Occasionally when I’m performing I’ll approach a table or a group of people only for someone to say, “Oh, I don’t like magic”. This has always surprised me as magic is so varied it’s almost like saying they don’t like films or they don’t like music. Fortunately, I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve (almost literally) to win even the most sceptical spectator over but it’s caused me to spend a lot of time thinking and trying to find out what it is they don’t like, here is what I’ve found.
They don’t like magicians
Sometimes it’s not the magic they dislike but magicians. This can be for a variety of reasons but it’s usually because they’ve seen another magician, either live or on telly, who was cheesy, or annoying, or boring, or arrogant. I have heard over and over again that if the spectators don’t like you they won’t like your performance no matter what you do. However, if they do like you they will like your performance no matter what you do. That is why I don’t just work on perfecting my tricks, I put just as much work into putting together routines that are engaging, either by being dramatic, funny, unusual or emotional.
Magic is for kids
Kids’ parties is a booming industry at the moment and gets magicians a lot of work but because adults are quite often subjected to these performances that aren’t really aimed at them they think that is what all magic is like: brightly coloured silks, sponge balls, balloons and fart jokes. Also, when magic is done well it invokes a child-like state of wonder, even in adults, and some adults seem to think that they shouldn’t feel that way and fight against it. It’s amazing the amount of times I’ll do a trick that would be completely inappropriate for kids and the adult says, “Wow, I wish the kids were here”! This is a sign that I’ve done my job, I’ve entertained them, amazed them, instilled that child-like feeling in them where anything is possible but they still think that adults shouldn’t feel that way. Fortunately, by the end of my set that feeling of awe is usually so overwhelming that they could no longer give a monkey’s about the kids seeing it and are just grateful that they got to see it themselves.
It’s a riddle without a solution
Some people don’t like magic tricks because the magician basically presents them with a riddle or puzzle then doesn’t give them a solution. This is one I can definitely understand and it is probably the main reason I got into magic as a child, I wanted to know how it was done. This is also something that is really hard to combat. When asked how it’s done a lot of magicians would probably just say it’s magic but personally I find this a little insulting to my audience’s intelligence. Almost every adult who watches a magician knows that it’s sleight of hand, misdirection and other jiggery pokery (to use a technical term). Even when a young member of the audience asks how it’s done I never pretend to actually be magic as I don’t want to encourage people to believe ridiculous things and end up spending all their time and money on psychics and homeopaths.
Not pretending that it’s magic helps solve the riddle problem as they know part of the solution, it’s done with skill, they just don’t know specifically what the skill is. The second method I use to overcome the riddle problem is giving the trick a hook. This means connecting it to something like a story, a game or a demonstration. This makes the ‘how’ a secondary consideration in the spectator’s mind. They are enjoying the trick on several different levels and are less likely to become frustrated by not having the full solution.
People feel stupid
Connected to the riddle problem is the unfortunate situation that some people feel stupid for not knowing how something has been done and that, by being fooled, they have been made to look foolish. I combat this by making it fun and making sure that everyone is involved. I also make sure that it sometimes looks like things are going wrong and there are several jokes at my expense so it doesn’t seem like I’ve come over to show everyone how clever I am and how stupid they are.
Alpha male (or female)
There is sometimes a person in the group (sometimes a woman but in my experience usually a man) who doesn’t like someone coming into the group and becoming the centre of attention, even if it’s only for five or ten minutes. They usually want the attention for themselves and will try to get it by derailing the performance. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to solve this problem. The first is a pre-emptive measure. Before I approach the group I take a look to see if I can spot who the alpha might be. I then approach and quietly ask the alpha if I can show the group some tricks. If they say yes I then address the group as a whole and go into my material. This is usually enough to get the alpha onside as they still feel in control of the situation. However, if they say no I then perform for all the other groups that are round the alpha’s group and make sure they are loud with their applause, cheering and laughter. Eventually the alpha, or someone else from the group will ask to see some magic.
Another way to overcome the alpha problem is to make them the star of the show and get them involved in a trick, especially one that gives them the opportunity to make a joke or two at my expense. The final solution is simply to wait until they go to the bar or toilet and perform for the group then. I know this doesn’t really overcome their dislike for magic but in my experience when the rest of the group tell the alpha what they’ve missed they want to see some and are always happy with what they see.
So those are the reasons I’ve come up with why some people don’t like magic. Can you think of any more? If so please leave them in the comments. Also, if you think someone else would like this blog please feel free to share it. Finally, if you are looking for an experienced close-up or cabaret magician who has worked hard to make his magic as entertaining as possible please get in touch through the ‘Contact’ link or on the details below. Thanks for reading.