An article I read recently hit me like a train.
It was written by Joshua Jay about his experience studying ‘what audiences really think’ with the College Of New Jersey, led by Doctor Lisa Grimm. She’s a researcher and professor of psychology. Together they set about asking audiences their opinions of magic.
The part that interested me most was regarding what audiences disliked from magic shows. The graph looked like this –
Credit to Joshua Jay and Magic Magazine (September 2016)
The number one thing that audiences disliked was seeing the same old tricks. 34% is a huge number. This means that more than 3 in every 10 people on average dislike something that happens in almost every magic show.
I decided to run my own bit of research. I didn’t have a college or a doctor to team up with so I turned to Facebook. I asked people what they would consider ‘an old trick’. I also completely discounted answers that came from magicians. All of the suggestions below are from regular people (some work in entertainment) but crucially are not magicians.
Here’s the list they came up with –
Linking Rings. (multiple mentions)
Cut & Restored Rope. (multiple mentions)
Floating Table. (multiple mentions)
Vanishing Bandana. (multiple mentions)
Bill In Lemon/Other Fruit. (multiple mentions)
Snowstorm (multiple mentions)
Cups & Balls.
Swords In Box.
Six Card Repeat.
It’s up to you to decide what you do with this information. I’d suggest starting with asking that same question of your own Facebook friends. Don’t worry though, not all is lost. The study also said that there’s still room for the classics provided you do something interesting or innovative with them.
I guess we just have to be honest. Mainly with ourselves. The audience won’t make excuses for us so we shouldn’t try to make them either.
Whatever you do – know that if you do those standard tricks without deviations, for every hundred people in your audience, 34 of them are either bored or not enjoying it.
It’s heartbreaking, difficult and not easy to stomach having to drop some stone cold classics that you may love performing, but if magic is to move forward we have to move with it.
If you’d like to read the original article in full check out Magic Magazine September 2016 or buy Joshua Jay’s most recent Penguin Live Lecture where it’s discussed at the end. It also has plenty of first class tricks on it too!
Good luck everyone. (Oh and don’t shoot the messenger)