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Review of Mel Mellers The Travelling Trickster

Official Review

May 26th, 2018 12:13am
Reviewed by James Sanden
Mel Mellers: The Traveling Trickster by Mel Mellers is partly a biography about, and partly a book of tricks from, British comedy magician and mentalist, Mel Mellers. It contains over fifty ideas, tricks and routines from Mr. Mellers working repertoire, eight essays, an abundance of one liners, plus reproductions of much of the promotional materials Mr. Mellers used over the course of his career.

While there are some clever methods to be found in the book, the bulk of the content consists of fun, interesting, and comedic presentations for classic magic and mentalism. All of the material is from Mr. Mellers’ working repertoire and comes complete with full presentations and scripts. There are some truly wonderful and entertaining ideas to be found.

It’s important to note that Mr. Mellers’ approach to comedy is a classic, almost old-school, one, and many of the jokes he tells are at the expense of the audience. While he can do this with grace and skill, the ability to tell what are obviously jokes and make them funny is no easy task. Combine this with his tendency to use insult humor and following his lead could end in disaster in the wrong hands. Still, not all the material shares these traits, and there is still a great deal of excellent content that isn’t joke based or insulting.

All of the material in the book is for the stage, including a number of classic mentalism effects (add-a-number, pseudo psychometry, bank night, tossed out deck) as well as classic, very visual magic (pom pom prayer sticks, appearing cane, snowstorm in China, needle through balloon), with presentations and premises that are all fun, entertaining and very different. Also sprinkled throughout are a large variety of one liners, primarily of the classic “insult” style. The included essays cover a range of topics, including audience management, assembling an act, creativity, comedy, misdirection, practicing and hecklers. Each essay is filled with practical, useful advice drawn from a lifetime of performance. There is also a large section at the end of the book on entertaining children and families, with sections on audience management, humor for this audience, jokes and gags as well as complete routines.

The book is very slickly produced by Magicseen, the British magic magazine. Every page is in full color with countless graphical elements. Spread throughout are reproductions of Mr. Mellers’ promotional materials over the years, as well as a bit of the history of his career. There are also a number of testimonials, and the book has no fewer than four separate introductions.

Mel Mellers: The Traveling Trickster is an excellent book of practical magic and mentalism, accompanied by clever, funny and entertaining premises and presentations. A good amount of the comedy is old school style jokes and insult humor, so not all of the content will appeal to every performer, but a good portion is suitable to a broader range of magicians. The range of material is quite wide, from mentalism to classic magic, with excellent routines designed for adults, as well as ones for children and families. The essays provide a lot of great, practical and useful information applicable to any performer. The biographical information seems a bit out of place, but it certainly doesn’t take away from the value of the rest of the content. If you are looking for interesting and fun ways to present classic magic or mentalism, and are willing to do the work to make the material fit your own persona, there is a lot to be gleaned from this book. Recommended.

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