April 2009 Vol 1, Issue 3

Creativity For Entertainers Trilogy

Creativity For Entertainers

Welcome to the third issue of my Creativity For Entertainers newsletter.  
As always I am interested in hearing your questions, comments, and suggestions.  It is my goal to make my books, and this newsletter, as useful to you as possible.
In This Issue
Marked Fish
Phantom and Geni Tube Tips
Ali Bongo
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Marked Fish
One of the concepts I believe in is using children's cards in performing magic for family audiences.  Young children have limited experience with poker cards and may not know the names of the suits, especially spades and clubs.  Decks designed for children have illustrations that they can relate to.  They can also inspire ideas for jokes to tell during performance that will entertain adults.
One of my favorite close up magic effects is Charlie's Marked Cards described on page 106 in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three: Creative Routines.  The original version used poker cards.  I have recently that a Numbers Go Fish deck by TREND enterprises, Inc. works very well for this effect.  The cards are numbered 1 through 12 and depict that number of fish.  The fish on each card are a different design and color.  The number three card has red fish and the number four card has orange fish.  That means you can start by saying, "I have one fish, two fish, red fish, but no blue fish."  That gets a laugh from adults who remember the Dr. Seuss book.  Because the design of the fish change with the number the transformation is more obvious when the number six card magically turns into a number nine card.
The cards are 5-1/2 inch by 3-1/4 which is larger than a poker card.  I discovered an unexpected advantage to this larger size.  To perform a Biddle Count you have to sleightly bow the cards which happens automatically with these larger cards so they are actually easier to use for this effect than poker cards.
You may make up the props for this effect for your own use.  I am reserving manufacturing rights.  I have made up some sets that I will have available on my dealer table.  I am also hoping to have them available soon for mail order.
Last week I found another deck that will work for this effect.  It is called Barbie Number Match.  Each card has a different number of objects.  For example, the one card has one kite and the four card has four bugs.
The Barbie Number Match also has cards with a large number on it to pair with the object cards.  That means it would be ideal for Larry Becker's Will The Cards Match routine described on 142 of Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three: Creative Routines.
What are your favorite card effects?  What would happen if you performed them with children's decks?  What deck would work best?
Phantom and Geni Tube Tips
In Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three, I refer to a prop called a Phantom Tube on pages 253 and 254 in Volume Three.  A similar props is a Geni Tube, which I refer to on page 259 of the same volume.
A natural way to incorporate either a Phantom Tube or Geni Tube into an act is to have it sitting on a magic table as a holder for something else.  That justifies its presence.  For example, in one of my routines I use it as a vase holding my Ali Bongo Color Changing Rose.  Another possibility is to use it to hold a magic wand.  If you set the tube with the gimmick end down it looks natural and anybody seeing it backstage while not guess the prop's secret.  When you pick up the tube the object falls through revealing that it is bottomless. If you use a Geni or Phantom Tube, what kind of things could it hold on your table?
When ever you show a tube empty, use it like a telescope to look at the audience.  If you can see audience members through the tube they can see through the tube observing that the inside is empty.  If you can't see them, they can't see the inside of the tube.  Also, it is good showmanship to hold things as close to your face as practical when you display them so the audience can see both the prop and your expression at the same time.
Ali Bongo

Ali Bongo (William Oliver Wallace) died on March 8, 2009.  You will find references to him in Volume One on page 96, Volume Two on page 465, and Volume Three on pages 93, 387, and 388.
I did not realize it at the time that I wrote my trilogy, but he is the creator of the Pom Pom Stick that I talk about in Volume One on pages 112 and 113.  In that volume I refer to the difficulty of motivating the actions of the effect.  After I wrote that book I developed a routine that uses the Pom Pom Stick to teach lessons about the Bible.  The actions of the effect make perfect sense within the context of the routine.  One reason I am publishing this newsletter is because my variety arts career is very much a work in progress.  I am still learning and making new discoveries.  As I wrote in the introduction to Volume Three, "The routines in this book are not the definitive version.  You do not have to do the routines the way they are described.  In fact, in the future I may not do the routines the way they are described.  I consider each of them to be a work in progress.  They continue to evolve in my performances.  Allow them to evolve for you as well."  (The Bible routine with a Pom Pom Stick has been published in the October 2005 issue of The Christian Conjurer and the May/June 2007 issue of the Cross and The Clown.)
I had the opportunity to talk with Ali Bongo at the 2007 Magic Show Conference in Branson, MO.  One of the things that he talked about was his frustration with people who copied his creations and sold them without giving Ali credit or any financial renumeration.  The Pom Pom Stick is one of his creations that has been widely counterfitted.  Unfortunately many of the knock offs were incorrectly made so they do not work properly which damaged the reputation of his effect.
His Bongo Hat which enlarged and changed color as it was unfolded is another of his creations that was counterfitted.
I learned how to perform Ali Bongo's color changing rose when he lectured at the 1999 World Clown Association Convention in Scotland.  I have performed it in many shows, but have never taught anybody else how to perform it.  When somebody teaches you something in a lecture you have the right to perform it because the implication is they are granting you permission to use it, as long as they actually have the right to teach it.  However, when somebody teaches something in a lecture they are not giving you the right to teach or manufacture it.  Under certain conditions the content of a lecture is protected by the copyright law.  Everything you teach should either be your own creation, something in the public domain, or something you have received permission to teach.  That is why I emphasize in my books and my lectures that Larry Becker gave me permission to teach my variations of his Card Match routine and that Duane Laflin gave me permission to teach so many things that I have learned from him.

The copyright law protects the expression of an idea, but not the idea itself.  That is to maintain a flow of ideas so new ideas will be inspired by existing ideas.  At the 1999 World Clown Association Convention in Scotland I learned Ali Bongo's Silk to Rose routine.  I have taught my version of that routine.  First, Ali's routine is a variation of Max Holden's earlier rose to silk routine that is in the public domain.  I use the part that is public domain.  Second, I have made changes to the way Ali performed the routine.  I believe that my changes were enough to make it a new expression of the idea.  What I teach was inspired by Ali Bongo's routine but is not a copy of Ali Bongo's routine.  (You will find my version describe on pages 387 through 389 of Volume Three.)  How much of a change is necessary to make something a new version instead of a knock off?  That is currently being debated by people interested in the ethics of variety arts. 
Volume Three Corrections
Don Brisbane's Will The Color Match routine on page 148 used pictures of cats
Birthday Happy on page 306 was manufactured and distributed by Bob Gibbons as a Fun Technicians product.  However, it was created by John Cooper.
The index listing for silk-to-stock should be silk-to-sock

The index listing for Matthew 14:1521 should be Matthew 14: 15-21
That's it for this third issue.  I am always interested in your questions, comments, and how you have been able to apply the information from my books.  Often readers come up with ideas that I would not have.  Their ideas then inspire me to create additional related ideas.  This newsletter is an attempt to keep two-way communication with readers of my books flowing.
Bruce Johnson
Charlie's Creative Comedy