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What makes a Mentalist or Magician Memorable?

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I guess this question has been at the center of most of my discussions on magic and mentalism over the years. There are many theories on this subject and I can find fault with all of them and greatness in them all, at the same time.

I feel it necessary to first say that while I am lumping both art forms of magic and mentalism together, it is only because of time and convenience. I am a firm believer that a magician can do some mental magic but a mentalist can never do magic. It is ok to put a little mental magic in your magic show because people do view a magician as having some mental powers. No one would believe a mentalist who does magic in his act because people expect a magician to use trickery to fool them, not real mental powers. You are either a magician or a mentalist, never both together in the same persona. Today the Mentalist, Massimo is writing this article and Luigi is relaxing without a care or worry in the world.

The short answer to the question above is two things: Personality and Entertainment. If you provide enough of each of these, then you will be a success. These do not have to be an even split. A lot of entertainment can overlook too little personality and somewhat vice versa. You should strive for a middle balance of each and the rest will follow (great shows and amusement for all). In the same tone, a dominant personality can ruin the show and too little entertainment will definitely not earn you a repeat performance.  

The Mentalist has the opportunity to meet and greet, shake hands and slap the backs of his audience ahead of the show, while in reality he is gathering valuable information for his act. He also has the opportunity to place objects and do some “ahead work”. The magician usually likes to be secretive right up to the introduction. I think someone (I can’t remember who) said it best “magic is 80% props and 20% presentation, while mentalism is 20% props and 80% presentation”. So, if this is true, then the magician really needs to boost his presentation and the mentalist needs to focus on the people.  

Let’s look at the Mentalist first. He has a leg up because he is mingling with the audience before the show, setting up effects and generally gauging the type of audience there is in attendance.  The Mentalist must remember the people he meets are not only spectators, but they are also contacts, clients and perspective friends.  These are his future money source or contacts to it.  He must convey to them his personality and charm in a very short time.

Now comes the magician.  He is somewhat of a mystery man before the show, only a name or perhaps a picture.  The curtain rises and the announcer says his name and now begins the interaction.  The magician needs to grab his audience in a very narrow time constraints and let them get to know him by his actions.  

The magician is somewhat handicapped because he is busy doing his effects (tricks) and not much time to get his audience to know him (true personality).  He must let his “props” do the speaking for him and hope the audience likes what he does.  He can interact a little with them but not even close to the time the mentalist has to interact with his audience.  The magician must be clever and fool his audience into thinking every effect is for each member of the audience and he is talking or performing exclusively for them.

The question becomes how can each profit from their performances?  A good start is to remember they are paying to see entertainment not amazement.  The amazement comes from the props not the magician; they are his tools to entertain.  The magician must convey that he is human or just like them and wants to be their friend.  He does this by never talking down to them or ridiculing them.  He needs to gain their confidence and never loose it with self-importance or arrogance.  Humor is good also unless you cannot pull it off.  If you cannot tell a joke or you are not funny, magic is not the time to try and do so.

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Our valuable member Massimo Malloque has been with us since Sunday, 23 August 2009.

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