A Magician’s First Television Appearance: 3 Things I Learned about Live TV

  • Sumo



I have been very focused for the past two weeks in preparing for my first television appearance.

I had two objectives for the message I wanted to get out:

  1. I wanted to present myself and magic as a sophisticated entertainment product
  2. I wanted promote Trolley Stop Market, the restaurant that pays me every Friday night to perform close-up magic

As for objectives #1 and #2, there is more I would have liked to say that would have better got the message across. I had 3 talking points prepared and I got out 1 of the 3 points. In my opinion it was just important that I speak some rather than only do a magic trick. I had videoed myself delivering the talking points and made an effort to speak quick and with impact.

I had two magic routines prepared, I only had time to do one. I had rehearsed both of these on video and knew that one routine lasts 1 minute and 40 seconds and the other routine was 2 minutes. I did the 1:40 routine but it felt like it flew by.

Sometimes my hands shake when I perform so to avoid this I laid off diet cokes and all caffeine starting 5 days before the spot. I learned this from a magician named Jeff McBride who is a brilliant performer & major thought leader/teacher in the magic community.

I cut back my calories in hope that I might shed a few pounds for the camera. This also helped me stay focused for the shoot.

I watched clips from Live at 9 on their site and noticed that most of the guests don’t lean back in the seat. I wanted to lean back with a relaxed and confident body language. None of the guests call the hosts by their names and I wanted to be sure I used their names.

Finally as you most likely know I had a blog post earlier this week with photos of different outfits and you helped me choose what to wear. I went with your choice, thanks for your help and involvement!

3 Things I Learned

-Muhammad Ali: I learned you have to be very assertive on live TV if you have something to share. You have to be a shameless self-promoter like Muhammad Ali. This isn’t easy for me because I’m naturally a low key person. When the cameras are rolling the hosts are super focused and are not allowing any dead time so you have to speak up if you want to get your message out. This was more true for my spot because I was there in conjunction with the event tied in with the restaurant where I work and I was sharing air time with Scott the other guest.

-Go with the Flow: I had emailed with one of the hosts, but when I got there it turned out she wasn’t even there. When we emailed she said I would have a 2.5 minute spot and asked me to have a second routine ready just in case. Scott, the other guest, thought I was going to be off to the side doing magic for a cutaway shot while he spoke. If they had gone this direction I would have refused to do it. When I got back to the studio they told me to go off to the side and I started to freak out a little but when I finally shut up the girl explained to me that I would be there waving before the commercial break then on the couch. I learned you have to go with the flow because with live TV you have no idea who will be the host or how they will want to play it, even if you have a plan with a host going into it.

-Over Prepare: I’m glad I prepared so much because I would rather have specific points to talk on than to not have something to say or make something up on the fly. Even though I didn’t get everything out, I’m glad I had more available.

It’s a Wrap: Conclusion

It was excellent experience. I wish I were more knowledgable about television studios so I would have known which camera to look into and known how to read the timer so I could better pace myself. I felt like a fish out of water in the studio, it’s a different world.

The fact that I was sharing the spot with Scott made it a little easier for me, there was less responsibility for me to carry the whole spot. That’s nice for a first time TV appearance, but I believe I was prepared and could have carried the whole spot. I will be ready next time.

It was about this time last year when I began a cold call sales approach to restaurants to try and get a weekly magic gig. It took me until March when I finally landed my gig at Trolley Stop Market. Since this past May I have been cold calling restaurants in Nashville, Brentwood, and Franklin. I bring this up because although selling close-up magic to restaurants brings with it pain and rejection, it also has taught me to communicate how close-up magic benefits a restaurant efficiently and with impact. Walking in cold to hundreds of restaurants helped me prepare for this TV spot.

If you know of any restaurants in the Nashville, Brentwood, or Franklin, TN areas that might want to try close-up magic, please let me know.