As a Chicago magician and corporate entertainer I perform for companies and individuals, onstage and up close, at a dizzying variety of events, including cocktail parties, employee appreciation events, trade shows, client dinners, etc.
However, I consider myself lucky that I get paid to do card tricks, as I love performing magic, whether I’m paid to do so or not, and I perform for friends and family whenever I can.
Recently, I found myself performing for a long time friend and her boyfriend, whom I had never met. We were having dinner and after the meal I offered to share a little magic. I did a short close up set with what I had on me, performing what I typically do at corporate events. When I finished, my friend’s boyfriend paused and said…
“I see why people pay you to do that.”
Like the compliment I blogged about a few weeks ago, it was an unexpected phrase, but like the other, I understood exactly what he meant, and I loved it.
I do love that I get paid to do card tricks. But, really, I just love to do card tricks. That I get paid just means I don’t have to waste my time doing anything else.
As a corporate entertainer and Chicago magician, the bulk of my leads are split between repeat customers and people who find me on through a web search.Â Whether someone is looking for a stage show for a corporate event, employee appreciation dinner or holiday party, or close up magic for a cocktail party, hospitality suite or trade show, they always want to see video of my performances.Â My previous show reel worked wonderfully for a long time, but it became time to update, so I present to you…
My new promotional video!
As a Chicago magician and corporate entertainer, I perform onstage and close up in a variety of venues: employee appreciation events, cocktail parties, trade shows, hospitality suites, etc.Â People are always very appreciative of my magic, but I always take their compliments with a grain of salt, not because they’re lying, but because most people have little with which to compare me.Â Which is to say, most audiences have never seen a magician live and in person before, or at most they have seen one or two, so most viewers don’t have a broad range of experience.Â Given that, I don’t know if their compliments mean, “Wow, YOUR magic is astounding and entertaining?” or simply that, “Wow, you sure fooled me the way I expect a magician would!”
Which, frankly, doesn’t bother me a bit.Â All I care about is that I get to make people happy and give them a moment of astonishment.Â And that I get paid to do card tricks for money continues to delight me on a daily basis.
However, occasionally I get a very insightful comment.Â One of my favorites occurred after I did my corporate magic show at a company holiday party.Â After the show, a couple approached me and said:
“Thank god you weren’t another crappy magician!”
That one simple sentence said so much.Â At first glance it might seem off putting, but I knew exactly what they meant.Â As in all art forms, magicians possess a range of skill levels and abilities.Â But most audiences aren’t aware of that.Â They think that fooling them is your job, so if you accomplish that, you must be a good magician.Â And sadly, there are some magicians who share that point of view and perform nothing more than old, standard tricks the same way everyone else does, knowing they don’t have to concern themselves with developing a unique, entertaining and baffling show.Â Performing magic in an entertaining and compelling manner goes far beyond fooling the audience, but why bother when the average audience won’t know the difference?
This means that sometimes run-of-the-mill magicians end up in front of paying audiences.Â And given the fact that people rarely see live magic, it takes just one or two sub-par performances to leave the impression that magic in general is a fairly low level of entertainment.
This couple clearly had that experience.Â More than once.
So when they said “Thank god you weren’t another crappy magician!” what I heard was, “You were actually baffling and entertaining in the way a good magic show should be!”
Now THAT’S a compliment.
I’m a Chicago magician and corporate entertainer now, but I’ve not always been a professional magician.Â For the first half of my life it was my hobby, not my job.Â It still is in a way.Â Even if I didn’t make my living performing magic close up and onstage for private and corporate event entertainment, I’d still be just as obsessed with magic as I am now.
One of my current obsessions is inquiring into how a performance can create an experience of magic.Â Traditionally “magic as art” creates a “magical experience” by showing the audience something that is seemingly impossible.Â What I’ve noticed, though, is that demonstrating the impossible is not the same as creating a magical experience.
There are performers and performances that are clearly, obviously and intentionally not “magic,” yet they create a magical experience.Â In the above video, the viewer knows the performer is controlling the balloon and pretending it can’t move, but his execution of the illusion is so extraordinary that it really seems like the impossible is occurring.Â It’s not magic, but it feels like magic…
Hence the hashtag: “itsnotmagicbut
I think magicians can lean too heavily on their methods and secrets, expecting them to do all the work, when in fact it is our job as performers to carry the load.Â What’s missing is the effort, the thought, the exploration, the practice and the rehearsal.Â If you start with putting in a lot of work as your foundation, then add in a secret method, you won’t just perform the impossible.
You’ll create magic.
As a Chicago magician and corporate entertainer, I find myself performing at a wide range of events and venues, from holiday parties to wedding receptions, from trade shows to customer appreciation dinners.Â But at the end of the day, most performances fall into one of two categories: close up magic or a stage show.
I typically perform close up magic at cocktail parties, for trade show entertainment and in hospitality suites.Â I most often perform my stage show at awards banquets and as after-dinner entertainment.Â But the two are very different types of performances.Â Close up magic tends to have a stronger impact, but the shows are much shorter, while stage shows are longer, have more of a theatrical structure, but lack the intimacy and “wow” factor inherent in a close up magic performance.
Enter the “Parlour Show”…
A parlour magic show is a wonderful hybrid that combines the best of close up magic and a stage show.Â Typically performed for 5 to 20 people, it includes high impact close up magic, but because it’s a formal show (from 15 to 45 minutes in length), it’s a more theatrical experience and includes a larger variety of magic.Â It’s an actual show, but performed up close, right in front of your face, taking the experience to another level.
So the next time you’re looking for entertainment, whether it’s corporate entertainment or something for a private event, consider a parlour magic show.Â You’re virtually guaranteed your guests have never seen anything like it, and the impact and entertainment level can’t be beat.
“Where can I see you perform?”
It’s a question I dread.Â As a Chicago corporate entertainer I perform at trade shows, sales meetings, corporate events, hospitality suites and the like.Â All of which typically require a name badge for entry.Â So when I meet someone new who’d like to see my show, I have nothing to offer.
Joseph Cranford has created a fantastic venue for magic at the Uptown Underground.Â Every Thursday night at 8pm the space becomes the Chicago Magic Lounge and is filled with close up and stage magic from some of the best magicians in Chicago.Â I’ve been honored to appear onstage, and am excited to announce I’ll be headlining in July!
Hope to see you there!
Chicago Magic Lounge at the Uptown Underground, 4707 N Broadway Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
Thursday nights in July at 8:00 p.m.
There’s a lot that goes into a magic show, whether it’s corporate entertainment or a private event, and it’s not just about the tricks.Â Whenever I perform, particularly when performing close up magic, remembering names is critical to my performance.Â When I remember someone’s name, they’re flattered, impressed and I stand out from the crowd.Â And given how easy it is to remember names, it’s foolish not to take the time to do so.Â More importantly, remembering names is easier than you think.Â Just follow these 3 steps and you’ll improve your ability to remember names overnight.Â Seriously!
1) FORGET THAT YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO REMEMBER NAMES
The first step to remembering names is believing you can.Â That may sound silly, but it’s true.Â Most people think they have a bad memory, when in truth they just have an untrained memory.Â To train your memory, you have to use it, and to use it, you have to trust that it can be improved.Â Once you believe you can improve your memory, you’re well on your way.
2) MAKE SURE YOU HEAR THE PERSON’S NAME
In order to remember someone’s name, you have to hear it.Â This may seem obvious, but when meeting someone it’s easy to be distracted by what’s happening around you.Â So, the first step is to listen.Â And not just listen, but make sure you hear what the name is.Â Is it “Bill” or “Phil”?Â “Emma” or “Emily”?Â If you’re not sure, ask!Â People are flattered when you show interest in them.
3) USE THE NAME IN YOUR CONVERSATION
Once you’re confident you’ve heard the name correctly, simply use it (sparingly) in the conversation.Â Start with “It’s great to meet you, Charlie.”Â Then, when you ask them a question, lead with their name.Â “So, Charlie, what do you do for a living?”Â If it’s an unusual name, ask how it’s spelled.Â Not only do you get to repeat the name, you’re showing interest in the person, AND knowing the spelling will make it easy to remember.Â I also like to repeat the name to myself a few times, thinking about the name, if I know anyone else with that name, if a famous person comes to mind with that same first name, etc.Â Just thinking about a person’s name can help cement it in your mind.
IT’S JUST THAT SIMPLE!
That may not seem like much of a secret, but I promise you, if you believe you can remember someone’s name, actually catch what their name is when you meet them, then just use their name a couple of times while you’re speaking with them, you’ll be shocked by how easy it is to recall their name.Â I regularly remember 30 or more names in an evening, just by following these 3 simple steps.
THE NEXT STEP IN IMPROVING YOUR MEMORY
This technique works well in the short term, but tends to fail over the long haul.Â It also won’t help when you’re trying to remember words in another language, grocery lists or other abstract ideas.Â To do that you need to learn advanced (but still easy!) mnemonic techniques.Â The first is association, or taking abstract ideas and making them visually memorable.Â A great tutorial for that can be found here.Â If you just want to remember your grocery list, the key is the Link Method, and a good tutorial for that can be found here.
Let me know how it goes!
There’s been an influx of magic on TV of late, with shows like Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us,” SyFy’s “Wizard Wars”, “The Carbonaro Effect” and “Masters of Illusion.” Â Combine this with the success of magicians on “America’s Got Talent” and it’s no wonder this Chicago magician isÂ told at every show heÂ should be on AGT.
But this growth in media attention has had some unintended results. Â Most recently, I had a potential client ask if I would be interested in performing in the style of Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us,” where I would perform magic, then between effects the audience would guess how it worked.
I was really taken aback by the request. Â Not because I didn’t understand her point of view. Â I can understand how fun an idea that would seemÂ to a non-magician. Â You could have teams, add up points, hand out prizes. Â And theÂ process of trying to “figure it out” is already happening inside the audience’s mind in every show anyway. Â That’s the nature of magic. Â There’s a secret and I won’t tell you what it is.
And I know how irritating it is to not know how it works. Â I see the looks on some audience member’s faces when the moment of magic occurs. Â For some people, it’s just too much. Â For most people, it’s not fun to be fooled. Â That’s actually a proven scientific fact.
Which is why the request took me aback. Â See, I’ve spent a lifetime in magic, trying to make being fooled a pleasant experience. Â I work very hard, whether I’m performing close up magic or onstage as corporate entertainment, to find ways to minimizeÂ the sting. Â There are a thousand techniques and I’ve spent hours and hours looking for ways to shift the focus from the secret to the experience of magic.
In some ways it’s an impossible task. Â I’m not interested in convincing you my magic is real, nor can I just out and out tell you the secret. Â But the best magic does find a way to intrigue, entertain and mystify without screaming “I know the secretÂ and you don’t!”
So no, I won’t do a show in the style of “Fool Us.” Â Not only does it diminish the magic into a simple puzzle to be solved, but it removes the opportunity for mystery to be experienced. Â As my wife will attest, when you the know the secret, magic disappears.
And magic, even the illusion of magic, is beautiful and worth the experience.
When hiring corporate entertainment for an after dinner show, cocktail party, employee appreciation event or the like it’s important to remember that the show is more than what happens onstage. Â The flow of the event, expectation of the audience and concerns of management all weigh heavily on the event planner. Â I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories about comedians offending the audience, performers arriving late or not at all or the “star” not being able to adjust to the ever changing needs of the event.
As a corporate entertainer based in Chicago, I work hard to make sure my show is entertaining and mystifying for any audience, but I also know that the event isn’t about me, so if I need to cut my show short, stretch it out, or include a last minute addition, I come prepared to do so. Â This means arriving early, being willing to stay late and always remaining flexible. Â That’sÂ my job.
I know I’m only one component of an evening’s schedule, and my job is to help make the whole event a success, not just my part of it. Â If you’d like to talk to me about how I can help make your upcoming event a success, either with my comedy stage magic show or with interactive strolling magic, don’t hesitate to contact me!