2018 isn’t even half over yet and here’s Magi-Fest coming up with even more reasons why you should register ASAP for the upcoming convention set to take place in Columbus, Ohio on January 17-19, 2019. Today, Magi-Fest announced the first three names slated to appear at the convention with performances and lectures.
First up, we have Yann Frisch, the 2012 FISM winner for close-up magic and creator of perhaps the greatest cup and ball routine ever devised. He’ll a part of the closing gala show, and will also present a brand new lecture.
Next, Nick Diffatte is the self-described “tannest magician” of Minnesota, and his comedy magic going to be part of the Friday Night Stage slot.
The last confirmation so far is a very special talk from Werner Reich, a 90 year old magician and Holocaust survivor, who discovered magic during his internment at Auschwitz.
Registration for the event is still available at the $150 early bird rate, but that price goes up to $200 after May 15, so if you’re interested in attending, head over to magifest.org to secure your spot. Magi-Fest has teased that the headliner and Guest of Honor are both going to be “big, big, big news”, and if these early reveals are any indication, Magi-Fest 2019 is going to be an event to remember.
It seems like we’ve just barely recovered from the excitement of Magi-Fest 2018, but the convention’s intrepid organizers have already announced the dates for 2019. Mark your calendars for a return to Columbus on January 17-19, 2019. If you make your plans quickly, you can save a few bucks too. Register before May 1 for the early bird rate of $150. The regular price after May 1 is $200. The Magi-Fest website has more information about registering for you advanced planners.
Since Magi-Fest has sold out seven years running, it makes sense to plan ahead as much as you can. However, should your plans change, registration is fully refundable until November 15.
Magi-Fest 2018 featured some excellent events and speakers, such as a legal discussion around protecting your tricks and wise words from the Guiness record holder in card throwing. Several YouTubers have also thoroughly documented their experience, from the well-known Chris Ramsay to up-and-comers like Nico Bisesi.
“What kept me in [magic] is that I have no other skills,” Ben Seidman says with a chuckle. Considering he just gave a performance at Magi-Fest 2018 that caused an entire room full of magicians to give him a standing ovation, it might be the only skill he needs.
Seidman’s magic has spectacle, yes; the big moments that make you say holy crap, how did he do that? But it’s in how those moments build and connect with sleight of hand, an absurd amount of audience involvement, a dash of mentalism, and a hilarious stand-up routine that makes his magic special. GeniiOnline got a chance to speak with Seidman after watching his set at Magi-Fest this year, and we talked with him about getting into magic, working with Criss Angel, and what happens when things go wrong.
“What drew me to it was at first, like many people, just seeing that first moment of magic which happened when I was six,” Seidman says. “Someone pulled something out of my mom’s ear and that was it for me. I was hooked.” He began to more seriously engage with magic, though, on the set of Green Eggs and Ham: The Operetta at a children’s theater company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin called First Stage (he was a soprano, in case you were wondering).
It was there that he met Tim Catlett, who was a technical designer for the show and had at one time worked for David Copperfield. “He taught me a thing that was too difficult for me to learn [on my own], intentionally,” Seidman explained. “I learned it, the next day showed it to him, and he taught me a new trick every day for the entire duration of the production. That was what set me up.”
Several years later, Seidman got a job at the Piafolous Magic Shop in Milwaukee, then he, in his words, “made the executive decision to major in theater [and] not have a back-up plan.”
It seems to have paid off for him, because by the time he was a 22-year-old senior in college, he’d already started working with Criss Angel as a creative consultant on Mindfreak. Seidman would invent tricks, and Criss would perform them both on-stage and on the TV show.
“It was an awesome experience,” says Seidman. “He and I agreed on some things but also disagreed on many, and so that also helped formulate my opinions about the magic that I wanted to perform for myself. We’re just very different people creatively and also in life.
“That dictated how I approach my own magic in some ways, but also how I approach the idea of celebrity. I used to think that that was a thing that I really wanted, and then seeing what it’s like to be in the limelight that much made me – didn’t make me say I would be forever unhappy if I had it, but it made me not want to try to achieve it in the same way. It made me realize that there are things that are much more important than it. I mean, I knew that there were before, but in that scenario I got to see how hard it is when – a lot of people talk smack about him, but he does some things very, very brilliantly and it is very hard when you are a person who has hundreds if not thousands of people who are trying to get something from you every single day. That has its own difficulties.”
Ben appears to have taken those lessons to heart and applied them to his routine, as his sense of humor and approach to magic couldn’t be further from the dark, gothic sensibilities of Mindfreak. Seidman’s illusions are playful, his jokes are self-deprecating yet mostly clean with just enough edginess to keep things a bit spicy.
To craft his magic, Seidman quickly learned that beginning with the ending was the best way to design a trick. “Start with what you think is the craziest thing possible that you want to do,” he explains, “and then if you have to make compromises in what you can actually do, do that. But try not to.”
You can see this approach play out in his routine, when Ben manages to slide a $20 bill out of a volunteer’s pocket and safety pin it to their back in one swift move, all without them noticing.
In shooting for those big, mind-blowing moments, sometimes things will inevitably go wrong, but to Seidman, that’s what makes live performance so interesting. “Well, it’s not fun when everything goes smoothly every time, all of the time, right?” Seidman asks. “That’s Groundhog Day…There are multiple tricks in my act, like the safety pin routine, all someone has to do is, essentially, they could turn to the side, you know, 30 degrees and that trick is over. So it keeps me on my toes, and that’s fun for me.”
As for his comedy, Seidman wants to make people laugh without offending them—which is a lot harder than it sounds.
“I don’t ever want to offend people, ever,” he explains. “My goal has been to offend people on zero occasions. That being said, I have offended some people. But some people are offended by things that aren’t offensive, they just think they should be offended and therefore they are.
“The religious material is a prime example,” he says, referencing a relatively benign joke he makes during his set about being the worst Jew ever. “To my knowledge – and I’ve run this by a lot of religious people, religious scholars, members of the clergy, so many different denominations of so many different religions, ‘Is anything I’m saying offensive?’ – and everyone who is intelligent has said ‘No, none of that is. In fact, you say some very positive things.’ I will still have people who say ‘I don’t like the fact that you even brought up Jesus,’ and I say, ‘Well, you just brought up Jesus.’ That’s just going to happen, and I don’t want to offend people, but I also am not going to take out things that I know aren’t really offensive to someone who is actually listening to what I’m saying.”
He clearly hasn’t offended too many people, as he’s currently the resident magician at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas (the only magician to have ever received that honor), he’s been seen on Penn & Teller: Fool Us and two different Travel Channel specials, and performs all over the world, on cruises, at colleges, and for corporate gigs. And for Ben, it’s right where he wants to be.
“Doing comedy magic is the closest thing to my actual voice on my best day,” Seidman says, “the person who I am when I’m the happiest with myself is making people laugh around me…When I’m laughing and I’m making other people laugh, I’m the happiest that I am. For me, it was the only way.”
I have to get this out of the way: don’t try this at home. Rick Smith, Jr. is a professional, with multiple Guinness World Records for card throwing and he came to Magi-Fest prepared with foam shields and welding helmets.
After giving his lecture on how to find a niche, he hosted a series of special card-throwing challenges with the young attendees of Magi-Fest 2018. This included a special challenge against Nick Suriano, magician and host of YouTube channel NoWayAsWay. The two donned their armor, stood back to back, marched five paces, and proceeded to whip cards at each other as fast as they could in a special game of what they called “Dodge-card”.
Check out the video above for the complete battle, which begins at around the 5:15 mark. We even captured some of Nick’s wild card-throwing abilities on our own Twitter feed:
One of the wildest things we’ve ever seen. #CardThrowing #MagiFest pic.twitter.com/2da6iz2lYh
— Genii Online (@GeniiOnline) January 27, 2018
We’ve got more Magi-Fest for you! Today’s vlog from last weekend’s big convention in Columbus comes from up-and-coming YouTuber Nico Bisesi, aka NicoMagic. He watches while the always-charming Shawn Farquhar blows the mind of a kid with a unique card to wallet trick and later gets a fly-on-the-wall view while card thrower Rick Smith Jr pelts Chris Ramsay. Bisesi also gets up close and personal helping Ramsay find a “lost” ring and gets a cardistry demo from Hoang Nguyen. Good times. He’s promising to post more Magi-Fest videos, so subscribe to NicoMagic’s channel to see the clips as soon as they’re live.
You can fill the time watching some of the other Magi-Fest videos from Chris Ramsey (he has several) or combing through the official photos from the event.
For those of us who couldn’t attend in person, the next closest thing to being at Magi-Fest is seeing all of the videos and photos taken by the people who were lucky enough to go. Lucky for us, official Magi-Fest photos are starting to appear on the Facebook Page for the convention. There’s an album dedicated the first two days and a separate album for Day Three. It’s almost as good as being there. That’s what I’m going to keep telling myself, at least.
If the photos aren’t enough to sate the craving, maybe video is the ticket. Chris Ramsay already has several uploads from the event, including his hunt for the best tricks in the world and a heartwarming display from the younger generation of magicians.
And of course, other members of the GeniiOnline team have written up their experience of the panels and discussions. Copyright and card throwing were two sessions of note.
This was my first year attending Magi-fest, and one of the first things I was delighted to notice was how many kids were there. They were into it, too, racing to sit in the front row at lectures and jamming with older magicians every chance they got. Their enthusiasm radiated off them in waves, and it was impossible not to be swept up in it. I got to talk to a bunch of them, and discovered their passion came from a place of pure joy – a happiness they couldn’t wait to share with others. (Let me tell you, there is nothing more charming than a young magician literally jumping for joy when he discovers you’re a layperson he can dazzle with his skills.)
Chris Ramsay, who filmed the above video at Magi-Fest, is an inspiration for the next generation of magicians. His YouTube channel has more than half a million subscribers, some of whom got the chance to talk to him at the convention. But after watching this, it’s tough to say who came away more inspired – the kids or Ramsay himself. If these future superstars are any indication, magic is in very good hands.
And solid shout out to those parents who support their children’s passion. You’re the best assistants a magician could ever have.
Magi-Fest just wrapped up another great weekend in Columbus, Ohio. The event is a great chance for magicians to meet up, buy gear, talk shop, and of course, show off their finest tricks. Chris Ramsay was on the floor to document some of those performances.
His latest video is 14 minutes of joy and skill on display. Ramsay hit Magi-Fest on the hunt for the best of the best, and these are some great contenders. From the seeming simplicity of balancing coins to the multiple phases of a love story with the eight of diamonds, this shows the variety of what happens at one of magic’s biggest parties.
Want more from Magi-Fest? GeniiOnline was at the show and our team has already shared some of the highlights from the convention. Card throwing champ Rick Smith Jr gave a wonderful talk about finding your niche. Get a crash course in copyright law. Hear magic retailers’ thoughts about the impact of the Internet. And get some tips for memorizing a deck of cards.
At Magi-Fest 2018, Eli Bosnick hosted a discussion called Magic & the Marketplace, which offered an opportunity to listen to five of some of the biggest names in the magic retail biz to talk shop.
The gathered panelists included Vanishing Inc. founders Andi Gladwin and Joshua Jay; Paul Richards, the founder of Elmwood Magic who is currently embarking on a new venture selling tricks that are only available at conventions; Acar Altinsel, co-founder of Penguin Magic; and Christian Schenk, creator of the Phoenix Deck.
First, they talked about “bad magic”. With the proliferation of the internet and online magic shops, how do you filter out the good magic from the bad? For Christian, it’s about giving advice to new performers, recommending specific books or decks to start with. Acar believes that there’s never been a better time to find great tricks, there’s just a lot more out there now, which can mean more crap as well. To him, the trouble is when you’re trying to stay on the cutting edge. Paul agreed with Acar, but also mentioned that because the barrier to entry is lower, anyone can make tricks now, which can be both good and bad. What’s new to him is seeing so many young people just starting out saying they want to make and release a new trick—that never happened ten or 20 years ago. Joshua believes in Sturgeon’s Law: that 90% of everything, including magic tricks, are crap. Really good magic is like finding a gem, and you have to learn how to curate what you find. Andi says that the difficulty of the magic market specifically is that so much of it is tied to its secretive nature. As one of the heads of Vanishing Inc., he sees ten-15 trick submissions a day, and rejects most of them.
Next, Eli asked if the internet was good or bad for magic. Paul sees the internet as neutral, like a tool. It’s an ocean, but magic certainly isn’t. He gave an example: the upcoming Blackpool Magic Convention is the largest gathering of magicians in the world, and attendance caps at around 4,000 people. Meanwhile, San Diego Comic-Con regularly sees over 100,000. It’s important to keep that perspective.
YouTube is also a hot-button issue in the community these days, especially since so many kids use it to learn magic. Josh says it’s just a part of the ecosystem now, which is something magicians will have to live with whether they like it or not. The important thing is that, while kids aren’t getting direct access with magic over the internet, there are live lectures and Skype sessions available that can offer similar hands-on experiences. Kids are also learning about all of the convention opportunities available thanks to the internet, and those who go get a level of access they’d never get on the internet—but without the internet, they would never have known the convention even existed.
Last, Eli asked the panel about what magicians, and retailers and trick creators specifically, can do to make magic more welcoming to women. Paul noted that a lot of tricks assume the performer has a back pocket, or wallet, or some other piece of clothing that a man would typically wear—it’s important to tailor tricks so anyone can perform them. Andi believes that we should be encouraging and promoting the women who already do magic, making them more invisible to inspire other women to begin practicing. Lastly, Acar believes that male-centric presentation and marketing is taking a back seat—these days retailers are focusing less on using tricks to “get dates” or impress women than about simple surprise or wonder.
Stay tuned to GeniiOnline for more reports from the heart of Magi-Fest 2018.
Rick Smith Jr. is the Guinness World Record holder for card throwing height, distance, and accuracy. He’s been on the talk show circuit, performed all over the world, and most recently on Dude Perfect, a YouTube channel with 26 million subscribers, in a video that reached over 52 million people.
“What does card throwing have to do with magic?” he asked the crowd at Magi-Fest 2018. “Nothing.”
But that hasn’t stopped him from using card throwing as his path toward greater success in magic. After showing off his skills to the crowd, he talked about his own career. While he’d seen some success travelling to schools to perform tricks and give speeches, he’d had trouble breaking out into the wider, increasingly over-saturated world of magic performance. It wasn’t until he discovered his own uncanny talent, almost by accident, that he decided to use it to parlay that ability into more gigs.
While the talk itself was relatively brief and generalized, it’s still incredibly useful advice for any budding illusionist. What skills or interests do you have that aren’t magic, and how can you use those to build your career and help you stand out? Do you have an encyclopedic knowledge of film? Are you a computer whiz? Can you play a wicked cover of the saxophone solo from George Michael’s Careless Whisper? Whatever skills you have, find a way to work them into your act. It’ll likely be better for it.
Stay tuned to GeniiOnline for more reports from the heart of Magi-Fest 2018.