Ten Twists: The Baby Gag


I have a secret life (sort of). For 15 years, I’ve juggled two careers. When not being a magician, I’m a ‘Conceptual Copywriter’, an un-enlightening term that basically means I create ideas and write words.

And in this other career, I often brainstorm – producing shed-loads of ideas, which are then whittled down to the best few.

the benefits of Brainstorming

Brainstorming isn’t something that’s talked about much in magic. Maybe it’s because we get caught up in methods, which kills the momentum, or maybe it’s because when we hit on a good idea, we stop brainstorming and progress it.

Whatever the reason, having more ideas is a pretty reliable path to having more good ideas – as noted by, well, practically every creative person.

So I thought I’d brainstorm some classic bits of magic, to see how many ways we can twist them.

Honey I Blew Up The Baby

Let’s start with the classic baby prediction gag. We’ve all seen it (name any celebrity, and here’s a picture of them…as a baby). And that’s the point – we’ve all seen it.

But we can avoid repeating it without throwing the baby out with the bath water (sorry, not sorry). As Morgan & West mentioned in their talk at The Session, we can pull out aspects of a trick we like (or extract a principle, as Edward De Bono puts it in Lateral Thinking). That way, we can take inspiration from a trick yet still end up with something original.

The heart of the baby

In essence, the baby gag has the same structure as the ‘Your Card’ and barcode gag predictions. You set up the expectation of a correct prediction, then reveal a ‘generic universal’ gag prediction. And sometimes, finish with a real prediction.

So let’s brainstorm some ‘generic’ prediction alternatives for Hollywood stars:

1. A Sperm and An egg

Rewind 9 months from the baby photo, and you have a sperm reaching an egg.

2. A Heart organ

Inspired by the classic (and controversial) United Colors of Benetton poster campaign, since we’re all the same on the inside, show a picture of their heart.

3. DNA

There are two way to do this. The first way: show a DNA spiral, which you claim to be theirs. If you draw it with a mix of standard pens and Frixion ones, you can then wave a lighter over it and have bits vanish, just leaving their chosen name.

The second way: use the DNA results ‘bars’. A trick came out a while back which had a bunch of these bars on clear plastic sheets which, when combined, spelled out a card (if you know the name, please let me know). You could adapt it by making your own version that spells out the celebrity. Or, even cooler, make up 26 different sets to put in some kind of index, so you can reveal a freely chosen set of initials.

4. Finger prints

Yes, they’re all unique in real life, but in practice, it’ll still work as a gag prediction. And again, via Frixion pens, you could have sections of the swirls disappear, with the remains parts spelling out their name.


Now let’s change tack – instead of going off the person aspect, let’s go off the Hollywood star aspect. This gives us another avenue (or palm-fringed boulevard) to explore, which leads to…

5. A star on the walk of fame

Which you then unfold to reveal their name beneath.

6. hand prints

Again with their name beneath. Or perhaps the hands move or change to reflect one of their classic roles (e.g. Spock’s Vulcan hand gesture for Leonard Nimoy).

7. A 5-star review

Either just the star icons, with the star’s iconic film written beneath. Or a longer, deliberately generic review that could apply to any film, which becomes specific at the end.

8. An Oscar statuette

With their name engraved at the bottom (either for real, if forced, or via the Koran Medallion ruse)

9. An on-set trailer

You claim they are inside…but refusing to come out. Then you ‘open’ the door to prove it.

10. A limousine

Again, you say they’re inside. Then they emerge from the sunroof holding a bottle of champagne (via Cardiographic).

So there you go – spending half an hour brainstorming produced ten ways to twist the baby gag into something new.

If you try any, let me know. And have a go at brainstorming it yourself. I’m sure there are more twists to be discovered.

In fact, I came up with a bunch of others myself. I’ll probably share them another time.