The Tablecloth Trick

Studio 360

Like most people, I wanted to be a magician when I grew up. I recently attended a screening of the 2007 Swedish filmYou, The Living (Du levande)by director Roy Andersson, a funny/sad movie made up of 50 vignettes that portray everyday life as absurd, petty, and hilarious. In the following scene, a man tries to enliven a family reunion by performing the tablecloth trick.

Which, of course, led to the question: How do you perform the tablecloth trick for real? Have I seen it performed anywhere but in cartoons? Is it even possible?

A quick YouTube search settled any doubts. Here is the answer--a small feat of classroom heroism performed by a nervous looking young man in an uncomfortable outfit.

The cheering! The vindication! The glory!

So how is it done? Could one perform this trick in defiance of one's own imperfection and discomfort? Elsewhere on YouTube, a guru named Zanthor provides instructions. (Not recommended: searching for other videos of Zanthor. Magic's romance quickly fades.) Looks pretty easy, actually. Too bad we don't have any tables with right angles in the office, or I'd try it out right now. There's even a vase full of fresh flowers within easy reach...