Street Magic vs Strolling Magic by Ben Silver

Hello, I’m Ben Silver one of San Diego’s Favorite Magicians and San Diego’s Top Rated Magician on multiple platforms. I’ve been performing magic professionally across the country for corporate and private parties for over a decade. I do trade show magic, stage show magic, close-up magic, parlor magic/ stand up magic sets and unique wine and magic dinners.

What kind of magic are you interested in? Coins, Cards, Productions and Vanishes, Mentalism, Street Magic, Close Up Magic, Kid’s Magic, Stage Magic. The types of magic you perform should be an extension of your personality and/or the character you are portraying. It should also appeal to your target audience and the clientele you are trying to attract or perform for. In this article I will give a few tips about close-up magic.

Most card magic can be performed in an array of performance settings, however, magic with props and apparatus are more for formal shows and will not be best for strolling magic. So if you want to do strolling close up magic or street magic think about doing effects that you can fit in your pockets that pack small but have a big impact.

What’s the difference between Close-Up Strolling Magic and Street Magic? Well technically they are almost the same, the difference is the audience and clientele as well as the materials used and types of effects performed. Street Magic is obviously performed on the street on in school yard if you’re still in school. The purpose of performing street magic is to make people happy or to make tips or both. However, you have not been hired and are not being paid to do magic so therefore less rules apply to your performance in style, method, demeanor, and content.

With Street Magic you can wear whatever you like, use any language you want, use props and bring a case and put it to the side. The materials you use can be of any nature and even implement gross-out effects like a twisted finger or Criss Angel’s Swallowing a quarter and then cutting it out of his forearm effect. With street magic you are not being paid so you can try out new tricks and new material as well as new patter, variations, and delivery. If you mess up it hurts a bit and may be embarrassing but you will learn lessons very quickly on how to improve that trick or utilize angels better. Again, you were not hired so no one can complain that you messed up or that the trick wasn’t good. I mean they can complain but to who, who cares. You are doing them a favor (hopefully) with the gift of free entertainment and amazement. If you are an up and coming magician, street magic is a great way to get some good hands on practice and honest reactions and feedback. A quick note, some state parks and beaches require a permit for performers to perform there so look into that if you want to perform in a popular tourist area or park.

However, if you are being paid to perform close up strolling magic at a private party such as a birthday or holiday party or at a corporate or business event more rules apply. Appearance and grooming are of the utmost importance and when applicable a well-fitting suit should be worn. Polished Shoes show you are a professional… quick tip.

Gross out effects should not be done unless cleared by the host and even then I would advise against it. Your language should be clean and respectful to the crowd you are entertaining, if you’re at a law firm party, you are representing the firm that hired you and you want to show that level of respect. If you’re performing for a bluer crowd like at a fire station, you can ask the host if some street language is acceptable if you feel it will help bond and connect you to the crowd. Always stay on the safe side to not offend.

Objects used should pack small and play big. Every affect should fit into one of the 6-9 pockets (if wearing a suit) you have on you whether they be cards, coins, notepads, rubber bands, dice, cups and balls or packet tricks. Every pocket should be assigned a trick and gimmicks should always be returned to the assigned pocket. This is very important if you use multiple decks of cards (blue, red, stacked, Invisible, Svengali) to ensure you don’t start a new set or trick with the wrong deck of cards. Tricks that easily reset are most desirable so you don’t have to constantly hide out of site to reset or continuously got to your magic case.

When you are being paid for your performance you are NOT to practice new material or tricks. You are a professional and that’s why your client hired you. It would be embarrassing for your client to have you perform for their honored guest and you look like you’re not very good because you are doing tricks you haven’t fully mastered yet. Do your A-game material! When possible have structured set that run 3-minutes, 5-minutes ,7-minutes, and 10- minutes. This way when you’re performing at different events you have set routines for different sized groups in different setting with different attention spans. If you’re performing at a wedding reception during cocktail hour and there are 300 guests, there is no way you can reach all of them in 60-90 minutes. So having a 3-5 minute really strong set that quickly and easily resets in the best way to entertain that group. Entertain a small group and move on to the next one. If you’re doing your job right, eventually you find a hanger on, who is a magic fan who starts following you around and telling everyone how good you are and that they have to see what you do. This guy means well but can be annoying, plus if he’s watching you do the same set table to table he may catch on to what you are doing or even step on your finale or say your signature joke before you do. It is ALWAYS recommended to keep multiple other effects and a huge finisher on hand in case you have a large group form and the majority of that group already saw your initially strolling set, you want to be able to show them you have plenty more magic that’s even better.

Set structure. When you approach the people you would like to perform for they will most likely be in a small group of 2-8 people talking and drinking. You need to grab their attention right away and let them know you are worth paying attention to, so an eye grabbing fast trick that will validate your worth is the best way to make a first impression. Richard Sanders “Extreme Burn” is a good example as the effect turns 5- one dollar bills into 5-100 dollar bills. It’s a fast visual change and everyone wishes they could do that for real so now you have their attention.

That is just an example. Long winded card tricks with lots of following the card and putting cards into stacks or piles are not good openers. Quick, strong and direct is key!

Like any performance there should be a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning grabs their attention, the middle delights and entertains, the end blows them away and leaves them in awe and wanting more. If possible, add a common thread (idea, premise) to the set or perhaps or throw back line, joke, or trick. Close Up magic isn’t supposed to have the story telling and tight scripting of a stage show by any means but this helps illustrate the set as a polished piece of magic and entertainment. It demonstrates the professional you are and why the host hired you for that event, and why the person you just performed for should hired you for their next event.

I’ll leave you with a few videos showing the differences of me performing as a street magician vs as a hired magician at a gala event. Notice what I’m wearing and the tricks I’m doing.

In the street magic video on the beach I’m in jeans and sandals and I grab a can of beer from the trash, that would be unacceptable at a gala. At the gala event , look at how short, direct and impactful that trick was in under two minutes.

 Just a few thoughts, feel free to contact me with your thoughts and insights about close-up strolling magic and street magic at Ben@bensilvermagic.com

All good wishes,

Ben Silver