Exact Exaggeration


This small scripting tweak can make your tricks a million times better. Well, maybe not a million, but maybe 1.5 times.

It was inspired by an episode of Parks & Recreation, one of my favourite sitcoms, for several reasons (ask me sometime). With a little thought, it contains oodles of techniques and ideas that can be applied to magic.

The Inspiration

In this case, it’s a line from Ron Swanson, a red-blooded male who loves red-blooded meat. He’s in a restaurant, and says this:

“You know what, I am gonna have that third steak after all”

The Question

Since everything in a good script is there for a reason, it got me thinking – Why did the writers choose “third steak”? Why not second? Or twentieth?

I think it comes down to the right degree of exaggeration.

Asking for a second steak is a slight exaggeration, so it’s only slightly funny.

Asking for a twentieth steak is a massive exaggeration, which could be funnier, but what you gain in hyperbole, you lose in plausibility.


So, how does this relate to magic?

Well, as magicians, we often make exaggerated claims. From impossible claims, like how fast we can memorise a deck of cards; to backstory claims, like where we found an unusual prop.

But we don’t always stop to consider how exaggerated we’re making them. And it’s not a binary choice but a sliding scale, from totally believable to totally exaggerated.

The Activity

Take one of your routines, where you make an exaggerated claim, and spend just a few minutes asking yourself these questions:

  1. How much am I exaggerating?
  2. How funny versus believable is it?
  3. How could I make it more exaggerated? And what effect would that have?
  4. How could I make it less exaggerated? And what effect would that have?


Using speed memorisation as an example, if it currently seems to take you 30 seconds to memorise a deck, what if you did it in 1 second? Or 30 minutes?

Similarly, in terms of your performing persona, if you’re describing yourself as a card mechanic who goes through lots of decks of cards a year, how many feels exaggerated yet believable?

50? 100? 1,000? 3.14?

Or go the other way – do you only own avsingle deck of cards? And is that at any one time, or ever? If so, why?

There’s no right answer, so since it’s easy to vary your script, why not try out a few versions in performance and see what works for you.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on – I’m behind you 102%.