The Letterman Test

My favorite person to watch watch magic is David Letterman, and as magicians I feel we should all watch David Letterman watch magic as much as we can because there is a lot we can learn from him.

Why? Because Letterman speaks his mind completely unfiltered. He will say things which even that heckler child at a birthday party would recognize as verging on “impolite,” and he will even interrupt his guest’s to say such things.

This is great for magic!

Let me be clear: I would not label Letterman as a “heckler.” He is an educated, thoughtful personality and his comments are driven by a deep desire to understand and enjoy the magic.

So what type of comments am I talking about? Here are but a few:

  • In the above clip with Jason Randal, Letterman points out the absurdity of a presentational premise where the magician purposefully makes a mistake.
  • With Michael Ammar, he mentions that “alot of the magicians don’t like me helping,” after Ammar evades letting him examine a silk.
  • With Steve Cohen he highlights the silliness of the whole “are you sure?” aspect of selecting any egg. It’s just an egg, why should the spectator know or care if it is the right one to pick.

Now Letterman is not unique in his thoughts here. I bet alot of our audience members have thought the same about aspects of our presentations but have held their tongues to be polite. With Letterman we have the opportunity to pinpoint presentational weak-points. Correcting them is up to us.


Look at the script of a trick which you do*. Now imagine you are performing this trick for David Letterman. Are there ANY points in this trick where you can imagine David Letterman stopping to interject something unwanted?

If so, fix those points in the script and retest. If not, then congratulations you have passed The Letterman Test and I’d venture to say that your presentation is close to being intellectually bulletproof.

Of course this all hypothetical. For those who prefer a more hands on approach: simply get on the Late Show, do your trick, and see what Letterman has to say.

*If you don’t have a script for the trick don’t even bother taking The Letterman Test until you have written one. The trick will fail.

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!

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