’ll see how clown magic differs from “magician” magic. See you then!

Bibliography for clown magic


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