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Let’s look at one of the best and most underperformed tricks in magic. It has some surprisingly ingenious methods. And yet, hardly anyone performs it today. Why not? Well, we’ll look at that too.
Part 1. Uncomercialised = Underperformed
In almost every TV project I work on, the magician will ask me if I know of any underrated or underperformed magic tricks. It’s a smart question; they know it’s easier to perform a proven trick than to try to reinvent the wheel. But they’re hesitant to perform a trick that’s been performed to death, so you’re forced to rack your brains for a trick no one is performing.
The answer is tough to approach until you switch the wording a lot.
Instead of asking, “What’s a great underperformed magic trick?”
Ask, “What is a great uncommercialised magic trick?"
Most magicians are lazy and only buy the newest hyped-up tricks. There’s nothing wrong with it if magic is your hobby. If magic is more than a hobby, it’s maybe a bit embarrassing.
Ashes on Palm was a terrific trick, and it still is. But the routine has now been commercialised in the form of Double Cross. This might not stop you from performing it, but the commercialisation of the routine is what’s taken it from being an underperformed trick to one many people perform.
Then there’s the Time Machine effect. For fifteen years, this trick was completely uncommercialised. Then The Turner Watch was a best-seller, and suddenly, there was an entirely new market of time machine watches from the likes of Joao Miranda and others.
Same for tricks like Color Match — do you remember seeing Willman perform it on Ellen? Now there are so many colour-match products, and though it makes me cry inside, everyone performs Willman’s original Color Match routine.
So, what great trick can you not easily buy in a magic shop?
Part 2. Any Drink Called For
I really think about three memories when it comes to Any Drink Called For.
I read about Steve Cohen performing his version in New York as a teen. The marketing and branding for Cohen are spectacular. You’ll often see this line online “Steve Cohen is sometimes called The Millionaire’s Magician.” I can’t find anyone who’s actually called him that, but it’s stuck.
My teenage brain was enamoured with the stories of Cohen’s private show at the top of a fancy New York hotel. The tales of his teapot that could pour any drink captured my imagination. It’s a wish fulfilment effect at its very best. You can have any drink you want — it’s something we can relate to. There’s definitely been a time in everyone’s life when you wanted a specific drink that wasn’t available. The colours, the liquid, the taste, it’s just such a fascinating effect.
I’d seen Pete Firman performing a version of the effect on telly, but it wasn’t until I attended The Session convention a decade ago that I saw it in real life. It blew everyone’s minds. In fact, it was only a few weeks ago when a friend who was at that convention brought it up again. The performer had random audience members name drinks, and then he’d just pour it from a metal teapot into a cup.
Then, when I was working on The Next Great Magician, I saw Barry and Stuart perform their version of the effect for the first time. Many random drinks and ingredients get poured into a huge punch bowl during their performance. Then, Barry dives his head into the mix of liquids, and when he returns, he spouts out any drink called for.