A socialist revolution in the United States in 2044? In activist Mike Albert’s new fictional journalistic account, RPS/2044, you can learn how it happened. This is the second part of the interview with Albert that I produced for the Arts Express radio program. Mike talks about what a Revolutionary Participatory Society might look like, why it’s important for present-day activists to lay out a vision for the future, and how we might get from here to there.
Click on the grey triangle above to listen.
You can listen to Part One here.
(And for local listeners to Arts Express on WBAI 99.5 FM and wbai.org be advised that Arts Express has been moved to the new edgier time slot of Tuesdays at 11pm.)
It’s great that you now have your interview file ready to be edited in Audacity. (For the previous installments begin here and then follow the links at the end of each installment.) Go to the project folder on the desktop, and double-click on the .aup file to open your project.
The blue waveform is the sound of your file (if you recorded in mono you’ll have only one waveform or track, as it is called). If you click on the green arrow Play button in the toolbar above the waveform, you’ll hear your interview. The black square button will Stop the “tape,” and the double vertical line button will Pause and UnPause the tape. The black left arrow returns the cursor to the beginning of the track, and the right black arrow sends the cursor to the end of the track. The red button, which we will not use at all, is to record directly into the program.
Click on the green Play button and you can watch the cursor move along the waveform as your interview progresses. Click the Pause button to pause the sound, then click it again to re-start the sound from where you left off. Then press Stop, which moves the cursor back to where you started at the beginning. If you now click the mouse anywhere within the waveform while it is stopped, the cursor will move to that part of the track; so if you now click Play again, the track will start playing from that new cursor position. If you click Stop, then clicking either the black left arrow or the right arrow will move the cursor position to either end.
Play around with these controls for a bit to get a feel for them. They’re really no different from what you would find on a CD player or in iTunes.
If you are conversant with any of the common word processing programs like Microsoft Word, you are already familiar with the way the basic functions of Audacity work.
Think of the blue waveform as the text of your document. Just as in a Word document, you can cut, delete, copy, and paste. Just as in a Word document, you can also do multiple undos and re-dos. It’s nice to know that you can undo any step that you’ve done, so let’s learn that first!
Click your mouse somewhere in the middle of your blue waveform. Now hold down the mouse button and drag over the wave form a bit, just as you would over a portion of text in Word in order to highlight and select it. (To deselect a portion of the waveform, simply click anywhere within the waveform.)
If you hit the space bar while a portion is selected, the program will Play the audio within the selected portion. Hit the space bar again or the Stop button to stop the audio.
You can now perform one of the basic editing functions on that selected sound. Let’s try Deleting that selected portion (don’t worry, we’ll bring it back in a moment). Simply press the delete button on your keyboard, and your selected audio is gone—the waveform no longer shows that piece of audio, but the rest of the audio remains untouched. It’s just as if you had snipped a piece of tape from a tape reel and spliced together the remaining ends.
Let’s bring back the deleted part now. Click on the top Audacity Edit menu, and then click on the top line of the submenu to Undo your Delete.
You’ll see your selection is back in your waveform, highlighted.
Now let’s try moving a piece of audio from one place to the other. Select a piece of audio by clicking in the wave form, holding your mouse button down and dragging it a short distance to highlight a section of audio. Then click on Edit—>Cut. Your highlighted section will be deleted, but the contents of the section are now stored in your Paste buffer. Move the cursor to a new place in the waveform—say, by clicking the mouse at the beginning. Now click on Edit—>Paste, and you’ll find you have pasted the selected audio into its new cursor position. If you begin the player now from the beginning, you’ll hear the selected part which has been moved from the middle to the beginning.
Now, let’s Undo that by clicking on Edit—> Undo. You can undo (and redo) multiple times as long as you do not save your work. Once you save the file, the buffer is cleared out and you cannot go back to a prior step.
Okay, one last function we’ll look at, the Copy function. Just as in a text document, sometimes you want to repeat a selection. For example, it can come in handy when you want to lengthen a silence. So, select a portion of audio, and then go to Edit—>Copy. Your selected audio will still be there, but a copy of it is now in the Paste buffer. Click in the waveform to where you would like the copy to appear—let’s say, this time, right after the selected audio. Click on Edit—>Paste. You’ll now have a copy of the selected audio at the cursor, but the original selection will still be in its original place.
And…let’s Undo that again by going to Edit—> Undo, and you should be back to where you started from at the very beginning.
Remember, even if you screw up somehow and the Undo isn’t working for you, your original recorded file is still sitting in your project folder. If need be, you can always start off from scratch by importing that file into a new Audacity project.
Play around with these functions for a while to convince yourself that you can recover if you make a mistake. It will give you the confidence to proceed further.
When you’re finished, go to File—>Save, and then quit the program with File—>Quit.
Next time, we’ll learn more about Audacity, and talk about some editing strategies. See you then.
It’s the year 2044, and praise to the goddesses, a socialist revolution in the United States is well in progress. How did it happen? Fortunately we have an account of the 2044 revolution in this set of oral histories that journalist Miguel Guevera has conducted with many of the heroes of the revolution. Guevera (aka 2018 activist Mike Albert) talks about the workings of a Revolutionary Participatory Society and economy in this interview I produced, broadcast yesterday for the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5 FM NY.
Click on the grey triangle above to listen.
And you can hear Part Two here:
(And for local listeners to the show, be advised that Arts Express has been moved to the new edgier time slot of Tuesdays at 11pm.)
You’ve finished the interview and you’re heaving a sigh of relief. (For the previous installments begin here and then follow the links at the end of each installment.) Well, not really, because a thought occurs to you right away–did I capture everything? Was this thing a total mess? But once I know my interview was recorded properly (I’ll save the horror stories for another time) for me this is the most fun part of the process, the editing.
If it’s true of novel writing and playwriting that it’s all about the revision, then it’s at least as true in putting together an interview. It’s akin to sculpting. You’re chipping away at the non-essential to reveal the form within. If done well, the audience never knows about it. Of course, you are not here to deceive, but there is a satisfaction in knowing that you have made the guest and the interview sound even better than they actually were.
So let’s just take this step by step to start the editing process. The first thing I do is a little bit of organization on my laptop so that I don’t drive myself crazy. I create a new folder on my computer desktop and give it the project name. On the Mac, go to the top left menu of the Finder, click on File to get the dropdown menu, and then click on New Folder. I’ll abbreviate a direction like this as File—>New Folder. (There are equivalent commands for Windows machines, but I’m going to stick here to the Mac.) Rename the folder with your project name (on the Mac, to change a folder name, click once on the title of the folder, wait three seconds, then click again on the title of the folder). Once I have my project folder, I put all files for that project into this folder so that I will be able to find them and navigate to them easily later on.
So the first file you are going to put in there is going to be the recording of the interview you just did. It’s generally best to do a recording in a high quality format if possible, such as WAV or AIF, if your recorder allows it. Otherwise the most common format for audio files is MP3. You can tell which format your file is in by simply looking at the extension of your audio file. It should be something like 121017.wav or 180716.mp3, where the part after the period tells you what format it is in.
Most of the online services like freeconferencecall.com will only generate an mp3 file. The mp3 files, which are compressed files, have the advantage that they are a lot smaller than WAV or AIF files, but the trade-off is that the sound quality is not quite as good. Also, each time you edit and save them, you lose sound quality. That is why even though you may ultimately be required to broadcast an mp3 file (as is my situation) it is best if you can edit the interview as a WAV file, and convert it only later at the end to an mp3 file. (I’ll discuss in another installment how to do that conversion through Audacity.)
So let’s assume you have the interview file in your now titled folder on the desktop (by downloading it to your computer from the online conference service, or transferring it from your digital recorder to the computer via a USB cord, and then dragging it into the new project folder). The first thing you want to do is get it into Audacity (see here for more about installing Audacity) so you can work with it. To do this, open Audacity and go to the top left menu. Then, click on File—>Import—>Audio. You will get a file selector dialog. Navigate to your project folder on the desktop, and click on the interview audio file you placed there earlier. When you do, you should get something that looks like this:
Notice in this picture there are two identical waveforms (the blue wavy stuff). That’s because this example was imported from a recorder that was recording in stereo. Ultimately, if you are in a similar situation to myself, you will end up broadcasting a mono file, which is a lot easier to work with when editing. If you were recording in mono in the first place, then you will only have one waveform, and you’re ahead of the game. Don’t worry about that now, though, we’ll deal with it later. Typically, a service like freeconferencecall.com only generates a mono track of your recording.
For now, that ‘s all we’re going to do. Next week, we’ll look at some of the basic functions of Audacity and how it’s going to improve your interview. So, go to File—>Save Project, in the chooser dialog, navigate to your project folder on the desktop, and in the “Save As” box change the name to your project name, but keep the .aup extension.
Then hit “Save” in the lower right hand corner of the chooser box. You are now going to exit out of the program, so go to Audacity–>Quit Audacity.
What has this accomplished? Well now if you go to your desktop and look inside the project folder, you’ll see something like this:
The bottom file, penny.WAV was my original interview file. When you import it into Audacity, the program makes a copy of the file, so that your original file remains untouched.
The top folder, penny arcade_data, like all data folders, you never touch. Audacity uses it internally. The next file, penny arcade.aup, is the way to get back to your Audacity work. If you click on it, the Audacity program will open up again and you will see your imported waveform again. So any file with an aup at the end means it will open up a waveform of something you’ve imported. Just like clicking on a docx file will open up a Word file, clicking on a aup file will open up an Audacity file.
Next time, we’ll talk about some of the basic editing commands and, very importantly, how to undo anything that you think might have been a mistake. See you then.
The next installment is here:
As summer winds down on Monday, a voice behind you pleads, Stay…just a little bit longer.
Maurice WIlliams, who wrote the song at age fifteen and sings lead on the shortest #1 pop song on record, said in an interview that they deliberately kept the song short so that it would get more radio play. They figured that the DJs would use it as a sign off before a commercial break if it was short enough. They were right.
That’s Henry “Shane” Gaston on the falsetto.
Thanks to YouTuber Ken Schilling
As I mentioned last time, nothing so determines the final shape and content of your interview as the questions you ask and the order in which you ask them. (For the previous installments begin here and then follow the links at the end of each installment.) Here’s how I have been going about putting together a question outline.
At first, I don’t worry at all about the order of the questions—I am more interested in brainstorming questions. Before I do any research at all, I draw on my initial curiosity about the guest that prompted me to do the interview in the first place. I’ll open a Word document just for questions and enter them. I like to keep the mindset that I probably will never have a chance again to speak to this person—so I remind myself not to hold back on whatever it is that I’ve always genuinely wanted to know about the guest or his or her work. There are some questions that I find that I repeatedly ask of my guests, because they are issues that I am obsessed about, and that I am genuinely curious about when I meet someone well known or unusually productive. I like to understand people’s lives from the inside, from their perspective, so I often ask about the guests’ working process, and what they consider to be their most important understandings about their work. I am also curious how an artist’s working life changes with age, and I am often apt to ask questions about that.
But the bulk of my questions come as a result of research into the guest’s work. As I am reading about a guest, or reading a guest’s book, I have my computer file by me, and I am typing into it both salient points that are made, as well as points I would like to understand further. I will also make note of places where I disagree with the guest, places where there could be fruitful further conversation. If I am seeing a film or a theater piece that my guest is involved with, then I have a pad with me and I am taking notes as I’m watching. At a minimum, I become familiar with the guest’s latest project. But, really, ideally, it is much better when I am able to become familiar with a much wider range of the guest’s work, and can situate what the guest is doing within the context of his or her own work, and within the work of his or her contemporaries.
I double space each question, and through experience, I know that when I have about a page and a half of 14-pt type questions, I have enough for a 30-minute interview. Once I have all the questions down, I start moving them around into the order I want. Here, for example, is the final question outline I used when I was preparing to interview playwright and actor Wallace Shawn (I’ve included the intro [which was cut considerably in the editing process] and the outro):
Intro: Hi, I’m Jack Shalom. Actor, playwright, essayist Wallace Shawn has been provoking thought from audiences for over four decades. His memorable film roles have included co-starring in My Dinner with Andre, and his comic turn as Vizzini in The Princess Bride. His work as a playwright includes the Obie Award winning Aunt Dan and Lemon, The Fever, and The Designated Mourner; and his essays include the recently released Night Thoughts.
His 2015 play, Evening At The Talk House has been released as an audio drama, with a fine cast that includes himself, Matthew Broderick, Larry Pine, Jill Eikenberry, and Claudia Shear. It can be found gratis on the website of The Intercept online magazine. I’m happy to be talking with Wallace Shawn. (WAIT) Hi, Wally.
Tell us about Evening At the Talk House.
The play was originally done in London, then opened in New York. Did you see a difference between the London and NYC reception?
How did this audio version come to be, and how did it land at The Intercept?
How much did you have to change the play for audio production?
Many of your plays deal with a similar theme: The dark apparatus that it takes to maintain a privileged society. How is Evening At the Talk House different from your previous plays in its working out? Does it represent an evolution in your thinking about these matters?
The characters in Evening At the Talk House keep insisting that they are just trying to have a pleasant evening. In a sense, the play is what it costs the rest of the world for those people to have their pleasant evening. Do people give up their own comfort willingly?
It’s often the self-absorbed artists in your plays who are the people who seemingly can only relate to their own needs. You seem to target artists in particular in your works. Can you speak more about that?
Because this play shows the problems the privileged have in trying to square the contradictions of their wish to appear benign, I could imagine that some might complain that this work is in some sense privileging the problems of the privileged. Is that a fair criticism?
As complex and layered as your plays are, I find your essays on the other hand, remarkably transparent and lucid. When I read your essays, I say, well of course, why hasn’t anybody else explained it so plainly? How do you decide whether something is going to become a play or an essay?
I really enjoyed reading Night Thoughts. It’s like your communist manifesto. A short simple book that anyone can understand. Rather than talking about owners and workers, though, you speak of the lucky and the unlucky. Can you talk more about that?
You are not just someone who is interested in both politics and theater, but you see the two subjects as intimately entwined. A few years ago you wrote a wonderful essay called “Why I Call Myself a Socialist: Is the World Really a Stage?” Could you talk about some of the ideas in that essay and what in your view is the relationship of acting to the necessity of socialism?
What’s the most important thing you know about playwriting?
Anything else you’d like to add, Wally?
I’ve been talking with Wallace Shawn whose play Evening at the Talk House is now available as a free podcast at Theintercept.com. Thanks, Wally. (WAIT) This has been Jack Shalom with host Prairie Miller.
By looking at the outline above you can see how I structure the order of my questions. I generally want the guest to feel comfortable, and I want to situate the listening audience, so I start off by asking questions about the guest’s most recent projects. Next, I’ll move onto other projects I’m interested in, and then I use those projects as a springboard to ask about overall process and more personal questions. If I feel that the guest is amenable, at this point I’ll bring up disagreements or questions which might be a little more challenging. How far I go with that depends on the kinds of responses I get. Finally, I’ll tend to finish up with asking about future projects and where one can obtain more information about the guest’s work. I’ll also ask at the end if there’s anything else they wish to add—surprisingly, often the guest takes a thoughtful breath, regroups and comes out with some of the most interesting material here.
When the interview actually happens, do I stick to this outline?
But that’s for next week, when I talk about actually conducting the interview.
You can read the next installment here:
You’ve made it this far and now you’re ready to prepare an outline. (For the previous installments begin here and then follow the links at the end of each installment.) An outline is not a hard and fast script, but it is a road map. It’s what allows one the freedom to improvise during an interview, knowing that there’s a safe place to return to if the conversation wanders about or goes South. Speaking for myself, I can’t imagine doing an interview without an outline. It would be like trying to navigate in a strange city without a GPS. An interview outline will determine—more than anything else—even more than your audio editing—the final shape and content of your interview.
The three parts I have in my interview outline are the intro, the questions I want to ask, and the outro. Let’s take each part, one at a time.
In the intro, I want to intrigue the audience, introduce the interviewee with his or her project, and begin my first interaction with the guest. To begin, I also always first want to introduce myself to the radio audience. While it’s very important to be able to hang up your ego as an interviewer (more about this in future installments), I don’t believe in the aesthetic of a faceless, generic questioner. As the interviewer, you are in some sense a proxy for the curiosity of your audience. It’s important for them to know who you are, so I get that out of the way at the very beginning. For me, it’s just simply, “Hi, this is Jack Shalom,” at the top of the segment. Others do it more artfully, pulling a teaser quote first from the guest, for example, and then working in their identification, but I believe that if you don’t do it, or wait until the end, the audience will be left with an annoying unanswered question.
After introducing myself, I try to give a hook and teaser for the audience, setting up my introduction of the guest. Here’s an example of an introduction I did for an interview a while back:
“Hi. I’m Jack Shalom. Public education in the United States has historically been a segregated affair, and today that segregation has taken on a new and sometimes disguised form. Author Noliwe Rooks explicates that history and analyzes that new form in her new book Cutting School. Ms. Rooks is the director of American studies at Cornell University and for ten years was the associate director of African American Studies at Princeton University. She is also the author of White Money/Black Power and Hair Raising. I’m happy to be talking today with Noliwe Rooks. (WAIT)”
So you can see here, I’ve first introduced myself. Next, I’m setting the context by talking about public school segregation, and then I segue into introducing my guest and her book. I also include some of the guest’s most interesting or well-known credits.
Sometimes people jump into an interview and record the introductory material at a later (or earlier) time than the actual interview. I like to speak my introduction while the guest is with me, or on the phone, because I want the guest to know up front that I am not some berserk maniac. When they listen to the intro, they know I have done my research, and I am appreciative of their work. While I often ask my guests challenging questions, I don’t want them to think that the interview is going to be some kind of confrontational set-up. I want them to feel that I am on their side. Part of my job is to build trust.
You’ll see in the intro above that I have the word WAIT in caps in parentheses. That is because I am an idiot and I always need to remind myself that at that point in the intro, I need to…well…WAIT for my guest’s reply. It’s the guest’s first chance to speak, even if it’s just “Hi,” or “Thanks,” but you don’t want to step on that by talking over them. Sounds silly, but I’ve messed that up many times. Don’t worry if you have to wait a while while the guest figures out that it’s their turn to speak—you can edit out the pause later. Typically now, just before I start an interview, I’ll tell the guest that I’ll be doing a short intro and that they should answer after I say, “Hi, [guest’s name]” or “Welcome to the show.”
By the way, the other thing I ask my guests beforehand is the proper way to pronounce their name, and how they would like to be addressed e.g. Noliwe? Ms. Rooks? Dr. Rooks? Professor Rooks? I think every guest I’ve spoken to has always opted for first name, but I think it’s an important courtesy to extend beforehand. Again, it helps to build trust and to relax the guest.
The introduction should last no more than 45 seconds. The listeners are waiting for the guest to speak, not you. You don’t want to lose the audience before the interview even begins. I’ll often read out my intro out loud beforehand, watching a clock to time how long it goes. If it’s over 45 seconds, I will ruthlessly cut some of it from my outline. I never wing the intro. The intro and the outro are the one thing that I read verbatim from my outline. I want to make sure I get all the details correct.
The next part of my interview outline is the list of questions. The most interesting questions to me are those that the interviewer genuinely does not know the answer to, and has a curiosity to know more about. I think it’s very important that an interviewer does research beforehand. I know there are interviewers who feel that they should be as blank a slate as their audiences are with regard to the guest and his or her project, but I feel that is a mistake, and for me, at least, unsatisfying. I think it always shows when the research has not been done, and the guest will not be as open to someone who is not familiar with the guest’s issues. Moreover, without research or prior knowledge the interviewer becomes subject to the guest’s agenda, and the guest ends up controlling the direction of the conversation. With a brilliant, dynamic speaker that might be okay, but the more likely result is that the guest will be repeating the same canned words that s/he has given to many other interviewers before. I think if an interviewer is doing the job right, in the best possible case, both the interviewer and guest are surprised and happy about the spontaneous turns of conversation that result. That is very unlikely to happen without a fair amount of preparation.
I see the interviewer as bridging the gap between the audience and the guest. My interviewing stance is that I am an intelligent layman who enjoys knowing more about my guest and my guest’s work, and I want to get my audience to join me in my exploration. That requires that my questions set up an introductory context and then lead into more interesting areas. All of that requires familiarity and research.
More about questions next week. See you then.
For the next installment, click here:
You’ve determined who you want to interview, you’ve made your contact, you have your equipment, and your sound editing software, so now you need to prepare for the actual interview. How much time should you ask for? You need to ask for an explicit amount of time when making your arrangements. It’s very bad form to extend an interview past the time to which you’ve both agreed. If you go over on time, there’s the chance that your guest or one of their assistants will unceremoniously cut off the interview, and you may never get the opportunity to ask a lot of what you wanted to ask. Of course, you can ask your guest if s/he would like to go over the allotted time during the course of the interview, but especially with more famous people, that may be met negatively. Often when a person is promoting a project, they have one press interview lined up after another, and the time is tight.
Because of that, in the initial email contacts, I always specify how much time I would like up front. I used to think the more time the better, but I’ve since learned that that is a big mistake. It really depends upon the amount of time your finished segment needs to be. The longer the interview in relation to the final cut, the more editing that will have to be done. And when that interview to final cut ratio is large, the editing becomes very difficult and time consuming. It becomes harder to match material from one part of the interview to another. It becomes harder to remember what was said when. It becomes harder to follow the thread of an argument. It becomes more tedious reviewing all the material each revision. And besides the tedium of wading through the irrelevant material, the regret factor also increases with a long interview. Necessarily, there will be more tape left on the virtual cutting room floor, and while that can be some of your favorite material, it may not fit into the limited time available.
I’ve found my ideal ratio is about two to one, that is, I gather about twice the material that I’ll ultimately use. So if I’m preparing a 15-minute segment, then 30-35 minutes is a good interview length for me. That allows me to pick out the most interesting and essential parts of the interview without getting overwhelmed by the mass of material. Sometimes if the rapport is very good with a guest, and the conversation goes long, the best solution is either to make the produced segment longer, or to break up the interview into two separate segments. Of course, in commercial radio, interviewers are more strictly bound to their time constraints and this probably won’t be possible, but I am lucky that in my situation my time limits are more flexible. Presumably, if you are producing your own podcast, you will have that flexibility as well. But don’t take that flexibility as a reason not to edit tightly, or to gather too much material. I have learned from experience that that is not a good idea. Like a sonnet or short story, form and limitation are your friends. They give you the container into which you can shape your story. Time in a bottle. Two to one has been a realistic and very useful guide for me.
Once you know how much time you’ll have with your guest, you’ll be able to prepare your outline of questions. Preparing an outline really deserves its own post, so next week I’ll talk about what I do to prepare the framework for a good radio conversation. See you then.
You can find the next installment here:
If Lenny Bruce were a magician, he would be Steve Spill.
Lenny has long since passed onto that great big comedy stage in the sky, but fortunately our friend Steve Spill is alive and well and has come out with a new book aimed at magicians called How To Make Love The Steve Spill Way. His first book, I Lie For Money, was aimed at a general audience and contained lots of advice on how to live a creative life. It was served along with large dollops of autobiography and spit-take funny stories about the people he met along the path while building an artistic life for himself. In this new book, Steve not only continues his general advice for would-be artists, but also gives up the details of a dozen of his most creative and hilarious tricks. It would be an understatement to say that I think everyone interested in performing magic should read this book.
It’s always a great gift when a wonderful performer tips the secrets of his act, but it’s an even greater gift when the performer himself does the literate and humorous writing chore. Because it’s in that act of writing that Spill divulges his biggest secret: the most powerful thing a performer can do is to find her or his own quirkiness and unique qualities and put them out on display in a performance-oriented way.
When you read one of Spill’s books, you instantly understand what he’s talking about when he says to trust your own personality, because the pages of his books are drenched in the unique persona which he has nurtured. While on the one hand it’s instructive to pick up a Dai Vernon book written by someone like Lewis Ganson, on the other hand, the fact that Ganson, not Vernon, wrote it deprives the reader of real insight into much of Vernon’s personality. With a writer like Steve, though, it’s all hanging out there, and it’s plain as day. You understand immediately that the twelve killer presentations that Spill has detailed are perfect for Spill. Those who are not Steve would most likely fall on their faces if they did his presentations verbatim, but that’s not the point. The point is…who are you?
There are so many lessons to be learned here, not the least of which is the courage of one’s convictions. I read the beginning chapters twice, because the first time through I was laughing too much at the jokes to pay attention to the content.
But if you’ve got as warped and crazy a mind as Steve does (that’s a compliment, I think) there are bound to be doubts about whether anyone else will appreciate what you’re doing. However, Steve’s examples of himself being true to form, along with his constant brainstorming, testing, discarding, and revising of effects, serve as a model of what can be done, and act as a spur to one’s own creativity.
For each of the twelve effects Spill describes, he gives the background story on how and why he created it, and these stories are useful adjuncts to understanding how to create your own effects. The methods are tried and true, and for the most part they probably won’t surprise you with their cleverness after the fact. But that’s not what Steve is after—what will surprise and delight you is the way that Steve takes an effect from column A and a presentation from column Z, and juxtaposes them to create something never seen before, something to amuse and mystify an audience, which leaves them with the impression of a strong magical personality and experience.
What’s in the tricks section? Well it’s a compilation of Spill’s greatest hits—The Lemon thing, the Needle thing, The Himber Ring thing, the drug and hemorrhoid jokes, they’re all there, with full scripts and extra handling and performance tips explained with loving care. The most audacious routine is one called “Abra Cadavers” which involves, well, a tale of cadavers wrapped in a personal story of tragedy. You would have to be nuts to perform it. I’m happy to report that Spill has done it many times, and tells you how to do it so that you too can be the object of abject speechless horror. I also thought that the presentation given for the UltraMental Deck was one of the best ideas for it I’ve ever come across.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the British magician David Devant expressed his appreciation of his audience with the tagline, “All Done By Kindness.” Likewise, Devant’s American contemporary, Howard Thurston, would prepare to go onstage by intoning in the wings to an imaginary audience, “Thank you, thank you for coming to my show tonight. God Bless You.” And now in the same spirit, as we navigate the twenty-first century, Steve Spill urges us to make love The Steve Spill Way. His love for magic, his love for his audiences and for his unique self are all part and parcel of How to Make Love The Steve Spill Way.