SUMMARY: Compelling magic without the complex moves: three strong routines refined by John Carey
OVERVIEW: John Carey is an experienced close-up magician with solid credentials: He performs regularly at events like weddings and parties, is an in-demand lecturer and teacher for magicians in Europe and the USA, has authored three books on magic: Crafted with Carey, Minimalistica and Carey Files, and is the creator of various magical effects, particularly with cards. He has earned a solid reputation for streamlining effects and turning them into practical and hard-hitting magic. Relying on clever thinking and good presentation rather than complex moves and techniques, means that his card tricks are usually quite straight forward to learn, and yet pack quite a punch. Designed with lay audiences in mind, they distil routines of unnecessary sleights and complexities, and turn them into effects that retain the impact of magic while ensuring that they are also very doable. So if you are like me, and enjoy routines with clever plots and powerful magic without knuckle-busting moves, then you'll be interested in this first exclusive collection of three tricks from John Carey, which includes the following three effects: Pseudo Vernon, Dead Cut, and Piggy in the Middle.
EFFECT #1 - PSEUDO VERNON: This effect is probably my favourite of the three, because it appears completely baffling, despite how relatively easy it is to perform. The deck is indeed shuffled and cut by the spectator, although you do need to manage this process quite carefully, through a simple and very nice method that John teaches, inspired by a move from Benjamin Earl. Then through a process of elimination, the spectator thinks of a card, and the final choice is only revealed by the magician after he's dealt through the deck face down and stopped at a specific card - which turns out to be the very one selected by the spectator.
This trick is based on Dai Vernon's "Out of Sight Out of Mind", and is truly quite impressive. You might think from the first part of the performance that it's a simple matter of equivoque, the method being familiar to those who do Max Maven's B'Wave, although John Carey credits a couple of other sources that he learned it from. But as John goes on you'll quickly realize that the spectator is making some choices that are indeed genuine. It's a very clever trick, and the way the spectator will recall the trick will be that they selected a card from a deck they shuffled, and then you dealt to that very card named by them - something truly impossible.
EFFECT #2 - DEAD CUT: This effect begins with the spectator genuinely shuffling the entire deck, which makes what follows even more impressive. The cards are spread, and the spectator names one of their free choice - again, a genuine choice. The spectator then again shuffles and cuts the cards, using the Benjamin Earl method we've already seen earlier in Pseudo Vernon. The spectator then names a number between 10 and 20. You then cut to a stack of around that number, and count them to prove that it is indeed that number, and then at that very number turn up the selected card.
Essentially this is a variation of the Any Card At Any Number (ACAAN) plot, and is truly a lovely and elegant routine. You'll need to be able to do some culls and false counts to pull it off, and John explains all the techniques involved. That makes it somewhat harder than the previous effect, but most magicians should still find it relatively straight forward. It's got the potential to produce a real surprise, and amaze spectators when the card freely chosen by the spectator is produced at the very number they freely chose and called. The ACAAN plot is a very popular one, and the simplicity of this routine makes this a very attractive card trick.
EFFECT #3 - PIGGY IN THE MIDDLE: Similar to the previous effect, this begins with the spectator genuinely shuffling the deck, so no set-up is required. They then select a card of their free choice, and it is placed in the middle of the deck, sticking out. Two cards are turned face up at the top of the deck. Then comes the final moment of surprise, because suddenly the selected card appears sandwiched between the two cards!
This effect was inspired by Bill Goldman's "Monkey in the Middle", which is an extremely popular effect, but Bill's routine requires a gimmick. John Carey's version involves no gimmicks, and the sleights are fairly straight forward. Some of the same controls are used as in the Dead Cut effect, but the ribbon control that John also teaches here is absolutely beautiful and very easy to learn, and best of all it can be applied in many other routines, so it's very useful. I'd never seen this move before and was really impressed by how clean and deceptive it looks, and it certainly has nice application outside of Piggy in the Middle.
VIDEO: What you get for just $10 is an instant digital download of the video, which includes all three effects. It's an exclusive from Vanishing Inc Magic. You can play the video via streaming, or download it in *.mp4 format to view on your computer with any video program. I had no difficulty downloading or viewing the video, and the entire process of getting it was hassle free. The entire video is just over 17 minutes long, and the downloaded file is around 75MB in total size. The video features John Carey performing each of the three effects on a table in a room called The Session at Vanishing Inc, so it has a real feel of a session of close-up magic. The video is divided into three main sections, each of which has John first demonstrating the effect to a spectator, and then giving the explanation.
The video production is fine, and while it's not flashy, it doesn't need to be since these tricks are easy to follow. The camera isn't static, but moves and zooms to find the best position as the video goes along, and where necessary there are close-ups on John's hands and the cards themselves. Somewhat oddly the audio is only from one speaker, but it's just John's voice that we're hearing anyway, and what he says is very clear. So no real complaints here, and there's nothing that will make the effects harder to learn than they should be.
TEACHING: As you can tell from the total length (17 minutes), John Carey is a no nonsense guy that doesn't waste time talking about non-essentials, but gets right down to business in teaching the meat-and-potatoes of each effect. He has a very straight-forward and direct style, and almost an understated presentation, which really emphasizes the magic. He's not one of those larger-than-life personas where the performer's character gets in the way of the magic, but all the focus is on what is going on, and there's no time wasted with unnecessary frills. He's very clear and easy to follow, and it makes for easy viewing and learning.
The explanation just has John going through the routine slowly, and explaining the method carefully, as well as the patter. Some might consider his style somewhat dry, but he does throw in some good one-liners you can use, and it's not difficult to expand on the presentation by incorporating your own style. One thing I really appreciated is that John Carey is very good at crediting his sources and influences, making frequent references to the routines and moves that he's using or that have inspired his work.
DIFFICULTY: The relatively short length of this video is also a reflection of the level of difficulty - none of these routines involves knuckle-busting sleights or requires complex or lengthy explanation. John Carey has been well described as having a "work smarter not harder" mindset in creating magic, which means that his effects rely on clever methods, plots, and presentation, rather than difficult finger-busting moves. In most cases, his effects are extremely accessible, and you'll be able to perform them after just a small amount of practice. For intermediate magicians, any sleights he does use are not difficult, and will likely be ones you already know. At times he does mention some sleights, and in most cases he runs through them quickly, but even if you aren't familiar with them they are fairly easy to learn.
The Pseudo Vernon effect is the easiest of the three, with minimal sleights required, while the other two effects are a bit more involved, and you'll need to know how to do a cull, some false counts, and a beautiful ribbon control - all of which John teaches. His explanation isn't lengthy, but covers the basics, and these aren't very difficult sleights anyway. The nice thing about them is that they have a very wide application to a lot of effects, so mastering these puts a very helpful skill into your magician's quiver that you can put to good use in other contexts. Overall these tricks are beyond the scope of most beginners, but they should be easily learned by intermediate level magicians, for whom they will be quite straight forward.
RECOMMENDATION: This was my first exposure to John Carey's magic, and I'll definitely be looking out for more of his work. The effects seen here aren't totally new, and experienced magicians will recognize the plots and ideas, such as Out of Sight Out of Mind (Dai Vernon), ACAAN, and Monkey in the Middle (Bill Goldman). But John Carey's strength is his ability to reduce these effects to their essentials, simplify and refine them, and enable them to be performed in a way that avoids knuckle-busting sleights, and makes them easy to learn and perform. And despite the simplifications, the effects still pack a real punch, and there's still some strong material.
John deserves much credit for his well-deserved reputation, and these three routines are fine examples of his skill. Even if you won't find yourself using all three effects here, there's bound to be one here that you'll like. Much can be learned from the way he eliminates excess fat, and trims routines to what is really important, and yet straight-forward to perform - that's a skill most of us would do well to learn. And the moves that he teaches are very versatile and have wonderful application outside of these routines, and that alone makes this worth a look. At just $10 for three effects, it's hard to go wrong with this John Carey Collection!
- BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame