| By Mike Rogers
I love a good gag. I don’t mean unkind pranks or dirty tricks, but instead I mean those rare times when you can set someone up for a truly surprising moment that catches them totally off guard. Moreover, it should be enjoyed by all including the victim. I’ll relate an amusing story where I was set up for just such a moment. I was set up BIG TIME!
Several years ago I used to work a show in Washington, D.C. called THE POSTAL FORUM. It is a trade show dealing with all matters related to the U.S. Postal Service and the many industries using the U.S. Postal Service. Everyone there has something to do with the mail, and everything being exhibited has something to do with the mail. For instance, many major companies send thousands of documents through the mail each year. Some of these companies even have entire departments who handle the annually mailings. There are special machines to assist in the job, and in many cases special training is required. Hence, the attendees at the show will be the postal people, the company people who do the work and purchase the equipment, and the exhibitors who offer the services and equipment. It’s what we call a vertical show. There are no spin-off services related to other industries. You get the idea. Everyone there has something to do with the mail.
At this show my client was DuPont and the product was TYVEK. This is a paper like material that is extremely light in weight, yet it will not tear. There are two advantages in using TYVEK as a mailing envelope. The documents are protected and the entire packet is lighter in weight. It’s a product that’s fun to pitch as there are many good things to say about it.
Additionally, At this show the company used a version of an old gag regarding sex. The old gag is the business card made from TYVEK saying, “If in the mood for sex keep this card. If not, tear it up and I’ll understand.” Of course the recipient of the card can’t tear it up. During the show they passed out business size cards saying, “If you think MIKE ROGERS is the best magician in the world keep this card. If not, tear this card up and we’ll understand.” It was fun.
I closed my act with Card to Sealed Envelope using TYVEK envelopes that had been mailed to me. Everything was on the level since DuPont mailed me enough empty envelopes to cover the entire run of the show. These were addressed to me and sent individually to me through the mail. I often wondered what the mailman thought on the day he placed close to 100 envelopes in my mail box, all obviously being the same.
Since TYVEK can’t be torn easily I used the rubber cement method of doing the effect. DuPont had the envelopes made just for this show, so we knew in advance they were the correct type for the rubber cement treatment. Other than the TYVEK envelope the effect was rather standard. A signed selected card magically appears in a sealed envelope which has been sent through the mail. The only difference was the envelope couldn’t be torn open. To solve this we also gave away special letter openers designed for just such envelopes. You have the picture and get the idea.
I told you earlier about the attendees. Among those attending the show were several postal inspectors. These folks are the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service. They are experts at what can, and cannot, be done with the U.S. mail. Early in the show the postal inspectors caught wind of my signed card in a sealed TYVEK envelope. They were intrigued because it had been sent through the mail and having all the correct postmarks. To be honest, they went ape over it. In the course of three days I think there must have been at least 50 postal inspectors pass by wanting to see what it was I was doing with the mail that they didn’t understand. Many tried to position themselves in the crowd so as to be the spectator signing the selected card. I was in Seventh Heaven as it’s always fun having people stop by wanting to see something again and again. I was quite popular with these postal inspectors. In fact, I felt like I was pretty hot stuff.
Don’t leave me, I was being set up!
On the last day of the show, during the last hour of the day, and during my last presentation for the day, I was on a roll. I had a big crowd and couldn’t ask for things to be going better. When it came time for the Card in Sealed Envelope I looked to the back of the crowd and there must have been thirty postal inspectors standing in a 180-degree semi circle. They were all holding one of the TYVEK envelopes in one hand, while tapping it against the tips of the fingers of the other hand. It was the type gesture a cranky school teacher might do to remind a kid he’s forgotten to turn in his homework. That was pretty funny, especially since the crowd proper, being in front of the semi circle, couldn’t see what they were doing.
It got better. This particular day happened to be my birthday. As I concluded my pitch the DuPont booth people paraded to my stand with a birthday cake decorated with playing cards. The postal inspectors then sang Happy Birthday tapping the TYVEK envelopes on their fingers in time with the music.
As I mentioned. I was set up BIG TIME!