magic and martini

Win a Date with Mahdi Gilbert

Or so the contest says. 

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Toronto magician Mahdi Gilbert just to chat. We were at the Madison Avenue Pub, outdoors on a beautiful day, a place which has a richer magic history than many people will ever know.

Flattering still clearly chosen by Mahdi

You may have come across video of Mahdi online as he has been the feature of several articles and was also featured on Penn & Teller Fool Us on the CW Network two years ago. What makes Mahdi special — and possibly unique — is that he performs sleight of hand, despite not having any hands. (And if you could have seen a guy with no hands set up the tripod and camera to record this discussion, you would have been mightily impressed as well!)

Of course the most exciting part is Mahdi is offering to take one lucky viewer to see my show — Magic & Martini — in Toronto. He's calling it a date, but I'm not sure what your obligations would be. You'll have to watch the video to find out how to win. 

Photos from Magic & Martini in Hillsburgh

Last night at The Friendly Chef Adventures in Hillsburgh we had another sold out Magic & Martini. Chef Pam Fanjoy prepared a gourmet meal and the room was packed. Thank you to everyone who attended.

We have one upcoming performance scheduled for Friday, June 23 before we take a break for the summer. Readers can use the discount code shaken for a special price on tickets when purchasing online

Here are a few photos of the event from Tyler Sol Williams

Photos from Magic & Martini in Toronto

Last night we had another sold-out Magic & Martini at SpiritHouse in downtown Toronto. Thanks to everyone who braved the rain. We had a wonderful show. 

The next few dates are already sold out, but we recently opened up a new block of tickets for shows through the end of September. Readers can use the discount code secrets for a discount on tickets when purchasing online

Here are some photos from the event, courtesy of Tyler Williams

Photos from Magic & Martini in Toronto

Last night we had another sold out Magic & Martini at SpiritHouse in Downtown Toronto. Thank you to everyone who attended the show. We had a wonderful time. The next several shows are already sold out, but we have opened up a new block of dates running to the end of September, so if you have not seen the show yet, get your tickets quickly. Readers can use the code olive for discounts on the price of tickets when purchasing online

Here are a few photos from the show from Tyler Sol Williams

New dates for Magic & Martini in Oakville

Our next three performances of Magic & Martini at O'Finn's Irish Temper in Oakville are sold out. We've added an additional night on Friday, June 16. The show is designed to be an extremely intimate and interactive performance for small audiences; perfect for those who want to get dressed up for a special night out. Performances are strictly 19+ with dress code.

Tickets are now available. Readers can use the code olive for a discount on the price of tickets when booking online:

Tickets are also available for performances in Toronto and Hillsburgh

Complaints as a Window to the Soul

Through various public platforms like TripAdvisor as well as a few private platforms where ticket buyers are able to offer up feedback with varying levels of anonymity, my shows have been open to feedback and criticism for the past three years. The experience has taught me a great deal that I would never have learned otherwise.

This is, of course, a self-selected sample which is prone to bias. I know that an unhappy audience member is far more likely to express their displeasure than a satisfied one is to leave a positive reivew. Thankfully, in spite of this bias, the vast majority of this feedback has still been positive. But I still spend a great deal of time figuring out what to do with the negative ones.

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*This is Glenn Ottaway.
He never complains about anything in real life
but I like to imagine this is what I imagine my anonymous online critics look like.

Some of them point to genuine issues with the show that I've been able to fix and those criticisms, when offered with at least a hint of niceness, almost always lead to a better show for the next audience. 

Some of it is simply things that are not within anyone's control. I recall a period of a couple of months where the City of Toronto was replacing streetcar tracks immediately outside of our venue. That construction cut the nearby parking down to next to nothing. It's an important reminder that entertainment is about the full experience and it starts even before the audience leaves their homes. And while there's nothing to be done about the parking, the experience can start to make up for that immediately by being met by cheerful staff and being shown swiftly and effortlessly to your seats. 

A significant amount of "criticism" is less about the quality of the show and a mismatch between what they were expecting. As I occasionally demonstrate with one of the tricks in my show, what you are expecting to see goes a long way to shaping what you do see, but it also makes seeing unexpected things unpleasant. Regardless of the show was "good" or "bad" if it doesn't line up with your expectations, there's an opportunity to be unhappy.

Some of it boils down to taste. I've been labelled as "extremely funny and entertaining" and "totally boring and unfunny" by different people describing the same performance. So it becomes an effort to properly shape the promotional materials which go ahead of the show so that people know what they're getting into and people who are liable to find my style of performance boring are given the opportunity to stay home. 

Some are just pure vitriol enabled by the anonymity of the internet. They sting, but are fortunately easy to discount because they don't have much content beyond the superficial desire to make others feel bad.

What's most frustrating — although ultimately the most instructive — is the criticism that makes no sense... at least on the surface. Some of the reviews memorable for strangeness include individuals:

  • Gave the show a negative review because the chicken curry was too salty.
  • Gave the show a negative review the chicken wings were cold (this was at a venue which didn't have chicken wings on the menu... or anything else chicken for that matter.) 

I once had a conversation with the owner of of one of the Magic & Martini venues about a very unusual situation about an unsatisfied would-be customer who bought a ticket to one of the shows but left before the show had begun and none of the staff who tried to help him had the slightest idea of why he was unhappy. One reported a complaint about a wobbly table (which they fixed) and another reported a complaint that the the showroom didn't feature the venue's full dinner menu (they brought him the full dinner menu and said he could order off of it.)

The lesson for us (and to anyone involved in the service industry) is that people rarely tell you the real reason they're unsatisfied! But it's typically not for lack of honesty. It's because they don't know themselves. 

The amount of thinking that the brain does without our knowledge is astounding. (See the recent Veritasium video and discussion here.) We make so many decisions in a day without being consciously aware of them. When a decision gets made as a reflex or based on emotions, it may have causes but we don't have reasons for it in the usual rational sense of the word. But when asked for reasons, we invent them. So frequently, the reasons people give for something aren't the actual reasons; they're made up ex post facto.

Now for all of those people who were unhappy, something put them in a bad mood. But we can't trust them to accurately relay the reason for it; most likely because the real reasons are unknown. That's why I began taking the approach that the show begins before the audience puts their shoes on and leaves their homes. It forces to take a much more inclusive view of the performance to try and bring as many aspects of the evening under control to guarantee our guests the best possible experience. 

But anyone who knows anything about magic knows that the secret has always been in the ridiculous amounts of preparation behind the curtain.