Chris is appearing in New York, tonight, July 30, at the Pit Theatre. In the following interview he discusses a broad range of topics, including the comedians and magicians who were significant influences, how martial arts affected his magic, and how what he really wants to do is direct!
How’re you doing?
I’m good, I’m good, just preparing for the show. I have a pay-what-you-want gig coming up on Friday to do a practice run-through of the show before I hit New York so it will be fun. Can’t wait.
Ok, so can you tell me a little bit about your show. Is it one you’ve done before, or is it a new show?
It’s a show I’ve been developing for two years now, maybe a little bit over two years. But it’s basically a one-man stand-up magic show, or sort of my take on it. The whole challenge was trying to take a card trick and fill a stage, rather than a regular close-up setting like people are used to. It started off as an act for The Magic Castle, like a twenty minute act. I actually developed it for The Parlor Room of The Magic Castle and I ended up getting booked for the Close-Up Room in The Magic Castle. I still ended up doing the stand-up act, sort of squished in there. But it still worked.
After that I had this twenty minute frame that seemed to work, so it was a matter of just adding in different and interesting routines that I could experiment with. There’s one routine, actually, the Bill to Lemon, that I’ve added into the show, that I’ve literally been developing for ten years now. For about ten years I’ve been playing with this card trick, and I realized it’s kind of a shitty card trick, but it’s a great sort of way to frame a bill to lemon. It turns out that the card trick I’ve been working on for so long is better as a bill to lemon trick. There are all these kinds of things that I’ve started to add to the show recently. It’s constantly evolving. I did this show once before, in November, in New York, and that was actually the first time I tried out the bill to lemon routine. I just dove head first. I never tried the routine before and I was like ‘I’m gonna just do it.’ I did it and it worked. It could have been better, but it worked. It’s better now, so I’m excited to go back and do the routine again. But now I’ve added another routine into the show which is even more crazy. It’s a martial arts demonstration, actually, but presented as magic. So, we’ll see how that plays. But rather than follow the tradition of doing the routine for the first time in New York, I’ve decided to play it safe this time and do a practice run of the show in Toronto first and then venture into New York. It’s been a good test. I’ve been practicing the martial arts routine. I won’t give too much away, but let’s just say it does look like it would be impossible.
When I saw you perform at Magi-Fest and even in the lecture you gave in New York not too long ago I noticed that comedy is an important part of your style. I wonder if you can talk about how that developed and what your influences were in magic or comedy or anywhere else that led to that style.
I had tons of influences. Movies, TV and everything pop culture generally. The humor that I’ve developed is a really strange kind of humor. One of my heroes in comedy is Chris Farley. I love Chris Farley, so that’s the very physical humor that I kind of try to bring into the magic shows. Definitely inspired a lot by Chris Farley and his antics, his commitment to the joke or whatever routine he has. That’s what made Chris Farley so brilliant and so amazing-is his commitment.
And on top of that, talking about commitment, a comedian that inspires not just my comedy but magic and performance also would have to be Andy Kaufman. I would say he has been my biggest inspiration for trying to develop routines and jokes. Again, he was all about committing to the joke or the skit or whatever it was that he was doing. What was great about Andy Kaufman, that I admired and loved, it that he wasn’t a comedian, you know? They didn’t even know what to call him when he was first performing. Now they take it as a performance art, but at the time they couldn’t categorize what Andy was doing. What he did for audiences that I just admired so much is that it was all about creating a memorable experience. Whether it be good or bad, it was an experience that the audience would remember and they would be able to talk about even year from seeing it. The best example was the whole kind of skit that Andy would do with a plant in the audience where he would get in an argument and end up throwing water in the person’s face. It was this whole kind of fiasco, but if you were in the audience, you would remember that night. You would remember going home being like ‘I just saw the craziest show. This guy just got in a fight with an audience member. Water was thrown. There was like a fist fight. It was insane.’ I love that thought of just bringing a memorable experience to people. You can do that with magic, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the magic that does that. It could be everything else around the magic as well and the magic is just the cherry on the topping.
So, yeah those two guys are huge influences in my comedy and magic.