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.
What's really interesting and it's something that I've really put a lot of thought into recently is the choice of material you put in a show is really a reflection of yourself, right? You're choosing to put in a certain piece because it speaks to you and so it shows your taste in magic and in life. So in the beginning the challenge was just to take a couple card tricks and make them larger in scope and take what is usually known as a closeup piece in magic and then take it to the stage. That's how it originally started, but then once I had that framework, I realized I could start experimenting and start adding in other different routines. What I realized is that it's not necessarily magic that I want to share but it is feats that people would perceive to be impossible. That pretty much encompasses most of magic but it also encompasses other things, like for instance, this martial arts routine I'm working on isn't magic but it is a feat that seems almost impossible to someone.
So sort of the kind framing I give the show at the very beginning is to...I get people to start thinking about what they believe is impossible to them. That's literally how I open the show. My line is 'I want everybody right now to think about what is impossible to you.’ You see, because for me, the fact that we even exist right now is impossible to me, yet here we are. And so the show is meant to demonstrate that even though we think something might be impossible or seem impossible the human mind has a way to make it seem possible. It goes to show just how far the human mind really can go if it focuses and thinks about things a different way, and that's what magicians have done for centuries.
One thing that I kind of don't dig about a lot of magic shows is it's just ‘here's a trick, here's a trick, here's a trick, here's more tricks, lots of tricks’ and they're just tricks strung together thrown in just for the sake of having tricks, where this kind of framing really - that makes sense now because I'm trying to show you a bunch of feats of impossibility. It is still 'here's some tricks,' but now there's a proper framing so that it makes more sense, at least in my mind, and hopefully in the audience's mind as well.
As much as I love magic, sometimes I think to myself, what am I acually doing? I’m making a knot travel from this handkerchief to this handkerchief. Why am I doing this?
It’s very interesting, and I do have an answer for this, and it’s via my friend Jeff Hinchliffe. He’s a Toronto magician. Wonderful, wonderful person. Awesome magician and a really good creator.
One of the things he told me a couple of years ago and it really put everything into perspective for me as to what magic is for me, at least, and what I’m trying to do — and what he said is, 'what magic is, what we’re showing is special effects but done in real time.' The idea is people like to go to the movies and see special effects and be wowed and dazzled by it but, especially in today’s society, with computers now, it’s very easily recognizable when a special effect is occuring. It’s like, ‘ok, yeah, there’s some CGI going on there.' You can still be dazzled and wowed by it, and it’s fun, but it loses that mystery. Back when movies first came into existence and they were doing special effects, people didn’t know how these things worked, so it was a magic trick to a lot of people. They’d go to watch these movies and be like, ‘what the heck, I have no idea.’ So, with magic what’s so cool is you get to take some kind of arbitrary object that really has no meaning, like a card or coin and you can take these objects and then show a human being a special effect that they would normally only get to see through a video or a TV screen and they get to see this incredible moment happen live, and there is no video editing to explain what is happening. And for me, I think, what I am trying to share with a lot of people is just the idea that you get to see a special effect, but there is no video filter. It is a human interaction between two people and you can still be dazzled or wowed. And so, I guess for me personally that’s what a lot of magic tricks are, someone showing a special effect but in real time.
That is a testament to seeing magic live in a real theatre, in a three-dimensional setting, rather than seeing it on TV.
I’m not going to try to compare the forms, because they’re very different, but culinary arts is one of those things that is better experienced live than not. You know, with food you can watch a show all day, and it’s great to look at, but unless you’re actually there, sitting there, smelling the food, tasting it and eating it, it’s just sort of a very flat experience. Like you said, it’s not tangible or anything like that. But magic is tangible. Magic is meant to be experienced live, just like food. It’s the same thing. You’re losing an element by watching it through the use of a screen.
You’re definitely getting me hungry. We talked about some of your influences from comedy. How about from magic?
There's definitely a lot of influences in magic. Growing up one of the main infuences that really kind of helped mold my humor in magic and my taste and everything would definitely be Tyler Wilson. Tyler Wilson's been a huge inspiration for me. He's a Calgary magician and he's a super incredible creator. His mind, his way of thinking, is almost not matched. And so he was sort of a direct influence on me because I got to grow up in the same city as him. He worked at the magic shop so that was really good.
But magicians that I hadn't met at the time —but that I know now—that’s what's so great about magic, it's so small and so niche that you can end up meeting and becoming friends with the heroes that you once admired, which is great. So, yeah David Acker, Richard Sanders, Jay Sankey those three Canadian magicians, they're powerhouses in magic. Those guys I remember watching all the videos they put out. Especially David Acker's humor, really, really jibed with me, just his facial expressions. David's such a funny person. Same with Richard and Jay. Just seeing those guys hang out on the videos was awesome to watch.
Now I'd say one of the magicians I look up to and absolutely love watching would be Rune Klan. Rune Klan's magic I just dig so much and again he's the same kind of style where the humor is very much the focus and then the magic is kind of almost secondary. And I love his props. I love the look of homemade props. There's something organic and authentic about it that you can lose when it's a store bought prop, when you have this perfect looking prop that's painted and all symmetrical and nice. It just looks so gimmicky, but when you've got this thing held together with duct tape and strings and stuff that it's almost falling apart, it looks authentic like ‘what the hell could that piece of crap do’ and then it does something incredibly magical. Rune Klan, a lot of his magic is liked that. I'd say a lot of his earlier stuff. Now he's definitely got more money, so he can spend on props but a lot of his earlier magic was using these very homemade, crappy props that I loved.
When I saw Rune Klan I remember feeling all the magic came out sideways.
Yeah, and again, it's definitely something I try to do with my magic. He tries to lead you down one way and then takes you in a completely other direction. But what I really dig about Rune, it's what inspired me to start performing stand up magic, is his journey, because he started as a closeup magician, very sleight-of-hand heavy, and then he made the transition to do standup magic and I never thought I wanted to do that but once I started to do that transition, I realized ‘ yeah, standup magic is so fun, there’s so much you can do, the stage is just your playground. One of my favorite effects of Rune Klan, that I just love, is really just sort of the premise, I guess, really because it’s not really a magic…I guess it’s a magic effect, sort of, but it’s just a hilarious premise. The idea is he does this transposition of a washing machine with the Rocky Racoon animal. So on one side of the stage he has this washing machine and he puts this giant cardboard box over it. Then he walks over to the other side of the stage and there’s this little cardboard box and he pulls the Rocky Racoon out of it, and he plays around with it, Williamson style, for a little bit, and then puts it back in the box and goes ‘ok, I will make them transpose. Here we go.’ Of course he says that in whatever language he speaks, but he does that and boom, and then he looks in the box and he kind of gives a weird look, and he’s like, ‘huh?’ And he pulls out a robotic raccoon animal, made of a machine and he goes to the washing machine, and the washing machine is this giant, furry washing machine with teeth and eyeballs. He transposed their properties, not the actual objects themselves. I just love that sort of thinking. It’s like wow, that’s really smart, and funny.
I noticed that when you performed, you kind of have like a different character in a sense. Character in magic is something I’m very interested in. I wonder if you have feelings about characterization and the role that should play. Some folka argue that the most important aspect of magic is impossibility. I might even agree that it is the most important part of it, but….
Well, it’s definitely the most important part for the trick but trick and routine are two different things.
I’ve heard the argument that characterization doesn’t necessarily add to the magic. So, let’s rephrase this. What’s your feeling about characterization in magic?
What’s interesting is there’s not a lot of it. You look at a lot of magic shows out there and for the most part it’s someone acting as a magician, acting the way they feel a magician should be on stage. For the most part it’s just them – maybe a little more upbeat or exaggerated, but it’s really just them. You don’t see it a lot in magic. Ed Alonso is definitely a character. I love him. He’s awesome. What’s great is the magic doesn’t need the character to be good. The magic’s going to be fine on its own. The magic really doesn’t need much to be good. Magic is inherently impressive on its own without anything added to it. Anybody could learn a simple card trick, go into a bar, show some people this crappy, mundane card trick, but as long as the people can’t figure out how it works, then they’re fooled, so in their minds ‘yes, that was a good trick,’ even if you know it’s not from a trained professional act. Magic itself, yes, the impossibility factor is so strong there that you don’t need anything to really make it work, but just because you don’t need it doesn’t mean it doesn’t help, so with character it can definitely add a theatrical value to a magic show so that it’s a little more than a guy doing trick, trick, trick, trick. There’s another element there, a whole kind of character arc element. What I tried to put in this show is very much this character. It is still me. That’s the thing that I want to clarify. It’s not like I just come up with a completely different character and now I’m just acting as this character. I play two characters in the show. There is a competent, almost like an obnoxiously overcompetent character. Then there is a severely shy and nervous character, and these are two extensions of my personality because I can be a very shy and nervous person at times. I’ve definitely learned to not let that control my life, but it definitely used to. It definitely dictated certain decisions that I would make in life because of the lack of confidence and security in myself. But I definitely managed to grow out of that.
Yeah, both of these characters are just extensions of myself but exaggerated to a point where it may become almost a completely new character. So the idea of the show has become to float in and out between these two characters and showcase both and let the audience fall in love with both – or one, whatever it is. It just really adds a nice element to the show, I think, so it’s not just trick, trick, trick, trick, trick. There is this whole dramatic element. Oh, when is he going to lose his confidence and just go back to being shy? When is he going to gain his confidence back and triumph. I definitely like playing with that.
Yeah…I like a wide range of magicians, but Mac King and Penn & Teller or even David Williamson, people that draw on a characterization….
They know who they are. That’s the thing. That’s one of the toughest things in life, I would say, discovering and tapping into who you are. These are individuals who you’ve named who have really figured that out and have tapped into that and have used that to better their magic and their performance and it’s really the only way that you are going to be able to separate yourself and make yourself an individual, by kind of really figuring out who you are as a human and who you are as a performer, because you got to think about it, if you don’t know who you are, then how can you express yourself? The only way that you can express yourself to the world is by really knowing who you are as a person in the world and what you want to do. If you don’t know that, you’re going to have a very difficult time expressing yourself. But these individuals have found it and they’ve expressed themselves. And I’m still trying to find myself for sure, but I’ve got a pretty good grasp as to what I want to do and what I want to sure. It’s a very important aspet of just understanding yourself.
Do you mind if I ask how old you are?
I’m 27. I’ll be 28 in August.
It’s really hard to say how your magic will develop from here and what you might feel about all these things in the future.
Precisely. How old did you think I was?
I thought maybe you were a little older. Like maybe in your early 30s.
Amazing. I usually get the opposite. Usually people think I’m a teenager, like ‘yeah, are you still in high school?’
It’s just that I know that you’ve been around in magic for a while. I know that you started when you were pretty young. When was it that you first kind of started getting some recognition?
What’s really interesting is, cause there are different sides of the magic community. You can be a hobbyist and still be involved in the community and just do the magic for yourself and that’s fine and that’s great. And on the other side there is the performer side, where you can go out and perform and just perform for a living and that's amazing as well. And there's also the creator side. The creator side is a very different side of magic. It's the sort of, I'd say, overglorified, glamorous side of magic. You can start to have magic celebrities, if you will, where nobody would know who they are outside of magic but inside of magic, 'oh here's a mind that has developed some really cool tricks that people are using. So, what's really neat is it's really the same as any other industry. It's all about making a name for yourself and trying to stand out. Magic is no exception.
I was about thirteen when I really started to get serious into magic. There was a magic shop that opened down the street from my house. When I was about 14 or 15 was when I first met Tyler Wilson. Tyler at the time was, and still is, creating incredible material. I had no idea this was even a world of magic. To me magic was ‘you got to the store, you buy the trick, you learn the trick and you know how to perform it.’ I didn't know there was another side of the community. Sudden Tyler opened my eyes to this other world where you can create the magic. You don't just have to learn it. You can be the person that actually creates it. So he would show me a bunch of these tricks and I was like, 'what, how do you create magic?' I found myself starting to create magic purely just to fool Tyler. It wasn't even a matter of I wanted to release something or contribute to the community in any way. It was just I wanted to fool this guy because he knew everything. So I would go home every week and play with what I would think would be a new principle or concept that nobody had ever thought of and I would go show it and try to fool Tyler and he'd be like 'yeah, yeah, I know that,' because he's so knowledgeable. You would think this would discourage you from creating, reinventing someone else's trick. What it did was it confirmed in my mind that I was on the right track of thinking because I was not a professional magician but at the same time I was creating these effects just by thinking about them and they turned out to be seasoned professional's thoughts already. So I realized 'ok, I'm on the right track.' I started to eventually create material and the first trick I created fooled Tyler. I was like that was it. I was done, and I was like, 'yeah, I fooled you, yeah, I'm done.' He kind of took me to the side and said 'hey, you should start pursuing this, start creating and see what you can come up with.' That little belief that he gave me allowed me to believe in myself, and I started to create routines and then the first lecture that I did was for the local magic shop and I made some lecture notes and those lecture notes became A Clockwork Apple, which was put out by Vanishing Inc. shortly after. So that was sort of the beginning of how I got my foot in the door in the industry and from there, now that I already had one thing out, and was sort of legitimized, it gave me the freedom that allowed me to create. That's really, I guess, how it works.
I wanted to ask you about a more practical consideration. When you make your living as a magician, you kind of have to be a performer and a magician and an entrepreneur. I'm wondering if you can comment on whether you felt you naturally had those business skills or if you had help.
No, I'm still learning. Right now I'm going to say, it's still survival for me. I'm able support myself, thanks goodness, but I don't see myself raising a family right now, let's just say that. I know that if I keep doing what I'm doing, it will snowball and get better, but the entrepreneurial side of it, the business side of it, is definitely a huge part. I've definitely been for most of my life, all art and no business. Definitely some of the deals I've made in magic, when I Iook back on them, 'that was a pretty stupid deal' and it was because I had no real business sense. I was just a very artistic soul, I guess you could say, and so, yeah, luckily my girlfriend is very smart and business savvy and she has been helping me unbelievably just to learn the ropes of business. On top of that, my friends— Lee Asher, here in Toronto, knows all about business. Anytime I have any questions I just go to his place and he shares some of his nice wisdom with me and allows me to be aware as to what I am doing and how to make a living. Performing magic is one thing, to share the joy and astonishment with people, but you've got to eat. It's definitely a reality of it. You've got to be able to make it work on a business level not just on an artistic level. Still learning, still learning. Not there yet.
Do you have any advice for anybody that might be aspiring to make a living as a magician that you could offer?
One of the things is not being selfish and egotistical to other magicians. One of the things that has really helped me in magic in Toronto are all the magicians in this city. The community here has been incredible to me. I have tons of magician friends and I get a lot of gigs from them handing me some of the gigs that they can't do. You can get work from other magicians.
I see it all the time, magicians saying, 'this person is stealing my work.' The truth is there is enough work out there for everybody. You've just got to be able to look for it. To play this spiteful, hateful game of 'oh, I'm better than this person. I better get the gig if they don’t.' We're all in this together. The way I look at it is, yes, we're all trying to eat, and sometimes we bump into each other, but at the end of the day, we're all trying to eat. A rising tide raises boats, and everybody's tide could be rising. That's my one thing. Just be friendly to the people around you. Don't be spiteful and hateful and egotistical because they can help you in the long run.
As we touched on, you're still young. You've already accomplished so much in magic, but you've still got a road ahead of you. Do you have any thoughts about what you see yourself doing in the near or distant future with magic.
Yeah, what's really interesting is, filmmaking is actually my passion. Magic I absolutely love, but filmmaking was a passion of mine before magic was. Actually, I think they happened around the same time, but I definitely remember getting a camera before I picked up a deck of cards seriously. I see myself venturing fully into the film industry. That's originally why I moved to Toronto, to pursue filmmaking. I still am, but I realized I could pursue a magic career here as well. My goal and thought process has always been ‘establish a career in magic and then venture off into filmmaking.’ If filmmaking doesn't work out for whatever reason, at least I still have magic. But what's very funny, my buddy Glen kind of pointed this out to me. He said 'for most people magic is what they want to do and then they have a backup plan if magic doesn't work, but your backup plan is magic.’ I can shoot myself in the foot. Maybe someday I'll be the homeless guy in the street because I fucked up my plans. I don't know. But that is my goal right now, establish a career in magic and then venture off into filmmaking.
It's been becoming more and more clear to me, the more I navigate through this life is, how intertwined magic and filmmaking truly are. Honestly to the point where movies were pioneered by a magician, Georges Méliès. He sort of created special effects and special effects came from magic, so you see all this stuff and you realize it really couldn't exist here without the mind of a magician. There are so many things that I learn in magic that I can apply to my filmmaking and things that I can learn in filmmaking that I can apply in magic so what I am very certain of is that as long as I just keep doing it these two will very synergistically help each other out. And they have. Honestly, I make a lot of my living from video gigs in Toronto. I do magic and I do video and editing around the City, making promo videos for people and companies and stuff like that but both help sustain me and I have no doubt in my mind that if I just keep doing both of these things, they will converge into something beautiful eventually.
I didn't realize you were actively working in video. Is there any personal video you're aiming to do.
Well, right now I'm aiming to do a second magic movie. I don't know if you saw or heard of the first project I did, but it was basically taking Lee Asher's Five Card Stud idea of a magic instructional and combining it with a movie script and took that into a new direction. I created this movie. The one thing I would change is the title because it ruins the Google search, but it was a play on words, A Series of Unfortunate Effects was this movie I that shot a couple of years ago. It was sort of my way of making a movie without losing money. A lot of first time filmmakers when they venture down that path, you're losing money, because unless you're making a Hollywood blockbuster there's not really much money in a short film or an independent flick. But luckily with magic there is this industry that is there and available and ready and so the thought was ‘let's make a movie and release it for the magic community.’ So that was the first project, but it was really just a test to see if I could even do it. The idea is can you just think up something and bring it into reality. What is that process to do that. So, I learned the process. I know the process now and I know that if I think up something in my head if I really put my focus and energy into it, I can bring that thought and idea into existence. So I've been gearing up to make a second magic movie. It's going to be made for the film circuit. The first movie was made for magicians. It was made purely for the magic community and I had no intention to share it with anyone else outside of magic. But I had a lot of people asking me, ‘are you going to send it to film festivals or anything like that?’ The short answer is ‘no, I’m not,’ but this next one I am and this next one I plan to make it with the full intention of entering it into film festivals and circuits. I have a plan, but let’s just say you may be seeing this movie on your home television screen in the near future.
Have you already been shooting it?
No, I’m currently writing it. But, it’s a very interesting idea. It’s basically an indirect sequel of the first one. I love sequels where you don’t necessarily need to see the first movie to understand the sequel.
This is the same universe, but whole new story and different antics, but it will be very fun to watch, and there will be some amazing, killer magic in it too. I’ve been slowly collecting some pieces that will work well in the format and I will tell you right now, I’ve got some awesome magic that I can’t wait to share with people.
Is there anything else about you that we don’t know, that would surprise people. Do you have a love of baseball? Do you secretly fly hot air balloons?
I am an accomplished martial artist. I don’t if many people know about that, which is why I’m adding a martial arts routine to the magic show. I’ve been in martial arts before magic and video, so that actually trumps both of those. My dad realized at a young age I had trouble focusing, paying attention. His way of combatting that was to throw me into martial arts. That’s where my dad came from, martial arts. He was a pro-am boxer. It’s always been a huge part of his life.
He put me into martial arts at a very early age, and it’s funny because pretty much the whole time I was in martial arts I didn’t appreciate it, because again, it’s your parents sort of forcing you into something. Like piano lessons, which I also took. I can play like two songs still. But, yeah, it felt very forced upon me. And then when my parents got divorced my mom started seeing my stepdad and he opened up his own martial arts school, because he was an accomplished martial artist as well. So, from there then I was really stitched in because my family had a martial arts school. Not only was I taking the martial arts, but I was sort of the go to student. Everybody looked up to me in a way. It was a lot of pressure, actually, and it was ultimately what made me quit. Because there was too much pressure at any event or anything going on. It was like I was the guy. I was the child of the organizers so there was a lot more pressure to be good, to be awesome in martial arts because of that. So, yeah, at the time I didn’t really appreciate the martial arts.
But there were a lot of positives. It allowed me to make some really wonderful friends in it. But outside of that what I realize is how much it has benefited my magic. And I had not even realized it until now. One of the things is I used to have to teach martial arts to a class filled with children. Probably about 20 to 30 kids in a class. I had to teach them how to punch and kick. And now when I think back at it, I think ‘how the hell did I ever do that in my life?’ But at the time I was able to do that. I was able to control the kids and have them on good behavior and be able to teach them these techniques. It has definitely translated over to my magic, because if I do a kids’ show I now know how to control a crowd of screaming children. So, it’s taught me crowd control. Not just for kids but for adults too. The martial arts has taught me crowd control without me even realizing it. But on top of that, I’m very flexible because of it. It’s very misleading because I’m sort of this bigger kind of guy but I’ve got the flexibility of a Ninja, so I can really be surprising to you. The martial arts has definitely benefited me in more ways than I really thought. So if you are a younger person out there and your parents are forcing you into martial arts for any reason, just realize that the martial arts is actually a very positive thing. It will help you with pretty much anything that you want to pursue. Martial arts isn’t about learning how to beat people up. That’s not what it is. What martial arts teaches individuals is self-respect, self-esteem. It teaches them definitely how to defend themselves, but there’s more core values that it teaches that are just good for a human being to learn. I managed to make it to second degree black belt in martial arts before I left.
You are pushing your magic out with broad comedy and theatrical presentations, yet you’ve got these strong sleight-of-hand chops too. It’s interesting that you’ve got both sides going on.
It’s very interesting. There are certain performers out there that are fantastic and wonderful performers but cannot hold a deck of cards at all. I guess it’s definitely a bit of an advantage since I came from the closeup world and so that’s where I honed my skils with a deck of cards. Now I’m venturing into the stand up performance. With standup performance, with a lot of these tricks, you don’t need to have as much technical savviness as a closeup trick because the focus isn’t on your hands purely when you’re standing on a stage. Most of the tricks that I perform onstage don’t use much technique at all because I wanted to be able to focus more on the performance. What’s nice is knowing that I have this tool box in case I get in trouble with a certain effect, I have a repertoire of sleights in my head that I can go to at any moment to get me out of any issue. What it’s about is having that security and confidence in yourself that you can get out of any situation that you are put into in a magic trick.
Do you still love sleight of hand?
Oh, I love it, absolutely. I practice it every day. I still do closeup magic. I definitely prefer to get a standup gig rather than a closeup gig these days, but both have their pros and cons. The problem that I find with closeup magic compared to stand up gigs, is that with closeup magic gigs it’s a cold approach. If you’re working a restaurant or even a wedding or a party of some sort, you’re walking up to a group of people and you sort of have to get yourself into that group, that conversation saying ‘hey, I’m going to show you some magic and stuff.’ It’s a cold approach. With a standup magic routine you’re dealing with a warm audience. They’re there at the venue to see you and to see your magic and they know that they’re in for a show. You’re dealing with a warm audience instead of a cold audience. I’m sure everybody prefers a warm audience.
In terms of card magic are there some main influences are people you admire?
I’d say as far as just watching and admiring a deck of cards in someone’s hands, Tony Chang has got to be one of my favorite people to just watch hold a deck of cards. His chops are just so smooth. You can’t see anything. I love it. I describe his magic as so good it’s uninspirational. You see him do some of the routines and moves and it’s ‘gee, I’m never going to be able to do that.’ So it’s almost like uninspiring. But I still use it to inspire myself. I don’t look at it in that negative way. I could definitely see individuals looking at his magic and going ‘oh, God, I should just quit.’ Tony Chang, his magic chops are definitely incredible, something to aspire to. Anytime I think I’ve got a sleight down I start thinking about Tony and ‘ok until it’s something like that I have no reason to gloat or anything.’
We talked about where you want to go with your life and your caeer. But magic itself has been around through our entire history. There’s this incredible lineage of magic that stretches across time. Do you have any thoughts about where you would like to see magic go in the future?
Right now magic is sort of in this nice sweet spot. People in the media are catching on to its popularity. TV shows like Penn & Teller’s Fool Us, Wizard Wars, and The Carbonaro Effect are showcasing magic. I’m very interested to see where it goes from here. Right now it’s very hot. Who was it I heard saying this…It was Ben Seidman. He was on Tom Green’s Webovision and he was saying how magic has these waves of popularity where it will be one moment super popular, then it will have a dip and dies down for a bit, then it will be popular again. So I’m thinking it may just continue to be wavy like that. I think it will be stronger as technology evolves. A lot of magicians were very much concerned that technology was going to ruin magic, because technology explains everything. But what is has done is it has strengthened magic, because, yes, technology explains everything, but it doesn’t explain how a piece of paper can morph from one card to another. So what’s so cool is that technology has helped magic become more impressive because of that. So I have no doubt that as technology evolves and the world and society evolve, magic will evolve with and become more and more powerful, the further we push
I want to make sure I understand your thought that technology is strengthening magic.
You hold an iPhone in your hand and it can tell you the answer basically to anything. But that is explained by computers and electronics and technology. But if you hold a deck of cards in your hand and change that card from one card to another, the spectator’s mind can’t use technology to explain that. We’re so used to technology explaining everything in our lives that the moment we are shown something where technology can’t explain it at all, it will boggle our minds. It’s going to get further into that because now we’re going to have generations that only know technolgy. They don’t know an analog word. All they know is a technologically advanced world. When you show them a coin vanishing in your bare hand, it’s just going to be so much more powerful because technology can’t explain it. So that is my take on it. Technology will make the magic more impressive just because it exists.