Kid Show Konservatory 10/97-12/97


Kid Show Konservatory 10/97-12/97

October 1997

Why Are Kids Different From Any Other Audience?
Bobby J. Gallo
This is an article that has been roaming around my head for quite a while. As most of you know, I perform for a living in a whole host of differing venues. Everywhere from standard birthday parties to the trade show floor. Every audience is different, but the kid show situation seems to stand out from the rest.

In an adult comedy club, banquet, or trade show situation, it seems the primary focus of the miracle worker is to mystify his audience. Entertainment is always of paramount importance, but adults want to watch you for the intrigue that naturally accompanies magic. They wish to catch you or figure out the advanced puzzles you present. We may lecture them all we like about how they should accept magic as an entertaining artform, relax and just enjoy it, but nevertheless, many adults just want to see through what you are doing. Some actually get angry if they don’t!, but that’s another article all together…

In college performances, students wish to be entertained and laugh, but that is where the similarities to kid show performing ends. For the most part, their idea of a humorous situation is to see either the performer or one the their classmates in an awkward situation. However, the primary interest in laughter and entertainment in these shows versus the mystery solving attitudes of an older adult audience mirrors the fact that college students are indeed only a scant ten years from the time they were enjoying the birthday party magician themselves.

I travel with three main shows. My close-up/trade show program, my college/comedy club act, and my kid show. Each in their own compact case. The presentational aspects for all three differ. However, the kid show material requires an entirely different approach as do the two former mentioned programs. Why? Lets first look at what entertains children as opposed to what adults enjoy..

The average age recommended for entertaining children is “four” and up. Below that age, “everything” in the world around them appears to be magic. For example, mom or dad starting the car, the television. etc. To a small child, there is no difference in watching magic show or witnessing the strange antics of a wind-up toy.

As children progress into the next stage of their development, their primary interest is to laugh. Comedy is the key ingredient in the entertainment of children during the early magic kid show stage. That is not to say they do not appreciate magic for what it is. For in fact, they do! But such presentations in my experience must be geared comedically to maintain the interest of ages four, five and six. It is important to remember that many say the average attention span of a child is only twenty minutes. Which means that when hired to do a standard “forty-five” program, the magician has his/her work cut out for themselves. The family entertainer must present something new, visual or exciting every few moments to keep the interest glued to the show. Any distraction, even the slightest, is detrimental to a successful performance.

Distracting things to watch out for when performing for children are.

  • Adults talking during the performance….
    This is the ruination of a vast number of shows. Children are very receptive to extemporary sounds. Even with a sound system, background noise is a tough distraction to overcome.
  • Music playing in the vicinity even at low levels.
    For the same reasons stated above.
  • Any toys, playthings, or overly visual objects in the same area as the performer. Just ask any magician doing a show next to the swing-set in a customers backyard!

Children have different motivations for the reactions they give during a magic show. That for the most part works to the advantage to the performer. It must be remembered that above all, children are HONEST. The reaction they give you is genuine. Adults may clap to be polite when they see a routine they really do not care for. On the other end of the spectrum, many adults will not give you ample credit for material that really DID knock entertainment socks off. Some adults take being mystified personally and would rather walk away or sit there quietly rather than admit that you really “put one over on them”. Of course they do not realize our motivation is to give them a wonderful entertainment experience. They rather feel that we are trying to prove some sort of superiority to our audience which is not the case with most magicians. (However, there are some……!)

I digress. Children crave excitement. This means that most of the magic that is geared solely to mystify and boggle the minds of the audience will simply not work for the younger crowds. Card tricks are out with the rare exception of exhibition card fanning and creative uses of flash cards etc. It must be remembered that the child must be aware that there are 52 cards in a deck and the rare probability that the magician will locate the cards that were selected. I’m sure you get my point.

Mental magic falls equally as flat for kids. How do they know mind reading is impossible? After all there “is” a Santa Clause right? The same can be said for any routine with more than one step for them to follow. Remember, they won’t! They want the trick and they want it now!

So what DOES work for kids. In my experience, ALL magic must have one, some, or all of the following elements:

  • Visual: Silks, ropes, rings, brightly colored balls, etc.
  • Funny: Mild sucker tricks usually with the entertainer taking the brunt of the joke.
  • Animated: Some the the best magic for kids contain movement, The stiff hank, rigid rope, rising egg, spring animals, etc. are good examples of this principle.
  • Simple premise: The ball travels from your hand to the spectators, the hank stands up, the hanks blend into one multi-colored silk, you get the idea.
  • Portable: This is an element that many will not agree with. I feel props should for the most part, be hand held unless you are working on a stage. Kids can become over enthusiastic and tend to rush the stage. In these cases, any props on your table are fair game!

The last technique that I would like to mention and thus conclude this months lesson is one of the most important factors for the entertainer. That technique is acting (something virtually unknown in the world of magic!). Comedic acting enhances the magic and makes everything you do more entertaining. Children like the old-style slapstick of the past. What’s old is new again as far as kids are concerned. Try it and you’ll see. Go to your local video store an rent some old classic, clean comedy shows. This is the type of comedy that never, ever goes out of style.

Till next month, keep em happy!

Bobby J. Gallo

November 1997

Bouncing Ball Matrix
Bobby J. Gallo
This is one of my favorite pet effects. It is designed for close-up use and is particularly appropriate for kids due to the fact that it uses the ever popular hi-bounce balls that can be obtained at your local supermarket vending machine for about a quarter each.

The dynamite benefits in using these balls is threefold.

  • They are instantly recognizable to the audience.
  • The tacky feel actually assists the act of palming which is crucial to this routine.
  • They make no noise when dumped in the pocket for the climax of the series of effects.


1. Four hi-bounce balls 1 1/4 in. each.
2. A close-up pad if working conditions permit.

Effect: Three balls are placed by the magician onto the table in a triangular pattern. The magician covers two of the balls, one with each hand. After the hands are lifted it is seen that one ball has mysteriously traveled through space to join the other!

This is repeated with the third ball causing all the balls to invisibly fly together in one corner of the mat!

The magician then takes two balls in his left hand and openly places the third ball in his pocket. A sudden snap of the fingers and the left hand is opened revealing three balls! The ball in the pocket has travelled through space once again!

The magician then takes two of the balls and puts them into his hand to attempt the feat again. This time however, all the balls vanish into thin air!

Working: This routine is actually a series of separate effects. First, a variation of chink-a-chink. Second, Two-in-the-hand One-in-the-pocket. Third, A false placement vanish.

Begin by having all four balls in the right hand coat or trouser pocket. Reach in and classic palm one ball (See The ICOM Sleight-of-hand gallery Fig #1). At the same time, grasp the other three balls and bring them out placing them on the mat as in Fig #1.

Fig #1
Patter to the audience according to your individual presentation while covering ball #1 with the empty left hand and ball#2 with the loaded right hand. Properly done, the audience will never suspect the existence of the fourth ball.

Roll the balls under your palms a bit, say what ever incantation comes to mind, then simultaneously, palm ball #1 in the left hand and release ball #2 in the right hand. Lift the hands slightly up and fully away from the mat and it will seem that ball #1 has traveled invisibly over to ball #2. Fig #2.

Fig #2
Now, without too much hesitation, cover ball #3 with the right hand. Cross over the right arm with the left hand loaded with ball#1 to cover the two balls in the ball #2 corner. Repeat the process of palming and releasing to apparently cause ball #3 to join balls #1 & #2. Fig #3.

Fig #3
The first phase of the routine is now complete leaving you with a ball classic palmed in the right hand. You are now all set-up to perform a classic, Two-in-the-hand One-in-the-Pocket effect.

Start by picking up one ball with the finger-tips of the right hand still containing the classic palmed ball. Toss the ball into the left hand. Next, pick up the second ball the same way, only this time, toss the ball at the finger-tips along with the classic palmed ball. It should appear that you only put two balls into the left hand. Place the remaining ball into your pocket. Snap your fingers, or what ever you wish and slowly open the left hand dropping each ball one at a time onto the table counting “One, Two, Three” balls!

You are now clean. The extra ball is safely in you pocket and you may end the routine here. Or you may extend it using a false-placement vanish. It goes like this.

Take two balls into the right hand. Display them showing them is the palm-up right hand. Then, apparently place them into the left hand, actually allowing them to fall into finger palm position of the right hand. (ICOM Sleight-of-hand gallery Fig #2)

Pick up the remaining ball with the finger-tips of the right hand and place ALL THE BALLS in your right pocket. Unlike coins, the rubber balls make no noise!!!!

Complete the vanish.

Notes: This is a superb professional routine. All three sequences take just over a minute to perform and is extremely magical looking and will certainly impress the toughest audiences even if they “think” they know how it is done. Of course, never tell them if they are right or wrong! Let them wonder!!!

December 1997

Holiday Theme Tricks???
Bobby J. Gallo
It would seem that this is the ideal month to talk about a subject which every children’s entertainer finds themselves when confronted to perform in a holiday venue. I am referring to the decision on whether or not to use tricks and routines specifically developed with the holidays in mind.

I, like most magicians started early in my career purchasing items like a chimney style Jap Box, A stocking style egg bag, A three card monty trick using Santa and his elves, etc. I had the ideal holiday act. Or so it seemed. but as time went on, I realized a few inherent problems with themeing my magic this way for one season out of the year. The problem that can arise I feel are indicative of the way many family entertainers are perceived when they are trying to specialize for any given series of performances. What do I mean when I say all of this? for instance, the following list of drawbacks I have found to be relatively consistent when performing holiday theme tricks.

  1. When performing a specialty act that has been developed specifically for a show or series of shows, the act is rarely perfected. Let’s face it. Magicians are rarely, if ever, paid enough per performance to merit the kind of rehearsal a single show act would require.
  2. The investment in theme props are seldom worth the return gained in the amount of jobs booked. Props today are expensive, and theme props are no exception. A holiday act can cost hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars to develop. Only to perform a maximum average of about twenty shows during a holiday season. Couple the prop investment with travel costs, publicity, and all the other expenses that go along with having a performing career and it is apparent that theme shows may leave the working performer in the red.
  3. Any specific holiday theme show is not appropriate for everyone. Think about it, you cannot perform these shows in schools or most public places due to the fact that the population of this particular county is growing ever increasingly diverse. And perish the thought of trying to include all faiths into one show, you would wind up with an ecumenical mess.

So what is the answer? How do we overcome these obstacles and please or all so important audiences. The answer is surprisingly simple. Do your act! That’s right, the one that has been honed and perfected through years of trial and error. (Of course, if you are just beginning in magic, it is just important to merely observe the point I am making.) After all, what are you? A magician right? Then if this is the case, do a magic show! It does not have to be of any particular theme, just so long as your magic is entertaining. As of this writing, I am leaving soon to do a four day trade show. Am I gearing my magic to a sponsors product?….Nope! Never have, never will, and I work a lot of trade shows. I just do my act. A magic act.

Bobby J. Gallo

Notice: This material “IS NOT PUBLIC DOMAIN” and is intended for the personal and performance use of International Conservatory Of Magic members only. This entire page is under copywrite 1998 by the International Conservatory of Magic and its respective contributors. No part of this page or its contents may be re-produced without the expressed written permission of I.C.O.M. All marketing and publication rights are reserved. Violation of this is considered intellectual property and information theft and carries penalties under federal law.

Author: Bobby J. Gallo


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