Tommy Wonder’s performance of his “Ring, Watch, and Wallet” is the greatest opening magic trick I have ever seen.
Here’s a handful of reasons why, and the lessons we can take from his masterful introduction.
One: Tackle the Cliche: Wonder immediately addresses the cliche of a magician being a pickpocket and therefore an untrustworthy character. He does not ignore this and instead openly, and honestly, explains that his audience does not need to be on their guard around him.
Two: Define Yourself: He clearly states “I am a Magician” (Check out my article on this topic.)
Three: Provide a Hook: Crime is a very compelling topic. It immediately draws his audience in and gives them something very real to connect with and care about.
Four: Portray Humanity: The plot of Wonder’s presentation is that he was a victim of a robber. He is immediately informing his audience that he is not this all powerful, elite magician who has control over everything. To the contrary, he is just a susceptible to being a victim to crime as any of us. He a human like his audience.
Four and a Half: Provide Background: Notice that Wonder mentions that the robbery happened back home in Holland. This provides background information and further flushes out his character. It is a minor element of the performance, but now that audience member wondering where that accent is from has an answer.
Five: Intrigue your Audience: The idea of stealing objects and then mailing them to yourself is very clever. It’s thought provoking, novel, and valuable. It is such a cool tidbit from the story that I promise you it stuck with his audience members. For the rest of their lives whenever the topic of a mugging shows up, I’m sure they will bring up this clever way of disposing of the evidence- and thereby the magician who shared the story with them.
Six: Create Conflict: Conflict is the driver for all theatre. Unfortunately in magic, we too often set that conflict as between the magician and the audience. Wonder is a genius for creating a villain who the audience can fully relate to, but who isn’t there. The magician doesn’t have to be the villain, neither does an audience member, or an assistant. It feels real, and the audience member is very happy to see that Wonder comes out on top! The audience can support and care about the magician (a victim at the start) who defeats a clever robber (the villain) and ends up setting things right. The reappearance of the ring, watch, and wallet at the end of the routine cement Wonder’s role as the hero in the audience’s eyes.
Seven: Impeccable Technique: Ring, Watch, and Wallet is an effect which would make Robert-Houdin proud. It seamlessly blends sleight of hand, subtlety, and apparatus together to great a incredibly impervious mystery and thereby a fantastic moment of magic. For those who have studied Wonder, you know the level of perfection he is constantly chasing when it comes to method, and we should all keep striving to find / create the absolutely best way to accomplish our magic.
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