Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Howdy folks!

I'm in my hotel in Hammond, IN, getting ready for tomorrow's shows and I've just cleaned bird guts off my windshield! Yup, poor little bird went SMACK! into my windshield as I was doin' 70 barreling down the I-80. Yuck!

The Clear-View Airbornes have SHIPPED OUT TODAY! I sent them UPS to Hocus Pocus and they said they will arrive next Tuesday, the 14th. At that point, Ken assures me ALL pre-orders will be sent out.

I appreciate everyone's faith - I know some pre-order magic items never materialize, but I'm glad this one worked out. My wife & I did extensive testing of the packing method to ensure the product reaches you safe and sound.

The newly designed gimmicks work REALLY well and I know it's going to work GREAT for those of you who truly desire a modern day, real-world version of Airborne...performed with a clear water bottle!

By the way, I'm still amazed at how many people sign up for my free ezine, "Cause & Effects," each week! It's a monthly ezine devoted to performing philosophy, business help and more. To sign up, shoot an email to: crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

On to this week's review!

It's the Mikame Craft Deluxe Arm Chopper. It's available for $380.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=3324

THE EFFECT: An arm chopper will slice a carrot or other food item, but a spectator's arm is totally unharmed when the blade is pushed through.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: The beautiful deluxe arm chopper and a sheet of poorly written instructions.

QUALITY OF PROP: This is without a doubt the most well-made arm chopper I've ever used. It's not perfect in terms of operation (more on that later) but it's gorgeous. If you take care of it, it will serve you well. That being said, it's made of wood and therefore I recommend wrapping it in a cloth or padding to protect the finish from getting chipped up. This is NOT particle board with wood finish "graphics" stuck to the outside.

I believe an audience, at least on a subconscious level, can sense a crappy prop from a good prop and from a pure looks stand point, this one is unmatched. Granted, there are bigger, more impressive choppers, but this one is the perfect size to play big (about 14 inches or so high) yet packs down nicely.

The base that keeps the chopper standing upright is also removable, held in place with a nut. I've sewn fleece bags for each piece, to protect both and allow each to truly pack flat.

INSTRUCTIONS: As I said, they are sparse, poorly written, and do not tell users of what I feel is a severe design flaw. (More later.)

This is not supplied with any routines - it's sort of like a claw hammer...buying one doesn't mean you're a carpenter and buying an arm chopper doesn't mean you're a comedy magician, either. (Shameless Plug: follow this link to find a KILLER comedy arm chopper routine: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=13367 )

MARKET: You've got to be real careful with this one. Many schools will not like use of this prop. I've got a carefully structured routine that allows me to "side step" all of that. With that in mind, I never perform the chopper for ANUY audiences below third grade. I also don't use it for adult shows, as it's not the kind of audience interaction I want. Kids enjoy being in it, adults, not so much.

DIFFICULTY: I'm not going to rate this in terms of difficulty, as the working is simple enough but your success or failure with this prop is highly dependent on your routine.

MY THOUGHTS: I've own other crappy versions of the arm chopper and this one is by far the best. The "chopping" action is smooth, the prop is well-built (mine's gone through something 350 performances) and it still looks like new. Still, a few considerations...

1. After you cut a piece of food, like any chopper, you need to "set it" to a 'safe mode.' If you have a brain fart and forget, you could hurt someone. The blade is not sharp enough to actually slice someone's wrist off, but I guarantee it would hurt like hell.

2. Most arm choppers allow you to do this 'safe mode' setting by strategically placing one finger in a proper place and you yank the blade upwards. Not so with this model - here you must insert SEVERAL fingers in to set it to safe mode. This, to me, is odd as hell. It means you'll need a bit of added misdirection or a well-timed laugh to do the split-second 'move.' I've done it for years - not a huge deal, but be aware of it.

3. When doing the trick, you need to have a wrist in the chopper that is of suffficient diameter. I was doing the trick a couple of months ago and as I chopped down, the chopper...stopped. The kid looked at me blankly. I took his wrist out, ad-libbed a few lines, thinking the unit has broke, then eventually put my own wrist in and it worked great. I've since done it another 30 or so times after numerous careful tests at home.

Trust me - this kid had SKINNY wrists.

This means you'll need to be on the look out for wrists of a certain size. Odd, but not a deal-breaker, at least to me.

FINAL THOUGHTS: As I've said, the craftsmanship is stellar. I've used it for a few years and if it ever breaks, I'll buy another. It has held up better than any other version. Nevertheless, the business with the necessity to use wrists of a certain size coupled with the need to put several fingers in to set it to safe-mode is a tad worrisome.

I'll give this an 8 out of 10 - rock-solid, but keep in mind a few considerations.

Until next week...

Cris Johnson

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