SPS Magic

This routine is for Kovari's wonderful prop, Acrobatic Fish Plus, made by Viking Magic.


Sucker tricks can be a powerful way to convince kids that you "know your stuff." But I approach sucker tricks with caution and try to deliver them with at least a modicum of humility. Rather than a haughty "fooled ya!" attitude, I prefer a, "Wow! Something's definitely wrong here!" approach, which implies that the magician has been fooled, as well as the audience.

I'll define a sucker trick as a magic effect in which you lead the spectators to believe you're employing a particular method to accomplish a trick, but before you're finished, they are obviously wrong. And since most people don't like to be told they're wrong, this explains why either a comical ending or a good-natured attitude should soften the blow.

One excellent trick, invented by Kovari, is Codology, similar in effect to the old Monkey Bar or Acrobatic Silks. The prop appears to be a stick or a wooden bar with three ropes attached, one at each end and one in the middle. A glittering fish (made out of cloth) dangles from a rope at the end of the bar. The fish apparently jumps from one end of the bar to the other, but the children suspect that the magician is simply turning the bar around. They eventually will demand that the fish jump to the middle rope, and therein lies the sucker effect. And then...well, I'm getting ahead of the story.

I was unsuccessful with this trick until I named the fish and started treating him as a character. Children didn't seem too attached to a shiny cloth fish, but when I named him Flipper the Flying Fish, the reaction improved 100 percent. In fact, I sometimes use it as my closing effect.

I say, "Before I leave today, I want to introduce you to the special guest star of our show, a great acrobat, Flipper the Flying Fish. He's the only fish I know who flies south for the winter [I'm in Florida, remember], and he's with us here today. If we can get Flipper to come out, he will do a great flying stunt for you. So, let's welcome him with a big round of applause—Flipper the Flying Fish!"

As I bring out the car, Flipper is dangling at the bottom of one of the ropes. "Here he is, ladies and gentlemen, Flipper the Flying Fish. And now, Flipper will fly from this end of the stick to this end. He will jump without a net. Annette could not be here today. He's jumping alone. To make this even more difficult, Flipper will jump behind my back."

Holding the bar in my right hand, I place it behind my back. I declare, "Here he goes!" meanwhile, mouthing a drum roll. The prop goes behind me, I turn it around and pass it on to my left hand, all behind my back, and supposedly out of sight. Some of the children along the sides of the audience may see the bar turn around. That's OK—I want them to!

With my left hand, I bring the bar out in front of me, holding it up high with an air of triumph. "And there he is, all the way to the other end of the stick. Let's hear it for Flipper the Flying Fish!" Before I finish the sentence, some of the kids are starting to complain that I turned it around.

"I what? Do you think—you don't think that—surely not! I would never try to trick you like that!" They're not convinced. Those of you who have done this type of effect before are well acquainted with the ruses and responses, but I've given them here for the sake of completeness.

"All right, we'll try it again. Would you like him to fly in front of me? OK! Flipper will jump to the other end of the stick, and he will do it in front of me." Then, with the bar and fish in my right hand, I turn around so my back is toward the audience. They still can't see anything.

"He's getting ready to jump! Here he goes! Wow! Fantastic! That was amazing!" I offer these exclamations as I turn back around, obviously having turned the bar around.

The children continue to protest, and most will now say, "Make him jump to the middle!"

I protest, "You don't mean to make this poor fish jump again? He's already jumped twice! I'm positive he won't do it again, especially since you think he's been cheating!" As I offer these explanations, Flipper does in fact jump to the middle rope. I pretend not to see this, until it finally dawns upon me what has happened. Then I'm astonished!

"That's incredible! He's jumped to both ends of the stick and now to the middle. But do you know what? Even though Flipper is a great acrobat, he certainly couldn't have done this without some help." Then, with a quick motion, two more fish suddenly appear at the ends of the other two ropes, making a startling appearance.

I let the kids react to the appearance of the new fish and the humor of the three fish dangling on the stick. "I knew he had some help! Look at that! Here are his two brothers helping him out! Let's give a hand to the Fantastic Flying Fish Family—Flipper, Skipper, and Gipper!"

Since this is a commercial effect marketed by Kovari, I haven't gone into detail about the working, but it is very simple. And the principles of the routine apply to other tricks, as well: give inanimate objects a name to make them personal, have the kids treat them as though they're real, and after you lead them down the primrose path in a sucker trick, be fooled and surprised yourself. Let them tell you what happened! They'll fall for it hook, line, and sinker.

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