Fantastic Version of the Cups and Balls
April 19, 2011 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Tommy Wonder Performs the Cups and Balls I ran across this performance of one of magic's oldest tricks. It's probably the best version I've seen so far. In my opinion it's even better than Dai Vernon's.
posted by wackyvorlon (33 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Dai Vernon (the Professor) was a friend of my husband's. I like the Professor's version a little better, maybe because DH and his best friend do Vernon's version.

This is a good find, though.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:43 AM on April 19, 2011

Wow, that is awesome. I have enormous respect for Dai Vernon, in truth. IMO the magic community lost a great deal when he died.
posted by wackyvorlon at 10:45 AM on April 19, 2011

For comparison
posted by DU at 10:47 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I went back to re-watch it to see when he took the bag off the table, and his misdirection was so strong that I got caught up in it and missed it even when I was looking for it. Well done indeed.
posted by komara at 10:51 AM on April 19, 2011

No matter how many times I watch those two, I've never catch them making the move. Wonder's performance is particularly impressive since he's got people right at the sides. Makes it much harder to pull off.
posted by wackyvorlon at 10:53 AM on April 19, 2011

I caught the bag snatch on the second viewing but I caught the loading of the first ball on the *first* viewing. His arm twitches so violently you'd think a bee stung him.

The Professor's version is pretty standard until the end when he reveals not one not two not three but FOUR large balls. After watching it a few times, it's apparent where they come from but it's pretty damn mystifying.
posted by DU at 10:55 AM on April 19, 2011

Sorry, not the arm twitch and not the first ball either. A big obvious throw.
posted by DU at 10:57 AM on April 19, 2011

I like Tommy Wonder's for the surprise factor.
posted by wackyvorlon at 10:58 AM on April 19, 2011

For those looking for spoilers, this trick was demonstrated by Penn and Teller with clear plastic cups. Even with the clear cups and knowing what objects start where, it can take a few watchings to follow all the motions.
posted by lantius at 11:00 AM on April 19, 2011 [8 favorites]

Relevant: Slydini, Master of Misdirection.
posted by wackyvorlon at 11:01 AM on April 19, 2011 [7 favorites]

Love it. Keep the tigers and the beautiful assistants and the fog machines. All I need's a good slight-of-hand guy with a decent sense of showmanship.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 11:01 AM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

I couldn't finish this vid because the audience's over-the-top-1980's-infomercial-hyperexcitement made me queasy.
Worst. Extras. Ever.
posted by mer2113 at 11:25 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it possible to possible?
posted by scrowdid at 11:31 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

From an old mefi thread: Ricky Jay
posted by tayknight at 11:51 AM on April 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

Misdirection is so much more entertaining when it's cups and balls, and amusing patter, than when it's politicians and budgets with inflammatory rhetoric.
posted by fredludd at 11:56 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've seen it done better, but this was class. The problem I have with this is he overdoes the speed and the moves. He's too flourishy. The best performances of Cups And Balls (and, indeed, most other magic tricks) are very, very naturalistic. No false or flashy moves. This is generally true of close-up magic: you should make it look perfectly natural. The way you move should be easy and honest. This wasn't, but it was very clever. As an ex-amateur magician I noticed a few times where he sold a feint; that is, made it look like he'd done a move when he hadn't. He was playing to the magicians in the audience with that, and that's fun at a magician's convention, but nowhere else.

I'm not knocking him. He's great. Mad skills. But as I say, it's better when it's completely natural-looking.
posted by Decani at 12:27 PM on April 19, 2011

See, I just watched that Dai Vernon link. Masterful. That's how you do it.
posted by Decani at 12:30 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bah. Only two cups and no fruit.

Actually, it was very well done. I have been a student of magic my whole life and have been lucky to learn from some very good amateurs. As far as sleight of hand goes, the cup and balls is really one of the easiest - it's a dressed up version of sponge magic that is what most close-up magicians start with. But, like all magic, the presentation is everything - mad skills without good presence and patter is useless.

Dai Vernon was a god. For flat-out close-up prestidigitation skills though, Slydini was the best.

Paul Gertner does a cool version of the cups and balls with steel balls.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:45 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

What's with the YouTube commenters saying the audience is paid and rehearsed??
posted by Avenger50 at 12:50 PM on April 19, 2011

As an ex-amateur magician I noticed a few times where he sold a feint; that is, made it look like he'd done a move when he hadn't.

I'm actually not a stage magician in the slightest, and it stuck out like a sore thumb when he did things like that. I was starting to think that he was throwing in all the fake-outs to distract from when he did his just-as-obvious actual slights. Honestly, the only thing that snuck past me was the bag at the end, and on the re-watch, I realized a big part of that is because there's a camera cut in the middle of the procedure that significantly helps in throwing the eye.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:55 PM on April 19, 2011

Watch his left hand at 2:10. The first time through I didn't see it at all. The second time, watching for it, I'm surprised at how blatant it is.
posted by rusty at 12:56 PM on April 19, 2011

The second time, watching for it, I'm surprised at how blatant it is.

When you learn to ignore the misdirection, you'll be surprised how blatant even the best moves are. The psychology involved is absolutely fascinating.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:01 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

What cups? What balls? I can't get past his magical hair.
posted by davebush at 1:05 PM on April 19, 2011

By psychology I mean (and you can use this to your benefit in a lot of things, if you're so inclined), misdirection mainly works on the principle that you will naturally watch what the performer is looking at. Monkey see, monkey do ...
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:06 PM on April 19, 2011

Speaking of which...

I was completely taken in by this one if you haven't seen it yet, follow the instructions exactly for best effect...
posted by cosmac at 1:43 PM on April 19, 2011

As usual, the mention of Ricky Jay led me to watch some of his card tricks on Youtube. I'm not ashamed to say that this trick makes me cry like a baby - because I'll never in my life be as good at anything as he is at what he does.
posted by waxbanks at 1:56 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Slydini video that wackyvorlon linked to is fabulous. Misdirection indeed.
posted by googly at 4:39 PM on April 19, 2011

The audience reactions in that video are AMAZING.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:42 PM on April 19, 2011

I just watched Penn & Teller's show again in Vegas. They're amazing hard-working performers, and I still love the whole act. But what I love the most is Teller's delicate sleight-of-hand. It's not close up magic, being in a theater of hundreds of people. But it feels like close up magic and masterfully done at that. Really fun to watch.
posted by Nelson at 6:50 PM on April 19, 2011

This is nothing compared to that time he baked himself into a loaf of bread.
posted by malocchio at 12:46 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Although one can argue about who has the best overall routine, this still has the highest first-time "WTF??" factor of any version I've seen: Jason Latimer.
posted by sappidus at 8:53 PM on April 20, 2011

Here's Michael Ammar's version--I find his style of pacing and use of cadences make the misdirections that much more jaw-dropping. (from World's Greatest Magic V)
posted by polymodus at 12:26 AM on April 21, 2011

Filming is the curse of magic, because you can watch and re-watch until you see the move.

Magic is a live art, like theatre. It needs to be experienced in the moment. Misdirection performed by a master will misdirect you, and you will believe you saw magic. The best way to enjoy magic is to see it live. It's a shame about YouTube where this is concerned.
posted by Decani at 2:16 PM on April 23, 2011

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