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|Guests - David Acer|
A Very Warm Welcome to David Acer
Mike: Terry was kind enough to help us moderators out and write up the following introduction for Mr. Acer. I figured that since it was Terry's work getting David to agree to speak with us for the week, that it was only fair to give this privelege to him. So, without further ado...
We are very fortunate that we will soon have the pleasure of the company of the one and only David Acer. (Is there another one?) He will be our special guest for one week starting from Monday December 13th 2004.
David should need no introduction but he insisted that I flatter him anyhow.
Look up Multi - Talented in the dictionary and this man's name is the definition. To say that he is not one of the funniest guys in this world, nay!, this galaxy, is like saying exposure sites are a good thing for Magic. To mention all of his achievements here (like he asked me to) would have me typing for as long as it would take Michael Jay to buy a round of drinks.
He has made numerous T.V. appearances, is a regular contributor to Genii Magazine, and created zillions of great original effects yet still finds the time to write great on line reviews at My Lovely Assistant.com and others.
You name it, he's done it, which makes me wonder why he doesn't just go home and put his feet up for a while! Anyway as I said, I could go on and on about David's talents but why don't you just ask him yourselves when he comes in?
What was that David? . . . . Oh yes! He has a great new book out called 'Random Acts of Magic' details of which can be found along with many wonderful 'Christmas Special Offers' at his website . . .
So Bunnies prepare a nice warren welcome to the man and start thinking of as many difficult questions to ask him as you can.
Orion: I am really looking forward to this.
It should be mentioned that there is an interview with Acer at http://www.magicbunny.co.uk/interviews/acer.php
Davetolomy: Wow! Thanks for taking the time to come here. Hope you enjoy you stay here.
Sinogeek: We've got him all to ourselves for a whole week. I'm really looking forward to it too.
Nigel Shelton: Thank you very much to David for taking the time from his busy schedule in order to answer our members’ questions.
Lady Laura: How much can I not wait for this!!!!!!!!
When I interviewed him a couple of years ago, I found him to be an absolutely wonderful guy, really down to earth, and whilst slightly less manic than when performing, just as funny!
I have to say though, it did teach me to research my interviewees more thoroughly. I knew very little about the man, however, I now watch him regularly on Mystery Hunters, which is always a bonus!
Aommaster: We are honoured to have you on our boards! I'll be looking forward to this!
Sam X: Welcome to the boards Mr. Acer. Thank you for taking the time to come and answer our questions and I do hope you may feel compelled to stay afterwards.
David Acer: Hi Folks,
It’s a pleasure to be here! I’ve taken some caffeine pills and I had a colostomy bag attached so I can stay online as long as possible.
Here’s a little update on what’s happening in my world at the moment, in case it might spur (incite?) a question or two. The text also harbours a secret code which, when deciphered, actually reveals the same text again, but with fewer typos.
Right now I’m co–writing and co–hosting a series for Discovery Kids called ’Mystery Hunters.’ We’re in our second season (Season One was nominated for three Gemini awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Emmys). I host the show with two teenagers, Araya and Christina, and we explore supernatural phenomena from around the world, like haunted houses, lake monsters, aliens, whatever. My character is a scientist/magician/skeptic and I try to help the kids look at these phenomena from different perspectives, without totally undermining the wonder that is inherent in them. In other words, I’m a guy who wants to believe, I just don’t want to be a sucker. I also get to do a fair bit of magic during the show that goes unexplained, usually in the context of our stories.
In addition, my new book just came out, called ’Random Acts of Magic,’ I’m about to release the third booklet in the Seven By series (’Seven By Rick Bronson’), I just signed a deal with Jay Sankey to shoot a DVD called ’The Sankey-Acer Sessions’ (a follow-up to his terrific two-DVD set with Richard Sanders, ’The Sankey-Sanders Sessions’) and I have a handful of TV projects in various stages of development, including another live-action children’s show about a magician who lives in a very strange house.
THE 5 BEST MAGIC BOOKS I READ IN 2004:
Brain Food (David Parr)
Cardshark (Darwin Ortiz, 1995)
Wise Guy (Harry Anderson, 1993)
The Book (Flicking Fingers, 1998)
Tubthumping (Bill Duncan, 2004)
THE 3 BEST DVDs (OR DVD SETS) I SAW IN 2004
Dai Vernon: Revelations (L & L Publishing, 2003)
Simon Lovell: The Methods Behind The Madness (Magic Makers, 2004)
David Regal: Premise, Power & Participation (L & L Publishing, 2003)
That should be enough to kick-start this puppy. I will try to respond to questions (assuming there are any) as quickly as possible and, just for the hell of it, without ever using the letter R.
Matt Field: Oh no. Not Acer. Not here.
David, you will be pleased to know that the relation of the American dollar to the Pound is similar to the relation between the Loony and the dollar. So you get the last laugh, since I've moved over to these shores.
Is it true that after your visit to the Bunny you'll be putting that colostomy bag on e-Bay?
Great to have you on board, my friend.
Sinogeek: Matt...He is, to my knowledge, the only guest Bunny has had who actually PAID us to let him come in here. In saying that he said we will get the cheque AFTER the week is up. I think we slipped up there.
David Acer: I still think it was inappropriate for you to run a credit check on me before agreeing.
Matt Field: I agree, David. They should have requested a sanity check.
Sinogeek: But we got a 'Sanity Clause'
Oh no...there ain't no Sanity Clause! Boom boom. Couldn't resist it!
David Acer: Ouch! I'll be on another thread if anybody needs me...
Sinogeek: Welcome (again) to the site David and thanks a bunch for coming.
My first question (of many)...here goes.
You are without doubt one of the busiest guys in Magic.
How do you keep everything up in the air at the same time so to speak?
What keeps the Magic machine that is David Acer oiled up and running and on the road?
Do you have a personal staff of thousands working behind the scenes or what?
David Acer: I have a staff of about 1300 right now, most of whom work in the factory making my Cardtoon decks...oh wait, that's Dan Harlan.
Actually, this might be counterintuitive, but I find having more than one project (and indeed, more than one kind of project) on the go at once actually increases my creativity and efficiency (there's an old adage: If you want something done, give it to a busy person).
When the mental well runs dry on a magic DVD, for example, I can turn to a script I'm working on, or an article for Genii, or a stand-up bit I'm trying to hone.
But early on in my career, I found myself working on a wide variety of different projects out of necessity. In Canada, if you want to make a living in "show business," you have to have a number of irons in a number of different fires; otherwise you simply can't pay the bills. It just so happened that most of the mediums I starting working in (stand-up comedy, close-up magic, radio, television writing, television acting) developed into parallel careers. Two have fallen victim to the others over the years; children's magic, which I enjoyed doing, but frankly, I felt that the income never justified the amount of work - it's an extremely tough and demanding career, both on and off stage; and radio, which I dabbled in (there are lots of fun clips from radio shows I co-hosted on my website on the COMEDY page, under "Audio Clips"), but I do very little anymore.
Lady Laura: Okay, I'm gonna start with a totally unrelated to magic question, but hey!
I finished my philosophy degree last year (whohoo) and really enjoyed it. I know that you've also study at degree level for philosophy, what was your favorite area that you looked at?
David Acer: It's been a LOOOOOOOOOOONG time since I dabbled in philosophy, but at the start, I remember particularly enjoying the old Greek classics - in particular, Plato and Socrates. I also went through a period of really liking more trippy books like the Carlos Castaneda stuff, J. Krishnamurti and "The Life and Teaching of The Masters." But it's been years (indeed, decades) since I've looked at any of that, and I doubt I could carry on an intelligent conversation about it. It's sad, really, that I've replaced DesCartes and Kant with Elmsley Counts and Kurtz.
Sam X: Ok, I have to ask and dredge up some of your worst memories. Was there a specific time when you wish a great big hole would open under a spectator and remove them? If so, what did they do and how did you combat it?
(Please feel free to ignore this question if you don't want to answer)
David Acer: My favourite story along these lines is one that ran in my Genii column about a year ago. Here’s the piece:
Recently, while shooting a one-off, one-hour special for Canadian television called ’Urban Magic,’ Richard Sanders and I performed a simple (but powerful) two-man card trick on a grungy street corner (not the first trick ever offered on this corner, I’d wager).
The effect went as follows: I had a card chosen, then shuffled back into the pack while Richard looked away, whereupon he turned around, I tossed the deck in the air, his hand lashed out, striking the pack and sending cards in every direction, then retracted holding only one card! The card was slowly turned around, showing it to be the selection.
The method, if not abundantly evident, required Richard to palm a duplicate of a card I would force, then produce it at his fingertips as his hand struck the airborne pack. And indeed, on the first take, it worked absolutely perfectly. The crowd let out a collective gasp as Richard turned the card around, revealing the selection... But then, amid little, awe-struck comments like, ’How the hell?’ and ’That’s impossible!’ a tiny voice rang out... ’Look, there’s another one!’ All attention turned to a small child pointing at a single, face-up card on the ground – the selection, which I had forgotten to palm out of the deck.
So the crowd dispersed dejectedly as Richard and I reset the trick and, this time, I had every intention of palming out the card... Really! But the man who chose the card simply would NOT stop burning my hands. So I thought to myself, with cards flying all over the place, what’s the likelihood of the selection landing face up again? (Evidently the answer ’one in two’ evaded me.) Thus, making an executive decision, I didn’t palm out the card. Instead, I tossed the deck in the air, whereupon Richard (blown away by my invisible Side-Steal) snatched the selection out from the airborne pack and turned it around as before to gasps of amazement.
Then, cutting a bloody swath through the joy and wonder, a teenager called out, ’Yo, dude. You’ve got two of those, man!’ then picked up the face-up selection from the ground.
And that’s when Richard lost his mind.
He turned to me, red-faced and perhaps even trembling, and unleashed a tirade of profanity normally reserved for shipyards, laced with technical magic jargon that, being meaningless to those looking on, likely sounded like more cursing and swearing.
Fortunately, through the magic of television, both takes were equally usable, since we had only to cut the trick after the revelation of the selection, omitting the offending (and expositive) portion. But every time I watch it, I know, even as the trick fades out on a high note during a slow zoom-in on the ’chosen’ card in Richard’s hand, that somewhere, down on the ground, where no one is looking, the real selection lies watching, waiting...
It wants to be found...
Happy Toad: LOL best laugh I've had in ages
Yin Ho Ng: Heya. Hope you're enjoying your stay at MB!
I was just wondering if you have a specific purpose when you're performing, creating, thinking magic?
David Acer: YES! How can I develop the cleanest, simplest most interesting way to hold an audience's attention so I'm not wasting a second of their time while they're watching me?
Yin Ho Ng: Its funny, cos 'simple' and 'interesting' are two 'concepts' that, for me anyways, seem to head in opposite directions...But it has obviously worked for you!
Will Wood: Really? That's fascinating because, even though I can't say my view/purpose isn't a refined as David's, I do agree with him. Why do you find that? (Maybe you could post your reply in a new topic in General Magic Discussion or somewhere similar so we don't clog up David's valuable time here. Or feel free to PM me; I'd love to chat to you about this.)
David Acer: I suspect the conflict here is probably just over our definitions of simple. I don’t mean ’obvious’ or ’predictable,’ I just mean ’not convoluted.’ A good (though not all-encompassing) indicator is whether the plot of an effect can be described in one sentence, like ’A signed, selected card jumps invisibly to the top of the deck each and every time it is inserted in the center,’ or ’A borrowed pocket watch is used to strangle a chicken to death, then the watch is set back thirty seconds, whereupon the chicken comes back to life."
Granted these terse, one-line descriptions do not always capture the charm and richness of an individual’s approach to these plots, but they do indicate an uncontrived, relatively organic – indeed, simple – effect.
Conversely, I am less moved to purchase a product with trick descriptions like, ’A card is chosen from a shuffled deck, signed, then wrapped in a fur coat and told to be quiet. Two toothpicks are introduced and used as dousing rods to find the nearest bathroom. The audience moves into the bathroom, then is asked to sing their favourite Britney Spears song (if it’s a weekday), or make their initials out of licorice (if it’s a weekend). The fur coat with the signed, selected card is sent by Fed-Ex to San Francisco, whereupon the recipient is asked to call the magician on his cell-phone and open the coat. The recipient does so, informing the magician that the signed, selected card is gone, but in its place is a block of cheddar. The magician says, ’Oh that’s where that went!’ then lifts the toilet lid in the bathroom, revealing another block of cheddar. ’I used to have two of those in here.’ He then shows the spectator that half of the signature from his card is now on the magician's shoulder.’
This, of course, is an old Marlo trick from The Cardician.
Sinogeek: Oh really?
I will have you know that he stole it from Vernon.
It was Vernon who first introduced the idea of using the block of cheddar.
If memory serves me well in Vernon’s original, on production of the cheddar it was found that the signature from the card had been transferred to the cheese.
This handling can be found in Vernon’s 'More Rennet Secrets'.
Hope that's of use.
Lady Laura: We watch mystery hunters quite often, not least because it's on straight after Steve Irwin! Well that, and my boy thinks Christina's cool!
I know you play Doubting Dave in it, but what other input do you have to the show? Do you write the whole thing yourself or is it a team effort?
David Acer: I write my own segments in the show (the V-File and the Mystery Lab), and that was the extent of my "control" for the first season (26 Episodes). In the second season, which we just finished shooting in November, I had a little more input in terms of content and editing, but I was still nowhere near the last link in the chain when it came to the final (master) cuts.
Also, the show runs 24-and-a-half minutes in Canada, but in England and the U.S., it's closer to 22 minutes, so they excise over 2 minutes from each episode, which leads to some pretty crazy editing.
For example, in a very early episode in Season One, when we were all still trying to figure out what the hell we were doing, my Mystery Lab opens with me looking filthy, unshaven and eating a can of beans. I say something like, "Today we're going to do a little experiment with odours, so I haven't showered a week and I've only been eating beans," then somebody tells me, "Uh, Dave...We're talking about auras, not odours..."and I spend the rest of the lab stinky and farting.
At least that's how it ran in Canada. In England, they cut off the whole "odour/aura" set-up, so the Lab opens with a stinky, farting Dave and never explains why.
Sinogeek: Uh oh...We know a lot about your background David...
Was there a particular point in your life (after all the graft) when you might have thought, "I've made it. I'm a Magician. I am really a Magician.", or do you actually prefer to not be classified as such. I'm interested.
David Acer: I struggled with being called a magician in my late teens, early twenties, mostly because I was working primarily at comedy clubs and magicians are considered second-class citizens by comedians. It was hard enough getting ahead on the circuit, so I phased out the magic in my act (a burnt bill routine, a spoon bending gag and a few other little bits, though frankly, nothing terribly inspired), and focused entirely on stand-up.
In fact, when I toured, I never even mentioned the fact that I did magic to other comedians. It was just easier that way.
Thus, for years, I only did stand-up in my act, until the premise for a simple, highly interactive card trick called ’Party of Six’ came to mind, which I ended up publishing in my new book. Basically, six people each choose a card from a shuffled deck, then line up on stage, whereupon the people are shuffled. An audience-member who was holding a prediction from the start is asked to choose one of the people. The chosen person shows his chosen card, which matches the prediction!
It’s a strong trick in and of itself, but more importantly, it allows for enormous amounts of byplay, a dynamic that was lacking in my previous attempts to integrate magic into the act.
I started closing the occasional set with it a few years ago, and the comics really liked it, because it doesn’t look like your typical comedy-club magic trick (Baffling Bra, Tricky Bottles, whatever). It looks more like the kind of trick a comedian doing magic would try, rather than a magician doing comedy.
In any case, I suppose that answers the second part of your question, but not the first.
The only time I can think of when I felt like ’This is it! I’m a magician!’ was when I was 17 and walked up to Gary Ouellet at a magic convention and showed him ’Nomen Omen.’ I was trembling during the whole trick, but I got through it, and when it was over, he just stared at the cards. I thought he was going to pat me on the head and send me off, but suddenly, he said, ’You fooled me!’ A few months later, The Camirand Academy put the trick on the market, and the money I made went towards a delicious pack of Trident gum.
Owen Lean: In one of your recent DVDs you had effects that experimented with magic that directly interacts with the Television screen. What are your views on the idea of mixing magic and technology? Do you believe it might be possible to perform magic in virtual domains?
David Acer: Paul Harris and Penn & Teller both came up with versions of the card trick I sold as "On Screen" years before me. The difference with my version is that the DVD is designed to look like you just turn on your TV, flip through a few channels, then stop on one channel showing a busy city street and spring the deck at the screen, resulting in a single card apparently penetrating into the TV world. That's when a person walks by in the TV show, pulls the card off the screen (which is back outward at this point), turns it around to show that it's the selection, then walks away.
But the premise of characters in the real world interacting with people and things in other mediums (not just television, but movies and paintings) predates all of those efforts.
With regards to your more general question about mixing magic and technology, the biggest problem as I see it is that the latter has the potential to defuse the wonder of the former. In other words, technology is capable of so many things that are beyond the comprehension of the average person (we might understand what a technological device does, for example, but very few people understand how), that it begs the question, what does one need magic for?
Dale Shrimpton: As an example of an early attempt at using technology with magic, David Devant created " film to life" at around the same time as film was created.
Also Phantasmagoria , the use of magic lantern slides to create the illusion of spirits, was usually combined with a lot of mood setting effects.
Magic and technology have always been there hand in hand. Look at the marvels created by Houdin, which were presented between classical magical items. All these used to enhance the magic. Psycho being a perfect example.
(Hi David by the way)
David Acer: And of course we have F.I.S.M. flashes, electronic reels, and I'm pretty sure Howie Schwarzman is an android.
Andy D.: Being quite wet-behind-the-ears regarding magicians in general, my first Blackpool (2003) was a real eye-opener. I saw this big guy from Canada doing fantastic magic, but best of all, you had me in absolute stitches with your humour. Especially your 'On stage' Cups & Balls routine, I am sure the first thing everyone was thinking was "I wonder where he has hidden his final load"........Maybe that is why you were walking kinda funny?
Now one thing that sticks in my mind, was what we lesser mortals who attended, referred to as the Acer 'Hug'. My question is, and I am asking this from the perspective of an Englishman (see below for definition) Has anyone ever taken offence at this harmless act of male bonding??
Englishman "One who shuns bodily contact with a member of the same genital group."
Dale Shrimpton: Take it from me Dave, after a couple of beers, Andy doesn't complain.
Actually it beats me why anyone would find a hug, if meant well, offensive.
OK, Maybe in the showers after Gym isn’t the right place. But it's a nice warm gesture.
Besides. You can pick pockets easy whilst doing it. Hence the shower thing I guess.
David Acer: The "Acer Hug" must be applied only by an experienced huggist, and cannot be dispensed willy-nilly. Properly timed and executed, the technique does not incite, offend or mislead any member of the audience. However, David Acer Inc. does not assume any responsibility for Acer Hugs that are inappropriately executed, and warns the user to exercise caution in the face of doubt.
KillerMagic80: I first watched your performance at Blackpool magicians convention. you was hilarious! Excellent man! Everything from your lecture, master class, close up magic, to your stage performance! Especially the last two!
I got your deadlock routine that time, since then I got your ''On Screen'' DVD, ''Open traveler'' and ''Extreme close up'' tapes. Very useful material included, great routines, hilarious funny clips, and overall entertaining videos.
How about releasing a DVD of you performing close up magic in front of a live audience? I would be more interested of watching your presentation, of watching your repertoire, performing the routines on real people instead of just explaining the tricks or even present them for the camera. Like I said in your tapes you have lots of funny clips. I really wanted to see some magic clips at least. If you have anything like this I am really interested.
If not, well its just an idea to have in mind for the future or if you wouldn’t like to release a DVD or tape like that, you can include it on the Sankey - Acer sessions. it will be great to watch your favourite routines, or your magic act. (Explanations section doesn’t have to be necessary, although it would make a great DVD!!)
Tell me please what do you think?
David Acer: Hi KillerMagic80 (by the way, that's my brother's name!),
First of all, thanks for the kind words. Secondly, Jay Sankey is currently preparing to produce a live close-up show at an intimate theater in Toronto this Spring. He has already confirmed some amazing talent, and the plan is to tape the show(s) for a DVD.
The bad news - I'm not available on the dates of the show, so I won't be participating. However, it sounds like the production will result in exactly the kind of live DVD you're looking for, so if he ever does it again, I'm definitely in.
KillerMagic80: That would be great! Pity you will not be in (I will e-mail Jay Sankey to change the date!) Really? Your brothers name is killer magic? He is a magician and uses it as a nickname?
David Acer: It's not just his nickname - KillerMagic80 is his real freakin' name! KillerMagic80 Acer!!!
KillerMagic80: This is really cool!
I am interested to know how you discovered your own unique presentation style.
In my opinion this is a talent and its not coming through a "special effort to find out your own style". My question is did it come from you spontaneous, natural? Or you really study other performers to define your own style or you went through books or other sources? Am I becoming a bit silly for asking this? But really your opinion will count for me.
also if you can recommend me some source (books or DVD's, tapes) where I can go through this I will really appreciate it. (Not necessarily to include tricks. they can be non-trick sources.)
Dale Shrimpton: The only way to find your style, is to go out there and do it. In actual fact, that should read " go out there and do it wrong". You soon learn by your mistakes. So, go join a theatre group.
However books on Acting will also help. Not books on magic.
David Acer: That's a great question. I don't think you ever really "discover" your own presentational style. What happens is, you have this idea of who you want to be on stage (e.g. mysterious, wacky, clumsy, debonair, nervous, cocky, etc.). Usually this is a natural extension of who you are in real life. Then you start doing shows in this character, and, as time goes by, who you are on stage and who you are in real life slowly move towards each other. When they meet in the middle, then, finally, every action, every line, every word will come across as truthful. That's the day every entertainer strives for.
Regarding books or DVDs, I'm afraid that watching and/or reading work by someone else on how you can develop your own style is a contradiction in terms. Find a comedy club, or a restaurant, or a bar, or anywhere that will allow you to perform as close to nightly as possible and get to work. Otherwise you will have to unlearn what you read in a book or saw on a DVD before you can start learning how to perform as yourself.
KillerMagic5000: Thank you very much David. I really appreciate it.
Jason Waskett: In your book you rate the Art of Astonishment series very highly. Is there an effect that particularly stands out for you and why? Be it technical proficiency, innovative idea, just the thinking that went behind it, or maybe just the simplicity of it. The "now why didn't I think of that?"
David Acer: That's the beauty of the Art of Astonishment books - there really is no one trick that stands out. It might be interesting, though, to compile a list of Paul Harris's five or ten most important effects - the five or ten tricks that have had an impact on magic beyond just our appreciation on first reading.
Certainly his "Ultimate Rip-Off" has spawned multiple variations over the years. "Solid Deception" inspired magicians to up the ante for their climaxes to the Ambitious Card, resulting, at least philosophically, in things like the Omni Deck, the Bolted Deck, Daryl's Ultimate Ambition, and the like.
And of course, "The Cardboard Connection" was an insanely popular plot for over a decade, resulting in some interesting variations, including Paul's own, much improved version, "The Immaculate Connection" (I also always liked Terri Rogers' approach, "The Boromian Link," wherein the cards are folded diagonally).
Anyone care to add to the list?
Jason Waskett: Hi there, thanks for spending time here with us. I watched Penn & Teller last night and thought it a great moment when an Egyptian magician fooled Teller with his cups and balls, as did Teller who gave him full credit. May I ask the last time that you were fooled?
David Acer: Yesterday. I bought a newspaper and paid with a handful of coins, only to realize later that I spent the penny/dime gimmick that comes with "Spare Change." Fooled me completely.
BrucUK: My 8 year old daughter Meredith wants to know...Of all the tricks that you have done on Mystery Hunters - which was your favourite? Are the tricks that you do original/developed for the show(s), and if so, how long do you need to practice? Have you ever had any that have gone horribly wrong, and needed the wonder of television editing to fix?
David Acer: The best visual effect we've done on the show so far is the opening of the "Power of Suction" Mystery Lab where I'm climbing up the side of the Discovery Headquarters building with bathroom-plunger suction cups on my hands and knees. It still makes me laugh when the scene opens with a shot of the wall up in the clouds (a gross exaggeration of how tall the building is) and we hear (FFFPOP!... FFFPOP!... FFFPOP!) as I slowly climb into frame.
But you're probably referring to the best magic trick... That's a good question. I'd say the "Haunted Dinner Tricks" Mystery Lab, where we teach kids a couple of ways to make it look like there are ghosts inhabiting their dining room. The Headless Dinner Guest is a great trick - it's easy to do, it uses a real person (not a dummy or mannequin), and it looks soooooo good when the headless guest is sitting at the table cutting up a piece of steak, for example, then trying to feed it into his non-existent mouth.
One trick I performed but did not teach (over 52 episodes, we have only taught a half-a-dozen tricks or so) that generated a great deal of interest among magicians was Patrick Reymond's "Lightning Strike," in which you focus your concentration on a match held at your fingertips and suddenly, it bursts into flames. That trick was at the very end of the episode on alligators in the New York sewer system and dragons.
Regarding something going horribly wrong, that pretty much happens in every taping. But it's less a question of fixing that sort of thing in editing than it is just sticking with it during the shoot until you get the right take.
Very few of the tricks I've done on the show were developed specifically for Mystery Hunters. Some of the tricks (things like the self-folding bill, "Lightning Strike," etc.) just fit with the subject matter of their respective episodes. Others were inserted because I liked them visually and I knew that they fit my character. For example, at the opening of the "Fog In A Bottle" Mystery Lab, I'm in my lab pouring a beaker of water from a water bottle when my laptop beeps. I let go of the beaker and reach over to hit the enter key, while the beaker remains floating in mid-air. Araya appears on screen and we chat a little as I continue to fill this floating beaker without thinking twice about it. The trick isn't integral to the episode, but it allowed me to add a fun visual element to a run of dialogue that would otherwise have been fairly dry.
One nice thing, however, is that I don't have to cram magic tricks into every episode. Our rule of thumb when we developed the character of Doubting Dave was that he's a scientist, a skeptic and a magician, but he doesn't always have to be all three. In fact, I have a Post-It Note on my computer that says:
We'll take any two per episode!
BrucUK: Meredith says "Thanks for Replying!"- she has seen most of the episodes that you refer to - she thinks that walking up a building using plungers must be quite difficult.
Thanks - and please keep on producing such a great programme for kids.
David Acer: I forgot to mention that the floating beaker effect (more typically done with a glass) is Nicholas Einhorn's "Airborne."
Thanks Bruce and Meredith!
Robby5000: David Blaine to me is great (ok I sound like a guy who's seen magic once)!
I’m not a fan of all his big tricks like living in a box in the middle of London but I think he truly has worked hard at his magic and it really in impressive stuff. I’m taking this for example hear, but if you are a lay person and he stops you and suddenly pushes his hand through the window of a jewelry shop and pulls out a watch you would be impressed would you not?
My view anyway. I’m a big street magic fan, in fact does anyone know anywhere where I could get some more info on it?
David Acer: I agree that the effect you describe above is the best kind of magic David does on his specials, but I also feel that T.H.E.M. really raised the bar for these kinds of tricks. Blaine might have a little catching up to do...
Regarding the info on Street Magic you're requesting, there are no books or DVDs in particular that cater to the material I think you associate with the term (the tricks performed by David Blaine/Chris Angel/T.H.E.M.). You'll have to do what they did and scan the literature for effects you can adapt.
Robby5000: ok cheers, I'll look into that. I guess what I respect about Blaine is that he can hold an audience. He seems to have them under control and that’s something I would love to be able to do. I feel that when I perform really close up magic, around school to kids in the corridor! I’m so concentrated on getting the trick done and over that I just lose them if you understand me? When I perform a trick I feel I need to do it fast so they don't catch the gimmick or something like that. Its hard to explain.
David Acer: I know EXACTLY what you mean, and that's definitely a tough nut to crack. The one thing I've noticed about every entertainer I've seen who is naturally charismatic is a sense that they are comfortable in their own skin. Coming to terms with who you are, improving characteristics you deem to be flaws, whether physical or psychological, and just generally working towards becoming the person you want to be can have an enormous impact on your magic. These things make people want to watch YOU, not just your tricks.
Devplus: In your opinion, is it a good or bad characteristic of David’s, to use camera edits to enhance his image to a television audience?
David Acer: I realize that many people will disagree with me on this, and frankly, I can appreciate both sides of the argument, but from my perspective, if you're going to make a TV show, it's your responsibility to both the medium and the viewing audience to make the best possible piece of television you can. In David's case, once the tricks he chose to perform were in the can, there is absolutely no question that he had to use edits to enhance the impact of some of the effects.
HOWEVER, would it have been possible for David and his team to have chosen DIFFERENT effects that would NOT have required that kind of editing? Absolutely. Take, for example, the "think of any number" trick he performed in an earlier special. I don't think I'm making too big a leap here by assuming that he just tried the trick on as many passers-by as necessary until he finally got one who said the right number (and by the way, if that wasn't the method, it may as well have been). Now in editing, you have no choice if you've committed to doing that trick but to use the one take that worked. Unfortunately, it's also insultingly easy, and I expect more from people who are on a national stage.
Robby5000: Yeah I agree as well with David. Blaine has his own show and with the technology today they have the money and the time to make you think after every show "that was awesome". We have to remember regardless whether he has used camera effects or not he has to make a decent show and if you do come away saying "that was awesome" then it was all worth his while.
One of my all time favourite Blaine tricks is Dragon Thread. I saw him use it on one of his shows where he doesn't say anything, he just does it in front of a crowd of people, that’s why I love it. There’s no need to explain what your doing or what your going to do, it's so visual.
Chabang: Is David Blaine the most influential innovative magician in the last few decades or dime-store magician who got lucky?
David Acer: Both, although I’m not sure I would use the term ’innovative.’ None of the tricks he does are his (which is absolutely fine, but does not speak to inventiveness), and the stunts, while magnificently publicized, are very much derivative of the kind of work Houdini was famous for.
Moreover, while David Blaine might have been influential from the standpoint of magicians, he has done little if anything to change the overall image of magic among laypeople. And I’m not suggesting that he doesn’t have fans, just that the classic, archetypal image of ’magician’ in most people’s minds remains unchanged, even after seeing a David Blaine special. They just perceive him as an anomaly, not a shift in the norm.
But I’m not trying to deride either David or his TV specials. He (along with some very creative consultants) has helped cut a new path for magicians, and ultimately, our discussions about him and his work on forums such as these will have absolutely no impact on whatever legacy he leaves.
Happy Toad: Hi David, thanks for your time on MB.
Staying with David Blaine, why do you think he has captured the imagination of so many of the public. He is clearly doing nothing original in terms of the effects that he does, so what is it that he does have?
David Acer: I think Richard Kaufman put it best – when David Blaine performs, he’s a blank slate upon which the viewer can imprint any meaning he wants - depth, wisdom, insight, whatever. Because David doesn’t present himself as anything, he can come across as everything.
The question now is, has that run its course with audiences? And if so, will David be able to reinvent himself, like so many actors, musicians and entertainers are forced to do, or will he be forever associated with one time, one medium, one style.
Sam X: If you could only be remembered for one of your many achievments which one would it be and why?
David Acer: Yesterday, I bent down and picked up a quarter I had dropped while standing in line at a movie theater and I didn’t kick it under my foot, then pretend to make it vanish at my fingertips and reappear on the floor. I’m quite proud of that.
Matt Field: Is your name properly pronounced "Aqua" or "Anchovy"?
Sinogeek: Aw Matt! Don't get 'im started on that again.
David Acer: "Ointment"
Matt Field: Is that pronounced "weentment" or "waintment"?
Kris Sheglova: For the pronunciation you might want to play the following game:
David Acer: "Acer"
Sinogeek: A boring question perhaps but I'd like to know...Every magic forum has at least one thread discussing preferences for which playing cards to use. Which brand are you using these days and why?
David Acer: It's interesting, here in Montreal you would be hard-pressed to find a magician who doesn't use red-backed Bicycle cards, myself included, and in fact, that has become so ingrained in me that, recently, when I went to Kitchener Ontario to conduct an interview with a wonderful manipulator by the name of Romaine for an upcoming issue of Genii, I thought he was messing with me when he offered to show me a trick, then pulled out an old, worn, slightly yellowing pack of Bee cards (you know, the kind with no white borders).
But Romaine said that he liked practicing with old, crappy decks because he figured if he could work with those, then new packs would always be a breeze. Conversely, if he only practiced with new decks, and someone handed him an old pack at a party one day, he would automatically be at a disadvantage.
Sinogeek: Couldn't agree more! (Whatever it was you said.) I prefer Bees all round (well rectangular but you know what I mean) though I use Bikes most of the time.
I'm waiting eagerly for some of those white bordered World Poker Tour Bees I've ordered to hit my mailbox. I don't particularly like the WPT logo on them but if that's all I can get I'm taking it.
David Acer: You fool! World Poker Tour Bees are too powerful! YOU'LL KILL US ALL!!!
McDermott: Well done! You made me laugh!
Sinogeek: Since you are having such an easy time of it tonight...(so far)
What do YOU make of the (yawn...) Black Tiger Deck? Ryan Swigert's poke at them was one of the funniest things I've ever seen , but I'm easily impressed mind you.
That was my last one for tonight. It's almost 3.30am here in China and I'm off to bed soon. Once again thanks for everything.
David Acer: They strike me as being more of a novelty for people who play cards at home than something that's of any real use to magicians (like round decks, mini decks, decks with naked pictures of Jay Sankey).
But theatrically, I have a bigger problem with GIMMICKED Black Tiger decks. I mean, if you’re doing the Invisible Deck with these freaky cards, people are MUCH more inclined to want to examine them at the end. What do you do then, huh, you’re so smart? WHAT DO YOU DO THEN?!?
Tubz: Is there anything Sankey wont put out? About the red decks though...We now have red, blue, black, black tiger, and the new green backs from Magic Box, and I have the say the quality of the newer cards seems to be a lot better than the old standard reds and blues. Fancy a change, Mr. Acer?
KillerMagic80: Do you think somebody with an entertaining presentation sometimes comedy, could include and be effective of course some more serious effects with serious presentation?
To be more specific: for example you could see Daryl perform a mind reading effect, or a floating effect? You could see Gregory Wilson, Simon Lovell, David Acer perform PK stuff (M5 for example, the bat). I am referring to them because they are effective entertaining magicians with pleasurable and entertaining performances. Can see those artists include in their SAME repertoire effects that really requires you to be serious, and be accepted by the audience? (And I am not referring to comedy versions of bending forks or comedy presentations of mental magic like ''Boris Pocus Extremely Mental’ DVD.) What do you think?
We bother you a lot but that was a great chance to contact and talk with David Acer and ask him several things with interesting replies. Thank you very much David. (By the way you used to work on a cruise ship the last summer?)
David Acer: Another great question. Intuitively, my feeling is that it's easier for a magician who establishes a "dramatic" character at the outset of his show to throw a little comedy routine somewhere in the middle than for a comedy magician to suddenly become serious.
In fact, when I first started doing "Party of Six" at comedy clubs (the only trick I did in the set), there were actually times when, after the comedy build, I would nail the climax, and the audience would just stare. No applause. No laughter. Everything just stopped dead. It's like they couldn't compute that we were all just having fun a second ago and then, suddenly, they were fried. It didn't take long to fix the problem (it was just a question of how I set up the trick), but it's an interesting example of an apparent character shift that an audience was unwilling to go with.
The other problem with a comedy magician suddenly shifting gears and performing a more "serious" effect (a piece of mentalism, PK stuff, whatever) is that, when you're doing comedy, you're generating a consistent and audible response (assuming you're not bombing). At the clubs we refer to it as a "laughs-per-minute" ratio. That's something that the audience feeds off as much as the performer does. Now, if you suddenly take that away from them by performing a "serious" magic trick, regardless of how good the trick might be, they are likely to feel a void and, at least on a subconscious level, they might even begin to wonder if the show isn't going as well. Not to mention the fact that whatever momentum you built on the comedy side is undercut by doing a non-comedy based trick, so, when it's time to return to the comedy, you have to build the crowd back up to where you had them when you shifted gears.
Sinogeek: Which of your own effects are you most proud of and why? Following on...Which effect of yours took the longest time from conception to polished article?
Shaun Robinson: Just a quick side note: Lickety Split is pure genius, you can make it look so smooth with the Harris flick back onto the deck. Thanks for that contribution David, I use it a lot.
David Acer: I’m not so much proud of my better tricks as ’grateful for,’ but I’ll try to make a list of what I consider to be my 5 ’best’ published effects. I should warn you, though, that this kind of list can really change with your mood. Right now, I’m hungry, tired and slightly itchy.
NOMEN OMEN: Originally released by The Camirand Academy in 1990, Nomen Omen encompasses all the features I look for in an A-list card trick. The effect is clear, the method is impenetrable, and the presentation is limited only by your imagination.
HYPERVENTILATE (Natural Selections, 1996/Mac King’s Tricks with Your Head, 2002): A very cool effect in which smoke you inhale from a cigarette vanishes from your lungs and appears inside a balloon that was previously inflated.
CHEAP LABOUR (Natural Selections, 1996): This wonderful packet trick was published in a few places before finally appearing in my first book, Natural Selections, starting with my 1987 lecture notes (The Plots Thicken), then an issue of the M.U.M., then later in the September/October 1991 issue of The Magic Menu. Indeed, when Jim Sisti was preparing to include it in the latter, I told him it had already been published in M.U.M., but he liked the trick so much he ran it anyway. (somehow I doubt he would have been so cavalier if I had said Richard’s Almanac)
TIME FLIES (Natural Selections II, 1999): A terrific ’back-in-time’ effect wherein the magician drops a borrowed quarter into his pocket, then removes his watch from his left wrist. With his right hand, he waves the watch counterclockwise over his left hand, whereupon the quarter suddenly reappears on his left palm. Moreover, the watch has now vanished and is back on the magician’s wrist!
CHANGES (Random Acts of Magic, 2004): I’ve used this to open every big close-up show I’ve done in the past ten years, including performances at The Magic Castle and F.I.S.M. It’s just about as visually engaging a card trick as you’re likely to see.
PARTY OF SIX (Random Acts of Magic, 2004): A platform effect you can do with a regular pack of cards that allows you to bring six people on stage. It’s an amazing opportunity to improvise, and the effect itself is great.
Yeah, I know. That’s six tricks, not five, but I don’t know which one to delete. AND WHY THE HELL AM I SO ITCHY?!?
Tielie: Cheap Laybor is a great trick, one of the very few I really like in the magic menu! Thanks for that.
Robby5000: I’m well into coin sleights because I feel that everyone carries a coin around with them and if I wanted to impress someone by doing some sleights I could.
I've practised hours and hours in front of a mirror although when I do a trick with someone’s 50p they are like "that’s clever" instead of "WOW, GOSH, OMG" type thing. I don't expect it all the time but I am just wondering are people getting fed up with appearing and disappearing coin tricks?
David Acer: I don't think the people of Earth have suddenly decided they're tired of coin tricks. Generally, when someone responds to an effect by saying, "That's clever," it's because he was fooled, but he doesn't care. For whatever reason, he was not emotionally invested in the trick.
Try building a little presentation around your coin vanish and reappearance, even a simple one like, "Here's something I do with my dog all the time, except instead of a coin, I use a piece of his dry dog food." Now, in addition to the spectator watching a coin vanish, he's imagining how your dog would feel seeing his food disappear, then reappear, then disappear, etc. Just a suggestion of course, but any kind of presentational through-line that will give the trick a little depth would likely improve the response.
In passing, I recently read the most entertaining presentation I've ever seen for David Roth's "Hanging Coins" in Bill Duncan's book, Tubthumping. It's the perfect example of what we're discussing here, and it turns what usually plays as a dry, technical piece into an extremely fun and engaging coin trick.
Jason Waskett: Hi there I've nosed through you book recently, picking at it, but then decided to start at page one and go through it. I've printed out the corrections and crediting updates from your site. Thanks for that I'm sure that will prevent many a furrowed brow. But am still misunderstanding something.
I've gone through it quite a few times and understand the proposed outcome but not the way it reads, I can achieve it but not like this. Am I missing something? (This is with the page 19 correction.)
Page 19 the second "repeat steps 2 to 4 once more............" ends with "you now have four face-down cards in your left hand. In your right hand, you should have three face down cards, followed by three face up ones.’
Which (when I did maths) makes ten, earlier you mention stripping out nine. If you've got nine cards the first card to go to the left hand needs to be flipped over, that and the subsequent three being stolen back under cover of a card leaving four face down in the left, four up on the right covered by the chosen one, ah aaaaaahhh! (non verbally that really doesn't come off very well.)
I don't mean to be facetious (although I'd like to spell that word correctly) but I thought you might like the feedback (I.e. from pupil back to teacher). It's a great book and I'm sure I'll get a lot of enjoyment from it.
David Acer: You're absolutely right - there are nine cards, not ten. I don't know what the hell happened with the description of that trick. I went through it a bunch of times and never noticed either of the two major discrepancies, and three other knowledgeable magicians also read the manuscript from start to finish without spotting them.
On the plus side, there do not seem to be any other major technical issues with the book. On the minus side, the one trick with two big descriptive flaws is the first trick in the book. It's extremely frustrating, and worse, I have no one to blame but myself.
However, it's that very routine that prompted me to put a RANDOM ACTS OF MAGIC page up on my website that includes, among other things, Corrections & Updates, and everything that goes up there will be included in the second edition of the book.
With regards to "Over Easy," just ignore any situation checks or comments about what cards should be in which hand. Follow the instructions as written and you'll get there with no trouble.
Jason Waskett: Right oh! Sorry for that to be the question you went out on. Quick!!! somebody ask another.
David Acer: Yeah. Anyone want to ask me about my big nose, or my loss of hair?
Mike: If anyone has any questions left for Mr. Acer, he will be wrapping things up by Sunday evening. In other words, ask 'em if you got 'em!
Matt Field: I want to thank David for being here on this wonderful forum.
David Acer is one of the finest creative minds in magic. His column in Genii magazine reveals the thoughtfulness with which he approaches our art, and his performances (which I've unfortunately only seen on video) are a rare and successful combination of hummer and astonishment.
If you have not read his two volumes of "Natural Selections," I highly recommend them. His videos will teach you some great material and make you laugh.
I always look forward to David Acer's work. Keep it up!
Mike: Yes, thank you David for sharing with us over the last week! It has been enlightening as well as entertaining...You really are a naturally funny man. Again, thank you for everything sir!
Nigel Shelton: I’d like to add my vote of thanks to David for a most enjoyable week of input to these boards. It has been a delight to read such an enjoyable blend of humour and knowledge in your replies and you have most certainly added a delightful blend of wit and comedy to this forum. Thank you for your time and input to these forums – I have most certainly enjoyed the opportunity to read your input and have learnt much in the process. Thank you David and may I wish you every success for your future career.
McDermott: David, merry Christmas and thank you for joining us. It means a lot.
M_B: Thanks David for participating on Magic Bunny. It was our pleasure to have you.
Best wishes in the future and Merry Christmas!
Jason Waskett: Thanks for being here, and seasonal best wishes for the future.
KillerMagic80: Thanks a lot David for being here and thanks for your great advice. It really was helpful.
Sam X: Thanks very much David. Take care.
Andy C.: Just a quick note to say I saw you at Blackpool a couple of years ago and loved every second of your stuff there. (Didn't get a hug though.)
Thanks for gracing our site here.
David Acer: Hi Folks,
It's been a pleasure spending time with you this week! Thanks for the great comments and questions, and all the best for 2005!