“Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art.”
— Oscar Wilde
Deception is at the core of magic and magical performance. If the magic effect is not deceptive or “fooling,” there is no mystery.
I was raised to be an honest person. My parents told me it was not OK to lie. So how did I grow up to be a magician… an artist who tells truth in the form of lies?
“Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve… but I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”
— Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie
There is more to magic than just “tricking people.” Let’s look at the dynamics of lying and social deception.
In a recent article, writer Ulrich Boser said: “Researchers have been studying deception for decades, trying to figure out why we tell lies. It turns out that we spin facts and make up fictions for all sorts of reasons. We might want to gain a raise or a reward, for example, or to protect friends or a lover. Our capacity for deceit appears nearly endless, from embroidering stories to wearing fake eyelashes to asking, “How are you?” when we don’t actually care. We even lie to ourselves about how much food we eat and how often we visit the gym.” You can read the full article here:
I was researching lying on Wikipedia and found out about Dr. Brad Blanton. He says that lying is the primary source of modern human stress and that practitioners of his technique (called “radical honesty”) will become happier by being more honest, even about painful or taboo subjects. Blanton claims that radical honesty can help all human relationships since it “creates an intimacy not possible if you are hiding something for the sake of someone’s feelings.”
How could a magician be radically honest and still create deceptive magic? H’mmmm
“I can fool you because you’re a human. Usually when we’re fooled, the mind hasn’t made a mistake. It’s come to the wrong conclusion for the right reason.”
— Jerry Andrus
Jerry Andrus was a wizard. In 1993, I had the pleasure of visiting him in his “Castle of Chaos” in Albany Oregon. He was also a very deep thinker and a very honest man.
Jerry avoided telling lies while performing his magic!
He was exacting as a script writer. Jerry never said his hands were empty if they contained a hidden object. In his scripts he told the truth. Although perhaps he did eliminate some sentences that might give too much information to his viewers!
“I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.”
— Al Pacino
Techno Magician Marco Tempest gives his thoughts on The Magic of Truth and Lies. Marco’s TED talk is well worth seeing again.
(If you listen closely you can hear Tobias Beckwith doing character voices as part of this story!)
One of the techniques I have used over the years when creating illusions is to make the story that accompanies the magic contain life enhancing content, rather than just deception.
At our yearly Magic & Meaning Conference, we learn how performers can make their magic more appealing by exploring alternative presentation techniques, so that their magic makes a more potent form of theater than “just tricks!”
Here are the questions I like to ask:
“One lie has the power to tarnish a thousand truths.”
— Al David
Here is an excellent talk on how YOU can spot a liar.
“Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.”
— Dorothy Allison
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
— Abraham Lincoln
The truth is… We enjoy your feedback on these Muse letters and like it when you share them with your friends and other newsgroups.
The truth is… I am back home from our China shows and enjoying my time with Abbi here in Las Vegas.
“The Shanghai china tour was a blast…Bill Cook, Jeff, Melanie Kramer and Jordan Wright strike an action hero pose!”
The truth is… You can visit us at one of our upcoming events here in Las Vegas or online at www.mcbridemagic.tv.
The truth is… WONDERGROUND will host the faculty of Mystery School this Thursday, October 27th. www.vegaswonderground.com.
As we wind this up, we are preparing for Magic & Meaning, The Wonderground, Witches’ & Wizards’ Ball…and Fall Fest, all during the coming week!
Thanks to those of you who have made Magic & Meaning and the upcoming class on Mentalism both “Sold Out.” Click any of the other events in the calendar on the right at the top of this Museletter to get your spots in our other classes before they are all sold out, too!
Jeff McBride & all the folks at the McBride Magic & Mystery School