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December is here and this month, John Ferrentino give you the gift of WORK by continuing his series titled Comedy Clubs For Magicians. Let’s dive right in!


In a comedy club, since there may be more than one or two shows a night, everything is kept to a very tight time schedule. The general rule of thumb is that an M.C. will do 10-15 minutes to open the show, the middle act will do 20-30 minutes, leaving the headliner with 45-50 minutes.

Now, at any time during the show, an act’s allotted time can change. Most clubs use a light to signal when they would like you to end your set. This is called “flashing”. In the event that the club does not tell you how much time to perform, check with the M.C.  The M.C. will usually say something like “I would like you to do 30 minutes. I’ll flash you at 25 so you can wrap it up.” If you should see that light, start to end your show. Don’t make them flash you again – it looks bad. Sometimes an act will be flashed if the club does not feel he is doing well. Make sure you know where that light is.  Remember – the flash has replaced the old vaudeville hook. In any case, by going over your allotted time, you are taking time from another act that has worked hard to become a headliner.


As a new act, you will be asked sometimes to M.C. the show. The M.C. is one of the most important parts of the show, a fact which is sometimes overlooked by a new performer.

The Master of Ceremonies has many functions. Besides warming up the crowd and making them feel at home, they will also sometimes have to make club announcements, as well as introduce the acts.

The art of “emceeing” is so detailed a subject that many fine books have been written on this subject alone. Most magic dealers can get these for you. So as not to get off on a tangent, I will give you some quick rules.

1) Always ask each performer on the show exactly what he wants for an introduction.

2) For the most part, all introductions should be serious.

BAD EXAMPLE: “The next gentleman on the show just returned from Lenny’s bar mitzvah where he opened for the prime ribs. Put your hands together for Mr. Walrus Hawthorne.”

GOOD EXAMPLE: “We’re very fortunate tonight to have this next talented gentleman on the show.  Just returning from his debut on HBO, let’s have a nice warm round of applause for Jackie 922-WINE Martling.”

3) Always introduce an act by giving his credits first and ending with his name.

4) Keep the energy in your voice until the name is announced.

5) Pronounce names correctly.

6) Don’t try to make the show yours by doing a lot of time between acts (less is more).

These are just a few suggestions.  To be a successful M.C., you should read up on the subject, and watch other M.C.’s work. Remember, the M.C. can make or break the show.


It is very difficult at first for the average magician to work in a comedy club. Working in these clubs can be very frustrating until you understand the best way to structure your act.

When setting up the structure of your act, there are certain things you must take into account.

The average stage in a comedy club is nothing more than a platform, with no curtains or wings. The size of the stage may range from 5’ x 8’, with some as large as 12’ x 25’, but can be much smaller.  I once worked on top of a service bar – 4’ high x 8’ deep x 3’ wide, and once on top of a table. I felt like the main course. The reason for the small stage is because most club owners are more concerned with seating capacity than performing space.

The audience is usually seated on three sides and almost behind you, so angles are bad.

The lighting generally consists of four fresnels, two lekos, and sometimes a follow spot. This provides good lighting, but doesn’t allow for any special effects.

The sound is usually technically good, with high quality mikes and P.A. systems. Most of the time, the microphone is a Shure SMA-12, commonly referred to as a ball mike.  The sound quality from these mikes is excellent, and usually superior to any Lavalier mike on the market.  Since most magicians find it awkward to work with a microphone in front of them, I strongly recommend a mike clip that will enable you to hang the house mike like a Lavalier. I made my mike clip from a coat hanger and a piece of leather lace (SEE FIGURE 1 BELOW). This is a very handy piece of equipment that can be used anywhere you work.

Since most comedy clubs don’t have a sound technician, if you should use your own mike, much as a wireless or Lavalier, and it should feed back, no one will be able to correct your sound troubles in the middle of your show. The same goes for music cues.  All music should be on a CD or Flash drive. I prefer to have both just in case. All cues should be clearly written out on  a cue sheet that can be either printed out and placed inside the cd case, od on a seperate shet of paper for the sound tech. This works especially well if you only have a flash drive. Have at least 10 hard copies of this printed list on you at all times when performing. Things get lost, and it’s always a good idea to have another sheet ready to go at a moment’s notice.

An example of the kind of cues that I would write is “Start the track after I say ‘If Houdini were alive today, he would be considered a punk rock magician, and his act would look like this.’ and fade out the track as the last razor blade comes out of my mouth.”

The CD itself should also be labeled… EXAMPLE: “Punk Magic – John Ferrentino”. For flash Drives buy a small carrying case that the drive will fit in so that you can label the case, and also take a colored sharpie marker (prfereably a flourescent color that will stand out on black or dark colored flash drives) and write your name clearly and in all caps so that the drive can be easily identified and given back to you after the show. As with the cure sheet, keep multiple copies of each format (CD or flash drive) with you at all times while performing. I like to have at leat three of each.

Try to limit the amount of music cues to no more than three.  If more than one music cue is needed, they should each be on separate tracks and placed on the CD or flash drive in their performance order. Some acts use a laptop connected to a portable PA system and a remote switch in their pocket or somewhere on their body, so they have total control and are not left humming their music because someone forgot the music cues.


The audience in a comedy club will always be right up to the front of the stage, with no front aisle.  Your entrance to and exit from the stage will be through a very small side aisle. The more people at the show, the smaller the aisle, the harder it is to get on and off the stage.  I mention this because if you use a roll-on table or any large props, they must be on the stage at the start of the show and remain there until the crowd has left.  Large props or tables could never be brought through an aisle this small.

When the first show is over, you will have approximately 30 minutes to set up your act before the seating for the second show begins.  All effects that require a long set-up time should be reconsidered. Portability is the key.

Never leave any prop on your table before or after your set. Comics will do and use anything for a laugh and sometimes will accidentally expose a secret.

EXAMPLE: Comics love swords.  If the sword from the Sword through Neck illusion is handled improperly, it will bend. How did the comic know the sword was flexible when you made it look so real!

Do not use a lot of side tables or large props that may block the audience’s view.

After your act, everything must be put away, so try and do this as you go along. It is not fair for the following act to work on a stage that looks like a bomb has hit a garage sale.

When choosing effects, parlor magic works well since the room is so small. Don’t try close up on stage, unless you want to be flashed. Colorful, flashy, and fire effects work very well, and should be kept in mind.  Unless it’s something special, card tricks usually don’t work.

*NOTE* If you are a dove worker, try to open the show and be introduced from off stage. I remember some night loading and unloading my doves several times because the 5 minutes the M.C. was supposed to do became 15-20 as he waited for his first laugh.

All animals go over real big, but who doesn’t love animals. They should love them; they don’t have to clean their cages.

The best way to see what effects will work for you is on showcase nights, by trial and error.

John Ferrintino has performed on over 50 Television shows and has been in the entertainment business for over 35 years. His performances have taken him all over the country and the world. Do not miss the opportunity to see him in an engaging, theatrical séance experience, entitled, “Do Spirts Return?” 

This past month, I had the honor of teaching with Jeff McBride at the Magic Mystery School and staying at his house in Las Vegas.  The four day course covered mentalism, story telling, seance magic, and shocking illusions.  Until that week, Jeff and I realized that although we have known each other for over forty five years, we have only ever spent time together backstage and at various magic conventions.

Although most of you know this, Jeff is a vortex of magic – you can’t help, but get sucked in. After spending time at the school, you come away feeling rejuvenated and inspired, wanting to push your performance to the next level. His course is absolutely comprehensive – from finding the right act for you to perfecting the performance of it.

Every day began with what Jeff calls the “talk circle” – which involves the students sitting in a circle discussing what you hope to accomplish for the day and the course at large. That said, every day of the course is so different – some days you are outside practicing various types of magic, some days you are seated in the library – which houses the most impressive collection of magic books and gimmicks I’ve ever seen. Jeff even has a theatre for the studying magicians to practice in. Some days we performed magic shows for each other, others we spent discussing how to craft a story for the student’s acts. Every night, I got to sit in Eugene Berger’s chair and talk about magic with Jeff until late hours of the night.

At the end of the week, after teaching seances, Jeff gifted me a book that I’ve been looking for for over five years – the rare Eugene Berger’s Spirit Theatre. Perhaps even more meaningful, Jeff passed on to me the last candle that Eugene Berger used in his beloved thread act… and said “this is to keep the wisdom of magic burning.” It brought tears to my eyes.

He then sent me this quote:

“John Ferrentino shines a new light on the dark arts of Seance theater. He shows us how to update this often Victorian bound entertainment with new and exciting modern presentations that will reach today’s audiences. John’s experience as a magic designer and prop builder gives us new, ingenious ways to accomplish extraordinary phenomenon that will leave your audiences Breathless”

Jeff McBride – Las Vegas headliner

I can’t thank Jeff enough for including me and allowing me to be a part of the very special school that he runs in Vegas.

Barry Taylor has been performing magic for over 40 years, traveling all over America, Europe and Japan. He also owned Barry’s Magic Shop from 1974
to 2012 and was the creator and star of the successful always sold-out “Psychic Ghost Theatre” in Silver Spring, MD for 7 years. This show was up
for the nomination of the Helen Hayes Award at the Kennedy Center (the equivalent to the Tony Awards in New York), his proudest accomplishment. Barry also writes poetry and wanted to share with us this one that he wrote about our convention headliner Lance Burton. So without further adieu, we give you a little culture with an original poem by Barry Taylor. Take it away Barry!

Lance Burton
Master Magician Lance Burton is a true
gentleman with class and great skill.

His magical dexterity and dedication to the art has
allowed him to defy the laws of nature
and bend them to his will.

He represents the classic magician,
giving us all of magic’s beauty, amazement and mystery.

When you see Lance Burton perform
he creates wonder and thrills that become a lasting memory.

His illusions are a feast for the eyes
while his sleight of hand will totally mesmerize.

Lance Burton personifies and upholds
the age old tradition of magic and illusions
by being an outstanding representative of conjuring.

Inspiring us and guaranteeing that the art of magic
shall continue to thrive and that the magician
can accomplish anything

Barry F. Taylor 

John Ferrentino continues with his series Comedy Clubs For Magicians. This month, John offers some more key elements to helping you get that gig!


The first thing you will need is a good attitude. Do not try to go into the club as a top act, no matter how many shows you’ve done, because the performers they work with have probably done more. If you have a good act, it will be noticed.

Pictures: A black and white 8×10 head shot is a necessity. Head shots work better than detailed pictures. Since the 8×10 will be reduced to a 1” x 2” for newspaper ads, the small details will be lost. Your doves will look like fleas.

Video: You will eventually need a good color promo video preferably in HD. When setting up your video, it should be shot on location with a live audience. The audio of the audience should be of good quality, because most agents will pay more attention to the audience’s reaction than to your act. When shooting your promo video, you can get away with a one camera shoot, but, if at all possible, it would be much better with two.  You should always try to use a camera that can record audio on two separate tracks, usually one for the performer and one for the audience. The advantage to this is that the audience response can be “punched up” during the editing through an equalizer, and the basic sound quality can be cleaned up. When you prepare for your video, try to edit out any material that is weak, off-color, or filler before the shooting, since professional editing time is over $100.00 per hour. After your tape is edited and any graphics (intros, etc.) are added, the studio will give you a master video file. You should save this file to several different locations and even try to have a dedicated hard drive or flash drive (I use both) just for that video. Never keep your master video file saved in only one location, because if something happens to that computer or that hard drive, all of your hard work and money will vanish into thin air!

The price of a hiring a professional to shoot and edit your promo video can be expensive, but it is worth every cent.  Today, almost all out-of-town booking and auditions for T.V. shows are done through video.  A picture is worth a thousand thumb tips.

Showcasing: Some clubs have showcase nights, while on the other hand some clubs are considered show-case clubs. Showcase clubs run showcases seven nights a week. These clubs use their regular acts and acts trying to gain stage experience. The beauty of a showcase club I that all of the acts are trying out new material in from of audiences that realize this. Therefore, there is not pressure to have a great show. It’s most like a workshop in from of a comedy club audience. A comedy club audience is a little different than what you may be used to. I can’t stress enough how important it is to do as many shows as possible in this type of club.

The pay in a showcase club is very little— usually less than $20.00 per night. But $20.00 is more than you’d be making practicing in your living room in front of your dog and houseplants. These clubs, when used to your advantage, will enable you to perfect your act. Don’t let the money throw you, your rewards will come later.


In every form of show business there are agents, and the comedy club circuit is not different. These agents may work with one or two clubs, or as many as ten. Agents usually can be contacted through the comedy club itself. When contacting the comedy club agent, always remember that they may book as many as 200 different acts, so be very patient and polite. At all times remember they are the ones who will eventually control your income. First impressions are very important. Tell them a little bit about yourself – where you’ve worked, if you have a video tape – but don’t come off pompous. Unfortunately, to the comedy club agent, a magician is the bottom of the barrel until you’ve gained their respect.

Most comedy club agents will take 15-20% of your weekly salary when booking you out of town. However, they will not usually take a percentage when booking you into local clubs. This is not because they are saints, but because they get paid weekly by the club. Unfortunately, some agents will try to collect from both ends.

If you feel this may be happening to you, you can ask another act what percentage he pays. However, never ask another performer how much he is getting paid. After eight years in the circuit, I’ve just realized that every act is paid differently, no matter what the club policy is. So try not to discuss money, even with friends in the business. Just remember, if you have a good act, eventually the money will be there.


I know you think that this is probably not going to help you, and maybe it won’t. But to totally understand the comics you’ll be working with, you should read on.

Comics are a small group of people who work very hard at their craft. They may spend hours a day, seven days a week, writing comedy material and jokes. Then these jokes are show-cased every night until the timing, word changes and delivery are perfected into a viable comedy routine. When the routine is perfected it becomes theirs, and only theirs. They become very protective of the material they’ve worked on.

This is why they can’t always understand the magician. Magicians are somewhat limited as to the amount of effects they can perform. Therefore, many effects are repeated.

If two comics were to perform the same comedy routine, there would be, and usually are, a lot of problems between them. Comedians are very protective not only of their own routines, but those of others in the circuit as well. If a comic gets a reputation as a thief, he may find it very hard to get any work. No one wants to work with a thief, for fear that their material will be stolen. Although the comedy club circuit is huge, it is very close knit. Somebody always knows somebody else, and bad reputations travel faster than planes. Remember, Big Brother (or the Comedy Police) will be watching.

As I said earlier, magicians repeat effects. This, the comics understand. However, they will not understand if the pattern or style is exactly the same as that of an act they’ve worked with.  Be very careful not to steal others’ acts, jokes, etc. Make your routines your own.

I find when I perform at magic conventions, magicians sometimes will come up to me after the show and tell me they loved the jokes about this or that, and are planning to use it in their act. Or they may have seen me before and can’t wait to tell me how well my routine is working for them. Although I know this is meant as a compliment, I personally feel this is wrong. I don’t claim to have written every line in my act. Some are stock lines, some have been given to me by other comedians, but for the most part, my act is my own.

There are some exceptions to doing similar routines:

A) If the person who wrote the routine gives you permission to do it.

B) If the routine and pattern are in a book.

C) If the pattern is sold with the effect.

A perfect example of this is the Terry Seabrooke Bill and Wallet, in my opinion
one of the funniest routines in comedy magic. Although the effect and the pattern are sold, I dropped some things and added others, and have adapted his routine to fit my style. But to some people I will always be doing Terry Seabrooke. This is a very fine line, but one worth thinking about.


They say that clothes make the man, but you wouldn’t know it to see most comedians. Most comics wear dress jeans and casual shirts, not even bothering with a sports jacket. So, if at all possible, try not to walk out on stage looking as if you just fell off a wedding cake, or the audience may think it’s a joke. If you have traditionally worked in a tuxedo, try to adapt it to a more casual suit or sports jacket. Ruffled shirts, crushed velvet and sequins are a big NO.

These suggestions about dress do not apply if the outfit creates a character that will enhance your act.  Will somebody please tell me what character a tuxedo, trimmed with a line of sequins, creates? (Vegas – yes, comedy clubs – no!)

One Saturday night, after sending my suits to the dry cleaners, I was called to work at a comedy club, which happened to be near a large catering hall. Only having a morning suit to wear, I put on my top hat, after filling it partially with rice. When I walked on stage, the audience immediately started laughing. As I took off my hat and the rice fell on the stage, I explained that a couple of hours earlier, I had gotten married. After the applause stopped, I told the audience that the club manager would not let me break my contract, and I would be spending my wedding night with them. I then told them that after my set, I would be coming around to each of the tables, so would they please have their gift envelopes ready.

Judging from the initial audience reaction to my outfit, even before I said a word, I’m convinced that this type of dress is out of place in a comedy club.

John Ferrintino has performed on over 50 Television shows and has been in the entertainment business for over 35 years. His performances have taken him all over the country and the world. Do not miss the opportunity to see him in an engaging, theatrical séance experience, entitled, “Do Spirts Return?” 


There comes a time in every magician’s career when he honestly feels that if he does another birthday party, he may take a life. The problem with that is unless you want to practice close-up, jail is not the place to hone your stage craft. That is why there are comedy clubs.

Comedy clubs came into existence around 1970, and today there are over 300 nationally. The comedy club is basically a small night club running one show nightly on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and two shows Friday and Saturday.  They’re usually very simple clubs with a small stage and seating for 100-300 people. The basic format for a show is an M.C. and three acts, running a total of 2 hours. Most clubs have minimal stage lighting, no stage hands and, when you first start out, minimal money. But what they do have is generally great audiences, very good sound equipment, good publicity, and a place to work and audition every night. They also offer you the opportunity to work your way up – from audition act, to M.C. – to opening act – to middle act – to coheadliner, and finally to headliner. The bottom salary is about $150.00 to $200.00 weekly while the top salaries range from $800.00 – $1,200.00 weekly. Some acts with T.V. credits can earn as much as $3,000.00 – $5,000.00 per week.


Look in the phone book and newspapers in your area on Fridays, to find the clubs nearest to you. Then go see a show. This will do two things. One – it will let you see the physical aspects of the club, and two – let you see the caliber of the entertainers on the show.

After the show, leave the club. Think about what you saw, and how your act could fit into the show’s format. Remember:

A) The size of the stage
B) There are no wings
C) Bad angles
D) No set-up times

Next, outline what you could do on the show, maybe M.C. or open the show with a dove or flash act. You must be prepared to do a minimum of a 20 minute set. Comedy club owners look to fill time on a show, within a certain budget, so time is very important to them. I have seen great performers who do a classic 8 – 12 minute act that cannot get work because of the length of their act.

Next, call the club during the week. Find out who books the room, and if there is an audition night, or a time set aside on regular nights for auditions. Do not try to sell yourself over the phone. Because of the club’s busy schedule, and the tremendous amount of calls they receive daily, they have heard it all. Just try to set up an audition.

John Ferrintino has performed on over 50 Television shows and has been in the entertainment business for over 35 years. His performances have taken him all over the country and the world. Do not miss the opportunity to see him in an engaging, theatrical séance experience, entitled, “Do Spirts Return?” 

One of my great pleasures is sharing magical ideas with people like Harry Allen. A few years ago, many people were complaining that magic was at a low point, and that it was a tough industry. Harry smiled and said to me: “You know, Jeff, I see your schedule; you work hard.  The work is out there for people like you who are willing to do the work!

Yes, but I would say that the work is out there, but it takes more than a great magic show to get bookings. We all need to read the very best marketing books, to get help with professional social media managers and to get in the news as much as we can.
I would rather spend my time working on new magic routines; BUT, the fact is that magic is a business and much attention must be paid to getting the bookings rolling in on a consistent basis. As one of my friends, Christian Painter, puts it  – “You know Jeff, I’m a full time marketer who once in awhile gets to do a magic show!” Christian and Katalina have a very successful mentalism show named MIND TRIPPING in Indianapolis. The show is successful for many reasons, one of the main reasons is marketing.

Q: Where do we learn how to market our magic?
A: Personal lessons from master Magicians!
For over thirty years, the world’s greatest magical philosopher was Eugene Burger.
Eugene was loved and known by magicians all over the world. He was also the most celebrated magician in Chicago. How did he accomplish this? Well here are a few of the secret techniques he passed down to me and I will share them with you.
Eugene Burger taught me 3 of the most powerful marketing tools. He  passed them on to me, and I pass them on to our students at MYSTERY SCHOOL.

Secret #1

Eugene said, “The goal of every show is to book 3 more shows.”

This made a lot of sense to me. But how was I to put this in practice?
Here are a few tips and tools that I’ve learned over the years.
Get attractive business cards, and hand them out at every show. When you hand them out give the person 2 cards, one for them and one to “give to another friend in their life that could use a little magic!”
Get a pad of paper. This is for the people that do not have a business card that you want to stay connected with. I always carry a little spiral reporter pad with me to collect emails, phone numbers and contacts. This is also helpful for making little notes of Book suggestions or movie titles that may be exchanged during the course of the conversation.

Secret #2
On stage marketing. Eugene had a tactic for letting people know that he was available for private bookings. Eugene’s main professional income was generated by restaurant magic. However, often, the people that came to the restaurant thought he was “the House magician” and did not do private engagements. So Eugene had a little line in his script during one of his card routines that went like this: ”You know, I was performing this effect the other day at a private party in Kenilworth, and the host of the party thought all the cards were the same card… But you can see clearly that each and every card is different.”

Although that sounds like a anecdote, what he’s actually just told the audience is that he does private parties in the most exclusive neighborhoods in Chicago. You see, Kenilworth is like the Beverly Hills of Chicago.
Eugene would subtly let people know that he was available for private events. Eugene was very good at generating business by word-of-mouth.

Secret #3
“You MUST ask for the highest price! You have not asked the top price unless they drop the phone!” Eugene love to tell the story about doing a corporate show back in the 80’s with some of the top stars of magic. He was in the dressing room with Michael Ammar who was absolutely glowing that he was getting $1,000 for this party. Eugene inwardly grumbled, because he accepted the gig for $500. When he finally got his check the booker said to him on the phone, “Eugene, this was the annual meeting of Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the largest companies in the world. I would have paid you whatever you asked for!” Eugene said he was happy with his $500 while Michael Ammar asked for a thousand, but the broker said: “Do you know who asked for the most money? Frank Garcia from New York City, and he got it!”  Always ask for top dollar. You can always negotiate a lower price, but it is easier to start high and work down.

So those are just 3 of the more than 50 techniques that I can share with you at our next class.
Join me online each Monday night at MYSTERY SCHOOL MONDAY

Or, take a look at how our Magic & Mystery School can help you with your show and your business!

We are thrilled here at Daytona Magic to present Present the first in a series of informative articles on performing magic in comedy clubs from John Ferrentino. John has spent many years performing and perfecting his act in comedy clubs as welL as other venues around the world. I know that you will love this series. We are planning to run this series on a monthly basis, so keep checking back here at the start of each month! And now, I’m gonna stop yapping and turn things over to Mr. John Ferrentino! Take it away, John!

Thanks, Pete. Like he said, my name is John Ferrentino, and I started performing magic in 1974. Although I was getting a fair amount of bar mitzvahs, kids’ parties, and dinner dances to work, I felt that in order to become successful, I needed the opportunity to perform in front of live audiences almost every night. Around that time, I read in the local paper that a new comedy club had just opened very close to my home.

I arrived at the club not knowing what to expect. To my surprise, the comics on the show were very funny and a lot more professional than I had anticipated. Even more appealing to me was to discover that there was a good sized crowd to perform for every night.

After hanging around for a couple of weeks and getting to know some of the acts personally, the owner asked me to perform magic in the middle of the show to break up the comedy. At that time, I was doing doves, rope and rings to music. The contrast between magic and comedy worked so well that I soon was working almost every night as the beak-up act on every comedy show at this club. Since I was not doing any comedy in my act at that time, I posed no threat of taking work from the comedians. I really believe that this is how I was able to get my foot in the door, which eventually was responsible for my success in the comedy club circuit today.

After working night after night in comedy clubs and making friends that were all in the comedy business, my attitude on stage gradually started to change. I learned an important lesson very early – in order for the audience to have a good time, you must look like you’re having a good time. One night, before the show, I was backstage fooling around with my props. A couple of the comics convinced me that when I was just fooling around and being myself, instead of acting like a “magician”, my act was a lot more believable. I stopped being so mysterious and started to have fun.

After years of writing, editing and show-casting, my act evolved into the comedy magic act that it is today. I’ve headlined in comedy clubs all over the country.

After seeing so many magic acts get off to the wrong start in comedy clubs, or not know how to get started at all, I decided to write these articles to give some insight into an aspect of the entertainment field that very little has been written about.

Each month, I’ll be sharing with you my life experience on the road and let you in on some things that I learned the hard way! I hope you find it helpful.

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