The Amazing, and Amazingly Funny Mr. Bob Sheets!

10360353_10203789163835238_6846314182031430950_nSusan and I had the pleasure of attending the 50th birthday party of C.J. Johnston last week here in Austin and it was a great occasion with fine food, friends and drink. There was a lovely additional touch that I want to describe in some detail in this blog, which was the magical entertainment presented by legendary close-up performer Bob Sheets.

I have known Bob since I arrived in America four decades ago but never had the chance to really spend much time with him. I have certainly never got the opportunity to observe him in action in a fairly typical house party environment as I did last Saturday. It was impressive to observe just how skilled he really was in presenting his comedy close-up show to a group of about seventy houseguests. Let me give you a run down of the show.

The attendees at the party seemed a nice blend of magician ‘type’ people and genuine civilians. It would be difficult to estimate who enjoyed Sheets’ performance the most, the magicians or non-magicians. There was certainly plenty of fine entertainment for both groups during Bob’s 45-50 minute show and if magic was not your cup of tea—there were also non-stop laughs to enrich the experience.

Bob Sheets is the epitome of an experienced close-up entertainer and it took about a Nano-second of time for him to let the audience know they were in skilled hands and to settle back and relax. His all-important opening routine had the audience laughing and enjoying the show instantly employing a blend of stand up comedy, sight gags and some very nifty coin magic. Sitting at the back of the oversized living room I was impressed to observe the manner in which Bob worked the room and had the audience settle into comfortable viewing positions.

Sheets had a large, thin wooden table that served double duty in containing his props as well as creating an ideal performance surface. At no time did Bob sit at the table preferring to keep his dominance as a performer and not blend in with the guests. His casual but natty performing outfit was very definitely sleeveless and eliminated any of those ‘up his sleeve’ misconceptions that lay audiences love to harbor. His trademark derby hat framed a face that seldom failed to house a contagious smile.

Much of Sheets’ work fell into the category of stand up sleight of hand and was extremely visible to the entire room. On the few occasions he delved10338746_10203789163195222_1751375711304950590_n into more traditional ‘table top’ magic, the audience readjusted their sight lines accordingly. On these occasions Bob made up for any loss in visibility by extending the focus of his show to participants in the action who sold the magical effects by their animated reactions to the magic.

I was sharply reminded by what a baffling effect The Professor’s Nightmare can be when a little thought is put into its presentation. Bob’s handling of this effect and The Color Change Silks were ample proof that with some refined handling and subtle deconstruction these classics have a huge entertainment potential.

In a gloriously twisted manner the rope from the ‘Nightmare’ ended up being not quite cut and restored. The length of rope did however add a lovely handling highlight to an extremely original cards across routine. The rope finally managed to penetrate Bob’s body in a very clean manner. Sound complicated? Not really but you probably had to be there to fully follow the continuity, so I won’t waste more words.

Another highlight of the show was Bob’s signature Card Stab. There are few effects that are more effective than a well-presented card stab—-and this one was a beauty! Watching the audience crowd around Bob after the show many of them seamed to be discussing this effect. It was certainly a perfect example of strong comedy adding rather than subtracting from a clear cut and highly focused effect. Bob’s use of four cards allowed the routine to routine to build very nicely and added to the audience impact.

After his closing effect Sheets received a well-deserved standing ovation and was a wonderful addition to a well-planned and highly enjoyable event. Bob’s strong comedy and equally powerful magic was a delightful compliment to his warm personality and assured interaction with the audience. It was really fun to be in his audience and I was deeply impressed by such mastery of the art of in-home entertainment.

Oh, and much as I loved the show Sheets followed the Golden Rule of entertainment and left us all wanting more at the end of his set, there is the mark of a true pro!

Here is a picture of Bob Sheets with the Birthday boy himself C.J. Johnson.

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~ by Nick Lewin on May 23, 2014.

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