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IBM 210 - SAM 88

The Inventor’s Notebook #13 – Solo Soliloquy

The Inventor's Notebook #13
Solo Soliloquy
Karl Rabe

I'm going to share a gimmick I invented (as far as I know), however this is a gimmick in search of a routine. I'll share my thought process on assembling a routine, although I don't have a specific one in mind yet. Maybe you have some ideas.




I call this Solo Soliloquy even though right now it is just a method. The method involves a unique way of gimmicking 16 oz Solo brand plastic drinking cups commonly available in the United States. Because Solo cups are so common and readily recognizable they are automatically perceived in the spectator's mind as an "ordinary object" and hence seem unsuspicious.

The gimmicking of the Solo cups depends on their unique profile which facilitates their nesting and provides rigidity. I discovered this while on vacation drinking... ummm.. water.. and contemplating using the cups for an impromptu cups-and-balls.

  • Gimmick 1 is created by taking a Solo cup and slicing the cup just under the shoulder as shown in Figure 1. This is the Shell Bottom gimmick.
  • Gimmick 2 is created by taking a Solo cup and cutting the bottom out. This is the False Bottom cup.

The shell bottom (gimmick 1) will nest securely and invisibly over the outside of the false bottom cup (Figure a). The seam will be hidden under the shoulder and is virtually invisible. Additionally inspecting inside the nested cups it is also very difficult to see that there are really two pieces. The gimmicked cup cannot be passed for examination but it can be displayed inside and out fairly close up without drawing any suspicion.


Furthermore, the shell bottom can be placed inside an ordinary cup and when the false bottom cup is nested inside the shell bottom will install itself on the false bottom cup (Figure b).



Make sure you find and use the right Solo cups. The cup should be round (some have flat sides) and the cup needs to have a shoulder about a quarter of the way up. Genuine Solo brand cups are the only ones I have found that meet the requirements.

To make the shell gimmick, take a Solo cup and using a razor blade knife, slice the cup in two just below the shoulder. The false bottom should have straight sides where you cut and no part of the shoulder should still be attached. Cut slowly and carefully so the shell does not get deformed or have ragged edges. Test your results by nesting the shell over an ordinary cup and make sure the seam is not visible. Gimmick 2 is simply a cup with the bottom removed with a razor blade knife.

OK, so we can gimmick a cup. So what? What can you do with it? I would start by thinking about different "moves" that could be done with the setup.

Possible moves

  • False Transfer: The bottomless cup can be nested inside an ordinary cup. You can drop an object(s) into the cups, remove the bottomless cup as though it contains the objects but in reality they remain in the ordinary cup.
  • Load: You can have an ordinary cup with the shell gimmick inside as in fig b and an object unknown to the audience inside the shell. You can load the bottomless cup by nesting it inside the loaded cup and then remove the bottomless cup which now has locked onto the shell with the object(s) inside.
  • Disappearance: Place an object in the bottomless cup. Palm it off and nest the bottomless cup inside an ordinary cup holding the shell gimmick. Later reveal that the object has vanished from the cup. You can display the bottomless cup, now nested with the shell gimmick as empty.
  • What other moves can you think of?

Possible themes

  • Cups and Balls: This does not seem like a good theme for the capabilities of the gimmicks. The cups need to be upright to effectively take advantage of the gimmick. They need to nest and un-nest for the moves.
  • Colored Balls Transposition: Drop different colored balls in different cups and the colors move to different cups.
  • Liquid Transposition, disappearance & reappearance: Pour water in one cup, un-nest it and later reveal that the water has disappeared from that cup and is now in the bottom nested cup. One thing I like about this idea is that it would be natural for the cups to be nested when you poured the water... pour in the top cup of a stack, set it aside, pour another and set it aside, etc.
  • Beads Transposition: Replace the water with beads or similar objects. What would you naturally put in these cups other than liquid? Poker chips? Quarters for the slots? Stones from the beach? Something else?
  • What other themes can you think of?

Is this the next Thumb Tip? Definitely not. I think with the right routine that accommodated the constraints of the gimmicks this could have some potential. I just haven't been able to think up that routine. Maybe you can.

While you are doing that, I'll have a beer in my Solo cup... but just one.


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