As I sat down to watch a recent season of NBC’s America’s Got Talent, I certainly expected to see a magician or two. After all, Mat Franco had won the previous season. Magic is clearly something America wants. As an experienced magician, I don’t watch the performances to be amazed, but for the entertainment and presentation value. The last season of the show left me a bit disappointed as I felt like the program had “jumped the shark.” It seemed the judges were overplaying their reactions and illusions began to feel a bit underwhelming. I feel NBC should air original entertainers who aren’t performing store-bought magic tricks (ex. a magic thumb tip, or the Cardtoon trick from Britain’s Got Talent – see video below). That is why I was extremely pleased and impressed with Wayne Hoffman’s performance of Russian Roulette.
Daredevil Magician Risks His Life
Wayne’s performance was spectacular for a number of reasons, which go beyond the surface of a basic magic trick. Although there was literally a one-in-three chance that he could be injured, Wayne increased the presence of danger by wearing a blindfold and performing it completely hands off. His delivery was especially well thought out because he lead us to believe that he was reading the pre-surveyed behavior of Howie Mandel by stating his mixing of the fireworks was influenced because he was left handed. This lead viewers to join the excitement that Mr. Hoffman was indeed performing this by assessing Howie’s personality and therefore allowing us to believe that this really could go wrong. Am I right? Do you believe Wayne; A) genuinely guessed, B) already knew what the outcome would be, C) the trick was entirely staged, or D) did in fact successfully read Howie’s mannerisms? Watch the performance below and decide for yourself!
Dangers of Russian Roulette Magic Tricks
There have been numerous documented reports of amateur magicians attempting to perform this type of illusion and failing. The basic premise of a Roulette stunt is to present multiple unknown choices for the magician, and if done wrong, would severely injure or fatally wound the performer. This is what makes it so intense and entertaining. Many of you might be under the assumption that this is just another straight jacket escape and “of course he’s going to get out!” But this isn’t always the case. Just do a search on the magician’s only blog, The Magic Cafe about magic tricks going wrong.
I remember a regrettable experience watching Faces of Death as a child. I was about 13-years old and remember watching a magician do a stunt while lying under a plate of knifes held only by a thin string. You can imagine what happens next. While in front of an auditorium full of families, the tuxedoed magician met a gruesome death. Needless to say, this gave me nightmares for years and is probably why I don’t perform this type of trick myself.
Magic Trick Gone Wrong: Buried Alive
They later investigated the cause of what happened and found that it was the purchase of a faulty 32-cent safety piece. I suppose he should have sprung for the $2.50 part instead. Or was I maybe watching an elaborate hoax and this version of Faces of Death was fake?
Either way, I believe the audience assumes you’ve rehearsed the routine and they expect the performer truly believes that everything will go as planned. However, the excitement comes from people like you and me who’ve heard about these routines going awfully wrong and therefore makes it more fun to watch. It’s a bit twisted when you think about it.
Check out my other article on the near death experience with 2 magicians and a tiger.