In magic, a stooge is someone who appears neutral and unaffiliated with the magician (like a seemingly random audience member) who is actually in on the trick the whole time and works with the magician and helps perform the trick.
An instant stooge, in contrast, is someone who is a genuinely unaffiliated person, but who as part of the performance is pressured into cooperating with the magician and deceiving the rest of the audience.
For example, if part of a trick was for the magician to pull a genuinely random audience member and during the trick handed them a card and asked “is this your birthday?” - but the card had no birthday but instead the words “just say yes and say your actual birthday”, and the audience member, due to the social pressure and desire to be cooperative then said “yes, this is correct, my birthday is July 9th”, that would be an instant stooge. Or if the magician whispered in the audiencee member’s ear “when I offer a card, pick the 6th of diamonds” when they came up on stage. The person when picked didn’t intend to cooperate with the magician to deceive the audience, but then the magician puts them on the spot in the middle of the performance to do exactly that. It would be really awkward if they didn’t, so they go along with it.
I know the whole point of magic performances are deception, but to me there’s fair deception and unfair deception. In a well-performed, well-designed trick, the magician could tell you how he does it, and you could very well still be amazed - the amount of skill and showmanship to pull it off can be impressive even if you aren’t fooled. But if you ever learned a trick was completed using an instant stooge, you’d probably just say “what? that’s stupid, there’s no trick there”
Essentially, instead of performing an actual trick, you’re getting your instant stooge to lie to the rest of the audience to say that a trick was performed when it really wasn’t. There’s nothing impressive about a trick that was implied and lied about but not actually performed.
To me, if I found out that any part of a magician’s act was performed with an instant stooge (or a real one, but that’s a clear cheat I think), that would pretty much devalue the whole performance for me. If they’re willing to essentially lie about whether they did a trick at all, it’s not a good performance. What else was a cheat?
But I’m curious if other people feel differently. Perhaps any sort of deception, even the cheaty kind, is fair game as long as it gets a positive reaction.