Monday, January 31, 2011

Bill Murray Stepped Here and REVIEW: Mental Compendium by Paul Romhany

Hello, everyone!

Cris Johnson here, in sunny, scenic Orlando, FL. I'm here for 10 days taking part in some hypnosis training.

Before I get to this week's review, I want to share a story...last week, I performed at 10 schools in Woodstock, IL. As it turns out, that's the town where they filmed the majority of "Groundhog Day," starring Bill Murray.

I'm a self-professed movie nerd, so when my client offered to take me on a walking tour of the film's locations, I jumped at the chance. Sure enough, the city even had a bronze plate marking the spot where Bill Murray stepped off the street and plunged his foot into the icy puddle.

She also related that the day they filmed the sequence where Andie McDowell smacks Murray in the face (there's a montage of her smacking him over and over in the movie) that you could hear the loud "SMACK" each time she cracked Murray in the face! I guess Bill was a trooper and filmed the scenes without complaint!

Most gratifying to hear, however, was how approachable Bill Murray was. Bill Murray's always been a Hollywood favorite of mine and I always felt "Groundhog Day" was under-appreciated by most people. My client said that by the end of shooting, anyone in town who wanted to meet Murray was able to do so, as he walked around town and chatted with anyone.

After having seen my share of horribly egotistical magic 'performers' in my time, I'd say there's a lesson there.:)

Now onto this week's review...the first of Romhany Month! It's Paul's Mental Epic Compendium. It's available for a way-too-low $49.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link:

EFFECT: While several variations are explored, the basic effect is that three people (usually) are eached asked to think of something. Each time, the performer writes his/her impressions. Each spectator reveals their thought...and the performer shows he/she did in fact read each of their minds, committing his/her thoughts in writing as proof! Direct, clean mentalism.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A lifetime of education on the Mental Epic plot as well as mentalism, routine structure and performance. BUY THIS BOOK! End of review. OK, not really! Read on...

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of those books that truly belongs on every mentalist's book shelf. I have always felt that a solid Mental Epic-type routine was one of the strongest things (potentially) you could put in your show.

Why? Simple.

As a mind reader, my ideal effects are always direct and to the point, with no limitations. A Mental Epic Routine allows you to ask three spectators to think of virtually any thought in the world. You then prove that you read each of their minds. It's simple to understand and refreshingly direct.

Paul asked me to contribute to this book, but unfortunately, I did not have anything fresh or unique to give him. In my years as a performer, I have used Bob Cassidy's "Fourth Dimentional Telepathy" routine and Richard Osterlind's "Ultra Board" presentations. I really couldn't think of any 'improvements' or personal touches to add to them.

They are great routines, but they do not even scratch the surface of Paul's remarkable book, as he's truly assembled a "who's who" of mentalism to contribute this book.

Here's the list of people who had a hand in this book: Banachek, Kenton Knepper, Bob Cassidy, Larry Becker, Dan Garrett, Kostya Kimlat, Sean Taylor, Richard Webster, Bev Bergeron, Alan Shaxon, TC Tahoe, David Regal, Gerard, James Biss, Danny Archer, Bill Abbott, Paul Alberstat, Whit Haydn, Patrick Kuffs, Vanni Pule, E Raymond Carlyle, Tony Binarelli, Mick Ayres, David Seebach, Professor Spellbinder, Bob Tripp, Hal Spear, John T Sheets, Dr. Bill Cushman, Rob Domenech, Ken Dyne, Charles Gauci, Dave Lord, Nathan Grange, Wayne Rogers, David J O'Connor, Ken Ring, Adrian Saw, Jonathan Royle, Christopher Berry, Jheff. Bill Cushman, Chuck Hickok, Peter Arcane and several routines by Paul Romhany


QUALITY: This book looks like a book store book, with a glossy, softbound cover, pictures, drawings, photos and more. Paul always puts out great stuff and this is no exception. There's bios on every contributer, a history of the Mental Epic effect and more.

DIFFICULTY: Some of the routines require more technical skill than others, so there's something in here for everyone. Some of the routines are so well thought out that they are "plug and play," meaning if you deliver the script competently and you execute the routine competently, you'll have a winner. Other routines are difficult to pull off because of the acting required. Still others are screaming out for you to add your own personal spin.

VARIETY OF ROUTINES: This book really does have every conceiveable variation imaginable for Mental Epic. Some routines use the board, some do not. Some use envelopes, some use forces, some do not. Some are for stage, some for close up, some are impromptu in nature.

Still others address the major weakness of the Mental Epic plot as performed by many just-starting-out performers....the fact that the third item named needs to be forced and the other two can be anything. You've seen the performances (heck, I used to do it this way in my youth): Three items are to be selected, and the performer handles it like this:

"Spectator 1, please think of any number from 1 to infinity."

"Spectator 2, please think of any person on the planet, living or dead."

"Spectator 3, please pick a card..."

This plot hole, performed this way, is horrid....and every contributer in this book tackles this head on. Many have developed routines with different handlings so that ALL THREE items are free choices. Other routines were developed to integrate this perceived weakness into the fabric of the routine, such as many of the gambling themed routines I've read.

Some of the routines are amazing in their theatricality, requiring special sound effects, elaborate props and more. For instance, check out David Seebach's "Clue" (based on the board game) for an amazing example of how theatrical a simple mentalism routine can be played. It's wonderful.

Other routines are designed to play into the pack-flat-play-big mentality. Check out Bill Abbott's "Invisible Coin" for a tight, compact routine that reads as though it's been honed to perfection after hundreds of performances....knowing Bill, it has. The routine is structured around the idea of an invisible coin and builds step by step to an amazing climax.

There are so many routines to explore that while I have combed through this book cover to cover, I haven't retained nearly as much as I like. Personally, one of the most mind-blowing routines in the entire book is Johnathan Royle's "Royle's Thoughts on the One-Ahead Principle." I challenge you to read this section of the book and not feel energized by what appears to be a simple card routine. It is, for me, one of the most stunning routines I've ever read. I only wish I could have seen it performed and experienced the impossibility of it before reading about the work.

While I don't expect any Mentalist who hates using playing cards in his/her act to be totally converted after reading that section, I do believe that this routine has the BEST chance to cause some of these folks to re-consider some of their views.

Another routine that 'called out' to me was Paul Romhany's "Teddy Bear Epic," which comes off as incredibly charming and visual...a quality a lot of mentalism does not have. I'm considering adding this to my teen shows because it ends with the volunteer receiving a gift in the form of a stuffed animal...with the color, price and other details predicted in advance!

This space in this review blog simply does not allow me to review each and every routine, though I have pointed out a few of my 'favs.'

FINAL VERDICT: What can I say? This book is perfect. It takes a standard, beloved routine in Mentalism, albeit an older one that many of us thought was dead, and re-energized it. I firmly feel that if you are a Mentalist and you don't already perform a Mental Epic-type or three-phase, one-ahead-type routine, that you'll find several gems in here.

If you can't find something you like in this book, you may want to check your pulse. This is not only recommended, but I feel this is on the short list of significantly important releases in recent years. A 10 out of 10.

NEXT WEEK: Romhany Month continues! I tackle Paul's Entertaining on Cruise Ships book.

INFORMATION ON REVIEWS: Ahoy magic creators! If you're interested in getting a product reviewed, contact me at


Cris Johnson

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