The Worlds Fastest Card Trick (1948)


I have an obsession with old magic manuscripts and I love digging out hidden gems from within them. I recently managed to get my hands on a small booklet by Joe Karson which explains the feature trick in his act – a comedy piece in which the performer attempts to do the fastest card trick in the world – a selected card is returned, shuffled in to the pack and found almost straight away after the cards are placed behind the magicians back.

The comedy comes from the fact that the trick is routined in such a way that at first the spectator returns the card without looking at it, then they forget to return the card to the pack. A third card is chosen only this time the spectator forgets the card! Finally a card is produced – only this times it’s the wrong one. To end the trick this card magically changes into the selected card.

Technique wise it needs nothing more that a top change – all the fun is in the presentation which I think a modern performer could pull off with great success.

Joe Karson writes in the introduction –

The WORLD’S FASTEST CARD TRICK has earned more laughs for me in my act (so called) than any other comedy trick that I have ever had. I sincerely hope that it will do the same for you.

For more about Joe Karson (inventor of “Zombie”) click here. The booklet is also available as a download from Lybrary – click here.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Eric Fry says:

    It reminds me of a funny short piece by Stephen Leacock that makes fun of people who impose pick-a-card tricks on others. It’s in the collection “Sleight of Crime.”

    First the spec says “thank you, I don’t want a card.” Then he picks one by naming it out loud. Then he physically takes a card but doesn’t look at its face. Then he takes a card but doesn’t return it to the deck.

    Finally, the magician says, “Holy Moses! Listen. Pick — a — card — just one — look at it — see what it is — then put it back — do you understand?”
    “Oh, perfectly. Only I don’t see how you are going to do it. You must be awfully clever.”
    (Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle — flip.)
    “There you are; that’s your card now, isn’t it?”
    “NO. THAT IS NOT MY CARD.” (This is a flat lie, but Heaven will pardon you for it.)

  2. Jim Snapp says:

    I wonder if Leacock had seen the Karson manuscript. They’re almost too much alike for it to be a coincidence.

  3. Eric Fry says:

    Much more likely it’s vice versa. I don’t know when Karson’s MS or Leacock’s story were published. Leacock lived from 1869 to 1944, and was very prominent as a humorist from 1915-1925, according to Wikipedia.

  4. Eric Fry says:

    I did a little online checking. Amazing what you can find. Leacock’s piece, titled “A Model Dialog,” appeared in his book “Literary Lapses” in 1910. Probably was published in a magazine prior to that. The complete text is available online. Karson’s booklet appears to have been published in the 1940s. Don’t know when he originated the trick.

  5. blendomagic says:

    Cool – it is amazing what you can find online. The plot of both is identical and it’s more likely that Karson was inspired into creating the routine after reading Leacock’s book than just coming up with it himself. The link to the full text can be found here –

    Karson doesn’t say exactly when he came up with the trick in the booklet, only that he was now releasing it in 1948.

  6. dontaskmeimnoexpert says:

    I thought I was the only one who loved old magic manuscripts!!

  7. Domiinic says:

    I love The Fastest Card Trick in the World, but never seen anyone do it! I It is one of those gems waiting for the right performer.

    1. Kevin says:

      Yeah, if someone were to work at it could be really great.

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