By Marko

From TLP Magic eZine Vol.2 No.4
Reprinted with permission of Marko.

Some years ago I used to participate more or less actively in an magic mail list. Just recently I found one of the articles I posted there and though it would be nice to include it here. Please keep in mind that this was in response to some other postings in a discussion just a step away from a full fledged flame war, so please, excuse the harsh tone underlying the whole thing.


Why do some of us think we need some kind of motivation in order to perform a trick. This motivation is mostly a story or excuse of some kind (as per the examples suggested by several posters in this thread)... some kind of argument or plot that allows you to naturally and seamlessly introduce the trick. This is a worry you see a lot of in magic but practitioners of other art forms don't seem too worried about this. At least, I've never heard of a juggler asking himself or others:

"Why do I throw these balls up in the air and catch them just to throw them back up again? What motivation could I find to justify this senseless action in front of the people who will see it and instead of admiring my incredible skill, my timing and the beauty of movement, will ask themselves: Why is this man throwing these balls up in the air and catching them just to throw them back up again?"

Or a singer having the following train of thought: "Why do I open my mouth and emit these sounds? Why I say "La vida loca" in this song. Why? Why? Oh, why...? People will stare at me and ask in their mind: Why is he saying: "Baby, do the conga?" What do I mean by:

Tutty Frutty, Oh Ruthy Tutty Frutty, Oh Ruthy Tutty Frutty, Oh Ruthy Wam bam baluba balam bam bam?

This lack of motivation is killing me!"

Or a tight wire artist: "I am walking on this wire high up over the ring... what is my motivation? Do I want to go to the other post? If so why do I take the hardest route? This is not motivated, no sir."

And maybe the audience is thinking: "I didn't pay my money to see these unmotivated acts. If he wanted to go to the other post, why didn't he just walk over there in the first place and we could have saved some time... plus the guy would then have a motivated act, one which any audience will surely appreciate: walking from one post to the other on the ground. Yeah, I would gladly pay money to see that!"

Ideas are cheap

1) I have read in several places in magic literature: What is the logic of cutting a rope and restoring it again? If you wanted it in one piece, why cut it in the first place?

2) A little while ago I read (in an old magazine) about a magician sitting in the audience and seeing another one performing a trick where he covered a ringing alarm clock which vanished, only to reappear, still ringing on a stand on the other side of the stage. The spectator-magician says that his neighbor turned to him and said: "Why?"

In regards to No.2 above, my guess is that it wasn't the neighbor who asked why but the magician himself who though so hard that he heard himself thinking "Why?" My deduction is based on the fact that only a magician can think such thoughts.

In regards to No.1, the guys who have written this - and I dare call it - cliche, are wrong in supposing the magician wanted the rope in one piece in the first place. What he wanted was to show the audience how he could cut a rope and make it one piece again. Of all magic tricks the ones about destroying something and making it whole again are the most logical - and if you could perform them for real - the most useful. Just imagine being able to mend or repair magically that vase you broke or those papers you mistakenly tore into pieces... wow! Magicians who hold these views are probably wrong. They are probably wrong picking their examples and they are probably wrong in everything else in this matter.

Why pick the C&R Rope or T&R Paper as examples of MWM (Magic Without Motivation)? If you think about it you could pick any and all tricks in magic as samples of MWM:

1) Why did he have the chosen card shuffled in the deck and then made it appear on top? If he wanted it on top would it have been easier to just have it returned on top? MWM!

(Actual note by Marko: I have seen the above concept recently used in a magic magazine. The false assumption is that the magician wants the card on top. Nothing of the sort: he just wants to show a magic trick in which he can find a chosen card lost in the pack.)

2) Why put a coin inside a bottle? Is there anything more stupid? MWM!

3) Why turn a woman into a lion? The woman was very pretty. There are other things more motivated that I could do to *her* instead of turning her into a lion. MWM!

So, you see, continue in this train of thought and you will find yourself a magician with plenty of motivation but no tricks.

This morning I saw a video of Cirque du Soleil. Found myself thinking what was the motivation of these people dressing and making up like that and throwing that poor girl so high into the air and what was the motive of her landing with her legs split with those two guys holding her by the ankles? Why can't we have some logic and motivation in entertaining?

Isn't it nice that magic is so logical?

Visit The Learned Pig Project website at:

Recommend this article to a friend


Back to the Misdirection Resource Center


Back to home page:
Contact information

©2009 Jarle Leirpoll

Translate to German, French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese