Michael Ammar was named by Magic magazine as one of the most influential
magicians of the 20th century. Certainly he is highly regarded by the magic industry as one of its
best ambassadors and teachers. So for the very first At The Table episode, who better to feature on
the program than Michael Ammar? Joshua Jay is the inaugural host, and does a fantastic job of
interacting with Michael for this session, which would pave the way for the many sessions with other
magicians that would follow. The beauty of this format is obvious: it allows viewers from around the
world to witness a magic lecture, with technology giving them opportunity to ask questions on the
fly. Multiple camera angles ensure a front-row seat and visuals that even top witnessing it in
person - plus you can have repeated viewings as often as you like. While Michael Ammar has delivered
many lectures to hundreds of people, never before was his live audience so large as this time, with
the help of technology!
The At The Table lecture with Michael Ammar was filmed and
broadcast on 5 February 2014. Altogether the video lasts for just over two hours. It's also
available from the many Murphy's Magic retailers, such as Vanishing Inc Magic here.
Since many magicians have previously seen lectures from Ammar, rather than
reprise material from his usual presentations, Michael made a deliberate effort to cover all new
material here. So what was included in this particular lecture?
- Analysis of Letterman TV
segment: To begin with, in the first half hour Michael Ammar and Joshua Jay view and analyse
Michael's performance on David Letterman's Late Show in 2010. This included four effects, and you
can see the original performance:
- Silk Through Mug: Ammar surprises Letterman by a
beautiful penetration of a sil through the arm of a coffee mug. This section includes an explanation
of how the effect was performed, and the gimmicks used.
- Pressure: While this isn't
taught, this phase of the routine features Ammar performing Daniel Garcia's "Pressure", in which a
cell phone visually and magically penetrates a balloon.
- Topit Phone Vanish: Next Ammar
vanishes the phone with the help of a Topit, and he explains some of its benefits and uses,
including how to use it while seated.
- Little Hand: This coin vanish features a little
hand by Bob Farmer reaching out and visually stealing a coin. It's extremely charming and made a
great close to the segment.
- Broken and Restored Screen: Here Michael teaches how to do
an impromptu effect with a friend's phone, apparently first breaking the screen, and quickly fixing
it. It's not difficult to create the gimmick required, and Ammar explains everything necessary to
- Pencil Through Coin: Ammar has been developing a new approach to this old
effect, and debuts what this looks like. At the time this was still something he was developing, so
it can be considered a sneak peek of a work in progress.
- Impromptu Card Effects: Joshua
gives Ammar a deck of cards and asks him to demonstrate what he'd perform impromptu if handed some
playing cards, which gives Ammar opportunity to demonstrate a simple "pick a card" effect which
involves a nice side-steal and easy to use revelation. He also goves on to explain a quick
transposition effect, and then an impromptu effect with a credit card which produces a coin.
- Bill Serial Number: In a departure from his usual style, this segment has Ammar perform and
then explain a stunning mentalist effect in which he divines the serial number of a bill borrowed
from a spectator. He uses a very offbeat presentation that involves telling a joke, and the sleight
required is very straight forward and easy to do. Great routine!
- Add A Number: This is a
well known-effect in which spectators contribute numbers which are added together to produce a total
predicted by the magician, but Ammar offers an interesting tack where this is presented as a
mentalist effect rather than a prediction effect.
- Crazy Man's Handcuffs: This is perhaps
my favourite part of the video. In an elaborate section, Ammar carefully runs through this classic
of rubber band magic in which two rubber bands penetrate each other. Like many others, I learned
this effect a long time ago, but Ammar teaches some important nuances about the handling that really
helps make this work well. And if you're new to this effect, this is a great place to learn it.
- Broken and Restored Rubber Band: This is a great follow-up to the Crazy Man's Handcuffs,
and Ammar shows how to move from one to the next, and explains a couple of ways to perform this.
- Question and Answers: Throughout the episode, there are regular questions that are asked
by the online audience, which Joshua puts to Ammar, and a couple of times there is also interaction
with the live audience that is in the studio. The final 30 minutes of the session focuses on Ammar
taking questions from the online audience, which cover a wide range of magic-related topics.
Any time spent with Michael Ammar is well worthwhile, and here you get more
than two full hours worth! What I especially appreciated about the segment with Letterman was not
only Ammar's explanation of how he performed the effects, but his insider's perspective about
performing on TV, and how he handled the challenges this poses. This is a world foreign to most of
us, and it was fascinating to hear what this experience was like for him.
An At The Table
episode like this is great value, because it covers performances and explanations of multiple
tricks. Not everything demonstrated is explained, such as the Phone in Balloon trick (Pressure) or
the new Pencil Through Coin method. But the majority of the effects are shown and explained, and the
tips Michael Ammar gives on handling are often invaluable. Purchasing a video for a single trick
often sets you back $10, so for less than that you get a whole series of classics and new effects to
watch and learn. I especially found the section on the Crazy Man's Handcuffs just terrific, and it
will really help me improve my own performance of this beautiful classic.
Michael Ammar is
not only a big name in magic, but he's also a gentleman and great guy, and his conversational style
and interaction with Joshua Jay (who is terrific as well) is a real pleasure to watch. I especially
enjoyed his many off-the-cuff comments and responses to questions, and there's so much to be gained
from listening to this man besides just learning a new trick. Areas covered throughout the video
include topics like what inspires him to try new things; the difference between performing for the
public versus teaching magicians; how to structure an act; the impact of the internet and the future
of the magic industry; how to get restaurant gigs and how to introduce yourself to a restaurant
table. Towards the end he also shares some hilarious anecdotes about Dai Vernon, from whom Ammar
learnt a great deal.
The At The Table lectures are excellent
value, given the amount of material on each episode, the relatively low cost, and the opportunity to
sit at the feat of world-famous magicians. This inaugural episode was an outstanding show, and the
content still holds its own a few years after it was first produced. If you haven't yet seen it, I
highly recommend it, because besides the obvious performances and explanations of multiple tricks,
you'll also learn a lot from the more general insights that Ammar shares in this very intimate
close-up setting. Recommended!
- BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame