I'll get to my usual opening rambling, so to speak, at the end of the review, because it's going to be long, so right now, let's get right into the review...
This week's review is Further Education DVD set by John Archer. It's available for $44.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link:
PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: This is a two-DVD set, so here's the DVD desriptions:
The Further Education Stand Up Show:
Blank Night: John's extremely clean version of the “bank night” plot is a super-charged routine that is jam-packed with perfect in-built comedy, audience participation and a plot packs in plenty of entertainment value for an opening routine! Something, nothing, mine, yours or… sex?!
De-Ja-Tu: A girl is thinking of a card and a man is invited to deal freely through a shuffled deck of cards. Amidst a cavalcade of comedy, the couple end up with a coincidence that is as baffling as it is entertaining; in short, a brilliant two-person mind reading effect that appears to happen between the minds of the spectators.
One Lucky Number: Serial divination given the Archer treatment! Imagine taking a usually smaller effect and turning it into a full stand-up performance piece! Think serial number, burnt & restored note and signed note in wallet; all rolled into one mega, magical extravaganza!
Soundbox: A hilarious routine in which you gamble everything on a simple game of choice! One box, one lock, five keys and tonnes of entertainment! A well-constructed presentation and excellent method make this a logical, funny and baffling lock and key routine. Bet everything you have on the power of your auditory sense!
Comedy Killer: A brilliant new routine based around a very funny presentation about learning to become a mind reader – your audience will become engaged in your studies with Professor Hoffmann when honing your ESP abilities, before they themselves get the chance to test their own. One envelope, one choice and one stunning climax!
Starstruck: Stars of Stage & Screen are the theme for this popular item from John's act. A real lesson in how small props can be used to play a much larger routine that is clean and direct mindreading at its very best. A simple plot that can open up a string of revelations that will give your spectator the feeling you are really reading their thoughts.
Stick with It: Multiple audience participation; several random numbers, one prediction and a stunning kicker that will knock their socks off! A multiple number routine like none you have ever seen before. No gimmicked notepads required, this is a really organic approach to the add-a-number plot using a small number of items to create a routine large enough to fill an entire stage.
Streetwise: John's brilliant book-test that uses remote viewing as a premise, a street map for a prop and a series of revelations with different audience members; this is destined to become a classic and combines all the best elements of the best book test routines to take your audience on the ultimate mental journey! Please note that although the prop is explained in full, the book itself is not provided and needs to be purchased separately.
BONUS: John's Professional Close Up “Set” Performed & Explained:
Just for You” & “52 Leaver: A two-person effect that is IDEAL for the walkabout performer and is one that combined mentalism, playing cards and a very special trick for “YOU.” This is a professional “set” that is perfect for the strolling performer that wants to present powerful close-up mentalism in a commercial environment. It has all the best elements of a memorable close-up set, it will keep them talking long after you move on and best of all… it is ready for you to learn and add to your repertoire immediately.
WHAT YOU GET: The first disk is the show while the second is the explanations, like many disks. The show itself is in front of what looks like an audience of around 100 people, performed from start to finish, so you get to see John transition from routine to routine.
The second DVD is John, either by himself or with Peter Nardi, as he/they explain and discuss the routines.
QUALITY OF DVDs: I own John Archer's other two DVD releases (Educating Archer and Blindfold Tips) and I felt the lighting in this third release was not quite up to snuff as the first two releases, but that's a minor quibble. John is well-miced both for the show and the explanations, so everything is easily understood and enjoyed.
QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: There are two sides to this...first of all, John explains everything in extreme detail so viewers understand EVERYTHING well....not quite everything, more on that in a bit...
So, instruction is great, but what about John's sense of humor? I'm pleased to report that his sense of humor is on full display here, as John riffs on Nardi, people who buy magic DVDs and so much more. Honestly, John is so quick with his wit that each time I watch the DVDs, I catch a new gag or random aside that sends me laughing hysterically. In many ways, I'd almost say Archer is magic's version of Robin Williams - brilliantly funny and oh-so-quick with a joke.
He's also refreshingly honest, as he admits his Burned Bill routine was not up to his usual standard at the taping. (He explains why and it's a good reason.)Don't worry, despite the missteps, it's still a good routine.
QUALITY OF MATERIAL: John performs a lot of great stuff. Honestly, the very first effect, Blank Night, is worth the price of the DVD set. John's routine is very enjoyable, but the 'secret' is incredible. This is the effect that "Fooled Penn & Teller" and I was so happy for John when it happened.
In short, this version of bank night allows the bills to be pulled out of a large envelope....unfolded. It's clean, fair and looks incredible. If it fooled Penn & Teller, it will fool your audiences. Probably the BEST working of this classic plot that I've ever seen...and I've researched tons of great methods before settling on the one that I have used for 8 years...though now I have to learn John's!
Other stand outs, for me, were his presentational solution for the 7 Keys to Baldpate. So many performers kill the key selection process, causing the pace of their show to come to a GRINDING halt where the keys are selected, tried in the lock, etc. John's routine is solid and entertaining, with some nice twists from other presentations. Unfortunately, he does not tip the workings of his lock, as it's a marketed item, but he does tell you where to get it. Really, though, the routine is worth it.
I also liked his card effect where it was a "mind reading between two spectators" kind of plot. THIS was STRONG, and since this concept, two spectators having the mind reading seemingly occur between them, is one of my favorite plot devices in mentalism. I'm definitely doing this.
I felt his booktest was very good, and while he did not tip the workings, (It's his own, which he's releasing) I was OK with it simply because there are a zillion good book tests out there, so I simply enjoyed the presentation, John's pacing, etc.
Another standout was his providing anew method to his routine, Comedy Killer. In the first Archer DVD set, John provides a hilarious and brilliant routine for Kenton Knepper's classic Kollossal Killer (sp?) which used Kenton's special wallet. This method uses NO special wallet and is more appropriate for stage. Good stuff.
John's closeup set was also very strong, as it was a true worker's set, in that it could be done anywhere, and only ran around 5-7 minutes long. Honestly, in most corporate strolling situations, most people will only watch 5-7 minutes of good magic.
The other offerings on the set were good, but did not captivate me like the ones I mentioned specifically did. It's all good stuff, so this set is severely underpriced in my view, so get ready to get practicing, which brings me to...
TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY: None of Archer's stage material is very difficult from a technical standpoint, with effects ranging from 1 to maybe 3 in terms of difficulty. The closeup stuff, for me, was a tad more challenging, so I'd put that stuff at maybe a 4 or 5. Well within reach, but more technical finesse is necessary.
OVERALL RATING: Are you kidding? BUY this set! The tricks are great (especially Blank Night) but the true value is watching John perform, learning from his timing, his pacing and so much more. A true inspiration. 10 out of 10.
Now, I'm proud to announce a pre-release special on a new product I'm putting out there, and if you order it BEFORE AUGUST 11, 2011, you can save $200!! Paul did not get a chance to get it up on the main Hocus Pocus website yet, so I'm going to paste the ad copy below. Check it out and if you have any questions, let me know - email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As I said, the actual ad should be up at Hocus Pocus next week, but for right now, check this out below and I'll be back with a new review.
I’ll let you in on a secret: magicians LOVE the corporate market.
Okay, maybe it’s not much of a secret after all, but it’s easy to see why the corporate market is so appealing to magicians. Here are just a few reasons:
• The fees can be really good
• Because you’re performing for adults, your themes, plots and scripting can be much more sophisticated than for kids’ shows, meaning a more rewarding experience for you, the performer!
• Many corporate banquet / convention events are large affairs, enabling aspiring stage magicians to haul out their really neat effects
• Unlike some markets, corporate groups have events all year long!
• The fees can be REALLY good
• Corporate magic shows offer performers a great deal of opportunity for creativity
Let’s talk about that last point for an instant: creativity. I’ve been performing corporate magic programs for audiences all across North America for the last 15 years and I can assure you that many corporate groups have seen it all. I’ve heard audiences say, “Oh, the magician we had last year did that” far too many times in recent years. True, classics in magic and mentalism are classics for a reason, but presentation is key…more on this later.
There are a couple of solutions to this.
First, the enterprising magician can create completely new effects with totally original scripting. In an ideal world, this is a great solution, but creating an entire show from scratch with effects that NO ONE has ever seen before is quite a challenge!
The second solution is to take great effects that are proven audience-pleasers and structure them into the framework of an incredibly unique script that alters the audiences’ perceptions of what they are seeing from a simple ‘magic show’ to live theater!
I’m Cris Johnson, writer of the weekly Hocus Pocus Trick Talk blog and while I’ve made it clear that school programs are my favorite shows for the last decade, I’ve been doing corporate shows consistently even longer. Also, in the USA, I can count on roughly 7-8 months of solid work from the school market (with summer months, spring break, holidays and especially weekends all eating into my potential booking calendar)…leaving roughly 4 months out of the year that I need to fill. Happily, many corporate events take place on weekends, when school is not in session!
The Power Of Themed Programs
If you’ve followed the teachings of Max Maven, Eugene Burger and other wonderful magic philosophers, you already know the power of framing your effects, that is, giving an individual effect a ‘hook’ or reason for being, something other than mere exposition: “Now I’m going to cut the rope…Now I will hold the ends of the rope…” Ugh!
Framing individual effects is highly effective in terms of increasing the involvement of your audience. Taking this idea to the next level, the professional performer can appreciate the value of adding a thematic element to the entire show (in the corporate world, most clients expect a 30, 45 or 60 minute performance for a typical “after dinner” event.).
In his “Nothing” DVDs, Max Maven talked extensively about a unifying theme to a series of effects that built upon each other. Max’s theme for the “Nothing” show was more subtle. In my case, I’ve structured my banquet corporate show around an incredibly commercial theme…
Introducing…Murder By Magic!
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a ‘murder mystery,’ I’ll give you the thumbnail description: Typically, a group of 3 to 6 improvisational actors assume certain roles in an after-dinner event and they incorporate the audience in ways to help move the plot along, discover clues, and eventually find out, literally, ‘whodunit!’ Hotels and resorts often turn the concept into an entire weekend of interactive entertainment.
I LOVED the idea and eventually set about crafting a one-man murder mystery combined with magic, mentalism, comedy and music!
In “Murder By Magic,” there is a murder, an investigation, the revelation of the murderer and most surprisingly, a fantastic ‘plot twist’ that NO ONE will see coming! The show is very funny, interactive and unique. The way volunteers are selected is different and even the show introduction itself sets the mood instantly and gets big laughs.
Attendees at the show wind up assuming different rols, such as a chief of police, the coroner, and even the murderer!
Critical KEY points:
• No “acting” is required of ANY of the guests
• There is NO “pre-show” of ANY kind in my version of the show
• You will NOT need to “set anything up” with ANYBODY before the show starts. (In other words, there’s no “Okay, I want you to play along…” NONE of that!)
• You can walk in ‘cold’ and do this for any audience, even if the audience has NO idea of what kind of performance they are going to see
• There is NO pre-show of ANY kind in my version of the show
• There is no “blood” or ANYTHING offensive in the show. (Corporate event planners DEMAND clean, appropriate shows!!)
• There are no “costumes” for anyone to wear in my version of the show
• When you start the show, even YOU do not know who the murderer will be! (This is FUN!!!!)
• By the way, there is NO pre-show or “meeting with anyone to set up the plot or characters of the show” beforehand. (Just in case I was unclear!) There IS physically setting up the show equipment for the performance of course, but no setting anything up with your client, attendees, nothing!
Why This Show ROCKS
The advantage of this is that unlike a traditional magic or mentalism show, there is an actual STORY going on, one the audience can easily follow. Event planners who hire me INSTANTLY see the value of such a program and many of them hire me even after saying, “We had a magician last year and we don’t want to see another magic show.”
I’ll even let you in on a BIG secret: For several years, I’ve done Stage Hypnosis Shows (VERY popular with HR directors and meeting planners) for corporate clients and quite frankly, I don’t enjoy them because most of my corporate clients’ attendees at the shows are filled with people who do NOT want to be hypnotized, making my job difficult…so when talking with a prospective client, I then explain why “Murder By Magic” is such a better idea…and over 90% of clients inquiring about a hypnosis show make the switch to booking “Murder By Magic” instead…even if they already hired a magician last year!
The Challenges of a One-Man Murder Mystery
Since the concept of a one-man murder mystery was so unique, there were several challenges I had to solve to make the concept work in a corporate environment. The challenges included:
• How could I convey the plot while keeping ‘plot exposition’ to a minimum (in many instances, corporate event attendees have the same short attention span as kids!)
• Who was going to be the murderer?
• Who was going to be the victim?
• How would magic and mentalism help propel the plot?
• How interactive could it be?
• What ‘roles’ could audience members fill…WITHOUT acting on their part?
• What would MY role or ‘character’ be?
• How would I sell this to clients?
• How could I incorporate music into the show?
• What will the ‘look’ of the show be in terms of staging?
• How could I incorporate humor into the program?
• What effects would work the best in terms of the show structure?
• How could I make this work for groups of 20 or groups of 500?
Truthfully, there were a LOT of other considerations, but those were the ‘biggies!’ After almost three years of tweaking, scripting, hand-wringing and more, I’m proud to say that “Murder By Magic” truly is THE Ultimate Corporate Show!
All The Hard Work Is Done For You
I’ve taken all of my hard work, experimentation and more and put everything into several easy-to-use components to get you up and running in no time. Also, once you understand the workings of the show, it can be easily adapted to colleges and other venues. It was designed specifically for the corporate market and since that market is so challenging (venues, audience sizes, demographics and much more means the show HAS to be flexible to accommodate all the weird conditions you’ll encounter!)
COMPONENT #1: THE SCRIPT BOOK
I’ve transcribed every word of the script into the script manual. You get every joke, music suggestion and more to understand how the plot moves along. I will reveal my thoughts behind why I included certain lines of scripting, why I selected the effects that I did and much more.
I will also break down the structure of the script, why I went into certain directions, why the structure works, and just how easily you can alter the effects selection to fit into the framework of the show.
Additionally, I will include alternate effects that I initially used along with notes about why they are no longer in the show and more. In some cases, effects were pulled because they did not fit into the framework of the script, fit my character or fit the overall ‘look’ of the show and other times, I pulled an effect out simply because I found something else I liked better!
This means I will include ALL the effects I considered and/or tried for “Murder By Magic.” In most cases, these are marketed effects (meaning I cannot reveal the secrets) but once you understand what the “tie in” is to a certain effect, I will also give you alternate effects that you can slip into that spot in the show.
Quite frankly, I wound up developing different versions of “Murder By Magic” for small groups in people’s homes, larger versions for banquets of several hundred people and even a simple version that I can easily carry on a plane. There’s a “Murder By Magic” that uses LARGE effects, all the way down to a version that fits in a briefcase!
I will also tip the workings of a CUSTOM electronic prop I had built for me by magic builder/genius Nick Wenger, giving you the option of contacting Nick for one of your own!! It ain’t cheap, but it’s REALLY cool. (Of course, I also include the source for an alternate effect that you can slip in your pocket, which costs pennies, too.)
COMPONENT #2: THE SECRETS BOOK
As I mentioned earlier, most of the effects in “Murder By Magic” are either marketed effects or taught in respected books and/or DVDs. However, in two of the cases, I developed my own effects for the show including my version of a mentalism classic that I adapted specifically for this program and serves as the CLIMAX of the entire show as I frame it as an unforeseen major ‘plot twist’ in the narrative of the story!
Both of these effects together account for a total running time of 15 minutes…meaning a full 25% of the show is INSTANTLY yours.
I’ll tip the workings of BOTH here in this component. I’ll include copies of the artwork, why each works so well, and of course suggestions for alternate effects/handlings if you don’t like mine. (By the way, both pack flat and fit comfortably in a briefcase.)
COMPONENT #3: MARKETING
Of course, none of this is worth much if you don’t know how to sell it. In this third manual, I tip several marketing tools. You’ll receive the following:
• A copy of my own full-color flier you can include in a physical promotional package when you pitch your services to prospective buyers. Obviously, MY name won’t work for you, but you can benefit from my design!
• Phone sales secrets! What I say, how I phrase things, my overall approach and more. I’ll tip some sneaky Neuro-Linguistic Programming kinds of strategies to increase sales.
• A sneaky, incredibly EASY ‘add-on’ you can include in your proposal that essentially DOUBLES the perceived value of the show…best of all, I GUARANTEE you already have this ‘secret weapon’ right now…and it fits in your pocket!
• A handy ‘cut-n-paste’ email you can send to clients who request info via email. This email is L-O-O-N-N-G and very descriptive and sells the show very well. Many times, after reading this email, a client will call me and simply say, “How do we make out the check?” (I’m DEAD serious!)
• An advertising flier you can model and send to clients. (In some cases, a corporate client may be hosting an event in which they invite their own clients and they’ll be using the entertainment as a ‘draw’ to increase attendance. You’ll receive my full-color flier…along with my analysis of why it works so well.
• Detailed analysis of why all this stuff rocks!
COMPONENT #4: UNLIMITED SUPPORT
I know that over the years when I’ve bought a trick, prop or show-in-a-box such as this, I always have questions. In this case, because this product is so complex (a complete 50-60 minute show with marketing components), I fully expect you to have some questions. Additionally, this is truly “my baby” in terms of themed shows. Over the last 15 years, I’ve completely scripted and created 16 other theme shows for various markets and age groups and I feel this is the BEST script I’ve ever written.
All of this means that if anyone other than me is going to perform it, I want it done well! After purchasing the package, feel free to email me as many times as you like – no limits. Questions about how to incorporate a pet effect of yours? Just ask. Questions about marketing? Ditto.
“Okay, Cris, This Sounds GREAT! How Much?”
I’ve wrestled for years whether or not to ever release this. It’s such a unique concept for a one-man magic show that I really wanted to keep it for myself. Unfortunately, with the popularity of Youtube, the Internet in general and the less-than-honest- tendencies of some performers (I’ve had theme shows ripped off before. I know who did it and I’m still fighting some people on it), I decided that at least I want credit for this, so I’ve decided to let my baby go.
But what to charge…
On average, I earn about $1850 for a one hour performance of “Murder By Magic.” I’ve occasionally done shows in the $800 range 30 minutes or so away from my house for small groups of people. Quite often, I book the show for the healthy fee of $2495.
In fact, I recently booked the “Murder By Magic” show for the fee of $2495…and then a week later, someone from another company in the same city called me to tell me they had heard about the show from the first company…he then also booked it for the same fee!
Now I know that there are corporate magicians and mentalists out there who command a LOT more than that for a one hour show in the corporate market, but despite performing 250 shows per year (many of them in the corporate market), I have not fully immersed myself into the corporate market.
What this means is any corporate specialists out there can certainly use their skills to make a helluva lot more for one show than I currently do!
Because I don’t want everyone doing this show, I was going to charge a fee of $4995 and not include any marketing materials or support. I then decided to cut that in half, to $2495, because I could then in the advertising I could realistically say that the fee of the package could be recovered in ONE performance, as I have done several times.
But You’re Not Going To Pay That Amount!
After talking about it for a while with a few people in the business whom I trust, I finally settled upon a fee of $995, which is a steal when you see the reactions this program gets.
Let’s face it – many of us pay a LOT more than $995 for a single effect, and that single effect may run 30 seconds to 5 minutes in actual live performance time. For the same fee, I’m handing you a complete 50-60 show along with actual performance effects (with a total running time of 15 minutes or more), marketing materials and support to maximize the value of your investment.
Imagine yourself, making a ton of money in the corporate market…people smiling, laughing and applauding…and never having to worry about hearing, “Oh, we saw a magician just like you last year.”
For this investment, you will be forever perceived on a higher level by your clients because you won’t just be presenting a ‘magic show’…you’ll be delivered a comedic, interactive theatrical experience…the Ultimate Corporate Show!
Regular Price: $995.00
These will be ready to ship by August 11 (if not sooner) so as a pre-release special, you can take $200 off of this making your investment just $795.00…but only until August 11, 2011