CAN YOU FOOL A FOOLER? – Thoughts from Bo by Bo Gerard

I venture to guess that those of us in the business of fooling people would assume that they, themselves, might be less likely to be fooled.  But that’s a dangerous assumption, and I posit that the opposite might actually be true.

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Because the minute you think you have some expertise in any fooling game, you are more likely to let your guard down.  And mother nature can still outwit the savviest fooler.  Take the photo to the right.  The lines are actually horizontal to each other, but just try and see them as horizontal.  Can’t do it, can you?  It’s called the Café Wall Illusion, and the vertical zig zag pattern disrupts your horizontal perception.  Sorry!

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But this effect is not confined to vision.  Sometimes we are fooled by grammar.  Take the phrase, “All but one ship was sunk.”  Sounds right, and most of us would feel comfortable saying it that way.  But, the correct verb is the plural – “were”.  The verb should reflect all of the ships that were NOT sunk.  Not the one ship that WAS sunk.  It feels wrong to say, “All but one of the ships WERE sunk”, doesn’t it?  You were fooled by your own sense of what sounds correct.

And we can be fooled by numbers.  Take this statistical illusion – There were 100 people, and one of them was given 100 dollars bills.  The other 99 were given nothing.  Statistically, the average person in this group received $1.  Scary, isn’t it?

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You can also be fooled by logic.  Take this puzzle:  Three travelers stop at a hotel and ask the front desk clerk “If we stay in the same room, what will the price be?”  The clerk says, It will be $30”. (obviously this happened 40 years ago.)  The travelers each hand the clerk a $10 bill.  After they go to their room, the clerk remembers that there is a special going that night, and the room is actually $25.  So, he gives five singles to the bell boy, and sends him up to the room to return the money.  The bellboy realizes that the travelers will never know the difference, and he only give them $3 (one dollar to each traveler) and pockets the other two dollars.  So, the travelers have paid $9 each.  3 x9 = 27; plus the $2 the bellboy kept equals $29.  Where’s the other dollar?

Because the logic of this last equation feels correct, we fail to realize that the math is all wrong!  By adding the $2 the bell boy kept to the $27 dollars the travelers paid, you are actually adding the $2 twice.  It is already in the $27 amount.  ($25 the clerk has, plus $2 the bell boy has.)  The amount that is missing, and the one that would solve the missing dollar problem, is the $3 the travelers got back!  $3 x $9 + $3 = 30.  Feels wrong, but it is RIGHT!

And finally, one of my favorite trick questions.  Try answering the question out loud, before you look at the answer below.  “How many animals, OF EACH SEX, did Moses take on the ark?

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If you said one, you are wrong.  The answer is zero!  Moses didn’t go on the ark – it was Noah!  No one is immune to the confusingly deceptive nature of how the human brain works, and we magicians take full advantage of it!

DELIVERANCE – Comedy and Magic by Bo Gerard

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I recently noticed that a private package delivery company has co-opted a phrase that was once the sole property of comedy and comedians - “It’s all in the delivery”.

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So, I am writing today to reclaim that phrase, and to examine comedy’s place in magic.  A lot of performers would like to have more comedy in there show, but they don’t necessarily want to be funny.  Why?  Well, my guess is that some performers want to protect the notion that a magician who performs for adults, needs to be serious; that’s if he wants to be mysterious.  And I support them in their beliefs.  We all want our audience to have a great time, so it is wise to consider exactly how we want them to feel after our show, both about you and about your show.  But, with comedy, you have to be true to your M.O.!

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Adding comedic elements to your show can be done in a few ways.  You can insert funny lines in your normal patter, or arrange for something funny to happen during one of your tricks, or you can find something about your onstage persona that is funny.  It doesn’t have to be goofy.  It can be wry, witty, deadpan, whatever is organically right for you.  You can speed up the injection of comedy into your show by working with a director/teacher that is experienced with comedy and how it pertains to character.  (I am available for this kind of coaching and have worked with many performers over the years.)

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By presenting myself as a “comedic character who does amazing things”, I have found that they are just as amazed by the magic, but they are left with a feeling that’s closer to joy than bewilderment.  Maybe my quirky, energetic performing persona gets past a few more of their social barricades.  By inviting them to laugh and become intellectually engaged in my characters humorous take on life and the world, I create a sense of comradery.  This occurs both with large audiences and in strolling situation.  I sneak behind their social curtain, and then the magic hits them like a sucker punch. (forgive the violent reference) It’s like a friend of theirs suddenly, out of the blue, did something ridiculously amazing.

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This stage persona of mine is an enlargement of my offstage personality.  I selectively exaggerate elements of my normal everyday behavior, and then inject it with a Double-Red-Bull punch of energy.  (Another violent reference.  Comedy is full of them – “I killed last night”, “They didn’t know what hit them!”, etc.)  I love that post-cardio-pumped-up feeling I have after a good show.  I exhaust myself when I perform.  I don’t save anything.  I leave it all out on stage.  That’s my M.O.

What do you want to leave your audience thinking and feeling after your show?  What’s your M.O.?