Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Mind Reading Goose

Hello all, I'm back with a review of Steve Spill's Mind Reading Goose.

On a personal note, I have to mention that while Christmas Day was great, the last few days have been rough as the flu bug completely kicked my butt! Ugh, it will be nice to get back on my feet soon.

On to the review...

THE MIND READING GOOSE: There's no point in me recapping the entire routine as videos of the complete routine are availale online both at Bob Kohler's site, Hocus Pocus, youtube and more. Essentially, the performer has a mind reading goose who reads minds, and pees. It's a hilarious routine, one that has taken Steve Spill around the world. One one hand, I think it's really ballsy of him to put the entire routine online for all to see as there are less than honest "performers" out there but that's Steve's choice.

This is available here at Hocus Pocus. Simply follow this link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=11998

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive the Goose itself, which has been custom-made to hold a Sharpie for the "mind reading" part of the rutine and a special zipper compartment to hold the "urination" device. That's a phrase I never thought I'd type...ever! You also receive two pairs of sunglasses and various other little nic-nacs necessary to the routine. Finally, you receive a near-60minute instructional DVD that also has clips of Steve performing the routine from 1988, 1998 and 2008. What is fascinating about these clips is that the observant performer and student can study these clips and listen to how Steve delivers the exact same lines word-for-word differently, giving the line a different 'feel.' I found this to be a neat, unexpected bonus.

VALUE FOR THE PRICE: Let's face it, $1500 is a LOT of money fpr one prop for many performers. I know, the illusion guys will immediately talk about the high fees for their large props, but for a basic one-man act, $1500 is a lot. Is it worth it? That's the question I've been pondering. It's really one of personal taste and can't easily be answered. From a standpoint of pure money vs physical props, I think the $1500 price tag worth is debatable. Don't get me wrong - the Goose is gorgeous and well put together. It's the other props I was a little let down by...

The method of making the Goose pee on command certainly works just fine. I've performed the Goose about 20 times since I bought it and it's reliable, but it's certainly not high tech. The method for doing the actual "mnd reading" is essentially something familiar to mentalists for decades. What's different about this is the fact that the writing is visible for very large audiences - something not vreally available by the traditional means of doing the 'work.'

This was what disapointed me most about the package. Steve correctly points out how difficult it is to make a tool where the mind reading is available for large audiences and he states his is the best method for making it happen. I can't deny that it works well, from personal experience. My biggest concern is due to the method, you essentially must put the secret device together each time you do the Goose routine. It can get a little messy.

This is a minor complaint, but for $1500, I expected something a bit more.

So...back to the price...is it worth it?

It's obvous the Goose is Steve's "baby," probably his Magnum Opus, and as such he wants fair compensation for those wating to perform it. Therefore, much of the $1500 price tage comes from both the script and the right to perform the script.

I can honestly say that using the Goose as an opener is FANTASTIC because without you saying a word, you're letting your audience know a bit about your character - you're a bit silly, a bit daft.

At a corporate gig I recently did, due to quirks of the venue, I had to make my entrance through the crowd to my performing area after I was introduced. As I walked past everyone, people were giggling at the sight of the Goose.

The routine plays well, and I stumbled upon a cute running gag I now use throughout the show - after the Goose routine, whenever I get an audience member to come up and assist me, I warn them "not to step in Goose pee." A bit crass, but it plays well if one doesn't "push" it.

Another benefit, the Goose is great at establishing yourself and amazing your audience without getting a volunteer up in front of the group - a big plus for guys like me who perform almost solely audience volunteer tricks (mentalism or otherwise - I perform no manipulation or non-volunteer effects for my adult shows).

So...is it worth $1500?

This comes down to who you are. Many performers who can afford $1500 for one effect are very creative types who like to write their own material. Therefore the Goose may not be for them. On the other hand, some performers know how hard it is to write comedy. It's taken me over 10 years to refine my Arm Chopper routine to where it is, and the funniest parts of the routine are before the prop is even introduced. Ten LONG years. On the other hand, when I sat down to create a comedy routine (an ORIGINAL routine) for the Pro Viper, I was delighted that my "first draft" played great the first time I tried it and continues to do so after 100performances.

Writing comedy is tough. I can say that the Goose does play very well for laughs.

For me, the $1500 has been well worth it, not necessarily for the props, but then again, buying a claw hammer does not make one a carpenter.

Steve tips all of his handling, blocking and pacing. It's obvious he's done this routine more than just a few times.:)

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: I firmly believe that Bob Kohler produces the best instructional magical DVDs on the planet...even better than L&L, and that's not easy, IMO. This DVD is terrific.

OVERALL: I recommend this highly, but with a few warnings. If you're buying this to be the next Steve Spill, you're doing yourself a disservice. If you're a working pro who understands how difficult it can sometimes be to create comedy, this is definitely a great purchase. If you're buying this because of some new cool technological breakthrough, you'll be disappointed.

I'm going to give this a 10 out of 10 for working pros and a 5 out of 10 for hobbyists looking for something cool to try on friends.

Be aware that I am NOT knocking on hobbysits - there are effects and tricks I buy "just because they look neat," and then there are things I buy for my professional work. Case in point: I recently bought Sean Bogunia's beautiful Lamp because I knew how it worked and simply wanted to 'play' with it. It was only after I started working with it that I found a place for it in one of my shows. It's a very cool prop. The Goose has no techie goodies, you're paying mostly for Steve's script and experience. For me, the Goose has been a great investment.

One may ponder why I quibbled a bit about the props yet gave the Goose a 10 out of 10 for a review for working pros? Simple. First, the props themselves are durable. Second, my rating is most influenced by how the effect or routine "plays" for the audiences. In these two regards, the Goose wins hands down - with care, the props will last just fine and the routine plays. As a guy "in the trenches," the impact on the audience is what matters. Steve promises the routine will kill and he's right. He makes no promises as to the ease of set up or technie goodies included. He only promises great reactions.

If you're buying it with the right mindset, it will be a good investment for you as well.

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