This blog is a bit late this week - without going into details, it's been a personally trying week, but I won't get into that here.
Housekeeping...I have officially launched my new ezine called "Cause & Effects." Each month it will feature one long form article, on performing magic, performing philosophy, reviews of other effects not carried by Hocus Pocus, my own personal routines, marketing and much more.
Each issue will also have, when readers respond, a special "Q & A" section where they can ask me literally anything under the sun. I'm a full-time performer traveling North America from coast to coast and I make a comfortable six-figure income so I feel it's time for me to 'give back' to magic.
Suscription is absolutely FREE - just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I've got the next four issues planned. The articles will be:
1. "What Can Alfred Hitchcock Teach Us About Magic?"
2. What does your audience REALLY want?"
3. When to Tell, When NOT to Tell..."
4. "Magic For All Occasions VS Being a Specialist - Reality VS Perception"
It's REALLY good stuff plus it's free!!
On to this week's review...
This week, I'm tackling "No Smoking" by Puck, released by Bob Kohler. You can buy it directly from Hocus Pocus and the linkis here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=12229
At a retail price of $599.95, this is intended for professionals and it shows.
THE EFFECT: You walk out onstage and smoke your thumb! Without any visible means, you 'puff'' your thumb and smoke comes out of your mouth! On top of that, a pack of cigarettes is introduced. Upon opeing them, you pull out a beautiful 'No Smoking' silk and drape it over an empty wine glass. When the silk is removed, the glass is full of safe, non-toxic smoke!
WHAT YOU GET: The very special glass, the smoking gimmick, a 9 volt battery, the No Smoking Silk, special fluid, and a full instructional DVD.
DURABILITY: I travel a lot so having props that are well made is my primary concern. this stuff is built to LAST. Don't abuse it and it should last a lifetime. In other words, keep the props in the durable cardboard box when going from show to show in your prop case or roll-on table and you'll be fine. If you just toss the glass in with your other props, well, it deserves to be broken. This is high quality stuff that will last if you care for it.
ANGLES: Angles are extremely forgiving. As the ad copy states, about the only way you can get busted is if someone's right behind you. Very good, indeed.
DIFFICULTY: There is, as mentioned in the ad copy, really only one 'move' or grip. The rest is choreography, like learning dance steps. The video makes it look much harder than it really is, which is a credit to Puck. The sleight of hand is fairly minimal, and if put the work in, you'll be fine. The smoking wineglass is unbelievably easy to activate, as you're completely motivated in all that you do in the routine and your angles are completely covered as far as the glass is concerned. Like even the easiest, most self-working effects though, you'll need to rehearse...not because it's diffcult (it isn't) but because any magic effect deserves practice to do well and comfortably.
MARKETS: I believe this routine will play great for adult or college audiences and with some VERY careful scripting, family and/or school audiences. I've tested it, spoke to clients after the show, and yes, it will play in schools WITH proper scripting and most importantly, proper context. That's all I'm going to say on that, as it took me months to develop a routine I felt comfortable doing in schools, and even then only for upper grades.
INSTRUCTION: You may be tired of hearing this, but Bob Kohler produces, in my opinion, the BEST instructional DVDs in the entire market. Which reminds me...
I hate Puck.
Yup, I said it, now let me explain why.
You see, most of the public perseives magicians to be socially inept creepy dudes. Look at TV shows or movies where a magician is featured in a prominent role. (TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in particular, had one cringe-worthy dork magician on the show once.)
So why do I hate Puck?
The man is smooth, sophisticated-looking and extremely talented. Plus, he exudes 'cool' without trying and he even smiles during his performance! So many cool magicians glare at the audience or camera, but Puck is welcoming with his smile & eyes.
After watching him perform the smoke routine, I thought, 'I've never heard of this guy. This non-famous guy is too damn good. Maybe he will be limited vocally.'
Nope - Puck's instructions are spot-on, very thorough, and a few times had me laugh out loud.
Puck is the full package - a suave, talented guy who blew my doors off and put out a great routine.
I'm so jealous...but I don't really hate Puck, either.:)
To recap, the instructional DVD is fantastic. puck (real name, William Puckering) goes through the construction/development of the gimmicks, the choreography, lighting concerns, lighting the smoke thumb gimmick in the middle of the show and so much more. Fantastic guy.
MY OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: The reason why this particular review (and many of my reviews deal with stuff that's been out a while) is I try not to review something until I've performed it myself. (In some cases, as with a book full of 300 effects, that's not feasible).
I recently began performing No Smoking after a ton of practice and development of a routine. Puck's handling is great, but for reasons I will not address right here, I elected to use this routine primarily as a speaking performance, so it took my longer to get it down.
The gimmick that causes you to aparently smoke your thumb handles like a dream. The glass is a freakin' miracle, as it's essentially a mini-fog machine. This is great technology folks.
The only thing I was not thrilled about with the glass is the fact that when it's activated during the routine, there is a slight 'popping' sound which is normal, as Puck explains on the DVD. This sound means that, in my opinion, even if you elect to speak during this routine as I did, you'll need background music to mask the sound. Don't worry - the sound is not terribly loud and since this is intended for a stage or larger parlor setting, it's not a big deal. In someone's living room, well, you may want to skip the glass.
As far as the smoking thumb, Puck does indeed give you a resource for non-tobacco products for use with this. Be forewarned, though, that even the non-tobacco, non-nicotine resources do still produce smoke, so you may want to forewarn your clients just to be safe.
When I was rehearsing this the other day, I practiced the routine like a dozen times with a smoke detector right above my head and it was not til number 13 (go figure) that I finally set it off. Still, I advise caution just to protect yourself from embarrassment if nothing else. We're not talking huge amount of smoke, so you'll be fine if you use common sense.
Getting back to the non-tobacco, non-nicotine options, it's an overseas, non-US based company, but their customer service is great. I had my package in about a week.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Readers of my reviews know I primarily base my rating on how the audience responds and I'm pleased to say this went over VERY well. I put it in the middle of my show, but I agree with Puck that it could be a fantastic opener. After getting feedback from several audience members - mostly cries of "how'd you do that?" I can say that this is a 10 out of 10. Bob Kohler has done it again. Additionally I'd love to see what Puck next offers the magic community.
Questions? Comments? Review requests? Email me at email@example.com.