I'm doing this week's review early because once I get home from performing tomorrow night, I'm going to be super-busy helping my wife finish painting and setting things up at our new hair salon / hypnosis clinic.
Also on the subject of our new biz, here's the website I've had built for the new business: www.HypnosisHelpsNow.com. Check it out and let me know what you think. You can shoot me an email to email@example.com. Also, I'll be writing the next issue of my free ezine, "Cause & Effects" tonight in preparation for a May 1st launch. The topic is going to be about 'going off script' and why having an air-tight, REHEARSED script means you can have an easier time going OFF script. Sounds weird, I know, but it's going to be a heck of a read, and to illustrate it, I will share a HILARIOUS exchange I had with a volunteer at a recent corporate motivational show I did last week. If you have not signed up yet, shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, I'm thrilled to see Hocus Pocus is now offering Shoe Business, which I reviewed a short while ago. I was speaking on the phone with my friend Cody Fisher and as I told him, so far this is my top pick for the best new release to Hocus Pocus in 2011. Will it retain the title at years end/ Stay tuned!
Finally, before I get to the review, I sincerely want to thanks all of you who have ordered my school show courses the last few weeks. That main course, on daytime assemblies, has been out quite a while, but it seems many of you are heeding my words that, with a high quality product, school show performing is one of the most stable markets in magic. I'm toying with the idea of writing a book that addresses high school performing, as I've been doing that for years, but unless there's a demand for it, I'll put it off. (hint, hint...)
On to today's review...it's Radio Magic by Steve "Banachek" Shaw. It's available for $34.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=1989
WHAT YOU RECEIVE: Three audio CDs that detail the in's and out's of performing on the radio along with a wide variety of effects you can perform on a radio show.
AD COPY: Here's the ad copy...
Not just mentalism for the radio, but magic for the ears, too! Learn the secret to booking yourself, handling callers, and performing magic on the radio. This great trick can be performed one on one, over the phone! Comes complete with routines and out-takes from actual radio performances!
"These tapes are really interesting and will give the professional magician much to think about." - David Goodsell
"What better way to demonstrate radio magic than on audio cassette tape? Highly recommended." - Phil Wilmarth
OK, I may be splitting hairs here, but I have to point out one part of the ad copy - "This great trick can be performed one on one, over the phone!" This initially confused me because this sentence makes it sound like the buyer is just getting the secret to this one effect, which is not explained in the ad. A minor quibble, but I had to point it out.
QUALITY OF CDS: You can hear both Scott Wells and Banachek very clearly. It turns out these CDs were once audio tapes and eventually transferred to audio CD. Good stuff - you can hear everything clearly, both in the interviews Wells conducts with Banachek as well as the outtakes from the actual radio broadcasts Banachek was a part of. Good quality, easily a 10. It may not be "recording studio quality," but for our purposes, it's just fine.
QUALITY OF EFFECTS: There's some good stuff on here. I'm going to talk about the effects first and work my way backwards to the information (non-magic) on CD 1, so for now, some thoughts on the routines on CD 2 and 3.
For me, the highlight routine was The Assassination Game, a neat presentation for a classic mentalism routine. In Banachek's version, three listeners call up the radio and help Banaheck with the details of a crime - the supposed assassination of a famous cartoon character!
It's a delightful premise and the workings are such that you could easily add this to your regular 'live' stand-up show. Adapting it for radio was inspired.
Banachek also reveals his method for achieving a headline prediction. as Banachek points out, there are at least a thousand methods for a headline prediction. His is simple in execution and judging by the reactions of the radio personalities, pretty effective. It's good for radio, but I was less than thrilled with his method because his requires you to meet up with people a few weeks before the event, due to the necessity of having signatures to verify everything is on the up and up. To me, it's a weakness because if I have a gig in TX (I'm from NY) there's almost no chance I'm going to be able to meet with them prior to the event. Nevertheless, for a local gig, this method is sound.
Banachek also offers a fun musical routine that sounds like it plays well. This is one of those routines that is specifically suited to the radio simply because the workings would probably eliminate it from consideration for most performers' set lists. That being said, the radio performance had me absolutely amazed...and when Banachek revealed the workings, I couldn't believe he pulled it off. It's definitely one of those effects where you have to ignore how "non-sexy" the method is. Just listen to how it plays out on the radio and trust that's how it will play for you.
There are other routines, around 20 routines in all, and while most are very good, most are also things that could go right into your stand up act, too. There's booktest material, stuff with nailwriters, playing cards and so on. Some of the effects play best over the radio, especially a card divination that Scott Wells performed on the radio.
One of the main components of many of these routines is the fact that often, the 'work' for the effect is done while music or commercials are playing and when you and the radio host are back on, you use word play to suggest that the radio host was asked to just 'think of something' and you reveal it. Used this way, even the most basic of mentalism effects can have the essence of true miracles to listeners who are unaware of envelopes switches, equivoque and so on. That's probably one of the strongest lessons in the whole set.
Interestingly, although the CDs are called "Radio Magic," most of the material is mentalism-based. Because we're talking about radio, this makes sense, as you can easily 'read minds' of listeners and/or the radio host but on the flip side, asking the radio host to describe a manipulation act to listeners is not going to be effective..."OK, folks, Mr. Amazing has one red sponge ball...no, wait, he has two...no wait, he has three....now he's putting them in my hand....I've opened my hand and oh my! I have 20 red spongeballs in my hand!" Not good radio!
So, let the buyer be aware of the fact that he/she is really purchasing "Radio Mentalism" with these disks. To me, this is perfectly fine as I prefer mentalism over magic when performing for most adults in most situations.
THE "BUSINESS" SIDE OF RADIO MAGIC: OK, disk #1 is about the nuts and bolts side of performing on the radio. As Banachek admits, you're not getting a dime for performing on the radio...but the publicity the exposure can get for you is amazing, which is the whole reason I bought these disks.
Banachek gets into the need for a 'hook' to get on the radio, explaining that just being a magician is NOT enough to get you on the air. He gives some examples of hooks to use, which is nice. He also mentions the fact that sometimes it's easier to "know someone" to get on the radio, which I found disheartening to say the least. What if you "don't know someone?"
To make matters worse, while he recommends you need to have a 'hook' to get on the air, Banachek does not give you any details with what to do with said 'hook.' I'm a detail guy! I would have liked to have a job title to ask for if I needed to call the radio station: "Yes, I'd like to speak to Mr. Program Manager..." That kind of thing.
Or maybe radio stations respond to such requests better through email? Or a fax? Or maybe (gasp) an honest to goodness letter? I don't know the best method nor do I know the job title to ask for. These glaring omissions made a big difference in my overall rating.
Now, to get away from the negative, there is a wealth of great information on disk 1. Issues such as timing out your performance is discussed. The different types of radio stations are discussed, including talk show formats and how to handle each.
Interestingly, while the show clips themselves were entertaining, I got the feeling (and I'm probably wrong) that Banachek was getting railroaded and tossed around by some of these guys - in other words, he'd try to verbally set up an effect and Mr. Radio Meathead would cut him off with some stupid remark or sound effect.
To be fair, I know that most radio hosts are NOT like this( I have a few radio hosts as friends)...in fact, one of the shows Banachek was on (when he did the headline prediction) did in fact sound much more mellow and laid back, allowing, perhaps, for an effect to 'breathe' before it was stomped on by Mr. Meathead Radio Dude.
The one positive I can take from this is the fact that Banachek came off as Mr. Cool - nothing was going to 'throw' him. The guy's a true pro and listening to him made it sound easy and fun.
MY OVERALL SCORE: There is a lot of terrific information here along with some great routines (many of which can even be done in your regular show) but the omission of what I feel was very relevant info (the nitty gritty details of actually getting on the air) brings my score down a bit. I'll rate these as 7 out of 10.
NEXT WEEK: Stretching The Truth