A great impromptu trick can elevate your status as a miracle worker. Although the word “impromptu” suggests unprepared, we will learn how performers like Max Malini and Nate Leipzig set up their tricks long in advance. They knew the value of thinking ahead and they practiced so that everything ran like clockwork.
You’re standing on line at Starbucks talking shop with a fellow magician. Someone behind you overhears and says, “Wow, you’re a magician? Show me a trick!” You pat down your jacket and confess, “Oh, I have nothing on me.” The person is confused. They think, “But you’re a magician. You’re supposed to do magic.”
“How many truly impressive impromptu tricks can you think of? Learn at least three that can be done anywhere at a moments notice with props at hand. You are allowed to prepare secretly, but use no props out of the ordinary. The effects should be simple and direct and work in a variety of situations.”
John Carney, Book of Secrets
Same Starbucks line. Same request. Only this time you’re ready. You grab a coffee stirrer, snap it in two and restore it in their hands. Or maybe you unwrap a straw, borrow their finger ring and make it penetrate the straw while they hold both ends. Pulling out a deck of cards or a fancy coin is fine, but using borrowed objects will make your magic stronger. Using stuff that’s lying around will create the impression that you are a “real” magician.
Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic by Martin Gardner
Long out of print, this treasure trove of impromptu magic has been re-released by The Miracle Factory. Within you will find a slew of tricks with common objects like matches, handkerchiefs, coins and finger rings. There are also dozens of bar bets, puzzles and stunts.
“Learn to do magic with common objects such as coins, a pencil, paper napkins, a length of string, rubber bands, paper clips etc… You will find people thinking of you as a real magician when you can pick up ordinary objects like those mentioned and do miracles with them. Remember the stories of Malini finding coins inside of bread rolls!”
Dai Vernon, The Vernon Touch. March 1978
Max Malini made it his business to always be prepared. He understood that people were perceptive. If Malini never left their sight how could he pull off these impossible feats. At a bar, Malini would have a coin palmed all night and patiently wait for someone to receive their change. If he spotted a similar coin, he asked to borrow it. Now he could launch into some miracle with his duplicate.
Malini collected soda straw wrappers with the names of hotels printed on them. When he knew he’d be at a certain hotel he would take that wrapper with him. Now he could perform his torn and restored straw wrapper on the spot. People were blown away by these impromptu demonstrations. Little did they know he had prepared hours in advance.
Malini used whatever common objects were available. He knew his surroundings and took advantage of opportunities. He would even create opportunities by steering conversations toward certain subjects, making his tricks appear organic.
A Useful Tip From Nate Leipzig
Every night, Leipzig laid his props out on his dresser. In the morning before leaving his apartment he would fill his pockets exactly the same way. This daily ritual guaranteed he would always be prepared. And because he knew where every prop was there would be no delays if he were asked to perform a trick.
Take Carney’s advice and work on two or three solid tricks. Make sure to practice them so that they are smoothed out and ready to go. It may be weeks before someone asks to see a trick. You don’t want to be fumbling around when they do.