Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MY NEW BOOK IS HERE! Plus...A Review of Hundy 500

Howdy, folks!

Cris Johnson here with a new blog entry that's sure to be fun and if you're not careful, you just might learn something before we're done...

Well, I'm super-psyched to announce that my NEW book, "Cause & Effects Volume 2: Comedy Magic Routines That Will Make You Money!" is here at Hocus Pocus! We just got it up on the site yesterday. This book includes six of my current comedy magic routines that I use all the time in my own stage work. There's something for everyone, but my personal fav is my Arm Chopper Routine. When I was writing the book, I counted up the laugh moments and there's nearly two dozen such moments...and TEN of them occur BEFORE I even bring out the Arm Chopper! It works perfectly for any arm chopper, Disecto, etc.

ALSO included is my presentation for the Confabulation plot. I tip all of the workings, psychological tips, scripting and more. At $24.95 with a total of SEVEN routines, this is a steal. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=13367

Also, I'm busy preparing the upcoming August issue of my FREE ezine, "Cause & Effects" and it's going to explore some really BAD jokes and so-called 'comedy' bits I saw a truly dreadful magician use at a recent kids' library show. I was appalled and I will pull no punches in my analysis. It may all be my opinion, but I can back all of it up with scientific analysis (yes, scientific!) of why such jokes are not just in poor taste but can actually be damaging to a child's psyche. It's a must read!

Sign up for FREE by shooting me an email to: crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

On to the review!

This week, I tackle Gregory Wilson's Hundy 500. It's available for $29.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the ad copy: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=3055

EFFECT: 5 $1 bills instantly change into 5 $100 bills!

WHAT YOU GET: A very well produced DVD that gives you multiple real-world performances, construction of the gimmicks, handling and much more.

MY HISTORY WITH THE EFFECT: For years, I've been using a variation of the classic Hundred Dollar Bill Switch in my close-up act. In my mind, it's still one of the most beautiful effects in all of magic. In recent years, the concept of changing several bills instantly into a higher denomination has been growing in popularity. I won't try to list them all, but there's a ton.

While using the Hundred Dollar Bill Switch (in my case, the Mismade Bill) serves me well, I didn't like using it as an opener as I didn't want to borrow money immediately upon introducing myself at a new table. I eventually developed a mentalism effect for my current close-up/strolling opener, but for repeat audiences, I needed a different opener, something that did not involve borrowing anything, something that was captivating, easy to understand and easy to perform. Angles were important, too.

I then saw a friend of mine performing Hundy 500. It was the first time I had seen a version performed live other than the older Fred Kaps version with the "z" folds (which, I'm sorry to say, I was never that impressed with, but that's just me.)

I was blown away and resisted the urge to buy it for myself, not wanting to copy my friend. He eventually dropped it and began working on a new version of the same effect. I'll get more into this later, but I then picked up Hundy 500 for myself.

INSTRUCTION: Let's start right here, because this DVD covers this effect in incredible detail. There are the appropriate close-ups, the history of the effect, construction of the gimmick, and much more. The best part is the fact that Greg Wilson is incredibly skilled at a teacher and seems warm and friendly in front of the camera, warm and friendly in front of live spectators and makes the magic look effortless.

Another thing I love about this is the fact that Greg covers the psychology of the effect, why his handling strengthens the impact of the effect and, I'm really thankful for this, he covers various scripting options, why you might want to get into the effect faster and much more. Finally, he also covers the different ways to end the effect from a scripting standpoint, comebacks for different questions or requests after the effect is over and more. To be sure, these are not snotty comebacks that insult people or "shut them down," but merely a way to deliver a nice response at the end of the routine that serves as a 'button' to the whole thing.

I also really like the fact that he has around 10 or so live performances taped in the real world. They are all well-lit and you can tell the people are not 'in on it' as it's occasionally a bit of a challenge for Greg to keep these people focused on the effect. This is in and of itself a nice lesson in spectator management as Greg handles each situation calmly and with poise.

DIFFICULTY: Despite al of the detail Greg provides, this handling is easy from a technical point of view. Again, I hate labeling anything in magic as "easy" but other than a numbered scale...hmmm...that's a good idea! OK, from a techical sense, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being "Faro shuffle difficult" and 1 being "David Blaine 'bites' a Folding Quarter easy," I'll rate Hundy 500 as a 2...you have to keep your head on straight to keep everything aligned and you must manage your spectators so no one gets grabby hands (you are dealing with real money) but it's within anyone's reach with just a bit of work.

MARKET: This effect appeals to all age groups. This past weekend (on my anniversary of all times) I performed it several times for teens, adults, younger kids, etc. It KILLS.

SETTING UP THE GIMMICK: You'll want to take your time setting up the gimmick. Gimmick construction is NOT difficult technically, but the true effectiveness of this effect depends on you making sure the bills are PERFECTLY aligned together. TAKE YOUR TIME and your actual work at your gigs will be a breeze comparatively speaking.

WHAT YOU NEED & THOUGHTS ON THIS VERSION: To make the gimmick, you only need six $1 bills, six $100 bills, and some rubber cement. That's IT. That's another reason why I like this version - you can construct the gimmck after a quick trip to the store. I am not the kind of magician who carries things around in his wallet to perform at a moment's notice. In fact, if I'm not at a paid gig, I don't even think about performing and usually have to be talked into it. To me, it's a skill and one I prefer to not give away. I'm not being a snob it's just how I feel - I travel a LOT all over the country and thus like to "get away" from work when I can.

I tell you all of this because one year, my wife and I went to the Poconos (adults-only resort) for a week. While there, we made some friends who really wanted to see me perform. We drove to a nearby Wal-Mart and my wife was asking me, "Well, what can you do?" I grabbed a bottle of rubber cement and a few minutes later I had put together another Hundy 500.

That, to me, makes this such a great routine - the fact you can make the gimmick nearly anywhere.

Remember that friend I referenced earlier? He did Hundy 500 for a few years and then, as so many magicians do, "chased" the newest version. I don't remember the name, but that version came with some very specific gimmicks that you HAD to use, meaning he can't make his "on the fly."

I'm not saying it's a bad version, only that in my mind, once you have a killer version of a certain effect, I personally do not see much sense in learning a new version of basically the same effect. (I've seen it and it's very good but it's not like a 'quantum leap' forward in the same effect.)

ANGLES: No serious issues to speak of. There's just a tiny bit of work you must keep hidden in a surrounded situation, but this is ultra-easy and is covered by Greg's rock-solid handling. You can do this anywhere.

FINAL THOUGHTS: There's not much more I can say. Hundy 500 rocks. It's great for any age in a close-up situation and you can easily make the gimmick nearly anywhere. I give this a perfect 10. I know this has been out for quite a while, but if you haven't guessed by now, I do not automatically gravitate toward the newest effects out there....sometimes, but not always.:)

Until next time,

Send any comments or questions to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.


Cris Johnson

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