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muppetish's avatar

Is magic less impressive/enjoyable when you know how the trick works?

Asked by muppetish (14021points) August 22nd, 2010

To borrow and modify a favourite line of mine from Goodfellas, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a magician.” The first performance I saw was an incredibly cheesy televised special of Rudy Coby. It was unlike anything I had ever seen and I’ve been fascinated by all types of magic since then.

There are all kinds of magicians. There’s the comedic type like the Misfit of Magic, Ed Alonzo, or The Amazing Jonathan. Penn & Teller take equal parts comedic performance and traditional magic (though are notoriously not well liked by the Castle for various reasons.) Derren Brown, my personal favourite, uses manipulation of his audience to perform tricks I can rarely get my head around.

(I’ve left out some big names here. Forgive my biases, but I’m not the biggest fan of Copperfield or Criss Angel. Feel free to use them in this discussion.)

But whether any magician is simply having a go at being silly or performing a large-scale disappearing act, I always find it interesting when people respond, “Well, I already know how that’s done.” You see it on the telly, too. When a character is noted for being intelligent or observant, they proceed to “ruin” things by explaining to everyone within earshot how the trick is done.

I know how the cups and balls trick works. I’ve seen it a thousand times by children who purchased their first magic kit at Wal-Mart and by professionals who have been in the business for years. But no matter how many times I watch Penn & Teller perform their version, I am 100% enchanted.

If you know how a trick is done, does that alter your experience as an audience member? What makes magic magical? What was the best trick you have seen performed and why has it stuck with you?

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20 Answers

JilltheTooth's avatar

Actually, knowing how it’s done enhances it for me because I’m just so impressed by how incredibly clever it all is. I’m soooo easy!

chyna's avatar

My brother does magic tricks and I do not want to know how he does them. He has one trick where it appears he is eating a lit cigarette and it makes me laugh each time I see it. If I knew how it worked, it wouldn’t be magic.

frdelrosario's avatar

Magic loses all its charm when the audience knows how it’s done. It isn’t magic then.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I still enjoy watching magic when I know how the tricks are done. For me, it loses it’s thrill when I am able to do the tricks myself. Luckily for me, I suck at magic tricks, so I can continue to enjoy watching them.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I agree that the audience should not know, for the most part. But for me… knowing how it works can make it even more fascinating.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Seaofclouds : I still giggle and clap my hands like a 4 year old even when i know :-)

ucme's avatar

I’d be way impressed if say David Copperfield et al went up in a ball of flames. That would be quite enjoyable….morbid granted, but enjoyable nontheless ;¬}

muppetish's avatar

@JilltheTooth I’m besties with a girl who was born into a family of magicians. She performs strolling magic at the Castle when she can be bothered to unpack her cards. I’ve had her do this one trick (The Clock Trick) a thousand times, show me how she does it, do it again… I still squeal when she reaches the Prestige :) Just as Gilderoy Lockhart shouted in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, “It’s just like magic!”

To those who think magic loses its charm: is there a difference when you know how a trick works because the magician has made a mistake (for example, if you can see the strings, the mirror, they drop something—that makes me cringe—or are sitting where you can see what is going on behind the cloth or in the box) and when the performer is doing a fine job but you simply know how the trick works from previous experiences?

Cruiser's avatar

Knowing the trick does spoil the mystery but it still requires the skill to pull it off. Chris Angel is one of my favs and I would love to know how he walked up to a plate glass store front window pulled his trench coat up over his head and when the coat dropped to the ground he was inside the restaurant.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Cruiser I saw a video where they explained that trick, if I can find it again I will pass it on to you.

@muppetish I agree.. it’s different if you learn how a trick works because it is poorly executed. The entertainment is in how skillfully you perform.

augustlan's avatar

I love to know how it’s done. It’s especially impressive if I still can’t ‘see’ the secret to the trick. One of my uncles used to work with Doug Henning (seriously old school), and I could never get him to reveal anything to me. Hmph.

chyna's avatar

I loved Doug Henning, but had forgotten about him.

muppetish's avatar

@augustlan Excuse me while I disappear into YouTube to research this magician – I saw there was a clip of him on the Muppet Show and I cannot believe that I do not recognize his name ;)

I love when magicians “show” me how they do sleight of hand tricks. Their hands move inhumanly fast that I can never quite follow how it is done anyway.

Piper's avatar

Maybe, but sometimes it’s just impressive to know that someone can do something like that and make it look like magic.

I’m a magician myself, so I like knowing how tricks are done so I can do them and impress people. :)

augustlan's avatar

@Piper Oooh, teach us some tricks!

muppetish's avatar

@Piper What kind of magic is your specialty? :) I’ve always wanted to pick up a trick or two. Maybe I’ll ask my friend to teach me next time we’re in company.

Piper's avatar

@augustlan @muppetish

lol cool, I mostly do card tricks. I know like 20 of them (and am always learning more). I do some others, but card tricks are my favorite. :)

I do them at school too, so people know me being the magician kid lol. =P

muppetish's avatar

@Piper Card tricks are some of my favourite in the world. Maybe I’ll see you at Magic Castle in the future someday ;)

Cdog95's avatar

I think that magic is less impressive/enjoyable when you know how the trick works. My reason for this is because the trick doesn’t seem very magical after you know how to do it. There is no element of surprise or exciement because you know what’s going to happen next. I know if I saw a trick that I knew how to do I would probably not be very amused. Magic is about making the audience think that that something magical is happening , but it won’t be so magical if the crowd knows how the trick works.

dylzaree's avatar

knowing how the trick works does lessen the “magic” but anyhow, learning how to do the trick is as enjoyable as watching the rick being done. cause when you know how the trick is done, then you can be pretty smug about it. haha. Nonetheless, i’d still prefer not knowing, it’s more fun that way

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