I’m not the first to say, every negative stereotype about magicians is rightfully deserved. It’s the wages of our sins. I am no Messiah, I am not here to offer you any eternal forgiveness nor can I save magic’s wretched soul. In a earlier blog post I brought out one of the TOP reasons why some people respond negatively to magic; 1) repetition and 2) zero accountability for how some magicians make their audiences feel (bad experiences). There was one detail I didn’t think of… Magicians have a BIG ego!
Magic happens through belief
Conviction from the magician is critical for the transformation of a puzzle to a astounding impossible feat of magic. Effective magicians know this. When you watch David Copperfield fly on stage, you know deep down that he isn’t flying but the theatrics compounded with his momentary conviction presents a convincing element that allows you the view to suspend any disbelief. Magic doesn’t happen in the eyes but in the mind. The placebo effect is a great example and evidence for this. Even without the placebo, the effectiveness of any treatment rests in the confidence of the physician that transfers to the patient. We humans, being social creatures look to others for assurance. If YOU believe, they BELIEVE.
Confidence Doesn’t Equal Competence & Vise Verse
We are terrible at differentiating between confidence & competence. We are also horrible at differentiating arrogance & cockiness from confidence. Magician’s are not immune. An effective execution of a bottom deal, an extremely difficult card maneuver to master is a HUGE ego boost and a source of a unearned God complex.
Magicians are always 1 step away from creating a cult
In the 1970’s a former Israeli security personnel took the entire World by storm with his ability to bend metal seemingly with only the power of his mind. His name is Uri Geller. Uri Geller was charming and he connected to people in a way that no other magician at the time could. He capitalized on Cold War era hysteria and the UFO craze at the time. He was selling his abilities not as magic tricks but as the real thing, people ate it up and the moral magicians were ready to crucify him. Crucify him they did. He was busted many times, most noted on the Johnny Carson show. Carson was a amateur magician himself and he along with James Randi set a few traps on Uri. Uri bit, hook line and sinker. Despite the expositions, Uri remained popular because he was confident but never arrogant.
Uri Geller was never the next thing to Adolf Hitler like many magicians made him out to be. His strength was his confidence. He offered people something magicians don’t offer very often. Uri Geller has learned a few hard lessons and has toned down his presentations. Uri Geller was, in his prime 1 word away from being a cult founder.
For The Few Or The Many?
Jean Eugene Robert Houdin is considered the Father of Modern Magic. A French clockmaker turned magician, Robert Houdin brought magic from the streets to the theatre. Robert Houdin ONLY performed for the rich, wealthy & powerful. Go back 5000 years later to the Valley Of The Kings, magicians were notorious for having tight ties with the Royals of Ancient Egypt. Between the Greco-Roman Period
and the mid 1850’s, magic lost its royalty. While there were still plenty of stage magicians, magic had left the palaces and went to the streets. I personally believe this was a goo thing for the survivability of the art. The more people that get exposed to magic, the more it proliferates even if it comes with a price cut.
From the stage to the silver screen
Just as a French clockmaker brought magic to the 19th Century, a French magician turned pioneer brought magic to a new medium – Motion Picture. Motion Picture became the death of Vaudeville. Harry Houdini, probably saw this coming so for a short while he venture into the movie industry as a actor and director/producer. His venture was a failure but he pioneered how magic was to proceed into the later part of the 20th Century.
Magician Mark Wilson’s The Magic Land Of Alakazam aired on CBS in 1960 and it laid down the groundworks for TV magic specials that were to come 20 years later.
I can’t find the production cost for Mark Wilson’s Alakazam magic shows that ran from 1960 to 1964 but from what I have gathered, it was no greater than the cost of his touring grand illusion show. Magic shows on TV were what Virtual Zoom Magic Shows became in 2020-2021, just a watered down version. Then came David Copperfield in the late 70s through the mid 90’s with larger than life televised specials.
Following Wilson & Copperfield’s model came another big budget TV program – World Magic Awards and the Masters Of Illusion. These big budget productions were a variety show exclusively made up by magicians and jugglers. Each performer getting 15 – 20 minute lots. Cameras always focusing on the magician. This style of performing on TV is now obsolete thanks to the 1997 TV special “Street Magic” by David Blaine and later in the early & late 2000’s Criss Angel MindFreak.
David Blaine returned humbleness back to magic
Unlike Criss Angel & David Copperfield, David Blaine did not approach ABC with a million plus dollar production budget. What he did revolutionized TV magic, by introducing a sense of humbleness. Blaine wanted an emphasis LESS on him and more on the reactions of his spectators. Blaine’s method was simple – buy something from a magic shop and have a film crew follow and video people’s reactions. The formula worked and its been the standard for future TV magic & social media.
Blaine didn’t differentiate between classes & groups of people
Blaine performed on the streets for the penniless and homeless and for the rich & powerful alike. David Blaine is the same person on TV as he is in real life. He hides behind no character or persona.
Being a magician with knowledge & apparent power that very few have is a BIG responsibility and it can be the source of great arrogance if left unchecked. I’m 100% guilty of it myself. Knowing that it exists, recognizinging it and correcting it is also incredibly healthy in both mental health & interpersonal health. Having a big unchecked ego makes it incredibly difficult to relate to audiences.