Yesterday I received a phone call from a young magician out in New Mexico inquiring about ways to get into performing magic professionally- specifically how to be taken more seriously by clients and audiences. The following is more or less a breakdown of some of my advice:
Tip #1: DRESS THE PART
Like it or not, your appearance will be one of the most influential factors in how people judge and treat you. Unfortunately, since you look like a baby to everyone, you are already at a disadvantage. That is why it is so important that you dress to impress and show these old timers that you can hang with the big boys.
If you are a younger magician (14-26ish) trying to work professional close-up venues, you will be amazed at what a difference wearing a blazer or suit will make in how you are respected. Now you shouldn’t ever overdress (a tuxedo or full suit at a casual house party isn’t necessary) but if you appear “young” I would never work a venue without at least a blazer and a colored shirt. This dress is acceptable in most all performance situations and shows value. You are being paid a lot of money to do what you do, the least you could do is show it in your dress!
If the only suit or blazer that you own is one that your parents bought you for your cousin’s wedding two years ago, (and you haven’t worn it since), then you may need to take some time and money to invest in your appearance. Look at fashion magazines, read online blogs and figure out a suit style which is fashionable and one which you feel comfortable with. “Timelessness” is more desirable than “trendiness” here. If a suit you already own meets this criteria, you may just need to get it refitted. Nothing screams amateur like a young looking kid in a suit which is blatantly too big or too tight. In other cases, your parent’s fashion choice may have not kept up with the times (no matter what Mom and Dad say, pleats are out and they aren’t coming back!) and you may need to get a new suit. Check for sales and be sure to get it fitted!
One last note: always where dress shoes! Even if you are dressing business casual (dress shirt and jeans with a belt), dress shoes are what makes the difference between a young professional dressing down, and a naive kid trying to dress up.
TIP #2: DEVELOP SOCIAL SKILLS
When I first started out, doing my close-up magic and being “ON” was easy. As long as the topic was my magic and my tricks, I had an easy time fitting in. But sometimes you need skills beyond that. What happens when you are asked to host a table? What if you have a really chatty client who really wants to connect with you? If you are working a restaurant, how do you move beyond just being a “magic guy” with your regulars?
Close-up magic is a mixture of theatre and social interaction. To focus on merely the magic side of things is to severely cripple the impact, connection, and fun of your magic- both for audience and yourself!
Some people are social creatures by nature; they make friends easily, can keep a conversation going, or at the very least are contributing members of a social scene. The rest of us (myself included) have to work at this! And trust me, it takes effort!
Look for opportunities to expand your social skills every day. When I first left for college I made an effort to sit with total strangers in the cafeteria every day for the first few weeks. I didn’t know anybody and this forced me to interact, connect, and keep things from being awkward. It’s amazing how quickly this “sink or swim” approach to conversation can work! Or, if you live in a city and take a bus to work or school every day, try unplugging yourself from your iPod each day and starting up conversations with random strangers. Or just smile at everyone you see today. You have nothing to lose!
In return you will feel more comfortable with social situations, particularly approaching and making new friends (often considered one of the biggest obstacles of close-up magic). Your magic will improve more from this than mastering that push off double lift.
TIP #3: THE 15 MINUTE TEST
Could you, at any given moment, using only what was around you, perform 15 minutes of magic entertainment? No cards, no gaffed coins, no rubber bands- only the change your spectators have on them, those cocktail napkins over there, and empty beer bottle, a wedding ring, your two hands, etc. Could you do it, and would it be entertaining?
If the answer is yes, I feel confident in two things: that are worthy of calling yourself a magician, and that you probably ready repertoire wise for professional close-up work.
If the answer is no, start expanding your repertoire and your skill set. Sleight of hand is a must for close-up magic because challenges, problems and opportunities arise all the time in close-up which solid sleight of hand can quickly turn into impressive magic.
I’m not saying that performing without gimmicks, preparations, or props is superior to using such items! Quite the opposite, I feel variety is desirable in close-up magic: but if none of these were available to you, could you still leave your audience saying “Wow, that was a GREAT magician!?”
Know somebody who needs to hear this? Please pass it along to them!
Have your own insights? Please comment below!
Did you really read this far down? Thank you so much, you are awesome!