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A Wicked Pack of Cards
by Philemon Vanderbeck


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A Wicked Pack of Cards by Philemon Vanderbeck

"Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyant had a bad cold, nonetheless was known to be the wisest woman in Europe with a wicked pack of cards." - T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland"

I've been working on an act designed specifically for comedy clubs based on the premise of "a wicked pack of cards." I have a 'volunteer' select a card, and I then proceed to give the worst possible interpretation of it.

The deck I'm using is "Morgan's Tarot," an unusual 86-card deck that bears little relationship with a normal Tarot deck. I found its simple black and white drawings and irreverent card titles to be apropos for the mood I'm trying to convey.

When first starting out, I would choose three to five interesting cards (depending on the amount of time I was allotted for my set) before the show and come up with about a minute's worth of patter for each card.

During the show itself, I would simply riffle force each of the cards onto each volunteer and deliver my interpretation. Of course I would also allow for improvisation if my volunteer were properly responsive. Despite the fact that I preface the routine, saying that I'm going to interpret the cards the worst possible way, I'm always amazed on how many people actually volunteer for the bad news I'm going to give them.

Each show, I would choose three new cards to use, so that over the course of performing this routine, I was slowly building up my library of interpretations. Finally, I decided to just crack down and write up all 86 possible interpretations. While memorizing them all will certainly happen in time, I still recommend that if you use this routine, to start as I did and just do a few cards at a time. Also, you should always tailor the interpretations to fit your persona and performing style. The jokes that work for me in my part of the country will not work the same way for you.

The nice thing about this routine is that while the overall format remains consistent, the interpretations change, making each show a unique event (and keeps it fresh for you).

Right now, I'm just using the normal deck of "Morgan's Tarot" (available at your favorite metaphysical bookstore or on the Web), which is fairly legible in the size of spaces that I currently perform in. However, when I start performing this routine in larger venues, I'm considering scanning the cards into a laptop and using one of those fancy monitor projectors. Obviously, this won't happen until I become a regular headliner...

Since the deck is comprised of black and white drawings, you might wish to color in the images on your deck, just to make it stand out a little bit more.

Sample Interpretation:

It seems that you've been plagued by a host of 'senior moments,' as of late. And the truly ironic part is that you're not at the typical age that one expects to start experiencing these pesky problems in memory. You should make an appointment with your doctor, but the problem is that you can't remember if you've already done so or not. Of course, if you could just identify the cause of this premature Alzheimer's, you could cure yourself. It might be a factor of overwhelming stress, or perhaps, malnutrition. But again, the inability to remember anything is making the tracking of possible triggers impossible. Do you even recall what your problem is? Ah...let me start again...It seems that you've been plagued by a host of 'senior moments,' as of late...

1st edition 2004; 34 pages.
word count: 14296 which is equivalent to 57 standard pages of text