One of the byproducts of being a mentalist and magician is that I love riddles and puzzles. (Although, some who know me well would argue that my love of puzzles and riddles is what drove me to being a magician in the first place.)
And recently on my TikTok account, I bestowed my favourite riddle on to the masses. The riddle is as follows:
Four men buried up to their necks, awaiting execution. Between Man A and Man B is an impenetrable wall; no windows, no doors, and no mirrors. The four men are arranged in a straight line, they can’t move, they can’t turn their heads, and they can only see what’s in front of them (so Man A can see the wall, Man B can see the wall, Man C can see Man B and the wall, and Man D can see Man C, Man B, and the wall). Each of these men are wearing a hat; either a black hat, or a white hat. However, each of the men don’t know and can’t see which hat they are wearing, and they don’t know what order the hats are in. But, all the men do know that there are four men, four hats and there are two hats of each colour.
Now, these men are destined for an execution. But, being a benevolent executioner, the Trigger-Man offers a chance for salvation: If one of the men can correctly guess the colour of their own hat, all four men go free. But, if your guess is wrong, the execution of the four men carries on as planned. If they try and speak to each other, they get executed. So, the men can’t speak to each other, and cannot be incorrect.
After a time, one man calls out, with absolute, one-hundred-per-cent certainty that he can (and does) correctly identify the colour of his own hat. True to his word, the executioner sets the men free.
So, the riddle is: Which man is it, and how does he know?
Ok, I’m going to give you a chance to noodle this one out on your own first. But don’t worry, I’m going to put the answer below.
Unless you are a seasoned professional, it's tough not to feel at least a little self-conscious on video.
I mean, think about it…at the best of times, people have no idea how to act in front of a camera. But now, work, play, happy hours with friends, family get-togethers…they’re all taking place on video calls.
Every day, we’re faced with cameras pointed at ceilings, fuzzy video, and endless streams of “can you hear me’s.” But fear not. Over the past year, I’ve become a Zoom Master, and I’m here to give you seven tips to put your best face forward and look like a video-call All-Star.
Talking to people is hard.
Whether it’s a breakout session with co-workers or networking with someone new, it can be tough to find common ground and make conversation. And that was before Zoom was ever a thing. Back in the Before-Zoom Era (or the BZE, as I’m sure future archaeologists will call it), you could quietly hide behind your drink, talk about the weather, rush off to the bathroom and hide, or anything else to avoid those awkward moments.
On Zoom, it’s just you, your camera, and everyone else on the call. You’re looking at them, they’re looking at you, and there’s nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. Or it’s the umpteenth meeting this week, and you’ve run out of things to talk about with your co-workers days ago, and that Zoom Fatigue is really starting to set in.
So, how do you break through and start those conversations? I’ve got seven ideas that will help break anyone out of their virtual shell!
Recently, I had an unusual gig. Rather than my usual theatre show or after-dinner event entertainment, I was asked to perform my magic and mentalism schtick and MC an event hosted in a store, where all their suppliers came to showcase all of their hot new things for the year. I would do a bit of magic, introduce two or three presenters, do a little more magic, and lather, rinse, repeat until the end of the event. It's the kind of gig I do often enough to have it in my corporate magician skill set.
After the event was over, the client came up to me and told me how thrilled she was about the event. She was not only impressed by the magic that happened on stage for her guests, but was also very pleased about how the crowd was interested, engaged, stayed at the event much longer than expected, and (hopefully) became more informed customers that helped my client make a profit.
It was a great event all around, and when it was all over, I was thanked abundantly for helping make their event a smashing success.
And, while this particular gig is a bit different from the norm, the reaction of the client at the end of it was one that I’ve seen time and time again. And while they could have done what they did before with the same results as before, they decided to add an extra little spark and hire a professional. And what did that do for their event?
It made it fun.
Even though this is what I consider my downtime during the year, the truth is I’m just as busy as I usually am. The difference is instead of my time being spent on stage or on the road, it’s being spent in my office. My days are filled booking private events, preparing for my summer tour, researching and writing, and doing all the other administrative things that make my job as a mentalist, magician, and entertainer keep chugging along.
This is also the time of year where I get a good chunk of my fall and winter bookings, and good number of them are for fundraising events: fundraisers for charities, fundraisers for animal shelters, fundraisers for non-profit organizations, fundraisers for local community groups...the list is endless. And a lot of the time, the people putting on these events are old pros. They’ve got years of experience putting together these events, and have everything planned out to the last detail, things booked months in advance, and the whole process is one big self-working machine.
But every once in a while, I find myself working with a first-timer. It’s either their first time putting on an event, or their first time doing an event on this scale, or even their first time setting foot in a gala or fundraiser, let alone planning one. And not to say that they can’t do it; a lot of the time these first-timers do an amazing job. But sometimes, planning these events can leave you pulling out your hair in frustration. And whether you’re a first-timer or an old pro, there’s a few things that can help make putting on these events not only a little less stressful but make it the talk of the town.
So, I've put together a step-by-step guide on how to put on a night that will make you look like a fundraising pro.
If you’ve been watching the blog (or my Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter) lately, you probably noticed that I had a nice little chat with DJ Stacey from PopJukeBox. During the show, we talked about what I do, and how I got to where I am, and some of the stories continued after the microphones were shut off (or, before they were even turned on, really). Eventually, she asked about my shows. And while I do a decent number of public shows and events through the year all across the globe, I also do a collection of private events.
Over a given year, I split my time between doing public theatre shows, and private events like Christmas parties, fundraisers, galas, weddings, and the like. And when I mentioned weddings, Stacey reacted with a “huh...you know, I never thought of a magician for a wedding before.” But it does happen. It’s not common in North America, but in the UK, it’s actually quite common...in fact, there’s a whole industry built around it.
But truthfully, I’ve had this conversation more than a few times...although not just about weddings. For a lot of people, the thought of hiring a magician for their event never even crosses their mind. And a good number of my first-time clients are these people. Now, I don’t mean that this is their first time hiring me before...I mean, I’m the first magician/mentalist/something-other-than-a-guy-with-an-iPod-and-a-speaker they’ve ever brought into their event to provide some entertainment ever.
And it always goes the same way: I show up, amaze the pants off the guests, and later, when I speak to the organizer about the event, they say something like, “WOW, that was amazing. Thank you so much! Everyone loved it...we’re still talking about it! I’m so glad I decided to do something different for our event this year and bring you in.”
The fact is, for many reasons, adding entertainment like a magician or mentalist to your event can be a HUGE boost to whatever you’re planning. And a lot of my first-time clients never anticipated the added bonuses of professional entertainment at their event. For example:
1. It Makes Your Event Go From Boring To Exciting Instantly
We all dread that demon of event organizing...that the party winds up being a drag.
We’ve all been there. We attend (or worse, planned) a party where people show up, make unbearable small-talk, silently eat a meal, endure whatever short program is planned, and head for the door as soon as they can. The night is over by 9 PM at the latest, and a month later everyone who attended forgot it happened.
This situation makes a complete one-eighty with one small addition: adding a mentalist, magician, or entertainer to the mix. Before the show even starts, there’s a buzz in the room.
“Did you hear that they hired entertainment this year? They got a Mind-Reader.”
Instant intrigue. What will it be like? Will they be part of it? Now they want to stay and see what happens. Then, the MC of the evening announces the entertainer, and by the end of the show, your guests are laughing, cheering, and gasping. They witness something they’ve never experienced before. For the rest of the night (and the next day, and the next year...but more on that later), conversations are popping up all the time about what happened. Why? Well, it’s because...
Heads up. This might be a little gruesome for some.
Something that could’ve been much worse than it wound up being, but nonetheless caused me panic and anxiety.
I cut my thumb.
Now a few of you might be sitting there thinking, “That’s it? All this build-up for a cut on his thumb? What kind of wimp is this guy?”
But the truth is, it was a relatively deep cut that required a trip to the ER. And while I had the option of stitches, I opted for a quick glue-job to hold it together. Why? Because in less than twenty-four hours, I had a show to do and I didn’t want stitches, bandages, or any other medical paraphernalia getting in my way. So, a quick dab of surgical glue and a doctor’s warning of “this will probably leave a scar” later, I was all sealed up and sent on my merry way.
How’d it happen? Well, I was digging through the garage looking for all the tools needed to swap over my winter tires to the summer treads in preparation for my upcoming summer Fringe schedule. I came across a broken mason jar which promptly fell on my thumb, slicing me good. Luckily it was a pretty clean (albeit deep) cut, so it was already starting to heal together on the way to the hospital. But there was a sense of urgency and fear the whole trip there.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year.
It’s Booking Season. You know, the season where I sit down, answer emails, make phone calls, and schedule meetings to book shows for the following year. Now these shows can range from thirty people in a basement, to five hundred people in a conference center or theatre.
But a least a few times a year, I come across someone planning an event that has a boatload of other questions that usually pertain to the rest of the event. Sometimes, it’s about catering. Or, it’s about audio and lighting. Other times, it’s about how to make whatever the event is special or unique in some way. And, being an expert event-goer, I’ve been to my fair share of events from every edge of the spectrum. And this year, I’ve had a few back-to-back requests about how to really add some pizazz to upcoming events that clients are hosting. So, to help all the would-be planners out there, I’ve decided to put together a little list on how to add some simple things to make your event pop.
There’s been a big event in my household.
We bought the next instalment of the Star Wars franchise. It was a momentous occasion.
Ever since Lucasfilm (or Disney, or whoever you want to call it) decided to continue the iconic space opera, Hannah and I have been keeping tabs on all the updates, leaks, and releases of the upcoming films. So, since the release of The Last Jedi coincided with Hannah’s birthday, it became the perfect birthday gift.
But, to make sure we had all the story up to date when we watched The Last Jedi, we went back and watched the The Force Awakens first. And while watching The Force Awakens, a very unusual conversation popped up around one particular scene.
In the movie, there’s a moment where C-3PO (a gold, very proper, humanoid robot, if you’re unfamiliar with the films) pops out of a spaceship, greets everyone and says, “you probably don’t recognize me because of the red arm.” Camera pans to a full body shot of the droid, showing his usual golden arm replaced with a bright red one. Cue running gag for the remainder of the film.
Seeing this, Hannah says, “Huh, I guess that makes sense...you know, when a car gets damaged, sometimes the coloUr of the part doesn’t match. It’s probably the same for droids.”
To which I responded, “Yeah, kind of like when 3PO had a silver leg in the first Star Wars trilogy.”
Instead of getting an “Oh right,” or “Yeah, I remember,” all I got back from Hannah was a confused stare.
“What are you talking about? He’s always been gold. What silver leg?”
The Force Awakens gets paused. Multiple Google image searches ensue.
Eventually Hannah concedes that the silver leg did indeed happen, but she’s sure that she remembers it differently.
Alas, Hannah is another victim of…(cue dramatic music)
The Mandela Effect.
Recently, my fiance and I were sitting with in my living room with a magically-inclined friend of mine. We had spent the afternoon discussing a few projects we all had on the go, and like these discussions usually do, we all went off on our unique tangents into stories, Youtube videos, and archival photos in our various social media profiles. You know what that’s like, right? Of course you do.
Now despite this wizard-friend knowing me for at least two or three years, she was unaware of my previous lives that have led me to the current magic-and-mentalism-based career I’ve chosen. Just to catch you up, before I was a professional mentalist, I was a baseball player, a bartender, an undergraduate scientist, an actor, and improviser, and of all things, a poster-child for the University of Lethbridge (which, in fact, was the direct result of my combined expertise in the “scientist” and “baseball player” fields...Maybe I’ll tell that story at a later date, but for now, back to the original story).
But, as we carried on our discussions about all things magic-related, I realized how the process of making magic and the process of scientific discovery are basically the same. (Well, at least to me.) The tools I used to carry out research as an undergrad at the U of L were more or less the same steps I had been using to create the magic that had been put into my shows for the past six(ish) years. So, in an effort to help us all be better magicians (or scientists...or both?) I’m going to outline how the famous (cue bold, dramatic voice-over) SCIENTIFIC METHOD shapes everything I do to get my magic on stage.
Disclaimer: What follows is grossly oversimplified, both from a “making magic” standpoint, as well as “this is how science works” standpoint (after all, my goal is to entertain you with internet ramblings). If you want more about the scientific method, there’s a great video here.