Among them were David and Leeman--David Blatter and Leeman Parker--a distinctive duo act from Los Angeles. With quirky humor--as well as a dapper fashion style--the team performed a series of mentalism-based effects that were strongly received by the show's judges and viewers. They caused Howie Mandel to lose the ability to read, Tweeted a picture that included a prediction of a word yet to be selected, safely avoided slamming their hands down on a hidden spike, and produced a lottery ticket that revealed numbers randomly chosen by the celebrity judges.
Prior to their appearance on America's Got Talent, David and Leeman performed frequently in comedy and magic venues in Southern California and presented three well-received shows in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. They have filmed segments for the Masters of Illusion series currently running on the CW network and also recently announced that they will be lead writers for a new TV sports bloopers series, What Went Down.
We had the opportunity to interview David and Leeman about their partnership and their appearances on America's Got Talent. Actually the interview took place in two parts. We first interviewed the team together, and later Leeman Parker answered additional questions about the specific process of putting together their magic segments.
Herb: I understand you’ve been working together around 5 years now. Can you tell me how you started performing together?
David: We met at Santa Monica, performing at the Pier. We were street performers, separately. We ran into each other a couple times.
Leeman: We wanted to perform at The Magic Castle but it was kind of nerve-wracking to do it by yourself. And so we would kind of do it tandem. So, David would do a trick, then I would do a trick, then David would do a trick.
David: This is before we were booked at The Magic Castle.
Leeman: This was in The Museum, a place to do free open mic shows basically [The Museum is a room for informal performances at The Magic Castle].
David: Right, right. And then the Entertainment Director saw us working down there and booked us to do a show.
David: But he said we had to do it together. So we went ‘ok, sure, it’s better than nothing.’ So we created a show, a twenty minute show, “Bad Magic.”’
Leeman: It was funny.
David: The show was funny, but we did one trick the entire show. It was stretched from beginning to end.
What was the one trick you did?
Leeman: The Card in the Pea Can trick.
David: Yeah, The Card in the Pea Can.
Leeman: It’s a torn corner, and then the card ends up in a sealed can of peas.
David: Yeah, that we passed out at the beginning of the show.
Leeman: David saw this trick at the magic shop and he said ‘we should do this.’ And, I said ‘no, that’s a terrible trick. I don’t want to do that trick.’ And it turned out being good.
David: It’s a staple.
Leeman: Yeah, we still do it from time to time.
David: We did it on TV, on Masters of Illusion. It was good. It was a good foundation.
Leeman: Yeah, we made it into a good trick. The trick itself I still contend is a bad trick.
David: Right. Well, regular people think it’s a good trick. But yes. But it was a good platform for learning how to create…
Leeman: …like a show structure, cause we spread it out over twenty minutes to make a running theme.
David: Then after that we continued to sort of work together. Leeman does improv at Second City in Hollywood, so we would do open mic stuff there.
Leeman: Wherever we could get stage time we were always willing to do a show. Especially when we started out. We needed places to be bad.
David: Places to be bad. That’s what we were looking for. We seek that out still, actually. You need a place to be bad.
You said that the Entertainment Director from the Castle kind of insisted that you guys performed together, but did you feel a particular affinity in terms of your approach and style?
David: Something that I’d forgotten about that a magician pointed out to me. When we started working together, we had this curtain and I would come out of the curtain and do a trick, and then I would introduce him, and then I would go behind the curtain and he would come out, and over time we found that it was very boring. Our tricks would go wrong quite often and we came up with these jokes, that whenever one or the other of us was dying, we’d stick our hand out and read jokes. People liked that better. Even though they could tell it was crappy and cheesy, that was what they liked.
Leeman: They liked the interaction more than…
David: …us doing it by ourselves.
Leeman: There’s something enjoyable watching two people up on stage interact. I think it puts the audience at ease like ‘we’re not solely responsible for the performer’s enjoyment. We can kind of sit back and relax and we don’t have to be as loud and excited because there’s two people up there and they’re kind of having fun with each other. It’s like we’re all a group here having fun and you don’t have to carry half of this responsibility.’
David: And if things go wrong, you have somebody to share it with, and it’s great having someone to work off of. And there’s also creativity. By performing a lot together you can come up with bits that you wouldn’t have come up with by yourself.
Leeman: If this is a complicated setup or requires two different comedic voices, you can split that. Because sometimes it’s like ‘this is a really good joke, but it doesn’t fit my character, but it does fit your character.’
Let’s talk a little bit about your experience with America’s Got Talent. What were your considerations when you tried for the show? How did it happen? Were you approached, or did you reach out?
David: Initially we were doing a show at The Magic Castle and we got approached a week later from a producer of the show and they said they would like us to come on the program. That was about three months before they filmed it. And we were excited about it and then we thought ‘maybe not,’ and then eventually we were like ‘let’s just do it. You’ll regret it more if you don’t do it.’
Leeman: We figured whatever we decided to do for the show was going to be good, entertaining and funny. We weren’t worried about the material being bad, and so there was no fear of them making us look bad. It was either they were going to air it or not. So from our point view there was no loss. The only loss would be if it wouldn’t air, and that wouldn’t be a loss.
David: Yeah, you’d be in the same spot as where you already were. There are a lot of people who perform on the show and do very well and then they don’t ever get aired. There are a lot of great magicians on there who don't get aired. So for people who are reading this, go and do it, I would say, if you’re competent.
Leeman: Yeah, if you feel comfortable with your material and you know it’s good.
David: Right, if you’re making the stuff up each week, I wouldn’t necessarily do that, but if you have a show and you know ‘these five routines are really great,’ then go for it. There’s no reason not to. [Interview continues]