IT JUST DOESN’T ADD UP! – A math-extinction by Bo Gerard

Magicians are always making changes in their performance, based on modern trends, fashion, political climate and technology, but I never thought I would have to change a trick because of dwindling math skills. The comedian in me is having a ball will it, but the magician in me is not as pleased.

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Over the years I have made many changes in my stage show, due to changes in my audiences’ perception, attention span and willingness to play. But the latest change I am faced with is a real doozy. For years I have been performing a “number prediction”, where an envelope is handed to someone in the audience to hold, then three randomly chosen audience members (really!) write a 3-digit number on a pad of paper. When the number are totaled, the sum magically equals the number that is written on a piece of paper in the envelope the audience member has been holding. Over the years I have noticed that, every great once in a while, the audience member that is chosen to add the three, 3-digit numbers has a little trouble with the task. I had chalked this up to the wide variance in math skill that exists in the population.

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But lately, almost everyone that comes up to add the numbers, has some trouble. Some just have forgotten how to manually add numbers, (carry the 3, etc.), but some display a total inability to arrive at the sum. These are all adults! And I ask the audience to choose someone that they think can add three, 3-digit numbers without a calculator. So, I am actually screening for someone that can do it. More than once, I have seen my “On-Stage Pythagoras” add the numbers across FIRST. Then add those numbers down. (See image) I’m not sure what kind of “new math” that is, but it doesn’t get the job done.

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This situation presents an opportunity for a lot of great comedy interaction – sometimes ending up with a committee of audience members on stage checking each other’s math. But, the farther we get from the pure, un-cluttered and un-gimmicked form of the trick, the less magical the outcome of the trick becomes. For now, there might appear to be more of an opportunity for me to switch pads or coerce audience members, etc. So, my current challenge is to keep the trick as pure and magical as is was, and still incorporate the dwindling math skills of my adult audience.

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I’ll get it to add up, somehow!

THE TIME I DIDN’T OPEN FOR ROSANNE CASH – Bo in the trenches by Bo Gerard

Show business is full of temptations, and it can corrupt your standards – if you let it.

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In the mid 80’s I was riding the great party gig wave that was rolling through Dallas. The Dallas party and corporate event scene had exploded, and variety performers were doing hundreds of shows every year. Gretchen and I looked back at one of our calendars from back then, and between us we had done over 600 gigs one year. And a lot of our clients were return customers, using us regularly throughout the year. So, one day I get a call from a theater promoter. He told me the opening act for Rosanne Cash was sick and he had heard about my show. He wanted me to open for her at the Arcadia Theater the next night.

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The Arcadia Theater, on lower Greenville, originally opened November 4, 1927 as an “Atmospheric Style” theatre, designed by architect W. Scott Dunne. It had 1,040 seats. It was badly damaged by a fire in 1940. Rebuilt in 1941 to the plans of architectural firm Pettigrew & Worley. After closing it was in use as a nightclub. The building was destroyed by a fire in June 2006.

Back to the story. So, I told to the promoter on the phone, “I’m so sorry, but I’m booked to do a show for a church group tomorrow night and I cannot cancel on them. The church has me perform for them a few times a year, and they always make a big deal about promoting my show, with posters and flyers. I just can’t cancel. The promoter hung up, sounding disappointed. But, he calls back ten minutes later and tells me he will double my fee if I do his gig. I once again explained the situation and kindly refused him. Ten minutes later the phone rings, and after I say hello I hear, “name your price!” I then said, “Sir, I mean this in the nicest way possible, but I think you might be the devil. You have to stop calling me. Please!”

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Now, there are some who would say that I was a fool to turn down such a high-profile, high paying gig for just a church group. And these people might be right. Maybe it would have led to me opening for Ms. Cash around the country, and even opening for other national acts. But that’s exactly what I did NOT want. Why would I want to go on the road for months at a time, leaving my wife and young daughter alone, when I could make a pretty nice living gigging locally? And anyway, I would much rather work for a regular client, than grab at the carousel ring, reaching for fame.

But, that’s just me!