Archive for October, 2007

Panic and Close-up: The Answer

I set out over a week ago to insert Panic into my Magic Castle close up show. I couldn’t do it – at least not just now.   I discovered pretty quickly something I should have already known: The problem isn’t as simple as choosing another trick before or after Panic that also uses four kings.

The overall aesthetic of my close-up show has grown organically, over five years and 200 performances. At this point my set works pretty well. Consequently, new tricks have a tough time getting into the line up.  It’s not enough to be a new, powerful trick. A new effect also has to make the show stronger.


Magic Castle Close-Up Gallery: October 8 – 14, 2007

My act is about interaction and improvisation. I have other considerations to be sure,  but without a healthy back and forth with my audience, the show ultimately fails.

This list below describes every effect in the set, and what purpose it serves in my overall game plan. As you read, think about where Panic fits in, either as an addition or a replacement. You may just discover that Panic can accomplish something in your show that you haven’t yet considered.

  • Chicago Surprise by Whit  Haydn – Roughly three effects in 4 minutes. Many performers working in the close-up room go through many more effects in the same period of time. For my show, Whit’s trick works perfectly. It serves to start a conversation with the audience and introduce magic into that conversation. In addition, Chicago Surprise builds to a miraculous conclusion.
  • Fisher’s Favorite Inversion/Revolution #9 from The Paper Engine – These effects  from my book are strikingly visual. They serve to please magicians and ‘magic savvy’ spectators. It’s the Magic Castle – a number of magicians come to see my show. It’s important to show them something that they, in particular, want to see. I put this material pretty early in the set – before I get to the stuff that upsets real people.
  • The Long Card – Classic or hackneyed, depending on your point of view. In this context, I use long card  to break the tension caused by the ‘breathtaking eye candy’ of the inversion effects. After watching quietly for a few moments, it’s time for the crowd to get back in the game. The trick also demonstrates, if only subconsciously, that I’m no purist. In this show there are no rules.
  • The Business Card Prophecy handling by Jim Patton – This version of  classic Bill Simon effect marks a transition in the show, from visual magic to conceptual magic. Many magicians, like my friend Nathan Kranzo, would argue that visual magic reigns supreme. I disagree. One need only witness Juan Tamariz, the finest card magician in the world, to know what I mean. Visual magic certainly has a place in my repertoire, but when I want to get inside a spectator’s mind, it often helps to skip the eyes completely and go directly for the  brain. That’s where the effect ultimately happens anyway. Why get fixated on appearances? 
  • The Hammer of Zeus (Christ Aces 2000) by Aaron Fisher (unpublished) – Don’t think of the Christ Aces – My version turns this classic on it’s ear. It’s conceptual, visual and involves directly three members of the audience. Not only does the trick work magically, it works theatrically. The pace of the effect builds to a crescendo and leaves an impressive picture both on the stage and in the mind. I can’t follow it – it’s the climax. The only thing I can do is take a nap, wait ten minutes and start over again.

Each and every effect here serves  the spine of my show. For that reason, it’s been more complex to add Panic to the mix then I originally expected.

Now it’s your turn. Consider my effects, what I’ve written about them  and how they all work together. After looking at these effects for a week, I think I know where to place Panic into this set. What do you think? Let me know. As always, I’ll read every comment you post.



If you like performing Panic, learn this clean-up.

As I’ve recently posted, I’m hard at work every night this week in the Close-Up Room at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.  I’ve used Panic in many different situations and the thought of performing it in my formal close-up set has sparked a whole host of new ideas. I’m sorting through the solutions now to decide how best to proceed. I’ll keep you posted.


The Panic Put Down

If you’d like an easy, completely deceptive way to clean-up after performing Panic, this is it.

This idea really comes, as most good card ideas do,  from the source: The Expert at the Card Table, by S.W. Erdnase. The idea is simple. Rather then get rid of the gaffs immediately after the effect, you’ll simply wait for a better time.

I snapped a few quick photos to help you get the idea.


1. As you produce the deck from your right pocket allow the ‘panic cards’ in your left hand to square as in the photo.





2. Essentially, you’ll in-jog the packet as you place the deck upon it. There are a couple ways to do this, but I like to simply scoot the packet back in the hand by pushing inward with the left first finger. Do this as you move to place the deck on top of the left hand cards



3. This shows the position of the packet once the deck rests on top. If you’re concerned about the size of the in-jog, bevel the deck backwards as I’ve done in the photo – this will give you extra cover.



As always, if you hold the cards parallel to the floor, you could experience angle problems with spectators on your right. If you hold the deck slantingly to the right, no one will notice a thing.  For more on the importance of this position, check out my book.


Wait Just One Minute…

Now proceed with another effect! It’s that simple. Just make sure not to disturb the in-jog as you spread the pack for a selection.

Say, “Show your card to everyone. I won’t look.”

Now turn your back while your spectators take note of the selection.  While they do their thing, you’ll do yours. With your back turned simply take all the cards above the in-jog with your right hand from above. At the same time place your left hand, with the gaffs, in your left pants pocket.

I normally just stand there and wait. Soon, someone throws me a cue that everyone has seen the card. I now remove my hand from my pocket as I turn around and continue the trick as usual.

Work Smart – Not Hard.

Technically, the left hand packet lies in almost a cop position. Please don’t think of this as any kind of palm or sleight. With the structure you’ve been given, you don’t need any moves. Just let the people remember their card. Relax. And as relaxed people do, put your hand in your pocket.



Want to break in a new piece? Choose the right position!

As I wrote in my last post, New Material Nightmare: Time to break in Panic…again!, I have to choose by tomorrow where to position my new effect Panic in my upcoming close-up shows at the Magic Castle. In this case timing and structure are everything. I know the trick works well, as I’ve performed it many times in a wide variety of situations. But as far as making the trick fit effectively in my overall set, I have three choices. They each have their benefits, challenges and considerations.

The Opener

If you place a new trick in this vital position, you’d better have a good reason for it. The opener is your first ‘magical’ impression on the audience. It has to work properly, or you’ll find yourself playing catch-up just two minutes into the show. Even if you suspect your new effect will work beautifully as an opener, you’ll probably want to break it in elsewhere first.

The Closer

Traditional wisdom dictates that the only part of your show that has to be even stronger than your opener is your closer. For that reason, new tricks shouldn’t really be in the closing position. You can make exceptions to this rule, but not very often.

The Middle

As Doc Eason pointed out in a comment on my last post, the middle of the show will almost always be the best time to work a new trick. Once you’ve got the audience on your side, you can easily withstand the natural lull in the show that comes with a new piece. Most likely, the audience won’t even know.

And as Doc rightly pointed out, if you’re positive audience will know your next trick is new, and you’ve already got them on your side, it’s quite safe to let them in on it.

I’d much rather tell people to ‘get ready for something brand new’, then try and pretend my way through the show . One thing audiences don’t like is being lied to. If you have some good reason for being uncomfortable, you’re much better off copping to it then pretending it’s not happening. Make a joke. Move on. All will be well.

Your Turn

If you’ve seen the effect Panic on the Theory 11 site, you’ve got what you need to join the discussion.

Assume you’ve already broken in Panic: You know how to do it, and you’ve done it enough times to be reasonably comfortable with it in any position.

Would you open with it, put it in the middle or at the end of the show? More importantly, why? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think.

By this time tomorrow, I’ll have made my final decision. At least for next week…


Aaron Fisher

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New Material Nightmare: Time to break in Panic…again!

“Hey Aaron, isn’t Panic already in your show?”

Postcard book cover 07 web optimized

It’s been said before, but it’s really hard to learn magic. I’ve performed my new effect Panic hundreds of times in paid shows. but by ‘grown up’ standards, it’s still a new trick.

What do I mean by that? Simple. Until you’ve done a trick about a hundred times in every conceivable circumstance, it’s still green. When you throw a paying audience into the mix, strange and terrible things can still go wrong at any time.

Here’s a list of situations where I’ve TRULY broken in my new card trick Panic:

  • Informal close-up in or behind a bar, on the street. For friends and strangers.
  • Formal close-up strolling/walk around.
  • Formal parlor-situations.
  • Stage.

The challenge: Next week I’m performing 21 shows in the Close-Up Theater at Hollywood’s famed nightclub, The Magic Castle. In the real world, formal close-up situations are few and far between. Magic Castle close-up conditions are the exception, not the rule. To take a look inside the building and get some idea of what I mean, take a quick tour

New Conditions Need New Choices

It’s Friday night and I’m not going anywhere – I’ve got work to do. In the next two days I’ve got to figure out how to introduce a new trick into a well established mix.

My solution needs to satisfy certain conditions:

  • Panic needs to carry it’s weight. It needs to add something to the show overall.
  • Panic needs to add to the overall continuity of the set. Every trick should be part of the same show.
  • The audience shouldn’t notice that one trick is less developed than all the others.
  • This should go without saying – even on the first show Monday night, PANIC must be deceptive. If I succeed here, I’ll have the peace of mind to fix any other problems during the course of the week.
  • No matter where Panic fits in the set, I must have a truly effective method for ‘getting into it’. I’ll also need an exit strategy.

Those are the issues that spring to mind immediately. I’m sure the next week will bring new itches to scratch. In truth, I already have a pretty good idea of how I’m going to approach these challenges. But…

I haven’t decided anything yet. Right now, you know as much as I do.


Now it’s your turn. If you’ve ever had to break in new material when it counts, you’re qualified to participate.

Can you think of any other problems I may have to solve if I don’t want to suffer all week long? Anything else I need to consider?

Drop a comment and let me know. I’ll check in a few times this weekend to see what you’ve come up with!

I love magic. You get to travel the world and have amazing experiences on stage. But breaking in new material always feels like crossing river through hell. Maybe together we can build some better oars.


Aaron Fisher

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Be my guest next week at the Magic Castle! Oct.8-14

I’ll be performing next week in the close-up theater at the world famous Magic Castle night club in Los Angeles. I’d love for you to come see the show and say hello! If you’ve never heard of The Magic Castle, it’s the home of the Academy of Magic arts, and simply one of the coolest places in the world to indulge in an evening of magic and frivolity.

IMPORTANT: This incredible place is first and foremost a PRIVATE CLUB. If you are not a member, and not on my guest list, you will NOT be admitted. So to avoid any tears, you must email me at and let me know what night you’d like to attend. Also, the regular admission fee is $20. I’ll be able to waive that fee for a limited number of guests only. So the first folks to RSVP will get free admission. For everyone else, I’m sure you’ll find the ride to be well worth the price.

If you plan to join us, make sure to follow the club’s strict dress code. It’s mandatory – no exceptions.

See you next week!


Aaron Fisher

Here’s the skinny:

Dates: October 8 -14th

Time: 7:00 – 10:00

Location: The Magic Castle is located at 7001 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, California: one block north of Hollywood Boulevard, between LaBrea and Highland.

More information: Visit the Magic Castle web site for more information about the best magic venue in the country.

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The Classic Pass – Another Approach

Tony Noice

Tony Noice strongly disagrees with my recent article on the importance of performing the pass under overt misdirection.

His writing demonstrates a highly specific approach to theatrical issues. His perspective on the proper use of the shift can only add to our discussion.

In this letter  he describes a view favored by many advanced sleight of hand practitioners.  It will give many of you new ideas to think about.


Hi Aaron,
I disagree. I believe that the classic pass is almost (although not completely) wasted UNLESS the spectators are burning your hands. Otherwise, why spend all those years on a pass? I rarely do it as a secret move, but rather save it for occasions when it does something no other move can do. For example, in an ambitious card routine, after a couple of phases, insert the card face up, invite the spectator to look at the top of the deck through the archway of the right hand. Riffle — and the card seems to melt through to the top. Other uses would include a sandwich effect where the two face up jacks are placed on the top and visibly vanish, apparently having traveled through the deck to trap a selection. Of course, this presupposes that one can do the pass undetectably with the hands still (i.e., no “rocking” covering move). The Professor once told me that I did as good a riffle pass as he had seen, so I assume mine is serviceable.


Thanks to Tony for an illuminating discussion. He’s describing the elegant, visual style of card magic that developed in California during the sixties and seventies. The California school developed thanks to the presence of masters Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller, and includes such notable members as Earl Nelson, Steve Freeman and Michael Skinner. When these incredible workers performed, softness and elegance were of chief importance.   I count myself among the converted – it was only after seeing these men, and a few more like them, that I was able to conceive of the magic in my first book, The Paper Engine.

Over time our ideas about magic change. So does our performance style. Unless I find myself in an intimate situation, where slow and visual magic seem appropriate, I seldom draw any focus to the deck during the execution of any sleight. Even so, one need only witness an artist such as John Carney or Bill Goodwin to appreciate the simple fact: in the hands of a master, this kind of magic can be breathtaking. 

Now it’s your turn. You’ve read my article, and Tony’s response. Perhaps you prefer his point of view to mine. Perhaps, like me, you think each approach has it’s proper time and place.  Drop a comment – let me know what you think!



Aaron Fisher