The video is above is one of the first tales of magic history featured on Mahdi the Magician’s new website, Before Magic. The site isn’t just a promotional vehicle for the supremely hard-working magician, it’s an ongoing project looking to curate and display examples of top-tier magic both modern and antediluvian.
This first video in the Golden Age section of the website, featuring the impressive emotional range of David Blaine, is a retelling and reenactment of one of the many stunts pulled by Jewish illusionist and magician, Max Katz Breit, better known as Max Malini.
Malini wasn’t so much known for his cup and balls as he was his giant brass ones. He had a habit of approaching celebrities on the streets to perform tricks, and would often take people’s hats or bite buttons from their cuffs without asking. As Blaine explains above, Malini actually blagged his way into performing at the White House using that latter trick.
The site is still technically under construction, so you might run into a few hiccups here and there, but it seems like a really cool project. As well as the screening room, it also includes tutorials, Mahdi’s journal, and a shop where you’ll eventually be able to buy merch, including the amazing Hidden Leaves deck.
If you’ve ever wanted to see Mahdi the Magician live and you’re in the Toronto area or can get there quick, you’ll soon have a chance to see him perform for free.
On Thursday, May 17th, he’ll be at the Twenty7 social club shooting a profile video, and he needs an audience to look suitably amazed in all those slow-mo reaction shots. The event is open to all and the club is massive, but you should still email or message Mahdi to let him know you’re coming.
The address is 6380 Northwest Drive, Mississauga, Ontario, L4V 1J7.
Chris Ramsay was in hot water recently, when a tutorial video he uploaded featured a trick created by another magician without credit or permission. While he’s since deleted the offending video, apologized for the oversight, and has decided to stop doing magic tutorial videos at all, it’s re-opened discussion on an important debate: are YouTube magic tutorials good for the community, or are they giving away everyone’s secrets?
Mahdi Gilbert recently weighed in on the controversy in his email newsletter:
I am generally against [sharing secrets on YouTube]. I feel like it’s prostituting the art of magic in order to get views. I understand the appeal, I understand the efficiency, I get it. People love magic and they want to know the secret, so it make sense that if you want to get a lot of people to watch something you perform a trick and then promise to reveal the secret. This is nothing new in magic. Some people used to sell magic shows that came in two parts. The first part was the show and then they had to pay for the second show in which the secrets were revealed. It was a great business model. A lot of people bought tickets. However, artistically it’s bankrupt. Just because something is effective doesn’t mean that it’s worth using.
So what’s the solution? People want to learn magic, and YouTube can be an excellent tool for broadening the audience for anyone with some cards, a decent video, and the resolve to learn something to become a magician. But there’s a responsibility for the magician to make sure they aren’t revealing too many secrets to anyone who can click a link or, heaven forbid, reveal someone else’s secrets.
For Mahdi, the solution is to teach everything around the act of magic, but not the secret itself. He’s posted a few videos recently that attempt to do just that. Like this one, where he teaches how to shuffle from hand to hand (without any hands):
Or this one, where he teaches how to perform a ribbon spread with a deck of cards:
Mahdi’s email continues:
I believe it is possible to make tutorials in a way that does not reveal secrets online. Do a cursory search and you will find that many of the most popular tutorials related to playing cards do not have to do with magic. You can easily teach card manipulations & classic or original card flourishes without becoming an expose artist. Instead of revealing long guarded magic secrets you can easily teach useful skills that anyone who handles cards would love to learn And let’s be real here, those tutorials that you guys are making on top changes, palms, false deals and false shuffles, what percentage of your viewers are actually going to pursue learning it and becoming good at it? Probably very, very low because it’s extremely hard to master those techniques and if they were serious enough to pursue it they would most likely be seeking professional sources (in many great books & videos produced by the world’s greatest masters of sleight of hand technique).
He closes with rather sobering take:
Magic on the internet is mostly depressing. Fake audiences, fake magic, fake magicians, fake everything. We don’t need to stoop low in order to make it through to the end, to achieve or goals or anything else.
How do you feel about magic tutorials on YouTube? Are they helping the magic community grow or are they needlessly exposing secrets to a larger audience?
After performing for over 270 million people in China, Mahdi Gilbert continues his travels across the globe, arriving in South Korea to perform on the variety show Star King. He recently uploaded a few clips from his appearance on the show, including the video above, which features a bunch of pop stars having their collective minds destroyed when Mahdi makes their selected card appear on the top of the deck. It’s a great trick on its own, but the combination of the dramatic music, the editing, the on-screen displays, and their reaction to the trick makes this video truly entertaining.
To see more from his appearance on Star King, check out his performance of Levand’s “It Cannot Be Done Any Slower” here:
And a card-to-pocket trick performed with Korean magician Charming Choi here:
For all of Mahdi’s videos, be sure to visit his YouTube channel.
Magicians are getting many opportunities to shine on the small screen these days. There are so many reality and variety shows now that give illusionists, mentalists, and all kinds of magical tricksters a chance to reach a massive audience. But the biggest audience has to be for China’s The Amazing Magicians. The program boasts a whopping 270 million viewers, making it the country’s most popular show. In other words, it’s a chance for performers to immediately attain international stardom.
Mahdi Gilbert had a chance to perform on the program late last year, and we already got to watch him show off his tricks on air. But he also recorded a vlog with some behind-the-scenes footage of his trip to China and the filming of The Amazing Magicians. If you ever wanted a thorough experience of life for a touring magician, this covers all the bases.
Gilbert isn’t the only magician to make the long trek to China for an appearance on The Amazing Magicians. Matthew Laslo, who you might recognize from season 3 of Penn & Teller: Fool Us, recently spoke about his experience on the show, too.
The Amazing Magicians is China’s most-watched television program, with over 270 million viewers per episode—which easily makes it the most-watched television program in the world. Canadian magician Mahdi Gilbert, who fooled Penn & Teller and has since toured the globe performing close-up magic, recently got a chance to appear on the program and wrote about it in his email newsletter (which you can subscribe to by visiting his website). Here’s an excerpt:
The biggest TV shows in the USA get around 5-10 million viewers per episode. The last numbers I got in from China indicated that we were getting over 270 MILLION viewers per episode. The show (in English) is called, The Amazing Magicians and right now it is the biggest television show in the world. Most of you reading this live in the Western world so you’ve probably never heard of it but it does not make it any less big or important.
It really was a roller coaster getting this TV show made as everyone involved can attest. I was only there for a few days and I feel like I could write a book about what went on behind the scenes. But no one sees the work or the drama, they see the final product that’s delivered and that’s what we did, we delivered.
Magic has been dead in China and the Eastern world for many decades and for various reasons (political, economic, legal) so most of the country has no conception of magic and magicians outside of fiction and CGI superhero movies. For many of the hundreds of millions of people who tuned it, it was their first experience of magic. It’s so amazing to me that I could bring magic into so many people’s lives.
The Amazing Magicians usually airs edited clips of each magician that performs on the show, but the producers decided to show the nearly-unedited 23-minute-long presentation and interview, which you can watch in the video above.
Canadian conjurer Mahdi Gilbert was born without hands or feet, but the illusions he’s capable of would put most able-bodied magicians to shame. Back in November, he was invited to speak and perform at the Hocus Pocus Festival in Granada, Spain, which gathers magicians from all over the globe in a celebration of the art of prestidigitation.
In addition to wowing audiences with his card tricks, he also answered questions from members of the crowd. One person who works with children with similar disabilities asked what advice he would give kids who are feeling discouraged when people tell them they won’t amount to anything. His response? “The only person you have to convince is yourself.” Watch the full clip below:
You can also watch a performance of his Fool Us-winning routine ‘Oil and Water’ for an intimate gathering in Spain via the video below:
If you’ve seen Mahdi Gilbert’s YouTube videos or his performance on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us, then you know just how talented he has to be to craft his own methods in order to perform magic without hands. (If you haven’t seen it, go watch the video in the link above. We’ll wait.) In this week’s episode of the Discourse in Magic podcast, co-hosts Jonah Babin and Tyler Williams interview Gilbert on his background, how to present and discuss magic in the 21st century, his appearance on Fool Us, and what YouTube magicians need to do to break out into the wider public consciousness. Listen to the episode at the link here, and be sure to subscribe on iTunes or Android for more episodes each week.