Tropes In Magic and Juggling:Bad Personas


Meriam  Webster defines trope as
“a common or overused theme or device”

We tend to use this word to describe repeating creative themes and devices that are used in television and other forms of entertainment.  One of the most well known tropes, Jumping the Shark, is used to define that moment when a show or movie uses a gimmick or stunt in order to keep the attention of the audience. Dick Cheney shooting his friend on a hunting trip…….”Jumping the Shark”.


“Because this is how you turn the Bush legacy into a sitcom.”

 This is going to be the first in a series of articles about tropes in magic and juggling.

But these tropes are not limited to television, but they can be related to any form of entertainment.  So what I want to do is talk about the more common “personas” that have been developed and why they aren’t necessarily a good idea for everyone to use or why they can cause you to have some serious problems.

Now keep in mind all of these personas can be used….I am not saying they are bad.  Rather I am saying that these personas need to be considered carefully.

#4 The “Swami”


“No this isn’t racist….at all.”

I would like to call this the “big stick of cultural appropriation”.  As a people ,we tend to be facisnated with cultures that we don’t see, that we don’t experience.  And this tends to be true outside of the United States.  Whether with black culture in japan  or  the obsession with white women in Bollywood.

The swami was originally a persona that a magician would use to appropriate Indian fakir and mystic culture.  A classic gimmick of mentalism is actually referred to as the swami gimmick.   Now with this being said we live in a post 9/11 world where the  Red Skins getting are into problems over their name and appropriation of black culture/struggle is a poor idea at best.

Of course this is assuming your not simply adopting another culture(‘s struggles) to use it as the basis for your jokes because that never ends poorly.  So while this isn’t a hard and fast rule adopting another culture into your persona in our world normally comes off as being racist at the best of times.

#2 “The Goth”

It is understandable why when an entertainer (be it a magician or a juggler) becomes a household name his style of aesthetic will become well copied.

criss_angel (Even if copying it requires nair, ear piercings, and a desire to listen to German club music and faith in the muse)

But not only do you have to copy his aesthetic the effects that you do have to match up as well.  So if you walk onto stage looking like criss_angel_mindfreak_-_show



This isn’t a magic a show it is a bloody MONTY PYTHON SKETCH.  I have had the distinct pleasure of watching someone dressed in this fashion perform pressure  with the same exact seriousness that one would perform say a needle swallow or performing the classic “cut a man in half” routine.  I also had the distinct pleasure of trying to not laugh my ass off out of respect for the performer.  Understand that the um…magical curtain…..has to match the magical….drapes.  If the persona you have chosen doesn’t work with the effects you perform please change one of them.


#2 Flow Artist

I have two definitions, one will be as a flow artist and the other will be what I will call “everyone else”.

“What we call the “flow arts” is a subsection of the circus arts culture that combines elements of burning man culture as well as modern dance aesthetics through the tools of circus.”

Now for how everyone else sees them……


While this isn’t necessarily true, creating the dance narrative as a form of “entertainment” is difficult to do without relying on the sensuality and sheer sexiness that is fire performance.  What I am saying is that if the only reason your entertaining people is through the use of fire and sex removing those elements removes the entertainment.  Being a flow artist is as much a method as it is a persona.

(By the way please don’t kill me I am specifying entertainment rather than art or dance)

#1 Zany Uncle

This is the first stereotype that I ever encountered when I first saw entertainment.  Pee Wee Herman meets yo-yo’s (and remember what ol’ peewee did……..that will come in handy later)

In the 70’s and 80’s Magicians and jugglers were in an era where parents thought that a magician and a juggler were just useful for entertaining kids.  Because, that is how we advertised it.  Commercials such as the Duncan yo-yo commercial didn’t help because they reinforced these zany archetypes


(and those images stuck)

Now the reason that I say that the Zany Uncle stereotype of magic is bad…..well……because this……


became this


(If you want the unpleasant details)

There is a rather long string of events that have been tied up to issues of pedophilia with magicians and considering that most magicians are considered children’s entertainment you will understand why this is such a huge concern with the community. Everyone time someone uses that wacky uncle persona….. well here, here, and oooooo here….  here is one that you can hire right now

……in fact… can just keep on going.  For the magical community this is a rather large black eye and we really really don’t like to talk about it….and we really really do the best to hide it. In fact even though many of these arrests were a big deal most of those articles have gone poof.  While I normally make a joke at this point, this a serious enough issue that I can’t.  So understand that you want to adopt this persona then you are also stepping into this particular topic as well.

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