Monkey Shines Volumes One & Two by Chris "Doc" Dixon
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii March, 2001)
It's been quite a while since I've had the pleasure of receiving material from Doc Dixon, whose work first came to my attention in 1995 when I reviewed two manuscripts: Can You Do It For Drunk People? and Take Two Cards and Call Me In The Morning [Genii, September 1995], and whose later publication, Everything Is Funnier With Monkeys, I subsequently reviewed as well [Genii, May 1997], A dozen years have since gone by and Doc Dixon is still, quite clearly, a full-time working pro with an eye for practical, entertaining, and commercial magic. It's refreshing to read some pages that contain material that can, will, and should be used by working pros.
Volume One, which contains a total of 12 items, begins with "Memory Aces," in which the performer cuts four packets of cards from his hands, showing an indifferent card at the face of each packet before tabling it. When the four packets are turned over, an Ace now resides at the face of each one. This trick introduces a sleight, the "Dixon Drop," reads badly but looks pretty good if you refer to the video on Mr. Dixon's website of him performing it. The move is a sort of Han Ping Chien with cards; it reads questionably because it's the kind of thing that relies more on timing and naturalness than on precision mechanics.
"Double Duty" is a platform mental card trick in which one spectator selects a card which is then reversed in the pack, without the performer seeing its face; the pack is spread so that the spectator can see the reversed selection; the other spectator sees all the other cards in the deck and is asked to think of any of them. "Without any fishing or equivoque," the performer immediately names the selected card and the thought-of card. The construction of this is clever and straightforward, and if you see this performed without reading the explanation, it will probably fool you. "Deep & Meaningful Infatuation" is another platform mental card piece that enables the performer to deliver a remarkable psychic reading of an image and its main emotional component before revealing a selected card. Based on a Luke Jermay item, this routine originally appeared in Magic magazine, and relies on, in the now overly popular vernacular, an element of so-called "dual reality."
"Snack Food" takes the excellent but too often used and abused Nielsen rubber bottle and actually turns it into a rare commodity: an interesting trick. And "Reshuffled" (reprinted from Everything is Funnier with Monkeys) is Mr. Dixon's streamlined version of Paul Gertner's iconic "Unshuffled," which in Mr. Dixon's handling automatically resets for the walk-around performer.
Volume Two contains about a dozen items along with two practical and useful essays, one about how to add material to a platform act, and the other a brief analysis of how to play failure gags for the strongest laughs. (Mr. Dixon used to work a lot of comedy clubs years ago and he knows more than a little something about getting laughs.) Following a vaguely familiar preface, the book includes "Out of This Platform," an offbeat take on the effect of "Out of This World," with a very different approach to the method. This routine includes a funny utility gag that could be added to a wide variety of mental magic routines.
"Prudish Nudist" is a different approach to the venerable but all too often ignored Nudist or Mental Photography pack. In Mr. Dixon's version, an apparently ordinary pack is removed from the box, and the spectator selects a card which is cut to the face of the pack. A wave of the magician's hand and the card turns blank, whereupon the entire deck is revealed to be blank. The author explains his excellent reasoning for developing this smart and practical handling. And "Five Hands Plus One" is a first-rate poker deal that requires a few second deals while creating a quite convincing demo of riffle stacking.
I've selected a few entries from each volume to provide a representative sampling of material that particularly appealed to me, but I daresay everything here is of potential value to someone. My advice in a pumpkin shell: When a real-life working pro one who thinks about his magic, cares about originality, has some technical chops, and has done a hell of a lot of shows tips his mitt, it's time to forego the next dozen or so bloated 3-disk DVD sets and sit down with something you can actually entertain a paying audience with and maybe even make a living. Call me crazy