My Opening Line, Its History
and Why I Protect it Vigorously
For more than 20 years, I have opened every magic show I have performed in front of an English-speaking audience with the following line:
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Merlin (or Bill Palmer), I am a magician, and tonight, I am here to magish for you... ...just be glad I'm not a wizard.
I have used this opening line all over the United States, in England, Scotland, and even in Vienna. It is my signature line, and it has been purloined by many, many performers who should know better.
The History of the Line -- How it Came to Exist
During the late 1950's, when I worked for Howard's Fun Shop, in Houston, I first heard the first half of the line. Howard Campbell, the proprietor, would often refer to "magish-ing" for people. He probably didn't make the line up, but he certainly passed it on to me. However, I did not have the second half of the line, nor did I have a context for it.
In 1979, the International Brotherhood of Magicians had a convention in Houston. One of the performers was Howard Flint, a truly funny and dynamic individual. His opening line was, "I'm Howard Flint. I'm a wizard, and today, I'm going to wizz for you."
One of my friends, who had worked for me at the Texas Renaissance Festival told me that I needed that line. I disagreed. It was cute, but it was, in fact, just a tad too blunt for my shows. It wasn't my style. It was too brash.
I know that some of you find this hard to believe, but I can explain it to you this way. I felt that using the word "wizz" in an opening line for a family show was just a tad too strong. However, if I could modify it so I did not need to say it, then I could make the line perform double duty. It would serve the purpose of letting the audience know that if they did not listen closely, they might miss something funny or important.
This was not a priority item, mind you. I had a couple of perfectly good opening lines.
However, one morning, in 1981, I was getting ready to perform at the Renaissance Festival, and I suddenly came up with the line. The idea was simple -- I took the first line from Howard Campbell, and instead of saying, I'm a wizard, and today I'm going to wizz for you, I decided to let the audience figure it out for themselves.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Merlin (or Bill Palmer), I am a magician, and tonight, I am here to magish for you...
just be glad I'm not a wizard.
The first time I used it, it got such a big laugh that I decided I would never open a show without it.
In 1986, while working at Magic Island, a Vegas performer came to the Texas Renaissance Festival, saw my act, and when he got back to Vegas, he was using the line.
What he, and the other thieves did and do not know is that the line is mine. I wrote it, and have published it in several newsletters, establishing its provenance and its ownership.
I have taken further steps to protect it. I am pleased to report that "Just be glad I'm not a wizard.®" and its alternate form "Aren't you glad I'm not a wizard!®" are now protected as trademarks under the patent laws of the United States of America.
If you are using this line, please realize that I have used it for a very long time ... besides, if you do not portray or have not portrayed a wizard, it isn't nearly as funny as it is when I do it.
Be warned. I will prosecute.
So far, I have licensed this line to only a few other magicians.
The first is my friend, Oscar Muñoz, of Pharr, Texas. One reason I did so was that he actually stopped using the line voluntarily when he learned that it was not a "stock" line, as so many magicians have thought over the years. Virtue is rewarded.
I have now added a second magician to the list of licensed users of this line. The new addition to the "family" of licensed users is Danny Archer. Danny also voluntarily stopped using the line without my asking him. See, it works!
Matthew David Stanley is also now licensed to use the line.
Gene Protas is also now licensed to use the line, as well.
Dexter Cleveland is also licensed to use the line.
Scott Wells is licensed to use the line.
© 2000 Bill Palmer. All rights reserved. For permission to republish contact Bill Palmer at the above e-mail address.