Magic on TV ain’t magic in your living room

There’s been an influx of magic on TV of late, with shows like Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us,” SyFy’s “Wizard Wars”, “The Carbonaro Effect” and “Masters of Illusion.”  Combine this with the success of magicians on “America’s Got Talent” and it’s no wonder this Chicago magician is told at every show he should be on AGT.

But this growth in media attention has had some unintended results.  Most recently, I had a potential client ask if I would be interested in performing in the style of Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us,” where I would perform magic, then between effects the audience would guess how it worked.

I was really taken aback by the request.  Not because I didn’t understand her point of view.  I can understand how fun an idea that would seem to a non-magician.  You could have teams, add up points, hand out prizes.  And the process of trying to “figure it out” is already happening inside the audience’s mind in every show anyway.  That’s the nature of magic.  There’s a secret and I won’t tell you what it is.

And I know how irritating it is to not know how it works.  I see the looks on some audience member’s faces when the moment of magic occurs.  For some people, it’s just too much.  For most people, it’s not fun to be fooled.  That’s actually a proven scientific fact.

Which is why the request took me aback.  See, I’ve spent a lifetime in magic, trying to make being fooled a pleasant experience.  I work very hard, whether I’m performing close up magic or onstage as corporate entertainment, to find ways to minimize the sting.  There are a thousand techniques and I’ve spent hours and hours looking for ways to shift the focus from the secret to the experience of magic.

In some ways it’s an impossible task.  I’m not interested in convincing you my magic is real, nor can I just out and out tell you the secret.  But the best magic does find a way to intrigue, entertain and mystify without screaming “I know the secret and you don’t!”

So no, I won’t do a show in the style of “Fool Us.”  Not only does it diminish the magic into a simple puzzle to be solved, but it removes the opportunity for mystery to be experienced.  As my wife will attest, when you the know the secret, magic disappears.

And magic, even the illusion of magic, is beautiful and worth the experience.