Eric the Hypnotic Rabbit

This routine evolved from, one day, seeing bags of different sizes in a shop. The bag I carried my act in and used in the act was a barrel-shaped bag made of tough nylon and one day I saw some bags that matched it but were of differing sizes, they even had tiny bags attached to key-rings. I immediately thought of Russian Dolls and thought it would be funny to use progressively smaller bags.

So the routine evolved into me taking a smaller bag out of the big bag and placing it on the table, I would then open the zipper and take out a smaller bag that matched - this always got a laugh. This last bag would be unzipped and a rabbit puppet would pop out. Its ears would unfold and pop up then the head would come out and it would look around, one paw would come out and finally the last paw would come out with a tiny key-ring bag attached to the paw. The rabbit was always as a surprise and never failed to get a laugh then when the paw came out with the bag on it there would be laughs and lots of "ah how sweet" type comments.

The rabbit was attached to the bag with Velcro so it could be removed for cleaning and there was a hole in the back of the bag for my hand to work the puppet.

I would thank the rabbit when I took the small bag from its paw then place the bag onto the table. The rabbit would look at me then at the crowd and I would introduce him as Eric the Hypnotic Rabbit. Eric would stare at the crowd and I would pass my fingers before his eyes in a very hypnotising sort of way then I would announce "Eric is now in a hypnotic state", I would pass my hand up and down in front of his eyes to make sure he didn't blink. This is so silly and the crowd would respond with laughter, when they started to laugh it would register with me how ridiculous this was and I would laugh, then realising where I was I would straighten myself up and put on a straight face again - one of the most powerful things you can do on stage is to step out of character and if you get it wrong, it is disastrous but I instinctively knew that this was the time to step out of character. It never failed to bring howls of laughter.

Once the laughter had died down, I would say "in this hypnotic trance Eric will do anything I ask him to", Eric would turn to me and spit a long stream of water into my face. Again it was unexpected and got huge laughs.

The last part of the routine came about almost by accident, it was something I had experimented with for a while but this seemed to be the ideal way to introduce it into the act.

In the early 1980s my sister had emigrated to Canada with her husband and children and shortly afterwards Anna and I went to visit them. On a visit to Toronto I went to a magic shop, I can't remember the name, and one thing I bought was a Miller Hold Out. Basically, it was a nylon wire with a weight and clip attached to one end, this went up one sleeve and down the other so that when the arms relaxed, it would deliver something into the hand and when the arms stretched out whatever was attached to it would disappear up the sleeve.

Now, one of my favourite books is called "The Expert at the Card Table" by S. W. Erdnase. Anyone wanting to learn about gambling techniques will buy this book eventually. Within the section of the book about Card Table Artifice is a small section about Hold Outs and a couple of sentences jumped out at me when I read them; "A sleeve machine which passes the cards into and from the palm by spreading the knees" then it goes on "…and, anyway, the expert professional disdains their assistance. They are cumbersome, unnecessary and a constant menace to his reputation." I loved the part about it being a constant menace to his reputation!!! How bizarre to think of someone passing cards up and down sleeves by spreading their knees - what if they get caught and are made to strip? The Miller Hold Out came to mind, and I decided to see if I could get it to work by spreading my knees instead of spreading my arms.

It worked well but only with my trousers off because I needed to attach one end of the holdout to my knee the wire would go across to the other knee, through a ring attached to the knee, up from there to the top of my sleeve and then down the sleeve. By moving my legs apart I could get one end of the holdout to go up and down my sleeve.

Last part of the Routine

I would pick up the small bag that Eric had on his paw and unzip it to find a red silk handkerchief inside, then I would explain that I would make the small handkerchief disappear. The silk was then pushed into my closed left hand and I would give the crowd a clue as to how I would be doing it and would tell them that all I have to do is to press my knees together, which I would do, then when I pulled my knees apart the silk would disappear and to demonstrate this I would pull my knees apart and open my left hand to show the silk had disappeared. I would then reverse the actions and when my knees were together I would open my left hand and the silk would be back.

Then I would go into an explanation of how it's really done, yes, I know I'm breaking the magicians code.

The patter was along the lines of "there's a small clip on a length of nylon line, it goes down my left sleeve and lands in my hand", then I'd look at the crowd and say "OK I'll show you" then I would remove my jacket. I think I've already mentioned how formal my attire was, my shirt cuffs were protruding from the sleeves of my jacket and when I took the jacket off it was obvious that the cuffs were actually attached to the jacket and my actual shirt sleeves had been cut off just above the elbow, this was just a quick visual gag that nobody would be expecting so it got an extra laugh. The clip would be seen hanging from my cut off shirt sleeve.

I would then explain the nylon line went down inside my shirt and down my trouser leg to a little ring attached to my knee then…as I said this I would look at the crowd as if they didn't believe me and I'd say "alright, I'll show you" then I would drop my trousers. There was always laughter and I never did find out if it was because of the state of my hairy legs or because dropping my trousers was such a surprise.

Once my trousers were around my ankles the crowd could see the ring attached to my left knee and I would remove the little crocodile clip that was keeping the end of the line on place as I said "then the end of the line passes through the ring and is attached to the other knee…of course I have to do that part very quickly" and making the actions fit the words I would pass the line through the ring on the left knee and attach it to a ring on the right knee.

The patter continued with "of course if I put my knees together the clip will fall into my hand", my knees would go together and the clip would fall into my left hand and I would push the silk into the clip. "Then all I need to do is to pull my knees apart and the silk will shoot up my sleeve", I would pull my knees apart and they would see the silk flying up toward my cut off sleeve. After that I would stand there moving my knees apart and pushing them together while the silk went up and down.

When the laughter had died down, I would have to pull my trousers up but would accidentally get my foot stuck on the braces that were still attached to the trousers and when I pulled the trousers up my leg would come up as well and I would push my leg down which had the effect of pulling my trousers down again it was almost as if my leg was being pumped up and down until I could sort it out.

No funny lines were delivered, but this routine was hilarious because of the situation I had built up and how my character reacted to what was happening.

The first time I did the routine in the States I was accused of plagiarism, it seems Harry Anderson wrote up a routine using a hold out (a different type to the one I used) in his book and I was accused of ripping him off. I have never read the book or seen Harry Anderson do the routine and came up with my routine entirely independently with the inspiration as stated above. This whole plagiarism is a bit strange because if I had read it in the book I would have felt justified in using the routine - he had put it into the public domain. This is one reason I kept my distance from magicians - if I didn't mix with them they would n't influence me.

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