A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about magic’s place in the arts that touched on the idea that while lay people can enjoy magic, its very nature prevents them from appreciating it. The problem isn’t that the audience is stupid, but that magic works precisely because they can’t figure out how it works. A good trick looks effortless.
Magicians, like every other species of artist, want people to appreciate the quality of their work beyond the surface level presentation, and since the only people who can really do that are other magicians, some fall into the trap of creating shows designed to appeal to other magicians. Before you know it, their act is utterly incomprehensible to mainstream audiences, they’ve run out of money, and they’re dying from malnutrition because they’ve been eating nothing but ramen mixed with shredded Bicycle Blues for eight months. The technical term for this phenomenon is, “disappearing up one’s own arse.”
Other magicians just get so comfortable in the warm embrace of the magic community that performing outside of that circle seems impossible.
Ryan Plunkett, a regular at the Chicago Magic Lounge and author of A New Angle, railed against these tendencies in a recent episode of Discourse in Magic. The Chicago-based, close-up magician didn’t mince words when it came to the lack of viability in performing for a purely professional audience. You can hear the rest of the discussion, in which Plunkett explains that lay audiences are absolutely desperate for fun, relatable magic, here.