Thursday, December 29, 2011

Here are six tips that I find are the"secret" to effective close-up magic presentation (and most any interaction in life). And it's easy to remember using "SECRET" as an acronym.

S - Smile
A smile has more power than you think. More than naturally raising your likability factor and opening up an extra degree of connection with your audience, it is a useful tool to camouflage your moves. Think about's hard to concentrate AND smile at the same time. Just look at Auguste Rodin's famous statue The Thinker. So, enjoy yourself and smile through your magic, and it will diminish the perception that anything sneaky is going on.

E - Eye Contact
Please don't stare at your cards the whole time. Lock eyes with everyone in your audience and you'll "touch" them.

C - Commit
Don't just recite your lines; stand behind every word. David Regal is one of my favorite performers. He makes even the simplest items shine. The secret? He "COMMITS." Every word & action is used to make the impact as clear, compelling and entertaining as possible. Great rules to follow

R - Respond
Listen to both verbal and non-verbal gestures...and look for opportunities to respond and interact. Magic is about dialogue - not monologue.

E - Express Yourself
Don't let your props upstage you. Create opportunities to be YOU and express the wonderful, unique qualities only you have.

T - Transport Them
Magic is about taking your audience to a different place...a different state of mind. If your magic does not transport them, that it falls flat. Look for ways to elevate presentation and meaning in your magic.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Website -

I'm excited to announce the launch of This website highlights my work as a professional magician and my love of the arts overall. I hope you have fun exploring. Let me know what you think and how I can keep the website fresh, informative and a fun place to visit.

HOME - The homepage is designed to be uncluttered, easy on the eyes, and give you quick access to anywhere on the site. You'll be greeted with a random photo each time you visit. You'll get a visual overview of the five latest news headlines, and you'll find one-click access to my Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and magicians blog sites.

ABOUT JOHN - Learn more about me, my approach to magic, how I got into it, and what others are saying about my magic.

BOOKING - What sets my magic apart? What can your guests expect? The Booking page describes my brand of magic and how it can help make your event as memorable and effective as possible.

NEWS - Read about my latest magical adventures, and explore other topics such as tips on hiring a magician and magic history. You can subscribe to the RSS feed, leave comments if you wish, and easily share any article via Twitter, Facebook or Email.

GALLERY - See the magic in action through photos and video clips. And if you'd like to see more videos, my YouTube page is just a click away.

PRODUCTS - For magicians, the Products page features my professional DVDs, lecture notes, books and more. Explore the contents of each product, read expert testimonials, and easily add items to your cart.

ARTS - In addition to the art of magic, I am dedicated to the art of design and music. Go "beyond the magic" and explore my art portfolio and listen to some of my original guitar compositions.

CONTACT - Have a question or comment, or just want to say hi? The contact page connects your inquiry directly to me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I'm on a kick lately about infusing CHOICE into my magic presentations and structure. Sometimes the choice requires no change in handling, such as "What four-of-a-kind shall we use?" or "Should I find the red or black Queens first?". Other times, it my require two alternate endings. I'm working on a triple card to pocket routine now. For the last card, I'm working out a way to ask if they'd like their card to melt from the inside of my pocket to the outside OR from the outside in. Of course, I'll be prepared either way, and depending on what they say, they'll never see the alternate ending.

This train of thought has me thinking about every effect in my repertoire, looking for opportunities to add choice. Why do I think this is important? I think it's a great way to: 1) Engage my audience in the experience; 2) Let them play a genuine role in where the magic takes us; 3) Shift the experience from being predetermined to "in the now;" and 4) Raise the perceived impossibility by being able to deliver on their choice.

Give it a try. I'm curious to see what you come up with.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Designing Reactions

Have you ever gotten a reaction that surprised you? Of course you have; we all have. Whether performing magic, conducting a meeting or just sharing a story with someone, the reactions we get are not always what we expect. It might be silence, or an off-topic remark, a delayed response, or any number of emotions.

To Clap or Not to Clap
I remember showing my wife Debbie a trick when we first started dating. There was group of people. They all clapped...except Debbie. I was curious, so I asked her about it later. She said, "I didn't think magic was something you clap at. I loved the trick, but clapping just didn't feel natural." Hmmm, I learned that clapping is not a standard indicator. I'd much rather have a genuine reaction of wonder than a forced applause.

Sometimes, audiences react in a quiet, contemplative way. Other times, they are loud and boisterous. They might challenge you, laugh at a serious part, heckle or chuckle. The trick is having strategies up our sleeve to design reactions we are aiming for.

It's Our Role, not Theirs
It is NOT the audience's responsibility to guess how to react. It is not their burden to align with your expectations. It's not their duty to give you 100% of their attention or bring the applause meter to fever pitch. Rather, it is OUR role to design effects toward a desired outcome. It's about being intentional in everything we do to the audience to a destination and ultimately build an experience that leads to genuine reactions that are aligned with the premise of the trick. It starts with the question, "How do I want them to feel?" And while the reaction we get is impossible to script ahead of time, it IS possible to make choices in presentation that create reactions tied to the emotion of the effect.

Fast forward. Same girl, different trick. I showed Debbie a trick where her signed card vanished. Not only that, she as now sitting on it! No clapping, but a surprise reaction nonetheless. She ran around screaming to others in the room, "OMG, John pulled a card out of my butt!"

Yeah, could never have scripted that one, yet it was purely genuine reaction of utter astonishment...exactly as I had set out to do.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Your Opening Line

What's your opening line when approaching a group during a strolling magic performance?

Let's face it, while the approach opens the door to an amazing experience for your audience, it can also be quite awkward to invade their current experience to introduce them to a new one.

The trick is to make them curious, not defensive. (It's difficult for one to feel defensiveness and curiosity at the same time.) I often do this with a very simple question: “Excuse me, can I borrow your imagination for a moment?”

It's polite, non-intrusive, inviting, and most importantly, different. (“What does he mean, ‘borrow my imagination?’”)

It's now important to follow up with something that does indeed draw in their imagination. I usually continue with, “I'd like you to imagine that I'm holding an invisible deck of cards” or “I'd like you to imagine that instead of these two rubberbands, I am holding the very handcuffs used by the great Houdini.

So, that's my tip for today — a simple question that heightens curiosity.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What did YOU learn?

As a marketing professional by day, I recall a presentation I led a few years back. I gave a marketing 101 course to colleagues in the non-profit sector—and the day after, a mentor I greatly respect asked me, "So, what did you learn?"

I was a little thrown off. I asked myself, "What does he mean what did I 'learn?' After all, I gave the presentation. Shouldn't the question be 'What do THEY learn?'"

Vince asked be again, "What did YOU learn?"

I get it now. It's about being consistently curious and learning something about ourselves in everything we do. From that day forward, "What did I learn?" has become a question I've asked myself countless times - nearly daily. It's applicable to professional work, family life...and yes, my career as a professional magician. It's especially revealing when you ask this after you TEACH someone something, because even when we are on the teaching side, we are learning too!

Try it. Be curious. Learn on the go. Grow.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What a Bunch of Tools

Magicians: The members of your audience are a bunch of tools.

Wait, I don't mean that in any sort of derogatory way. They are literally part of your magic toolbox, and you should utilize them just as much as any sleight in your arsenal.

How many times do we, as creators, factor in the audience into the method, not just the presentation? Sure, we design effects that entertain and tickle their magical funny bone, but in terms of intentionally focusing on the intricacies of audience interaction and psychology as part of sleight execution is something I think we can and should do more of.

In my work, which you can see in action on my Brainstorm DVDs among other places, I focus the timing of sleights during audience Action, Interaction and Reaction (A.I.R.). As a result, the moves come across as "airy"—and in many cases, virtually invisible. And while it might all appear casual and off the cuff, make no mistake about it—it is ALL very intentional.

The paradox here is that it is hard to make things appear simple. It takes many hours of practice, preparation and on-air time with real world to make it effective. The reward of all this is that you gain an extra tool (in the form of your audience) in making your sleights appear...well...sleight-less.

So, while your audience comes in to be entertained, little do they know that they are playing a secret vital role in actual the execution of your methods. It's a shift in our thinking. No more laboring over how they might burn our hands; instead, strategically weave them into the construction of the effect so the moves become background noise—and the entertainment factor takes center stage.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What's Your Story?

Magicians: Think about a routine or a set you usually perform.

Now describe the entire set in about 50 words. Wait. Here's the real key; avoid listing the names of the effects or directly describing what happens with the props. Instead, describe it as a STORY of the journey experienced by the audience.

So instead of writing down your routine as a list of 4 or 5 effects, you might describe it like, "The audience experiences the power of subliminal advertising, then are shown how their own actions could subliminally broadcast their mere thoughts. Then, in addition to predicting the future, the future is actually altered! Finally, the audience sees what it's like to have something vanish up close, then repeat with a powerful twist."

Why do this exercise? 1) It often unveils misplaced effects that interrupt the flow of an cohesive and advancing story; 2) it focuses your view through an audience lens; and 3) it helps to answer the ever important "So What?"about particular effect(s) - such as "So what if I find the Aces?" or "So what if I find their card?" The latter examples can often transcend into experiences that touch your audience in profound ways IF the story and premise are presented as such.

So, what's your story?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Okay, so Paul Harris' classic effect has always intrigued me. I'm quite proud of the variation I use, not so much for handling touches, but for the the "moments" I create through simple one-degree shifts. The most notable of these is placing the cards ON the card box during the time they change. It's a hands-off magical moment. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

One Voice

In branding, there is the important concept of talking in ONE VOICE. Just go to Disneyland for example and see everything and everyone expressing the Disney brand with one voice. Their brand is brought to life with crystal clear alignment. While I don't know Disney's official brand strategies, it is clear that their voice encompasses such words as welcoming, courteous and magical.

The Y is another major brand. Their voice consists of five key words: welcoming, nurturing, hopeful, genuine and determined.

So, when thinking about your personal brand as a magician, try speaking in one voice. Identify some key words that best align to your personal brand, and jot them down. Everything from your movements, words, gestures, attitude, collateral material, website and more should all point to the same target and embody your brand. If they don't, imagine the confusion you'd be conveying.

Monday, September 13, 2010


When you're concentrating hard on something, do you usually smile? Most likely not. Just look at Auguste Rodin's The Thinker. It's simply not a natural gesture to smile when in pensive thought.

So, while it may seem like an obvious point, it's important to remember to smile when presenting your magic. I've caught myself violating this rule, as I'm sure we all have. It's usually due to concentrating on executing a sleight or thinking about the next move. Being aware of this, and throwing on a happy face will not only diminish the perception that anything sneaky is going on, it will naturally raise your likability factor and open up an extra degree of connection with your audience.

A smile is one of five key presentational tips that I believe are important when performing. Here are all five, easily framed in an easy-to-remember acronym, S.M.I.L.E.

  • S. Smile.
  • M. Meaning - Don't just recite your lines; stand behind every word.
  • I. "EYE" contact. Please don't stare at your cards the whole tim. Lock eyes with everyone in your audience and you'll "touch" them.
  • L. - Listen. Listen to both verbal and non-verbal gestures...and look for opportunities to respond and interact.
  • E. - Express YOU. Don't let your props upstage you. Create opportunities to be YOU and express the wonderful, unique qualities only you have.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Some One Degree highlights

One Degree is packed with usable and powerful card magic. More than 20 effects in all, here are a few highlights:

If you're familiar with Intro-verted from its original appearance in MAGIC magazine, don't overlook some new features: 1) There's a simpler set-up procedure; and 2) Joshua Jay adds an fantastic optional color-changing kicker (see page 23).

This effect exemplifies the whole "one degree" philosophy. The addition of an odd-backed card to my previous effect Optical Opener (Second Storm) results in an massively stronger experience.

I can do this in front of the mirror all day. Show three cards as four with a natural in-the-hands stud turnover sequence.

With a nod to John Carey, Lance Pierce and of course Francis Carlyle, this is a perfect anytime, anywhere card-to-pocket routine. Three luscious phases with an amazing ending. Tip: Study the Asher Twist at

This is a great way to open up a set. It maximizes the staging and psychology in my effect Color Blind (Brainstorm) to add a card to anywhere surprise!

This natural and deceptive sequence is an efficient alternative to the Biddle Steal. And as with many tricks in One Degree, it's completely impromptu and completely in the hands.

Give your participant the freedom to mix cards up and down behind their back. Yet when the deck is spread, the cards are all facing the same way except for the card they named early on.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More about ONE DEGREE

My new book ONE DEGREE is finally out. While it's a book for magicians, I believe it goes far beyond explaining "tricks" - and covers a practical philosophy that has overarching benefits.

ONE DEGREE as a book and an approach is all about making small, intentional improvements that can turn a good trick into a GREAT trick! It can be something as simple as pausing before the final reveal, replacing a sleight with a subtlety (or vice versa), and more. I see many beginners completely changing effects or trying the latest and greatest stuff in order to heighten their newness factor. I say, instead of making massive changes to try to achieve massive results...make strategic and careful improvements to achieve the same.

I view it in three parts: IMPACT, CONNECTION, and BEING ON TARGET

Build upon an established foundation to increase the impact inordinately. Think about Olympic sprint runners; as they approach the finish line, even the smallest change can make the difference between a Gold and a Bronze. Or as the cover of the book depicts, just one degree above 211°F takes it to the every powerful boiling point. I give practical examples of this philosophy in the form of effects and essays throughout the book.

We've all heard of "six degrees of separation.” Magic gives us the unique opportunity to turn this into ONE DEGREE of CONNECTION...even with a complete stranger. So, how do we maximize these connections? Just being aware of it and intentional in our actions is a great step. Borrowing from my experience in branding, it's important to speak in ONE "VOICE"...not just your spoken voice, but every other way you express yourself. This is how the best brands are built. I have an essay on branding in the book with suggestions to help you hone in your own brand as a magician (complete with my personal notes relative to MY brand).

Imagine yourself aiming an arrow at a target. A shift as little as ONE degree could make the difference between hitting your target...and not. So, in targetting our respective goals, viewing things through a one degree lens is so important.

An important note here is that one degree changes have to be a change for the BETTER. If you have a solid routine, and you make make a small change in the wrong direction, the effect does not just become a little worse...the results could be catastrophic. This is why it is vitally important to be wholly aware of who you are as a magician, what promise you make through your magic (brand), how you want the audience to FEEL...then making careful adjustments that are aligned with this.

You’ll soon recognize one degree changes everywhere...even beyond your magic. You'll become more aware why some magic just works, and some doesn't...or why some commercials grab you and inspire ACTION, while others don't...or why you're loyal to one brand over another. Here’s a quick non-magic example. I took my 2-year old daughter to Disneyland and we ordered pancakes. Out comes a "Mickey Mouse" shaped pancake. Wow! Here eyes grew wide and her smile lasted throughout the day. For Disney, it required very little effort or cost on their part to bring out a Mickey pancake (one degree improvement)...but the results were EXTRAORDINARY. Let's face it, it's just pancake batter...but the one degree change was completely aligned with the Disney brand promise to bring joy...and it worked in a BIG way.

In addition to more than 20 tricks and moves in ONE DEGREE, I have practical tips throughout the book that cover all of the above.

Some of my one-degree magic examples:
  • Adding wine glasses to a classic Ace Assembly
  • Adding an odd-backed card to Optical Opener, and crafting a presentation that connects
  • Making Palm Reader and Jack Carpenter's "Mysterious" completely in-the-hands
  • Taking Triumph out of YOUR hands, and having your participant unmix the deck behind their back
  • and so many more!

It's my hope that ONE DEGREE will help you for beyond the tricks I share. The goal is to inspire you to identify small but important shifts that will lead to a WOW factor in your own magic. Needless to say, your one degree shifts will be different than mine since they must be wholly aligned with our respective brands.

For more information, visit and


Monday, August 9, 2010


August 9-15
Magic Cafe
Featured Guest
(For Magicians)

August 14, 7:30-10:30 p.m.
Performing at Pop the Cork Wine Bar
Tickets and info at:

Featured guest Magic Newswire podcast

Tuesday, September 7
Lecture at International Brotherhood of Magicians
Jeff McBride Ring - Lake Elsinore, CA

September 10 & 11
Performing at The Magic Castle
Hat & Hare Pub with featured performer Matt Vizio

October 1-2
Carolina Close-Up Convention

Featured Lecturer/Performer

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


My new hardcover book, ONE DEGREE, is now available...on the same day I turn 42. What a great gift it is for me to share this with the magic community. I think you'll agree this is a simply gorgeous book. The Vanishing Inc. team did a superb job with the layout and design. More than two years in the making, One Degree contains more than 20 card routines (mostly new), a some "best of" items. I'm honored to have a wonderful Foreword by John Bannon and Introduction by Jack Carpenter. With 40,000 words, 240 photos, and five essays, this is more than just a book of tricks. It will get you thinking more about WHY you do magic and what guides your decisions.

You can order through Vanishing Inc. or directly through me here. With every order, I'm including a FREE clear sleeve for the effect Lost & Found (it makes a perfect bookmark too), and I'll personally sign the book to you!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Performance Tips

I fellow magician was asked to show some magic to the incoming President of the Board of Trustees at his organization. In anticipation for this meeting, he struggled with a few things: he gets nervous and visibly shakes; and he did not know exactly what to show this gentleman at the time of their future meeting.

Man, with all this build up to the big meeting/performance with the Board President, I can see how the nerves can set in. Knowing he gets the shakes, then anticipating this moment where all eyes will be on him can seem scary. The scariest part, in my opinion, is the contrived in, "I'd like to introduce you both; now show us some magic!"

I suggested a few things that I really think would help. Don't look at this as a "performance." Look at as an introduction and conversation. Ask more about him when you meet. To make things less contrived, have a deck of cards handy on a nearby if it's just laying around. Look for a natural transition in the conversation...and continue conversing. Ask an open question (one that cannot be answered with just a yes or no). This keeps the focus shared, and not all lasers on your hands. Don't look at it as instantly switching into performance mode. Pick up the cards and try to make a reference to something he said earlier. In the end, the "effect" is not about Aces or your hands, it's about HIM. This alone helps alleviate the shakes. Take the opportunity to prepare an effect that utilizes his name in some way, but be sure to present it in an "off the cuff" fashion.

A business mentor of mine once said: "Acknowledge and embrace your butterflies. Just get them to fly in formation."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Two New Tricks

Isn't the digital age great? I've introduced a new two-trick download available exclusively at Vanishing Inc.

1. Homage to Homing - An amazing three-phase Card-to-Pocket routine

Extra-verted - A powerful and elegant royal flush production

Best thing is that BOTH are available for $10. Plus, you get the instant gratification of purchasing, downloading and watching instantly from your computer. Watch the clips and learn more at

In the meantime, Josh Jay, Andi Gladwin and I are hard at work at finalizing my upcoming hardbound book, One Degree. With 150 pages, 235 photos, 20 professional card routines, 5 essays, a foreword by John Bannon, and an intro by Jack Carpenter, this will be a major offering to the magic community. Can't wait to see what you think. No release date yet, but I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Share Your Craft

Last week marked the second time this month I volunteered at a local after-school program to share some magic. Not only did I get to practice my chops in front of a cynical group of 25 high school students, I taught a few basic sleights, got them excited about the craft—and did something good.

Sharing your craft, whatever it may be, is a great way to not only give, but a great way to get something back. It refuels the heart and senses.

Look for opportunities around you to share your craft, and create a rich, fulfilling experience for yourself and others.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Looking Forward

Yesterday, a friend mentioned he needs a vacation...just something to look forward to. Sure, we all need something to look forward to; it keeps us moving with optimism. It got me thinking about the things I have to look forward to. Here are some:

- Dinner this week to celebrate my four-year wedding anniversary.
- My new book (ONE DEGREE), which will be out in a few months.
- I'm meeting John Bannon at the Magic Castle next week.
- Raising support for a new YMCA facility.
- A family vacation.

The things we want/need to look forward to never just happen by chance; we must cause them to happen. It requires action. If you think about it, having something to look forward to involves first "looking forward."

As you look ahead, what can you do to create opportunities to look forward to. Maybe start by c
alling a friend. Accepting a new challenge. Thanking a mentor in your life. Asking a question of someone you respect. Scheduling an overnight getaway. And so on. Actions like these help plant the seeds for opportunities that will naturally grow into important events in our lives...and give us things to look forward to with excitement and anticipation.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Truly Impromptu

I was invited to attend a very "high-end" fundraiser the other night. The mansion was filled with affluent, well-dressed guests. While I was not actually hired to perform magic, I was asked by my fellow guest to come prepared in case the opportunity presented itself to show a trick or two. The idea was that magic might break the ice, spark conversation, and ultimately open the door for support of the non-profit organization I work for during the day. I knew that for this to be pulled off naturally, the magic would have to come across as impromptu.

I'm not talking the type of impromptu that doesn't require preparation or rehearsal on my part; I'm talking coming across as impromptu through the eyes of the audience. There is a distinct different between simply pulling a poker chip from your pocket (just plain weird if you want to come across as natural and impromptu) and making the chip appear out of thin air as a relevant topic arises.

It was a great evening. I showed a lot of magic to a lot of people and made a lot of meaningful connections...all without overtly introducing anything that would be considered a magic prop. I began every set with empty hands. I waited for a topic relating to my opening effect to naturally come up (Vegas, traveling, money, etc.) or for my colleague to spark this along, then went into a a naturally evolving set:

  1. With bare hands, I produced a Vegas poker chip from the Mirage casino. Just like a mirage, the chip disappeared, reappeared and multiplied.
  2. The chip changed into a deck of cards, which led naturally into some card magic. The opening effect (Truth In Advertising) is based on my day job in marketing/advertising.
  3. Depending on the topic of conversation, I performed any of the following card effects: Palm Reader, Lost & Found, Triumph, Homage to Homing.
  4. After the final effect, I made the deck vanish.
  5. I finished by passing out my business card. I had mine encircled with a few rubberbands, which provided a natural segue to perform one more but with the rubberbands....and move into talking business.

So, when reading magic books about so-called impromptu magic, look beyond just the lack of preparation required from your end; look at it through the eyes of your audience to ensure it comes across as being natural, off the cuff and meaningful to them.