Routine for You: “I Want You to be Miserable”

Routine_ I Want You to be Miserable

I admit that I had nearly forgotten about this routine.  There was a time when I used it in nearly every show.  Then it was time to do new things in the show so this routine went to the shelf.

In designing our programs for Storybook Island theme park, I remembered this routine and dug it out.  It went over super well.  It is a great effect to present early in a show, especially if many children are there to watch.

Key Concept

Someone has said that a key to comedy is to make a wreck on the track of thought. This means, take the minds of the audience into a place where they never expected to go.

This routine does that. It is funny because the magician says the opposite of what folks would expect him to say.

What happens?

The audience is shown a picture of a sad clown with a tear in it’s eye.  By way of throwing smiles at a device called a “Smile Catcher”, the sad clown is changed into a bright colorful picture of a happy clown.


One silk is secretly switched for another.


  • I use the Switch Can for this, but many other props would work including the Change Bag, Palmo gimmick, Transformation Box, and Chick Pan.  Use any apparatus that for the switch one silk for another.


  • Put the Happy Clown silk in the load chamber of the Switch Can.
  • Have the Sad Clown silk handy so you can pick it up and show it to the audience.


Pick up the Sad Clown silk and show it to the audience.

“Here is a picture of how I want you to feel about this show. That’s right. I want you to be miserable. I want you to be depressed.”

Look at the audience and notice that they don’t seem to get what you are telling them.

I want you to be downhearted and discouraged. I want the tears to come down from your eyes…”

Pause and seem to finally realize what you have just said. Look down at the picture silk.

“Wait a minute! Hold everything! This is the wrong picture. I don’t want you to be sad and miserable. This is a mistake, but it is not a problem because I happen to have this.”

Show the Switch Can.

“This is a Smile Catcher! That’s right, this little container will catch smiles. All we have to do is throw some at it. So everybody…if you are happy notify your face (that means smile). Now reach up and grab that smile off your lips and throw it at the box!”

People will do this. Act like the box is catching smiles. Also tease the audience.

After they throw the smiles say…

“It is amazing what sophisticated and intelligent people will do when you ask them too! Now that you have thrown your smiles, let’s make it more fun. Toss some color up here as well!”

Encourage the audience to grab pretend color from their clothing and then toss that color at the can.

“I wonder if my smile catcher is working today?”

Take the lid away so everyone can see that a colorful picture silk is now inside.

“If it is working, it will show you how I really want you to feel.”

Lift up the silk and show the happy clown.

“That’s right, I want you to be happy. I want you to smile. I want you to have an absolutely wonderful time! I want you to feel so good you can’t help but cut loose with wild applause and a great big cheer!”

That is the applause cue. Style while holding the colorful clown picture. The routine is finished.


I really hope you will give this routine a try.  In reading it you may find it hard to visualize just how it will play.  The “Smile Catcher” concept is fun.  The involvement, by way of people taking their smiles and throwing them at the can, is wonderful. 


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