Politricks By Association
By Kenton Knepper
People often write me and ask,
“What exactly is your book Mystery By Association about? What will it do for me? I’d like to get it, but I’m not sure I understand what it is supposed to do. I’d like to know more and then I’d buy the book.”
No small description is ever going to do this book or the main principle in it justice. It’s a bit like asking, “What will Wonder Words do for me?” The answer is beyond measure or count.
But here is a presentation using Association that “counts” – literally.
In this country there was a big election about to occur. One side publicly announced possible voter fraud, while they also organized with great zeal to disenfranchise voters and eliminate many real votes.
Now, what can a lowly “magician” do about that? What can a mentalist do?
Perhaps a mentalist can predict the number of votes that will be disenfranchised, stolen or uncounted? Nope. They are still trying to find out how many more millions of votes mysteriously vanished by sleight of hand (and other deviousness) from the last election.
So, “Best to stay away from religion and politics” as the old saying goes, right?
Sure. Just don’t say that to successful acts such as Penn and Teller.
OK – what can YOU do?
Any topic that you feel passionate about can be turned into an interesting and deeper routine, associating your feelings to a trick you already perform.
For instance, here’s a process I just went through myself:
1) I am upset by the lack of reporting on votes being tossed out by the same party that claims the Public had best watch the other side for voter fraud (basic misdirection and relabeling).
2) I look at primary words or actions that are part of this story or emotion. In this case the words COUNT, VOTE, STEAL, MOVE, DESTROY, ELIMINATE, CHEAT all come to mind.
3) I decide which tricks I perform already that might be easily associated with these words or ideas.
In this case, I thought of how I COUNT cards in my “Cards Across” routine. Then I realized that cards disappearing and being put into the hands of someone else is what the trick is about.
“Putting votes into the hands of the other” is about the stolen votes between two parties – a pretty obvious association. COUNTING votes is what is at issue, after all.
It doesn’t take big brainpower to make these associations of ideas, words or feelings with a trick. It just takes a moment for me to think about what the main topics or issues are, and then see how these words or ideas already can relate to something I perform.
I won’t discuss methods here, as this is a Public forum, and you are likely to have your own favorite version of Cards Across anyway. If not, look into Paul Harris’ version. I have my own variation of that which I have been doing since before I moved to Phoenix. It still holds up as strong as ever today.
Here is some suggested patter. You may use it if you like. But keep in mind that I share this as a way to demonstrate a basic understanding of the principle of association – how one thing can easily be related to another.
“Votes count! That’s what they say. But they also say that you had better watch the opposing party because they might be the ones stealing votes! Then again, the complainers might be the biggest thieves of all – who knows? I don’t know, but I do know how votes disappear… It’s all sleight of hand and sleight of mouth! Let me show you…”
“Here, you be one party, and our friend over there will be the other party. Let’s begin counting. So far we have one, two, three… am I going too fast? No? Good! Four, and five votes. You are the Republicans, so you keep those votes you have good and tight. Lock them down and don’t let anyone steal them!”
Turning to the second spectator I say,
“Now you represent the Democrats’ votes. You have one, two, three… are you with me? Good! Four and five. Five votes. Fair enough. So far, things are fair and square. But wait! You don’t get to hold on to your votes. That’s because the Republicans over there are not so sure about some of your votes. We have to check! There may be voter fraud!”
“Yes… See this one? They spelled out their full name on the voter registration, but only used their middle initial on their driver’s license. That vote has a little discrepancy, and you know what that means! No? Well of course that means it is a fraudulent vote, so it goes away!”
The first card vanishes.
“That’s one, two, three, four votes… still a close race. But wait. I just heard there might be an issue with one of your votes there. It seems someone was just thrown out of their home due to the mortgage and real estate crisis. That means – horrors of horrors – they changed residence! And you know what that means, right? No? That means their vote is probably a fraudulent vote! Oh yes it does! Check out the rules… just ask them over there… (point to the other spectator). POOF! Sorry but you’re down another vote. You have one, two, three… three. Well, it’s still rather close. It can’t get too obvious or they’d have to own the voting machines too!”
As this last statement is made, the performer gestures and only two cards are shown to remain.
“Oh, you actually noticed that? Most people get confused and so they stop bothering to pay attention! Damn. Well, if you are paying attention and demand it, then I guess we have no choice but to check the other guy’s hands over there. But how could he be doing anything? He was just standing there trying to be fair and balanced? He was simply trying to be sure every vote counts – every vote that was worth them counting it, anyway! Besides, I thought your side wouldn’t fight to get your votes back – something’s very odd here indeed.”
“Ok then, let us see how many votes they have now…”
The cards are counted to show that the other person now holds eight cards.
“Oh yes, well their side does seem to have your votes. You know what that means! No! It means of course… THEY WIN! Let’s here it for the grand old party over here!”
“You don’t seem too happy. Look, if this sort of deception bothers you, just be sure you get as many of your friends as possible to vote! That way, even if they eliminate half of your votes, you still might win!”
So saying the performer shows that the eight cards are now more like twenty cards! The performer spreads the cards faces to the audience saying,
“Let’s face it… It’s all in your hands now” as the cards are given to another person to examine.
Please keep in mind that the parties could of course be switched, although the tactics named here would not apply – you’d have to find new ones if you reversed the parties. I just took things I knew were happening from many sources and used those as something to associate to each card vanish.
This may seem like a political statement to some, but really what I intend to show is how a simple and effective trick can be associated to topical and more meaningful events. That’s one of the ideas behind the principle of association.
Art is more than mere diversion. Art is meant to spur us on, examine, rethink, feel, and challenge our prejudices or current associations.
If magic or mentalism is to be ART, it must at times also allude to greater issues, provide occasional social commentary, and provoke rather than preach.
This is but a very simplistic and small example of the type of thinking you will find in my book Mystery By Association.
I repeat this is not about making a pitch to you about any political preference. While some may later call this writing “predictive” it is meant to be an example of how a basic effect such as Cards Across can generate real emotion, reaction, and active audience involvement – just like real art forms in theater tend to do. You don’t have to agree with the social commentary, but rather understand that social commentary may be made – in an entertaining and non-threatening way – by using the principle of association.
I often end such a presentation by saying something such as,
“And that’s why it used to be called ‘Poli- TRICKS!’ …Then they got smart and changed the name slightly… Well enough deviousness. Let’s just do some overt cheating now, shall we?”
If any of this has you irked, angry or laughing, then you will have my point. Mystery By Association allows for more meaningful and novel performances in easy and entertaining ways.
PURCHASE KENTON’S BOOK “MYSTERY BY ASSOCIATION” HERE:
©October 2008 Kenton Knepper