The cups and spoons trick is a fun and easy to learn trick that has a long history among jugglers. Let’s take a look at the trick, its history, performers, and variations.
The cups and spoons trick involves a row of cups that are attached to a board or tray. In front of each cup, a spoon is placed. The juggler holds the board on the sides and flicks the spoons into the air before catching a spoon in each cup with the bowl end of the spoons facing down. The trick can be set up so that the bowl end of the spoons face away from the cups, requiring the spoons to rotate 270 degrees in the air, or toward the cups, requiring only a 90 degree rotation. You can see both versions in the following video as well as a reverse grip version which I’ve never seen anyone else do.
History And Performers
Apparently, the cups and spoons trick was first performed by the German salon juggler Cartella. Below is a poster of him from 1914 that shows him doing this trick at the bottom of the image. His promotional material spoke of the trick being his invention.
Not much more is known of Cartella, but we do know that a contemporary of him performed a similar trick. This was Ferry Mader. Mader flipped up ten knives and caught them stuck into ten apples. We can surmise that these two German jugglers surely crossed paths and it would be logical to think that one of them inspired the other to create their version. We can’t guess which direction this might have been. Click here to learn more about Ferry Mader. Below is a video of Chuck Clark doing the knives and apples version of the trick using four apples and four knives.
There are other juggling tricks that have been inspired by the cups and spoons trick. German juggler Tux dressed as a chef and flipped bowls and other cookware onto his head, as you can see in the following photos.
Tux’s brother Michael did a very similar act dressed as a waiter.
Another similar trick can be found in an old Russian juggling book. It uses candles flipped from a tray into a candelabra.
Many jugglers have performed the cups and spoons trick over the years. One of these was the French talking comedy juggler Gaston Palmer. While you can click here, here, and here to see Gaston Palmer performing, none of these films shows him doing the cups and spoons, which he was so well known for.
In a recent conversation I had with juggling legend Dieter Tasso, we spoke about Gaston Palmer, whom Dieter had seen perform. He said that Gaston would attempt the trick throughout his show, failing to get all the spoons every time. Then at the end of his act, he would go to walk off stage with the cups and spoons. He would purposely trip, sending the spoons into the air, which he would successfully catch in the cups, seemingly by accident.
Another performer to include the cups and spoons trick in his act was the famous plate spinner Erich Brenn. You can see him performing the trick as part of his wonderful act in the following video. Rest assured that the initial miss of the trick was on purpose.
Another juggler that included the cups and spoons trick in his act was Herbert Lohse-Bertini. Below is a photo of him performing the trick.
Some jugglers specialized in doing large numbers of cups and spoons. One the first to stretch the limits was Ira Mullin (USA). In the 1960s, he performed with up to 14 cups and spoons. Below are some photos of Ira doing his favorite trick.
The “numbers” envelope was pushed further with the trick by French juggler Francois Chotard. Before his death in 2013, he was working with up to 24 cups and spoons. As you’ll see later, this record has been recently broken.
Performers of the cups and spoons currently include Freddy Kenton, Steve Langley, Ian Marchant, and Olivier Caignart.
Variations, Tricks, And A New World Record
Below are some videos showing some cups and spoons variations and tricks performed by David Cain, Brian Koenig, Olivier Caignart, and Chuck Clark, as well as Chuck Clark’s never before seen world record of 49 spoons caught in 49 cups! Congrats Chuck. Also, click here to see yet another unique version of the cups and spoons trick.