Created By: LarkmarnDecember 26, 2012 Last Edited By: LarkmarnFebruary 4, 2014
Troped

Impossibly Awesome Magic Trick.

Stage Magicians on TV are way better than they could be in real life.

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Trope
Magic tricks are difficult. Audiences are cynical, and people want to know how to do them. However, in TV Shows, a Stage Magician can do amazing things, completely impossible in real life. They don't even have to bother with an explanation, "magicians never reveal their tricks" is an ideal handwave for forgoing any explanation.

Note that this trope is about explicitly non-magical tricks; using real magic in a magic show would not be an example.

Compare Impossible Thief which is a similar idea applied to the field of thievery instead of stage magic. Contrast Magicians Are Wizards.


Examples:

Anime And Manga
  • In Kaitou Saint Tail, the main character is the daughter of an Impossible Thief and a Stage Magician. Of course this trope gets involved. Despite being a Magical Girl, her "magic" is explicitly all stage magic, but she routinely pulls off impossible feats, such as being carried off by just a a handful of balloons.
  • Kaitou Kid (who started in Magic Kaito but later became a regular character in Detective Conan) often does this in a similar manner, overlapping with Impossible Thief. In his solo episode when first introduced, and before even becoming Kaitou Kid, he manages to use a lifelike dummy that isn't noticed until its head screws off, and a giant monster-shaped balloon operated by a crane outside his school window, all as part of a prank.

Film

Literature
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld, the Wizards of Unseen University, who can do real magic, are utterly disgruntled at the given fact that people will still pay real hard-earned money to see a stage magic act where everyone knows it's done by sleight-of-hand, mirrors and misdirection. This trope comes into play when the audiences think this is better than anything the wizards are capable of.
  • The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay: During a business meeting Kavalier's magician background comes up and he is asked for a demonstration. He manages to make a lit cigarette disappear and then reapper inside someone else's cigarette case. (Later in the story, when he's working as a professional magician, the boy whose Bar Mitzvah he's performing at catches him planting cards for a trick to be done during the banquet, so it's not like there is no acknowledgement of magic's need for setup.)

Live Action TV
  • In House, a stage magician manages to pull off some amazing tricks, that impressed and stumped even House himself. One such trick was a simple "pick a card" trick. Then he threw the deck at a window, where a card stuck to the glass. When House took the card and told him it wasn't his card... he found his card, stuck to the other side of the glass.
  • The same actor played a magician in Just Shoot Me, who managed to hide tickets inside an unpeeled banana... that a coworker brought from home... from across the room.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Barney's role as am amateur magician leads to many instances of this. Notably the trick the TSA agent performs in "Magician's Code," although it may have been a simple card trick. Not to mention Barney's trick itself, which involves a broadsword (that he somehow pulled out of a 1 foot by 1 foot box... that had just been scanned by airport security).
  • For all the jokes about GOB's illusions on Arrested Development, Tony Wonder did manage to have himself baked into a loaf of bread and turned into a giant sandwich for the troops.
  • In Drake And Josh, a magician is actually able to somehow make the titular characters' father's hair disappear and stuff a girl into a large popcorn holder (without anyone even noticing).
  • Pushing Daisies has a few examples in the episode "Oh oh oh it's Magic." While several tricks of the episode are explained throughout the course of the episode, a couple are patently impossible (including the twins elevating a Lovely Assistant with bolts of electricity).
  • In The Brady Bunch episode "Lights Out", Peter takes up magic for his school talent show. He does some classic tricks like the interlocking metal rings, pouring disappearing milk, and he builds a "vanishing lady" cabinet. But one simple trick was actually impossible. He takes two empty cardboard tubes and puts one around a bottle. The bottle disappears and reappears inside the other tube. Not complicated, but not possible without TV magic.
  • In the episode of The X Files "The Amazing Maleeni", the stage magician Maleeni has a magic trick where he rotates his head 360 degrees around. Every other trick performed in the episode is possible in real life.
  • In an episode of The Mentalist Jane entertains some local kids with a magic trick: he makes a coin disappear from his hand and appear in the pocket of a boy standing in front of him, without having had an opportunity to touch or otherwise sneak a coin into his pocket.

Video Games
  • In Persona 4: Golden, the added S.link plotline with the main character's uncle's Bumbling Sidekick Adachi includes a scene where he demonstrates a magic trick that involves transporting a coin from his hand to the main character's pocket (from across a table they're sitting at opposite sides of).

Webcomic
  • The Adventures Of Dr Mc Ninja. There's a flashback to Gordito's father, the Great Flying Shooting Juan (a sharpshooting trapeze artist magician) performing a card trick. The volunteer chooses a card, places it back in the deck, and throws the entire deck into the air. Juan shoots the card in midair... but the volunteer can't find the card afterwards. Then he gets a call on his cell phone...
    Volunteer: That was the police. The man who robbed my house... they finally caught him because he was shot in the upper thigh... There was a queen of diamonds in his pocket.

Western Animation
  • Played with in an episode of Justice League that shows Zatanna performs for an audience with traditional illusions and stage tricks that fit this trope already, but then ends her show by using a real magic spell in order to keep people guessing how she really pulls off her acts.
  • Whats New Scooby Doo: The episode "Riva Ras Regas" centers around the ghost of the recently deceased stage magician Rufus Raucous, who turns out to have faked his death to get out of the spotlight and retire. He was last seen in a straitjacket nailed to a spinning wheel inside a building being demolishing by a wrecking ball, yet no explanation is given for how he survived other than "he's just that good", apparently. Later, when Rufus is encouraged by the gang to hold one more show to lure out the ghost, he perfoms tricks like being able to sprout new disembodied hands out of his sleeves, which walk around with a life of their own. How he does that isn't explained either, unless he invested millions in animatronics. The "ghost" of him can also fly, which turns out to be by magnets in its shoes, far more powerful than any real world magnet.

Other
  • Stage magician David Copperfield tried to prove that these were possible. He once did a show (on TV, but with a live audience) in which he made a running gag of complaining about how people always ask him if his illusions are done with camera tricks. He insisted that they were not, and he wound up the show by doing a "real" camera trick, namely, he rolled a television camera onto the stage and made it disappear.

Community Feedback Replies: 45
  • December 26, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Namespaced the links and fixed the House one.

    I'd recommend another name - magic in fiction refers to Functional Magic more commonly, and "is awesome" makes me think of Moment Of Awesome.

    Maybe TV Magician?
  • December 26, 2012
    elwoz
    Stage magician David Copperfield once did a show (on TV, but with a live audience) in which he made a running gag of complaining about how people always ask him if his illusions are done with camera tricks. He insisted that they were not, and he wound up the show by doing a "real" camera trick, namely, he rolled a television camera onto the stage and made it disappear.
  • December 26, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In a Biopic of Harry Houdini starring Tony Curtis there are several magic tricks which are presented with absolutely no explanation. Two that come to mind are, he and his wife-to-be Meet Cute while he's doing a street performance & he makes her name "magically" appear on his arm (which in reality needs a ringer and some rubber cement), and late one night he brings home a Saw A Woman In Half box and makes her get in so he can saw her in half right there & then.
  • December 26, 2012
    Larkmarn
    Thanks, Sep.

    Yeah, not crazy about the name. But it needs to convey that magic tricks on TV can pretty much do whatever they want even if it's quite impossible. Maybe "Impossibly Cool Magic Trick"?
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    Bump.
  • January 18, 2013
    MokonaZero
    In Drake And Josh the magician is actually able to somehow make their father's hair disappear and stuff a girl into a large popcorn holder (without anyone noticing, by the way).
  • January 18, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Thanks. Updated and tried a new name.
  • January 18, 2013
    Bisected8
    • In Persona 4: Golden, the added s.link plotline with the main character's uncle's Bumbling Sidekick Adachi includes a scene where he demonstrates a magic trick that involves transporting a coin from his hand to the main character's pocket (from across a table they're sitting at opposite sides of).
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    If this is still specifically about TV Stage Magic, then I think "TV" or "Television" needs to be somewhere in the title.
  • January 19, 2013
    AgProv
    In Terry Pratchett's Discworld, the Wizards of Unseen University, who can do real magic, are utterly disgruntled at the given fact that people will still pay real hard-earned money to see a stage magic act where everyone knows it's done by sleight-o-fhand, mirrors and misdirection. In fact, they think this is better than anything the wizards are capable of...
  • January 19, 2013
    Chabal2
    The Joueur Du Grenier mentions this in one of his videos where a Magical Girl uses her abilities to put on a flagrantly-impossible magic show (that the audience thinks is actual sleight-of-hand magic). As he put it, "that's not magic, that's witchcraft!.
  • January 19, 2013
    Darthcaliber
    played with in an episode of Justice League that shows Zatanna performs for an audience with traditional illusions and stage tricks, but then ends her show by using a real magic spell in order to keep people guessing how she really pulls off her acts.
  • January 21, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Played with in some fashion in a short story-turned film by Penn Jillette. In "Invisible Thread" a magic store owner sells a copy of the "invisible thread" card trick to a kid. After he makes the sale he explains how it works. The thing is though that it's not really possible. When he wrote the story he just used a more or less plausible explanation; but when it became a film they had to figure out how to make it work using camera tricks and elaborate mechanical devices.
  • January 21, 2013
    SKJAM
    The Magical Girl show Magical Emihas this as our heroine's schtick, she pulls off amazing magic tricks...by using real magic. She eventually gives up her magic as she realizes that her real sleight of hand skills aren't advanced by using superpowers as a crutch.
  • February 4, 2013
    SquirrelGuy
    In the Brady Bunch episode "Lights Out", Peter takes up magic for his school talent show. He does some classic tricks like the interlocking metal rings, pouring disappearing milk, and he builds a "vanishing lady" cabinet. But one simple trick was actually impossible. He takes two empty cardboard tubes and puts one around a bottle. The bottle disappears and reappears inside the other tube.
  • February 8, 2013
    arromdee
    I don't think Magical Emi counts. A better example is Saint Tail. Saint Tail has no real magical powers at all--her magic is explicitly said to be entirely stage magic. She routinely does impossible things (it's been a while since I watched any, but I remember one time where she was carried off by a group of balloons that should have supported around two pounds of weight.)
  • March 5, 2013
    aurora369
    There was a viral video (it was a boom in Russia, don't know about other countries) that parodied the "street magician" David Blaine. It featured the "Blaine"-character doing impossible magic tricks like shrinking cars.
  • March 5, 2013
    aurora369
    Any chance you could find that, or at least more info? It's a bit scanty to add with just that info.
  • March 5, 2013
    aurora369
    Here's the first video. There are 5 more, easily findable on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYxu_MQSTTY
  • March 14, 2013
    Knight9910
  • March 21, 2013
    foxley
    • In The Illusionist, the solution revolves around the protagonist performing an illusion that would have impossible with the technology of the time.
  • March 25, 2013
    Larkmarn
    I need a bit more context for the Illusionist example. Haven't seen the movie, but the magic trick is possible in-universe because he has that technology, even if it shouldn't exist, it does so I don't think it counts. But I don't know for sure.
  • April 8, 2013
    DaibhidC
    • In the Jonathan Creek episode guide, David Renwick admits he has no idea how stage magic works, and just writes things that look impressive. In one episode we see Adam Klaus get buried in a coffin, and while they're still burying it, we cut to him somewhere else entirely with Jonathan, watching it happen.

    EDIT: I just looked through the book (should have done that before posting) and I can't find the bit where he says that at all. I'm sure he said it somewhere, and the tricks are still examples.
  • April 8, 2013
    Tallens
    The illusionist has the main character creating images of deceased people. Basically, holograms before radio.

    It also might be worth noting that the secrets of several of Houdini's tricks are still unknown.
  • May 6, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Bumpo.
  • May 8, 2013
    Trueman001
    1960s UK magician David Nixon often did these, to the extent that when he did actual stage magic on his TV show, he felt the need to point this out. Later UK magician Paul Daniels despised these (he called them "switchcraft"), and made a point of never using them.

  • May 12, 2013
    Romuald
    Believe it or not the House example you describe can (I did'n see the episode) be an actual magic trick. Witch involve beeing crazy prepared...
  • June 12, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Bump
  • June 12, 2013
    arromdee
    Kaitou Kid (who started in Magic Kaito but later became a regular character in Detective Conan) often does this. In his solo episode when first introduced, and before even becoming Kaitou Kid, he manages to use a lifelike dummy that isn't noticed until its head screws off, and a giant monster-shaped balloon operated by a crane outside his school window, all as part of a prank.
  • June 13, 2013
    TheTitan99
    In the episode of The X Files "The Amazing Maleeni", the stage magician Maleeni has a magic trick where he rotates his head 360 degrees around. Every other trick performed in the episode is possible in real life.
  • November 21, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Huh. Fifth hat. I'll launch this pretty soon (probably Tuesday).
  • November 22, 2013
    DAN004
  • November 22, 2013
    Tallens

  • November 22, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Used in an episode of Agents Of SHIELD, where a street magician has some fire powers he very occasionally trots out to augment his performances. Of course this gets him in trouble with SHIELD.
  • November 23, 2013
    Tallens
    ^Would that be a subversion since he wasn't doing magic tricks, it was actually a superpower he was using?
  • November 24, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Maybe Invoked? I'd just call it In Universe (which I should have mentioned in the example to begin with).
  • December 2, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Any other ideas on names? TV Magician is too bland, but I do agree Impossible Awesome Magic Trick is flawed.
  • December 2, 2013
    Tallens
    Please, NOT TV Magician. It's it's not just bland it's way to general and gives the impression of something completely different.
  • December 22, 2013
    arromdee
    Saint Tail has one scene where Saint Tail is hiding behind some costumes. She's noticed, but when the villains look for her, they can't find her—she somehow managed to get inside one of the costumes in a couple of seconds while people were looking her way (although in a dark room).
  • December 23, 2013
    DAN004
  • December 24, 2013
    randomsurfer
    • In an episode of The Mentalist Jane entertains some local kids with a magic trick: he makes a coin disappear from his hand and appear in the pocket of a boy standing in front of him, without having had an opportunity to touch or otherwise sneak a coin into his pocket.
    • The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay: During a business meeting Kavalier's magician background comes up and he is asked for a demonstration. He manages to make a lit cigarette disappear and then reapper inside someone else's cigarette case. (Later in the story, when he's working as a professional magician, the boy whose Bar Mitzvah he's performing at catches him planting cards for a trick to be done during the banquet, so it's not like there is no acknowledgement of magic's need for setup.)
  • December 27, 2013
    arromdee
    In one episode of Saint Tail the title character makes a sleeping body disappear off the floor and reappear on a window ledge where she is hiding. In a single *poof*.
  • February 3, 2014
    Larkmarn
    So... five hats. Anyone have any name ideas? If I don't hear any I'm just going to stick with this one.
  • February 3, 2014
    Tuckerscreator
    • Mostly averted in The Prestige, where the tricks's explanations are shown and discussed, and are easily attemptable by real illusionists. However, the greatest trick of the film, Angier's "The Transported Man" turns out to be done by a cloning machine built by Nikola Tesla.
    • Whats New Scooby Doo: The episode "Riva Ras Regas" centers around the ghost of the recently deceased stage magician Rufus Raucous, who turns out to have faked his death to get out of the spotlight and retire. He was last seen in a straitjacket nailed to a spinning wheel inside a building being demolishing by a wrecking ball, yet no explanation is given for how he survived other than "he's just that good", apparently. Later, when Rufus is encouraged by the gang to hold one more show to lure out the ghost, he perfoms tricks like being able to sprout new disembodied hands out of his sleeves, which walk around with a life of their own. How he does that isn't explained either, unless he invested millions in animatronics. The "ghost" of him can also fly, which turns out to be by magnets in its shoes, far more powerful than any real world magnet.
  • February 3, 2014
    DAN004

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable