18 May 2016

Michael Skinner. His Biggest Secret?

Michael Skinner had many secrets.  His biggest?  He knew how to sell an effect.  Drama. Tension.  Suspense.  Skinner created atmosphere.  Mystery.  No fancy moves.  No fast talk.  He worked slowly.  Deliberately.  Perform each trick like it’s the only trick you know, he would say.  Savor the moment.  Don’t rush.

Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, he was the house magician at Lillie Langtry’s Restaurant in Las Vegas.  Night after night he dazzled guests.  Connected with them.  Made them care.  What a treat it must have been to watch Michael Skinner work.

Michael Skinner

Skinner’s Big Secret:

“Many close-up performers work way too fast.  This leads to nothing but confusion… If you choose to perform a magical effect all in one tempo, it is far better to go slow than fast.”

-Michael Skinner, Classic Sampler

How do we communicate to an audience the exact moment the magic happens?  I put a coin in my hand.  I open it and it’s gone.  Well, that isn’t very magical.  What if I squeezed my hand, blew on it, then opened it.  Much better. Those actions define the moment when the magic took place.  Wave your wand.  Snap your fingers.  Clap your hands. This is what Michael Skinner referred to as “the magic moment.”  Without it, your magic will be dull.  Plain and simple.

The Exaggerated Pause

Before you clap those hands… wait!  Be still.  Silently count to five.  Yes, five!  This is what Michael Skinner referred to as “the exaggerated pause.”  He would build tension this way.  Create suspense.  Drama.  Audiences waited on the edge of their seats.  He finally broke the silence with a loud clap.  The coin was gone!  Tension was released. Incredible.  Use this, and your magic will improve tenfold.

“When you are doing something mysterious, do it slowly.”

Dai Vernon, The Vernon Touch

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