January 2006 - Present

Are you a magician or amateur magician with a question about performance or magic philosophy or ethics? Are you a non-magician who wants insight into the lives of the magical? Send your question to Presto! Selected questions will be answered on Presto's blog.

I have been a professional illusionist for more than 20 years, and am lucky enough to be married to a wonderful young woman who is not only my third wife but also my third assistant. My problem is that about two months ago one of our neighbors, a friendly young man in his early 20s, has taken an interest in magic. He says that he would like to be a stage illusionist, even though he already has a successful career as a personal trainer.

Normally, I would say, "good for you." The problem is that when I said I didn't have time to train him in the art, my wife offered to give him lessons. Now, she knows almost as much about this subject as I do, but it bothered me that she stepped in without asking me first.

Anyway, the guy now practices quite a bit, and my wife is there the whole time acting as his assistant. I'm not quite sure what routines they are working on, but she spends three or four hours over there a night and it's cutting into our rehearsal time. Do you think this may impact my performance?

Presto guesses that if your performance was all it could be, your assistant wouldn't be spending so much time with a younger magician. I suggest that you think about whether your routine has become "too routine" and try adding a little spice to your act, or you might end up doing nothing but slight of hand.End of story

Can you recommend some good, general books on magic?

Presto has quite a library of magic tomes. Some of his favorites are:

  1. Card Collage. A tapestry of divergent magic techniques all thrown together in an attractive way.
  2. The Barbell Course in Magic. A huge, multivolume overview of the entire magic profession, bound in sheets of lead so that you can build up your arms while you build up your knowledge.
  3. Ant Man's Complete One Ant Mental and Psychic Routine. A complete routine, absolutely timeless, and as classic as the super hero who wrote it.
  4. The Expert with a Card Table. A classic treatise on magic that can be done anywhere, any time, with just a deck of cards and a folding table.
  5. The Royale Road to Magic: Another classic, this one named after what they call a hamburger in France.
  6. A Magician Among Spirits. How you, too, can see magical things if you just drink enough.
  7. Art of Astonishment. Three volumes of innovative (and, sometimes, weirdly rambling) magic by some guy named Art who seems to think that everything in his house is a magic prop.
  8. 101 Tricks with a Stripper. A treatise on effects that are particularly appropriate for stag parties.
  9. The Encyclopedia of Cards for Tricks. An exhaustive discussion of all aspects of each card in a deck, starting with the ace of spades and working its way through the king of diamonds in just under 700 pages.
  10. 13 Steps to a Migraine. The #1 book on mentalism, with a focus on heavy, brain-numbing memorization.End of story

What should I do if, during a trick, a spectator grabs the deck and shuffles it?

Presto recommends punching him in the face. If there are too many witnesses or the police are present, a kick in the shins will do.End of story

I remember hearing that a good routine of magic should be scripted. How do I go about writing a script?

Presto is a firm believer in leveraging the work of others, right up to (but not crossing) the line of violating their intellectual property rights. When Presto wishes to script a routine, Presto generally thinks of a movie that has a theme similar to the routine he wants to put together, sends away for a copy of the movie script, and uses it as a template for his act.

For example, let's say that Presto is putting together a linking rings routine. Lord of the Rings might be an obvious choice for script inspiration, but Presto thinks it would be better to go with something less obvious like Rocky. After rewriting the srcipt to suit Presto's purpose, Presto could start out with dull but functional rings, do some simple linking and unlinking, and then, after a spectacular polishing of the rings set to energetic montage music, do some exceptionally spectacular stuff with the shining rings gleaming in the stage lights until, exhausted, Presto just can't go on any longer.

This was a speculative example, but Presto has put this theory into practice many times. Presto has a thrilling illusion show based on Jurassic Park (including a tooth-lined cabinet into which assistants violently disappear and are never seen again), a dove production routine that is an amalgam of John Woo films, and an exceptionally difficult bullet-catch routine inspired by Scarface.End of story

What is the greatest danger to magic today?

Simply put -- conceit.End of story

Who is the greatest magician of all time?

Presto is the greatest magician of all time.End of story

When I do tricks for my friends, they always ask me how I did the trick. I don't want to give away my secrets. What should I say?

Presto has a long list of snappy comebacks for when someone asks how a trick is done. For example.

  • The same way I did it yesterday.
  • With mirrors (note: don't use this if the trick actually is done with mirrors)
  • Well enough to fool you, apparently
  • Brilliantly
  • Easy as your mama
  • Smooth as your sister

That should take care of the problem -- Presto finds that people like being talked down to this way by a magician. It makes them feel special, or at least special enough that they seem to not need to leech onto Presto's aura of greatness by hanging around Presto any more.End of story

What do you do if someone says that they know how a trick is done?

I ask if they purchased the secret from the trick's author. If they did not, then I report them to the American Magicians' Royalty Administration Team, which will hound them until they pay what is owned.

(By the way, all the trick secrets on this Web site are already paid for by Presto. Go ahead and use them as much as you need to -- just so long as you don't reprint them or reveal them to non-magicians.)End of story

I have a lot of trouble handling cards. I try and do simple cuts and fans, but keep dropping them. Do you have any suggestions?

Presto sympathizes, but unfortunately there are some people who are just not physically capable of card magic. Practice as you may, your hands will never perfectly fit around a deck of cards. If you like the thrill of card magic but find that you are too clumsy to practice it, all is not lost, however. There are plenty of other performance-based professions you might try your hand at. Knife throwing, for example.End of story

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Magic is not real. Reality is not magic.

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