Discourse in Magic has been killing it lately with their series of podcasts and interviews with interesting magicians. In a recent discussion, musician, actor, and magician, Rob Zabrecky, gave some strikingly candid thoughts on his creative process, and the long, unforgiving road to performing magic good enough to warrant being called art.
Zabrecky had already found success as a musician with his band Possum Dixon, when a chance encounter in a magic store introduced him to the world of magic. Going from a successful musician to a somewhat less successful magician was difficult, as he recounts in the soundclip above.
“It was a little bit like a funeral director doing magic,” he quipped.
Zabrecky credits his side-job as an actor with improving his magic performances, saying that everything he learned in his acting career – which includes appearances in numerous TV commercials and shows including GLOW and CSI – was directly applicable to his magic career.
Personally, seeing that another creative feels the need to, “slip into character,” to create is reassuring. A working “persona” can be the difference between success and obscurity for lots of artists in a lot of different mediums. The old cliche says creative work has to come from the heart. It doesn’t specify whose.
You can listen to the whole podcast here.
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.
Penn & Teller: Fool Us has become a destination of sorts for budding magicians; a place where performers looking to make a name for themselves by trying to pull the wool over the famous duo’s eyes in an attempt to win an opening slot at their show in Las Vegas. And whether you successfully fool them or not, you’ve got a killer demo reel for your portfolio to show off to potential clients.
If you’re at a point in your career where you’re trying to appear on Fool Us, you’ll want to listen to this week’s episode of the Discourse in Magic podcast, which features an interview with Michael Close. Close is one of two magic consultants for the show, and has recently released a series of instructional books called Paradigm Shift, and even hosts a free online course called Magician’s Masterclass – so he knows a thing or two about what makes a good trick for television. The hour-long podcast is a great listen, covering everything from his background in magic to the best way to hone your routine for a television audition.
Perfecting your stage presence is a never-ending practice for magicians. The smallest things can totally change the impact of a performance, from a word to a body position. Or, to hear Mario Lopez tell it, even the slightest facial expression is important.
The Spanish magician is the latest guest on the Discourse in Magic podcast, and he delved into some less obvious aspects of performing magic. He draws his theatrical style from inspirations ranging from clowns to Charlie Chaplin. A glance at any one of his many clips on Instagram show just how evocative an eyebrow can be.
Ellusionist is one of the top spots for magicians to buy and sell their best tricks, and Lloyd Barnes makes sure you’re only seeing the best. He watches many of the submissions to the retailer, and he talks about his work on the latest episode of the Discourse in Magic podcast. If there’s one takeaway from his stories, it’s to do your damn research. Barnes said that one performer submitted the double-lift as a new trick. Don’t be that person.
Barnes is also a magic creator in his own right, and he shares his focused approach to developing new tricks. You can listen to new episodes of Discourse in Magic on the show’s website, on Apple Podcasts, on Android, and on RSS feeds.
After you watch some old Magic Castle performances, perhaps your lazy Sunday could use a little audio treat. If so, check out the latest episode of Discourse in Magic. Jonah and Tyler are joined by special guest Alex Pandrea of Blue Crown Magic.
Pandrea is the epitome of a self-made artist. He’s taught himself many of the skills that have helped build his career, from designing playing cards before other companies were doing it to teaching himself Final Cut Pro to get the most professional-looking videos he could. He shares his insights about both the pros and cons of working on the Internet, becoming a teaching and lecturer, and taking time with each phase of both life and work.
David Williamson is the latest guest on the Discourse in Magic podcast. He chats about his natural stage style, developing a full performance, and the challenges of advising young magicians. And in case you were curious, he’s not a fan of the double-undercut.
If this episode doesn’t fully scratch your itch for Williamson’s unique brand of comedy magic, you can also catch him yakking it up with the Dragon Squad on the Piff Pod. Or learn about how he changed his mind about cruise magic during an interview from Magic Live 2017. His current gig is as the ringmaster for Circus 1903 in Las Vegas.
We’ve got two options for you podcast fans who maybe fell a bit behind on your listening over the holidays.
Discourse in Magic, an excellent resource for magic education, has posted its first episode of 2018. There’s no special guest on this show. It’s just co-hosts Jonah and Tyler waxing philosophical and attempting to answer some of the questions they’d posed about the art form last year. So if you want to hear their insights on the role of plot in an act, or you just want to know what the heck it means when they ask “Are all impossible things equally impossible?”, then tune in. The episode is available on the Discourse in Magic website, or from Apple, Android, or RSS feeds.
The Magic Word podcast from Scott Wells is also busily trucking along into the new year. In the show’s 400th episode, Wells sits down with magician and mentalist David Berglas. The 91-year-old is one of the most influential and inspirational performers in magic. He’s been in the business so long that was doing performances on the radio before blazing the trail for how to do magic on television. Any conversation with Berglas is must-hear material, and luckily for us, this is just the first of a two-parter. Listen to or download the first part here.
The Discourse in Magic podcast sat down with Tony Chang last week. Chang is responsible for creating some slick tricks currently on the magic market, and he chatted with hosts Tyler and Jonah about resisting the siren song of whatever the newest toy is. (As a side note, that is an attitude we’ve seen a couple times lately in the community.) The conversation also touches on the importance of editing and education in making your work sing.
Geraint Clarke wears a lot of hats, and the most recent one he donned is “podcaster.” Clarke, who creates both magic tricks and marketing campaigns for a living, is the guest for this week’s episode of the Discourse in Magic podcast. In this discussion, he chats with hosts Jonah and Tyler about the importance of time in getting an illusion ready to go on sale. He suggested letting an idea percolate; rushing out a concept too quickly without spending enough time to work out all the kinks could wind up hurting your reputation for future projects.
If you’ve ever been curious about the business side of magic, this episode is an insightful listen. Check out the whole episode on the Discourse in Magic website, or get it on Apple Podcasts, Android, or another RSS feed.