Beware of Performing for Magicians

One of the pieces of wisdom that I pass along to any magician that will listen is "Beware of performing for magicians"!

The reason for this is not what you may think. It has nothing to do with one magician stealing another magicians act or anything like that. It deals with the degradation of the performance. You are first and foremost an entertainer, and a magician second.

When one magician performs for another it is easy to slip into just doing "the move". This is especially true for close up magicians. If this happens on a regular basis the magician does not practice the part of the effect that makes it entertaining.

Magic is 10% and performance is 90%.

The reason that this happens is the lure of recognition. When you have worked hard to make a move or a slight invisible, the desire to have this accomplishment recognized is created. When performing for a lay audience they will never compliment you on how well you performed some slight of hand move because if you did it correctly, they will not see it. On the other hand, when performing for magicians, you might get exclamations like, "that is the cleanest pass I have ever seen"!

The problem with this kind of demonstration is that all the things that make for good entertainment have been removed. Many magicians just learn one move after another to impress other magicians. What they have sacrificed I'd the ability to perform a trick and have it entertaining.

But the sacrifice does not stop there.

Many magicians have trouble determining a good trick from a bad trick.

SIDE NOTE: Right now there are some old timers like myself that are saying to themselves "there are no bad tricks, just bad magicians". While this old saying may not be 100% true, it is darn close to it.

Magicians loose the ability to see a trick through a lay persons eyes. They become only impressed by effects that would impress other magicians.

Example: The effect is a magician holds a quarter in his open hand. He passes the other hand over it in a magical way, and the quarter turns into a penny. Lets say this effect and its method became known to a number of magicians (in short, it became popular). Then a magician performs the effect, but instead of just waving his hand, he waved a magic wand or a pencil over the quarter, and it changed to a penny.

To a lay person the two effects are equally magical. But for the magician watching the second method, he would be blown away. "There is no way to perform that trick with anything in your hand", they might say.

What has happened in the above example, is that in changing the method he was able to fool a magician. This type of change often results in making a effect more convoluted, and less natural. All because he was not looking at his performance through the eyes of a laymen. This is sometimes referred to as "Gilding the Lily".

Are you saying that I should never perform for another magician?

Absolutely not. There is a lot to be gained from performing for other magicians. Especially if you can get some constructive criticism. However I recommend that you perform a whole effect. Setup, patter, misdirection, and timing.

If you wish to teach a effect to another magician, then teach them all of it.

How do I avoid the trap?

Your primary audience is lay people. It doesn't matter if you are going to perform for friends and family, at work, or for money. They are all lay people. Keep this in mind when selecting tricks to add to your act. Sponge balls are non-impressive to a magician. But to a lay person it is a miracle.

Eventually you may have multiple acts. Acts that are suited for different situations or audiences. You may have a close up act that requires you to sit down at a table. You may have another act where you work out of you pockets and walk around at a party. A few tricks that you have set aside, just for magicians, is advisable. The key is to not to become obsessed with these magician tricks at the expense of the others.

Chances are a magician will never hire you to do a show. If you decide to do lectures on magic or give lessons, it will most likely be to teach them how to perform for lay people.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions. If you would like to be confidential, you can email me at:


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