Recently, a young aspring magician wrote to Teller of Penn and Teller
asking for some advice. When I saw Teller's response, I was quite
impressed with his concerned, well thought out answer. It seems
appropriate for ANYONE who is just starting out in magic, so with his
gracious permission, I am reposting it here.
1. Read everything about magic that you can get your hands on. My favorite
basic texts (and I consult them to this day) are, THE AMATEUR MAGICIAN'S
HANDBOOK, and LEARN MAGIC by Henry Hay; CLASSIC SECRETS OF MAGIC by Bruce
Elliot; THE ROYAL ROAD TO CARD MAGIC by Hugard and Braue; and THIRTEEN STEPS
TO MENTALISM by Tony Corinda. Chase them down.
2. Learn to do the cut and restored rope. Polish it so that you can
absolutely mystify people with it. This is a great, great trick that will
stand you in good stead. I still use it in our show (in a new form).
3. Learn some version of the Cups and Balls (there is a wonderful one-cup
routine in the Bruce Elliot book above). #2 and #3 formed the basis of the
act I did for years.
4. Wait 10 years before doing the Linking Rings. It's overdone just at this
time in our history.
5. Learn a powerful trick for the ending to your show. Warning: production
tricks are really hard and eat up all your time folding silks and fake
6. Remember you are a kid. You look like a kid. Don't think you'll fool
people into thinking you are an old sage from the Himalayas.
7. Do a short act. Don't worry about getting paid yet. Do six minutes that
is wonderful and amazing. You will be able to handle longer stints as the
8. The "Miser's Dream" is a really easy trick that's really hard to learn to
do in a concise, entertaining way. Learn it. Learn to vary your methods.
Learn to do it fast. Lots of coins, quickly, then a beat of comedy. Then
more coins, then more comedy. Then an ending. Get hold of a videotape of Al
Flosso doing the Miser's Dream. Watch how entertaining that old coot is.
9. Perform as often as you can. You will never get good until you stand on
stage for a zillion hours and learn how to do it for real. It's nice to
daydream about grand effects, but if you get out there -- by whatever means
you have to use -- and perform, perform, perform, you will improve.
10. Behave towards your audience with sincere respect. You are not superior
because you know a few tricks. They are the people you OWE a wonderful show
11. No matter how badly a show goes, remember it's just a show. Tomorrow
there will be a different show and you can redeem yourself.
12. Make sure you remember all your ideas. Maybe some stink now only because
you don't yet know enough to make them good. Ideas are precious. Keep notes.
13. Stick with it. If you truly love what you are doing, you will love
rehearsing, laboring, getting stage fright, wasting money, even failing.
Love magic and your audience so powerfully that you are locked in the jaws of
its love. When the cub scouts throw things, love the pain; it will teach
you. Stick with it. Getting good takes, not weeks, not months, but years.
Years. Be prepared.