Fooling GarwulfFooling Garwulf - Reviews and Commentary on Penn & Teller - Fool UsFooling Garwulf - RSS 2.0
So, what makes for a great trick? The illusion itself is not enough - it has to connect with something more, and create the sense of the extraordinary. Like any good story, it has to answer the question of "why should I care?" Consider, for example, the old classic of sawing somebody in half: if this trick is performed as just an illusion, it will be boring. If, on the other hand, there is a proper sense of danger - a feeling the trick can go horribly wrong, or has indeed done so - then the audience remains on the edge of their seats, and the trick becomes breathtaking. It's no coincidence that two of the most spectacular versions of this illusion - Penn & Teller's accidental sawing a woman in half (above, right) and David Copperfield's "Death Saw" (below, left) - use real death as their motif.
For close-up magic such as a card trick or the cups and balls, this principle still remains. A great trick will connect with the profound or the mysterious. It will feel like a revelation. I once performed a trick at the local magic club that began with a card being selected. Once the card had been memorized, I placed it back in the deck, and blurt out a realization - I forgot to perform the sleight, and the card was well and truly lost. So, I explained, I'll just have to use a quantum physics approach: to find a needle in a haystack, you machine gun the haystack until something ricochets. I snapped my fingers, and suddenly all the cards were turned over save one - the chosen card. As I completed the reveal, I overheard one of the other magicians exclaim, in awe and realization, "machine gun the haystack..." - the effect had successfully connected to the concept described in the patter, each reinforcing the other.