Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Wonderful World of Bill Abbott

Howdy, loyal readers!

Ugh, I've got the worst sore throat and I have a 90-minute combo mind reading/hypnosis show I'm doing tonight. Thank goodness for mics.:)

A little housekeeping...

I've decided I want to make this blog a bit more interactive. If you have any questions for me regarding anything I've reviewed or heck, anything about me or my opinions on performing, let me know. If there's enough response, once in a while I'll do a Q&A type thing where the blog entry is answering questions. Send any comments or questions to

Also, don't forget: the contest for the FREE Gum DVD is running til the end of this month. Send me an email to and you're automatically entered. Incidentally, if you have already sent me an email, you'll be automatically entered into the next contest, which I'll be having sometime in the mist-shrouded future...

Onto this week's review...

This is a beast of a column, as instead of doing a different Bill Abbott effect each week, I decided to just lump them all together (well, most, anyway) into one column.

Here's what I currently own from Bill Abbott along with links here at Hocus Pocus:
I'm going to break down each one, give some individual thoughts on each and then do a summary of good things about all en masse.

Octopus Deck - - $99.95

This is essentially a three phase mentalism card effect where it build each stage. I've gone on record as saying that in my humble opinion, I believe this is the greatest mindreading effect you can possibly do with a deck of cards. Of course, others may disagree and I have zero desire to argue with anyone. I like this so much because it's a multi-phase routine that builds as opposed to a one-off type of effect.

It packs small and plays big, a hallmark of Abbott's material. There's a little memory work involved, but it ain't bad. The third phase, if you do it as a prediction, can involve no memory work.

Also, in phases 2 and 3, the spectators handle the cards (you must have decent audience management skills) which makes this even better. Bill provides a written script (wording can be very important in these kinds of effects) along with variations provided by other professionals.

WHAT YOU GET: You get two decks of cards, a metal case to protect one of the decks, rubber bands, a written manuscript and an unbelieveable wealth of information and a solid script.

ANGLES: You can do this pretty much surrounded. Again, you do need to have some decent audience management skills. I'd also like to add that you'll need experience picking the 'right' volunteers, as in compliant and, perhaps more importantly, two people who LISTEN. You know the times, when you pick a bad volunteer who is more interested talking to their friends in the audience.

QUALITY OF PROPS: You get the decks pre-made, and they're made very well. The manuscript is well-written and engaging, especially the history.

MARKET: Don't bust this out at the child care shows.:) I perform this solely for adults, though I'm tempted to try it on high school and college groups.

10 out of 10, hands down.

Five Card Opener - - $79.95

I admit, I was never a huge fan of the 6 card repeat. It just didn't appeal to me for whatever reason. I bought this simply because it was by Bill. It's awesome, as it conditions your audience to give you whatever response you desire after each and every effect.

The DVD covers the presentation in detail, along with a simple but important key piece of customization Bill recommends you do to "make this effect your own." The script is charming and there are a few nice laughs in the script. It plays for kids and families and to my surprise, I just discovered it plays great to adults.

I had a repeat corporate gig from last year. These folks are great clients, but they like and demand long shows. Last year's was over 90minutes and this year, same thing, so I was really digging for new material. I threw in Five Card Opener and hoped for the best.

THEY LOVED IT! I was very pleased, because when I perform for adults, I usually only perform mentalism, not magic. Overall, I think mentalism plays better, just my choice. The Opener killed and I was delighted.

Angles are pretty much wide open - if you're surrounded, you can play this one close to your chest and you'll be fine.

On the DVD, Bill provides two live performances, one for young kids and one for a college audience.

WHAT YOU GET: With the package you receive two versions of the trick, one with regular cards and one with jumbos. you also receive a portable fold-up container to dump the cards during the routine. Of course you get a DVD.

QUALITY OF PROPS: It's basically jumbo cards and regular cards, so you know what you're getting there. Nothing fancy, but more than adequate.

MARKET: I've done this for all age groups 'cept college and high school gigs. I'm sure, after working this effect, that it'd probably play well.

ANGLES: Again, this is something that you could probably do surrounded, unless people were right on top of you on your sides in a strolling situation. Although Bill says he uses this for strolling, I doubt I ever will because it takes a tad bit of reset. That's not a criticism at all, just a preference on my part.

Great trick and to me, the best part about it is the fact that Bill explains the true secret of the effect, the way you condition the audience during the effect. I'm an NLP Master Practitioner and I was delighted to see Bill teaching how the effect sets an anchor in the audience. This is awesome and highly recommended.

10 out of 10.

Chico The Mind Reading Monkey - - $550.00

I fought buying this for a long time because I had an arrogant magician's attitude - "Oh, it's just a puppet, not for me." Well, I finally broke down and got it because I was doing more repeat shows and wanted something new to replace Rocky Raccoon for these repeat audiences.

Chico ROCKS, in a word. First of all, it's cute and visual, Secondly, you are having conflict onstage with the monkey. Having someone to play off of for a one man act is valuable as heck, as it gives a different dynamic to the show. The comedy during the routine is gold and I can tell Bill has done this like a zillion times.

Let's consider the cost: it ain't cheap, true, but after having done this routine 40 times or so in 2009, I can say that the routine plays for a minimum of 10 minutes up to 15 minutes depending on whether you use all the bits of business.

When you consider that most kid shows are very often 45 minutes, this 15 minute routine is a third of your show.

Consider that. One routine covers a third of your show.

Oh, and you can do this for 5 people of several hundred.

When I consider all of the magic I spend money on, script out, rehearse, fret over and finally try out in front of an audience, my experience with Chico, and the startling realization that this little guy was able to fill in a freakin' third of my show running time, I was flabberghasted. Great value to those who appreciate it.

The best thing about this routine, and a real lesson for real-world kids workers is this - the magic in the Chico routine is incidental. Don't get me wrong, it gets a nice response, but this routine shines in the aspect that the bits of business are the important things. The conflict, the acting, the reactions are what sell this routine.

The first time I busted out Chico was over this past summer for my summer reading library clients whom I had worked with before. Each client praised Chico as their favorite part of the show.

Yes, it's just a hand puppet, but if you follow Bill's teaching, it will come to life.

WHAT YOU GET: You receive a ton of DVD instruction, the customized puppet, the material to make your own sign, all of the props (zippered bananna, letter cards, binoculars, water spritzer and much more) and more. For a worker, it's a steal.

It's a no brainer and a perfect 10 out of 10.

Smart Ass - - $60.00

This effect is a hands-off way to force a card, essentially. You hand him the deck and tell him/her to heave half the deck over their shoulders. It's visual and funny and of course the card they wind up selecting matches the jumbo card they've been sitting on.

This is NICE. You can do it surrounded and it packs flat and plays big. My only complaint is the fact that the deck takes a bit of a beating because they're getting tossed around and hitting the floor.

WHAT YOU GET: You receive the Smart Ass deck, a jumbo card, PDF scripts of different presentational frames for this effect, and complete DVD instruction. The different scripts were a great value because it really got my creative juices going and I have since found several different frames to use this with my educational/motivational programs for audiences of all ages.

ANGLES: You could do it surrounded, though I can't imagine a situation where you'd want to. Seriously, when I do a show, if there's a chance people will be behind me in a stage situation, I guide them to the front or sides, more because in a surrounded situation, someone is always going to be looking at my butt. Just my two cents.:)

VALUE: The cards, by the nature of the routine, get beat up. For that reason it's a 9.9 out of 10. It's nearly perfect, but after a couple of hundred performances, the cards may get a little beat up. Bill also sells replacement decks at a fair price at Hocus Pocus. To be fair, Bill offers different presentations that do not involve the cards hitting the floor, but even he concedes that the throwing of the cards and hitting the floor is the strongest psychologically.

I also want to mention that while this effect is not designed to be inspected, I have had helpful souls pick up the cards after the show and they did not discover the 'secret.' It is NOT advised to allow this!! It happened without my knowledge, but if someone starts grabbing cards, there's a decent chance the secret will "fly by."

Customize Your Smart Ass - - $39.95

Same as Smart Ass, but the cards are blank and you write whatever you want on the cards, using words, numbers, or in the case of Alive, animals. Awesome.

I mean, really, imagine being able to force ANYTHING? Also, he deck comes with a booklet with all kinds of cool effects and presentations, including Bill's use of this with a Confabulation - type of presentation.

9.9 out of 10. (It's not a perfect 10 only because, if you use this as intended, the cards will get beat up. They wil last..I'm guessing maybe 200 performances and you may need a replacement, depending on whether you perform on cement floors or carpeting. That's a cool lufespan, but I just don't like to replace props, but I'm being nit-picky.:)

The Thing - - $189.95

This was the first thing I bought with Bill's name on it. It's a one man levitation that you can do surrounded and even outside, if it's not too windy. This is so good I even replaced my Zombie routine with this because it packs much smaller.

You can float the thing out into the crowd and kids can peek under the cloth to their hearts' content - there's nothing to see. This is GREAT, because you're breaking that fourth fourth wall, I refer to theater and TV, and how things are presented as its own reality. If a character in "Gray's Anatomy" were to turn to the camera and address the audience, you'd feel WEIRD. The character would be breaking the fourth wall, crossing their reality and acknowledging YOU directly. Follow me?

In a magic show, many people these days are not used to live theater - it's still as though they're watching TV, but with the Thing, you can cross that fourth wall and go into the audience where they can really feel an intimate connection with this effect.

I hope I did not "lose" you with that sidebar, but I really wanted to convey the way this little bugger is superior to most real-world workers than Zombie. Don't get me wrong, Zombie rocks, but it's got some tender angles. Also, while you don't have the range of "moves" with Thing that Zombie does, let's be realistic: At most school or birthday or living room or blue & gold banquet shows are you going to have the angle protection to get away with the Zombie "behind the back" move?

The floating thing is completely under your control at all times, uses no threads, magnets or helium (sorry all you Braco fans.)

WHAT YOU GET: You get the Thing gimmicked cloth, a duplicate innocent cloth, the box, which is ungimmicked, the DVD, a pictoral rehearsal guide, a CD with royalty free CD with music tracks, The DVD instructions features, among other things, Bill talking about creating conflict and the fact that this floating thing is separate from you. It's a great discussion. The Platnium Edition comes with a pocket thing to do this closeup and strolling. NICE.

I also love the royalty-free music that came with it. Much of the royalty free music I've checked out is crap, but this is good, especially the track that plays over the demo video online.

10 out of 10.

OK, you can tell I love Bill Abbott's stuff. First, he makes stuff that packs flat and plays huge, meaning it's great for workers. Second, this stuff has been fine tuned in the real world. In short, no pie in the sky crap. It PLAYS.

It's funny, because I own some pretty expensive fancy props, but I could (and have) put together a "play anywhere" type show using a ton of Bill Abbot stuff.

Bill's a guy in the trenches, doing what he loves everyday. He performs well, he teaches well, and he produces rock-solid stuff.

I don't own everything by Bill Abbott, but he's one of the few guys I'd buy sight unseen.

Highly recommended for everything.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to check back next week for more reviews. As always, send review requests, contest entries and feedback to

Until next time,


1 comment:

  1. hope you are getting better… sore throat is not a lot of fun its just uncomfortable and difficult to swallow.

    usually, i would take the Nim Jiom Cough Syrup ( ) which has a thick consistency formulation. it coats the throat and includes herbs that are particularly good for that application.

    i hope it works on you as well.