The Challenge of Time

Eugene BurgerI would like to begin by congratulating my friend, Michael Carbonaro, for his new show, “The Carbonaro Effect,” which airs on Thursday evenings at 10.00 pm (Pacific time) on TRU TV. Be sure to check it out!

I first met Michael when he attended a Mystery School in 1999. He was a bright and attentive student who was clearly present. This was the first time that Michael performed what has become one of his signature pieces, Shaving Dream. Even this early version, which didn’t have a name, was very impressive. Michael’s performance had great impact on the audience. Everyone was talking about it afterward. And Michael was still a teenager!

Michael and I stayed in contact over the years and our friendship grew. A few years ago, when Jeff decided to bring the Mystery School faculty and students to the Magic Castle in Hollywood to perform for a week, I opted to perform in the Peller Theater. To make things easy, I wanted someone to perform with me. Michael Carbonaro was my first choice. Together, we created a show, “Dark Stories,” which we have now performed several years at the Magic Castle and in other places as well (such as Erika Larsen’s quite fabulous “Beyond Brookledge” event last year).

This coming July, Michael and I will present an extended version of “Dark Stories” at the James Randi TAM (The Amazing Meeting) event in Las Vegas.

Dark Stories:  Eugene Burger and Michael Carbonaro
Photo credit: Roger Fojas

Need I say that Michael is a delight to work with? He is. He is creative and funny and still serious and open to ideas and also ready with many amazing ideas of his own. I love to work with him. And I was thrilled when he used my effect, Shotglass Surprise, on the pilot episode of “The Carbonaro Effect.” You can see Michael’s very clever and entertaining presentation at:

The Carbonaro Effect: Collapsible Whiskey Shot
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8447kS90dk

It is exciting when a friend gets a television show of their own. One feels so happy for them. Having a show of our own is a dream that is shared by so many magicians. Do you have a dream of your own TV show? If you do, I think you might ask yourself one very important question: Are you really ready for your own TV show? If the offer came unexpectedly to you, would you be up for the challenge? Yes, it’s a tough question!

And this brings us to the subject of my essay. It is time. It is the ability to perform for the specific   time that has been allotted to us. Not to go over. Not to do more time than expected.

Over the years, I have been surprised on many, many occasions as I watched professional  magicians fail to meet the time restrictions given to them. Although they sometimes go under their time, most often they go well over the time they were allotted. If scheduled to perform for ten minutes, they might perform for fifteen or twenty. If asked to perform for thirty minutes, they might instead perform for forty-five. I see this at magic conventions and at local magic shows. I see it in many, many countries. At home, I see it at Magic Chicago, the monthly magic show soon in its tenth year. It appears that a large number of magicians, both amateur and professional, have very little sense of performance time. Evidently, it doesn’t seem too important to them. It probably isn’t as important as the magic tricks that dance in their thoughts.

But it is important!  It is important if you want to be — or be seen as — a professional magician. As I have explained many times, my own first international television appearance was on the Paul Daniels Show in England. I had two spots: the first was four-and-a-half minutes, the second was three-and-a-half minutes. This was a live television show. It was not a taped show. My job was to come in on time. If I went over, I would be taking time away from the star of the show. If I went under time, Paul would have to make up my time.

I think that I was successful for two reasons. First, there was a large clock with a second hand next to the camera so I could watch the movement of time. Second, I work with scripts for each of my magical pieces and so, when there were 30 seconds left, I could begin to speed up or slow down — and then finish precisely on the second. I approached it both as a challenge and a game. On the set, I received many compliments. And I was asked to return for Paul’s live show the next year. But the secret was having a real script — and also understanding how to deliver it.

And so when magicians perform for me — either in Chicago or in classes with Jeff in Las Vegas — I listen to what is being said. I want to help these magicians improve what they are saying.

Do you work with a real script?

Do you have the ability to bring your performances in on time?

Time is a great challenge. Yet, if you do get your own television show one day, these are the skills that you might need for your success. If you have them, I suspect that you will be very happy and thankful.

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