Thursday, 10 June 2010

How to humiliate yourself in public... just like that! - by Theo

Some months ago I decided to do a fun lesson for some of my younger students by basing it on a magic trick. This magic trick to be exact, whereby you guess the other person's chosen card by simply dealing out 21 cards in a certain way three times. As a trick it requires no skill or preparation, you just have to be able to follow the instructions (the point of the lesson - reading for gist); a six year old could do it.

This morning my former students Javier messaged me to ask if I wanted to come with him and his friend Lucia to a magic show in Ventas after work. Great! I hadn't seen Javi for a while and I've always enjoyed seeing magic; for me it's a win-win situation - when you can work out how they did the trick you feel pleased with yourself, and when you can't you just feel amazed.

The show turned out to be at a small magic school, some kind of end-of-term graduating ceremony for recent students, hosted by one of the teachers. The performance space was small, with barely twenty of us seated in three tiers. This kind of intimacy was necessary for the show as the majority of the performers were doing card tricks, with the 3 of hearts making repeated appearances. This may have been intended, as by the end it had become a kind of running joke.

Pretty much every performer - there were about 9 - asked for at least one volunteer to shuffle the deck, chose a card, check the table and so on, so it was kind of inevitable that eventually my turn to be called upon would come around.

In the end it was the compere who called me up and, after checking I understood Spanish, decided to score a cheap laugh by handing me the deck of cards and announcing "y ahora, de ingleterra, el magnifico Theo!" and retiring from the stage. Great.

I probably should have just sat down again. Or given him back the cards. He was really stretching the timing of his little joke a lot and the stage was becoming a vacuum. Then I remembered the class I had done. "Fine" I thought, "I'll do a trick." It was an easy trick - a six year old could follow the instructions. Except I didn't have the instructions.

As was kind of inevitable, I screwed up the trick. However, I like to think I did so with a sense of comic timing and I was certainly rewarded with laughter that I feel was, on the whole, with me rather than at me. The irony is that if the compere had called on Javi, who was sitting next to me, he would have actually got some magic - Javi is an excellent amateur magician. Anyway, I said to Javi I'd go with him another time, and this time I'm damn well going to practice in advance!

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