Hello Errbody (everybody according to Ke$ha), Christopher Wiehl here to bring you another top quality article. This week’s article comes from our TMS friend, Caleb Wiles! I feel that as magicians we get caught up so much in the method of effects, that we actually forget why we are doing magic in the first place. If the card uses a duplicate, we may frown on it. If the trick uses force cards or gimmick coins, we may frown on those kinds of effects also. Caleb goes deep into this topic by talking about the use of stooges in our magic. Is there a right and wrong place or time to use stooges? Should we even bother with them? Those are the questions! So lets not waste any more time… here are “The Three (rules for using) Stooges”…
The use of stooges or confederates is a controversial topic among magicians. Some absolutely loathe the idea that an accomplice is responsible for the miracles that magicians take credit for. To many magicians, it just feels like cheating. Why shouldn’t it? Someone else is doing the dirty work. It feels like a scam because the magician is taking a bit of a free ride at the expense of the spectator’s assumptions. I believe the majority of laymen and magicians alike believe in the unwritten law that camera tricks and stooges should never be used in performing magic. To do so, would cheapen our art.
This is why many magicians react negatively when they learn that an effect that just fried their brain required the use of a partner. We spend our time looking for passes or palms. We simply never consider that stooges could be involved. As a result, we feel violated because our basic assumptions were taken advantage of. That’s just plain not fair…or is it? Don’t we do this to spectators all the time? “I’ll place your card in the center of the deck.” Yeah right. “You had a free selection.” Fat chance. “The pack has been thoroughly mixed.” You’re killing me.
We magicians cheat all the time; that’s basically all we ever do. So what makes using a stooge any different? There’s no question that their use can be effective. Just watch an episode of Criss Angel’s Mindfreak with a lay person, and you’ll witness the power of a well placed co-conspirator.
Therefore, I believe we should consider the use of stooges to be just another method in our bag of tricks. Like any method, we should consider the possible advantages and disadvantages of its use. However, we should do so on a case by case basis. No method should ever be discounted as a whole. It is narrow-minded to say that it is never acceptable to utilize a gaffed card, and it is equally shortsighted to dismiss the use of stooges. Our job as entertainers is to determine the best times to use all of our available tools in order to maximize the impact our performance has on an audience.
That being said, I’ve developed three rules that I believe should be followed when working with a stooge:
1. The trick should not depend on the stooge’s reaction.
It is difficult to act genuinely surprised or astonished, so I simply don’t put my partner in that position. For example, I would never have a signed card appear in the stooge’s pocket. Sure, that is an amazing effect, but he would be forced to react in front of the audience. After the revelation, all the attention would be on him. This is not the time to test his acting ability.
2. The stooge’s job should be simple. He shouldn’t feel pressured.
This goes back to one of the first things we each discovered when we first began performing: nothing is too simple to be fouled up when you’re under the pressure of the audience. Don’t allow the stooge to feel that all of the heat is on him. We magicians know the power of misdirection. We know how much we can get away with when people are supposedly watching closely, but to laymen, it seems impossible to get away with anything in front of a group. As a result, you have to make the task simple.
3. Always have an out.
This, for me, is vitally important. If your stooge screws something up, you are going to look like a fool. For this reason, I always like to have a backup plan. I’ll admit that my out isn’t always the most amazing finish, but at least I can bring the effect to some sort of conclusion.
All of these rules come down to the simple fact that I do not want the success of my effect to lie in someone else’s hands. Obviously, the amount of responsibility your stooge takes on can increase as he gains experience and trust. What other rules or thoughts do you think apply to working with a secret helper?
Some questions to leave you on from myself. How do you feel about using stooges? Would you use them if they could really enhance your magic? Have you ever used a stooge for an effect? I would also like to challenge you to perhaps try to use a stooge sometime in an effect and see how it affects your performance. Check out more of Caleb’s work HERE and check out his ON Demand Lecture right HERE on TMS. That is all for now TMSers, until next time, take it easy!