Words of Wisdom (9): Billy McComb

The best advice is usually found in the books written by experienced pros, when they have decided to share their pet tricks, bits and routines after decades of performing and polishing them. One such book in my possession is McComb’s Magic: 25 Years Wiser, written by Billy McComb himself and published by Supreme Magic.

Sure, some of those routines are obviously outdated by now, the markets for a “Magic Fishing Act” or “The Clay Pipe” having disappeared. Other fine tricks and bits of business have stood the test of time or are awaiting resurrection. In addition, there is a lot of advice, wit and anecdotal material to be found in these 184 pages. Here are some excerpts:

If you wanted to be an earth-shattering Mentalist, I think you could do worse than become an expert thumb-writer.

With any luck, you will never ever work a night-club . . . Try and keep it that way. You’ll be the saner for it.

This is one of those things which magicians who are new to magic cannot understand. After half-a-lifetime of doing a trick, it gets to be polished smooth and easy for the performer. There may well be better methods of doing it but the way you are used to is often the very best because your brain and muscles have become co-ordinated over the years. You can relax, know it’s going to happen because it has happened many times before. And, best of all, you can give all your time to the presentation and showmanship.

It was the scene of the prize presentation after the Magic Competition. The winner had done fantastic things with flicking and catching cards; the billiard balls had rolled all over his hands; his dexterity was most impressive. The principal judge handed him the cup … and he promptly dropped it!!!

Carl Hertz was rumoured to have a bird-cage pull so strong that it once pulled him up his own sleeve after the cage.

True story! There was a well-known dealer who, when asked for “Invisible Thread” would gravely open an envelope, wind off several lengths of nothing and place it in an envelope and hand it to you with a laconic – “That will be one and sixpence, please”. I’ve often wondered how many people fell for it.

We’re a funny, inconsistent lot, magicians, tho’ as friends, I’d never swop them.

Other McComb books:

  • The Professional Touch, available from Lybrary
  • McCombical: The Wit and Wisdom of Billy McComb, available from Magic, Inc.