Ricky Jay, sleight of hand artist, actor, Mamet collaborator, narrator of the film Magnolia, author, on Susan Boyle, exposure, and the audience’s expectations.
CONFLATE, if you will, the extraordinary attention lavished on the unlikely 47-year-old Scottish songstress Susan Boyle, whose rise and fall played out recently on the television program â€œBritainâ€™s Got Talent,â€ and the reaction accorded to one Mathew Buchinger some time earlier in the Council Chambers in Edinburgh.
Buchinger demonstrated his skill on more than a half-dozen musical instruments (some of his own invention), danced a hornpipe and performed conjuring tricks with cups and balls, cards and dice. In front of the lord provost he fashioned a pen and with it produced a fine calligraphic document of the coat of arms of the city. The year was 1726. Buchinger was 52 years old, 29 inches tall â€” and, he had neither legs nor arms.
Because of their appearance, both Buchinger and Ms. Boyle were saddled with low expectations. This can work to the performerâ€™s advantage: lessened anticipation coupled with high ability can bring on an exponential acceptance.