Review of Jon Armstrong Lecture

Review of Jon Armstrong Lecture

2007 Close-up Magician of the year, Jon Armstrong, paid a visit to San Francisco this past week to share his expertise on card magic. Taking the stage at the lecture hall, Mr. Armstrong was an assertive and knowledgeable instructor with a very practical approach to his work.

This lecture was my first real exposure to Mr. Armstrong’s magic. I’d heard of his name and seen bits and pieces of video, but I have never invested in any of his material until last Tuesday. What I had seen were some very inventive tweaks of existing routines such as his Blank Card Monte, which seamlessly integrated the Three Card Monte and Card to Wallet effects while also apply initial interest, emotional hook, and improved deceptiveness.
It was this creativity which I looked forward to seeing and hearing about. I am happy to report that I was not disappointed.

Right off the bat, Mr. Armstrong laid down the rules of the lecture: questions are encouraged, debates are inappropriate, and focus is key. His assertiveness here was appreciated by the audience and ensured a smooth lecture, dense with material.

The lecture consisted entirely of card material, although much of the lessons could be adapted to other fields. For example, Mr. Armstrong’s assertion that “People hate bad card tricks but people love good card magic,” could be expanded upon to include all magic.

For the first half, Mr. Armstrong explained the top reasons why card tricks fail to entertain are that most have a lack of surprise, overly complex procedure, and no emotional hook. Throughout, Mr. Armstrong illustrated each of these points multiple times via different effects.

Along the way, Mr. Armstrong shared some funny, yet important nonetheless, one liners such as “What would Juan Tamariz do?” He also neatly summarizes the plot of all pick a card tricks as “You either find the card or you suck.”

There was a lot of very good thinking in this lecture, and a lot of it could be applied almost instantly to one’s work. For example, Mr. Armstrong suggests a in-jog overhand shuffle to a break in preparation for a force, as opposed to the standard cut or double undercut to a break. He explains, rightly so, that this very deceptively keeps from telegraphing the force. (For you non magician readers there is a reason that was written so technical).

Another easy improvement is avoiding the classic force style of selection, at least initially. This is done to keep the audience from jumping to the standard pick a card trick plot. They’ve already “seen that one before,” after all. He suggests dribble, riffle, or mental selections instead to avoid this issue. Combine this with the suggestion from Aaron Fisher’s lecture last year about having the card taken and returned in the same manner, and you will be taking a major step forward in the professionalism of your card work.

This was a fantastic lecture, which ran farther into the night when a group of us met up with Mr. Armstrong after for dinner and drinks. This is when technology collided with magic as Mr. Armstrong shared some creative variations with different iphone magic trick apps. On that note, you will definitely want to keep your eyes peeled for a brand new app which Mr. Armstrong is releasing here soon. It is an absolutely fantastic principle with many applications. No pun intended.

If you get a chance to see Jon Armstrong, do not pass it up. His lectures are inspirational, very informative, and dense. Thank you for your time Mr. Armstrong.

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