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  • Jeff Quinn

Tricks I Don't Do.


I must know how to do several hundred tricks. They range from simple tricks I learned as a kid to stage illusions where I can make people appear and disappear. And I've learned that not all tricks are appropriate for all audiences. So, with that in mind, here are some of the tricks you will never see me perform for your Summer Reading Program audience...and I'll even explain why.

Tricks with guns. This should be obvious. In this day and age, guns are simply not appropriate props to bring into any sort of setting where children are present. In another time, a magician could use a gun to make a silk scarf disappear, shoot a table and make it fall or even catch a bullet between their teeth. In my opinion, this makes guns look like toys, and I don't want to give that impression to children. Guns are dangerous and have no place in a children's show.

Tricks with knives. Childen are taught from a young age that knives are dangerous. If they see a magician or other performer they like playing with knives or juggling knives, that goes against what they've been taught. I've seen performers pull out knives, switchblades...even a machete to use in their act. Personally, I don't think it's appropriate, so I don't use anything sharp. The one exception I may make is scissors. But even then, I make sure I call attention to the fact that I'm using them properly and that children should only use them with their parents. I also never play with the scissors or juggle them. I always treat them with respect, because that's what I wand the kids to do. I want to be a good example.

Fire. This falls under the same rule as knives. ALL children are told not to play with matches. Unfortunately, many magicians use fire because they think it's "cool." And I agree...it can be cool in the right setting. A library show is not the proper setting. Plus, there's a lot of paper in a library and if something goes wrong, it could start a fire.

Other "danger" tricks. One of the most popular trick concepts right now is a "Russian Roulette" type of tricks. A spike, knife or broken bottle is placed under a cup or sack and then moved around while the magician isn't looking. the magician then slams his hand down on the sacks or cups one by one until only the one with the sharp object is left. The magician usually claims he has "psychic powers" to determine which choice was the safe one. I don't want a child to test their "psychic powers" by trying this. If you look online, you can see several videos where this trick has gone horribly wrong. Another danger trick goes back well over a hundred years. Even Houdini did it. A magician will appear to swallow needles or razor blades and a length of thread. He then regurgitates the needles or razor blades attached to the thread. Although I know how it's done...you won't see me doing it.

Tricks with drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. There was a time when cigarette magic was the rage. But that's no longer the case. Again, I want to set a good example for children. I ran into a problem a few years ago, but then found a great solution. I have a trick that I do with a brown bottle. Most people readily identify it as a beer bottle. But I discovered that Root Beer bottles are also brown. So now I just refer to it as a root been bottle. Problem solved. I'm sure that many performers will think it's trendy or topical to throw in a joke or a reference to marijuana being legalized in some states. I can already envision someone saying something like..."You didn't see how I did that? Wow, you must be from Colorado." Then give a little wink to the adults in the crowd. No matter how small, I don't want any drug references in my show. I think I can be entertaining to both children and adults without them.

Off color tricks or comments. Yes, they exist. Again, this should be an obvious thing to exclude from a children's show, but I've seen other magicians do it. They think it's a way to entertain the adults in the crowd. I think they're wrong.

Tricks that make my assistants the butt of the joke. I can't tell you how many times I've seen magicians do this, and I cringe every time. I don't know why a grown adult thinks it's funny to blame a child for a trick that has "gone wrong". I put those words in quotation marks because usually the trick hasn't gone wrong at all, it's just supposed to appear that way. I do those kinds of tricks, but I don't blame the child when the trick "goes wrong". I blame the magic wand or a gremlin or myself. You'll also notice that when the trick finally works, I give my helper all of the credit. I don't want my helpers leaving the stage feeling bad.

Tricks with live animals. I've had numerous opportunities to use animals in my act, but I never have. There are several reasons. The first reason is rather selfish...animals in a magic show are a hassle. You have to worry about transporting them, feeding them, cleaning up after them, keeping them safe and comfortable, etc. Secondly, some people in the audience may be allergic to fur or feathers. I don't want anyone in my audience leaving with puffy eyes. There's also the liability factor. Kids want to pet the bunny after the show and although rabbits are pretty docile, they can nip a finger. Finally, although I would treat the animal well (I have a spoiled chihuahua who will attest to that), there are some people who automatically think that an animal used in a show is being mistreated. For me, the negatives outweigh the positives.

Geek Tricks. Hammering a nail up your nose, shoving a long needle through your arm, walking on glass or eating light bulbs isn't my idea of entertainment. I don't think most family audiences like it either...especially those with small children. Again, this form of magic has it's place...but I don't think a children's show is the proper venue.

I'm sure that other performers would argue with my logic on these points, but this my attitude on the subject. I'd love to hear your opinion on what you'd NEVER want to see a performer do at your library.


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Copyright 2020 by Jeff Quinn, Omaha Magician, Nebraska Magician, Iowa Magician, Midwest Magician.  No items on this page may be reproduced without expressed permission from Jeff Quinn.