Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Ever met a fast talker? Maybe you are one. Ever hear someone use a lot of filler like "uh... um..." or a lot of crutch words and phrases like, "you know," or "so" or "like?" You ever wonder why people do that?

The short answer is that they're afraid of being interrupted. After a while it just becomes a habit. They don't want air in the conversation because they're worried the person they're talking to will take that as a cue to cut in. But the reality is that through voice tone and body language you can much more effectively tell someone that you're not done yet than if you hem and haw for half a minute as you think of how to finish your sentence.

And if you do get interrupted, so what? Just pick up where you left off. It's not the end of the world. Just don't interrupt other people. In fact, talking less and listening more is a good way to build rapport with an audience. And the less you talk, the less they know about you, thus increasing your air of mystery. Bonus!

So stop worrying about being interrupted, slow down, and take your time with your sentences. Not everything that comes out of your mouth is going to be a razor sharp display of Oscar Wilde worthy wit, but you can at least remove all the white noise and crutches to make it sound smoother and more confident.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Out and About

A recent conversation reminded me of something. First, a little background.

I've been a nerd for as long as I can remember. And that carried with it a certain social stigma. I always assumed that it was just because I was a nerd. For a while, I just sort of resigned myself to it. Around high school I started coming out of my shell and in college I really transformed myself.

But some aren't so fortunate. And that's when I noticed a pattern. A lot of people who are socially awkward or play the wallflower harbor a not-so-secret resentment of the people who are more outgoing and popular than them. I've met them in high school, college, and as adults. And without exception, every single one of them are giant douchebags. Their mistake is similar to the one I made: they're mixing up causality.

It's not your hobbies or your looks that determine whether or not you're socially adjusted. It's whether or not you actually socialize. People who are popular and well-liked are that way because they go out and talk to people. They know that not everyone will like them, and they're cool with that. A hundred snubs and rejections is nothing to them compared to the value of making another friend.

I recall an individual I argued with once about my lifestyle as a pickup artist. This guy was a piece of work. He loudly boasted about what a nice guy he was, and how much better a person he was than me based on his straw man characterization of my beliefs and lifestyle. I would provide scientific studies backing my claims, and he bragged about not reading them. I extended him olive branches, trying to be nice, and he hurled insults at me, even accusing me of being a potential serial killer and rapist. He was rude, hostile, condescending, arrogant, holier-than-thou, sexist and just generally an unpleasant human being. Does it come as any surprise then that he didn't believe it was possible to build up social skills like actual skills and cultivate charisma? That he was utterly fatalist and defeatist about social situations? That his evaluation of people's social status was based largely on how pretty they were or how much money they had? That he admitted he didn't even try because he didn't want to go through life constantly being rejected and that people should approach him instead of the other way around?

The fact of the matter is that your social life is dependent on you. Your successes are your responsibility and your failures are your fault. A magician must be able to assume a leadership roll because when performing, you are taking control of the conversation. And to do that, you have to have social experience. That means putting the cards, coins, and gimmicks away and just socializing.

I bring this up because I see an alarming number of young magicians who have never performed for a live audience. They're afraid of rejection. They don't know how to handle it emotionally. If you're one of them, it's time you understand that the reason you're not more popular is because you haven't put the work in. Some of you may have some excuses lined up, but I can say with certainty that they're all crap. It comes down to the fact that you're not trying or you gave up. Yes, it's a cliche, but it is true that you miss 100% of the shots you never take.

So put down the cards for a week and for the love of George Romero, just go out and talk to somebody.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Anger Management

Have you ever had a tough spectator or even a heckler who got really smug with you? Maybe you flashed something and they spend the rest of the show blurting out whatever theory enters their skull. Or maybe they didn't like you taking their spotlight and are trying whatever cheap shot they can think of to get your goat. Doesn't that piss you off?

Here's the good news. There's nothing wrong with thinking that. I've had a couple of tough spectators and even a heckler or two whom I wanted to beat down with a hammer made out of concentrated hatred. I've had fantasies of slashing tires, busting heads and kneecaps, and issuing the kind of threats that would make a man sleep with the lights on for the rest of his life.

But I never acted on it. Every person has a little voice in the back of their head that tells you to eliminate competition to secure your place in the pecking order. It's that little devil on your shoulder whispering, "Destroy him." My dogs have no choice but to listen to that voice because they're dogs. But I'm sentient, capable of abstract thought and second guessing my impulses. So are you.

You can do a lot about your frustration and anger by reminding yourself that those emotional responses are something everyone has to deal with. It doesn't make you a bad person to think of these things. Acting on them does. The curious thing about inner demons is that when you drag them into the light and objectify them, they lose their power over you.

So go ahead and have that fantasy of keying that douchebag's car. Enjoy that mental image of your fist in his face. But keep it in the private theater of your mind. Remember that you hear the, "Destroy him," voice and know better than to listen to it. A tough spectator probably isn't out to get you, so he's not really a threat. Just a guy you haven't won over. A heckler on the other hand has heard that voice from the inner demon and he didn't have the willpower, self-awareness, or insight needed to ignore it. You've already risen above, so refusing to let your demon do battle with his will give you the advantage every time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Silence, Magic and Music

Another mini-post. I recalled an old quote that goes, "All form of art endeavor to be more like music." It's an interesting observation. Regardless of how much you agree or disagree with it, consider an important part of writing melodies: rests, that is places where an instrument doesn't play any notes, are just as critical as the actual tones themselves. Think of that start-stop rhythm in Roxanne by The Police. Or the iconic riff from Smoke on the Water.

Actors call pauses in dialog beats. In the play or screenplay, a beat is usually indicating by an ellipsis (...). It's hard to point out a good example of the use of beats as you're not supposed to consciously notice them. Though I will say for a bad example, watch any movie Kristen Stewart is in.

Make it your homework to watch some really good movies this week and watch out for actors using silence, beats, and pauses to subtly increase the drama.