This is really only the second mentalist lecture I’ve attended. Considering the previous lecture that was touted as a mentalism lecture was no more, really, than a dealer show, I really did not know what to expect. Considering the fact that I was a bit soured on the previous lecture (and had my thoughts about that lecturer confirmed by some others in the magic community), I still didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately, I was amazingly impressed by the skill and knowledge dropped by Roy and came out a fan of what mentalism magic can be.
First, a little bit of background about Roy. He’s from Israel and very personable. For years he had worked going back and forth doing magic for both kids and adults and became tired of the grind from carrying all the props and switching between the mindsets between shows for each age group. About ten years ago, he sold all his props and started doing mentalism and hasn’t looked back since.
Throughout his lecture, he asks questions about the crowd. In this way, we were constantly participating in the act. He explained a lot of the psychology behind his prompts. In one case, he had a stellar example where using the statistical knowledge he had when he “knew” things about audience members that wouldn’t necessarily always come up in conversation. The fact that he “knew” that one of the audience members had a scar, which was revealed by the member as from a shark bite, was just bloody well impressive. (Okay, you had to be there for that one, but, man, that was cool!)
What impressed me so much about Roy, and this probably goes for mentalism in general, was that so much of it is knowing psychology, sociology and statistics about human beings. The props he uses can all fit in his pockets, so he’s relying on the audience to be a good part of the presentation. This, of course, greatly increases his chance of failure, which he can masterfully either laugh off or work to his advantage, depending on the situation. Of course, even though his chance of failure is greater than if he was doing manipulations or illusions, he’s working in a system where his chances of success are greatly in his favor.
I’m currently putting my first 30 minute act together, and even though I don’t have any plans to put mentalism into my act (but I never know what I’m going to do in the future) I came back with quite a good amount of information.
As I’ve seen stressed by other magicians, the first key is entertainment. Roy is very personable and as much as he is the attraction, the audience is very much a part of the show. His show relies on audience participation, so he is warm and inviting when he is using audience members in the routines. There is a lot of comedy involved, but it’s not a comedy act as much as a feeling of “We’re all friends and we can all laugh together.” Admittedly, as he was performing for magicians, he was a bit looser than if doing his act for laypeople, but my guess is only marginally so.
The next take-away would be the fact that he really can’t be hampered by a fear that something is going to fail. Once again, the deck is stacked in his favor, but with all the variables in what he’s doing, he knows that at some point, there is going to be a failure. Maybe big, maybe small, but still it’s likely going to happen at some point. In this way, he’s got to be a bit fearless. After the lecture, he was relating a story about how one trick failed for a prominent client, and he was pretty sure he was not going to be asked there again. Even with the failure (and he did relay that it was one of those times that had him concerned), he ended up booked for two more large corporate gigs. Okay, I’m a far cry from having enough experience to know how to cope with things that well if a trick fails in a performance, but it’s a good lesson on how such an instance is not necessarily the end of the world.
Finally, the last item I’ll mention of note from his lecture is his adaptability. In his case, he is able to play off things that in some cases, he can use a coincidence to make a small miracle. Wow, I mentioned the shark bite earlier, but he related another coincidence that he able to use to just blow people away. I could say more on this example, but as some who read this may not be in the magic community, I really don’t want to give it away. Sometimes, it sucks to have to bite my tongue.
OK, despite the less-than-impressive presentation from the prior mentalist, Roy Zaltsman gave a great show and great lecture. It really was one of the lectures that I wished my wife could have seen, as I know it would have interested her as much as it would have blown her away. Okay, my wife isn’t really a bar that I use to rate lectures, as I’m happy that she tolerates me, but the amount of practical psychology discussed would have kept her entranced. From what I got that can be applied to magic performance in general, damn, I’m glad I was there.