When magic is done right, it defies your intuitions, challenges your perceptions and leaves you scratching your noggin in amazed befuddlement.
When it’s done wrong, it’s hilarious. There’s nothing quite as cringe-inducing as a lone magician fidgeting onstage after it’s become painfully obvious that the only thing to have magically disappeared is his likelihood of getting another gig.
Since we’re not above finding joy in the discomfort of others, we present some of the greatest moments of hocus poc-oops.
7. I totally meant to do that
How do you recover when a glitchy piece of equipment accidentally reveals the simple mechanism behind your illusion? Deny the accident. Deny everything. And smile. Bonus points if you have an awful man-perm.
6. Never let ’em see you sweat
A great magician can recover quickly from little slip-ups, such that the audience doesn’t even notice anything has gone amiss. This poor fella is not a great magician.
5. Maybe a skinnier volunteer would have been good?
On a live charity telethon in 1973, Ted Kwan attempted one of the most classic illusions in magic — the floating lady. It could have gone a bit better. Hopefully the unlucky volunteer forgot the whole ordeal thanks to the concussion.
4. The Nipplegate of magic fails
Remember when Janet Jackson suffered a “wardrobe malfunction” (that is, Justin Timberlake deliberately removed a patch of leather over her boobie) during a Super Bowl halftime show? Magician Harry Blackstone would have loved to suffer a malfunction like that instead of the cavalcade of bloopers during his halftime fiasco. With fat squirming bunnies, poorly constructed equipment and a five-star cheesiness factor, the only thing that could have saved this train wreck would have been a peek of nipple (not Blackstone’s).
3. The magical impaled hand (and half-assed recovery)
Some magic tricks are exciting thanks to the possibility of serious injury. Of course, the danger itself is usually an illusion, since no good magician would leave his safety to chance. A bad magician, like this guy, might impale his own hand on a hidden knife rather than using a proper method to ensure there’s no real danger. He gamely attempts to convince his audience that he meant to do it (watch the blood magically vanish when I wipe it with this hanky!), but clearly some stitches will be needed.
2. If it quacks like a duck, and ruins your career like a duck…
There’s a rule in showbiz: never work with children or animals. To his credit, this guy didn’t stuff a child into a cannon. But perhaps a child wouldn’t have buggered up the trick like his disobedient duck.
1. He had it coming
In the late 1990s, the Fox network decided it would be fun to ruin magic for everyone by launching a series called Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed. A masked magician named — get this — the Masked Magician revealed all the smoke and mirrors and misdirection behind some of magic’s most beloved illusions. Naturally, magicians everywhere hated it, and the Masked Magician (an illusionist otherwise known as Val Valentino) was scorned as a pariah. So countless magicians were surely overjoyed when the Masked Magician seriously botched a relatively simple card trick on national TV.