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The Comedy of Errors

A Magician in Notts

4 April 19 illustrations: Alex McDougall

"If you’ve got a wannabe alpha-male in the group who thinks he’s going to be a clever dick, he won’t like someone else coming in and performing magic."

When you were little, you could pick up a massive leaf in your garden and, for you, it would be astonishing. But if you showed it to your mum or dad, they wouldn’t really be bothered, because they would seen loads of leaves. The older we get, the more we lose our sense of wonder and astonishment. I became a magician because of my love of making people smile and bringing that infantile sense of amazement back.

I didn’t always want to be a magician. I was working in administration, where I would watch the sun rise in the morning and set in the evening, doing the same crappy job and thinking that this can’t have been what I was put on the planet for. There had to be something more than this, not just something more exciting for me, but also something that allows me to give back to the world. I suppose that was the ‘ta-da’ moment, if you like.  

Even now, I question whether magic is my true purpose in life. That’s a good question everyone should ask themselves: exactly what is my purpose? If you ask that, over time it will evolve. Even if you want to be an astronaut when you’re little, the reality of what that actually entails is probably going to be quite different from what you first thought. What you want to do with your life, and where you want to go, and what you want to be remembered for is constantly evolving.

The most challenging thing is overcoming people’s belief that magic is just for children, because they’ve grown up too much. I also have to deal with a lot of people who don’t like having the centre of attention drawn away from them. If you’ve got a wannabe alpha-male in the group who thinks he’s going to be a clever dick, he won’t like someone else coming in and performing magic. It’s increasingly regular, and is a sad by-product of the increasingly narcissistic world that we live in, which is fuelled and propelled by social media. Alpha-males are often, down at their core, extremely insecure, and think that a magician is going to make them feel silly, or that magic is automatically linked with a trick, and they don’t want to see themselves as someone who can be tricked.

You don’t get loads of girls being a magician. Everybody thinks you do, but it’s quite the opposite. In a performance situation, you’re the main man who is amazing everybody and people are clapping and cheering. But in your personal life you’re not in that performing mode. You go into a party as this mystical character who can read people’s minds and tell them the name of their first pet, but when you leave that party, you go back to being just a normal guy who’s got to pay his gas and electricity bill.

If you ever do anything that you absolutely love, and you take it to a full time career, that love will go. You can liken it to chocolate: if you loved chocolate, and had a limitless supply, you’d eat it all the time. Each time you ate it, you’d get that little dopamine hit, but eventually you’d start to get bored of it. It’s the same with magic: you love it, perform it, and people have an amazing experience, but over time, those little dopamine hits become less enjoyable than when you first started.

That gives you a constant need to reinvent what you do, be it through mind reading, digital magic or stage shows. The world also evolves, and people’s reactions to magic changes. As a result, the murky waters of magic become a bit tainted. My hopes would be to move away from close up magic more into stage magic, and then on to something completely different from it altogether. Maybe doing something that allows me to give back more than just two seconds of astonishment, to something more holistic, like a retreat for people.

No matter how much David Blaine or Dynamo are on TV, people will always say the same old jokes when a magician turns up anywhere. “Oh, careful of your wallets!” or “Can you make my wife disappear?” You have to feign laughter every time. I must have heard that in excess of five thousand times, and it never gets any funnier.

I think people still want to be amazed and wowed, and do something new in their lives. That’s why we want to buy the latest iPhone, or visit new destinations in the world. It’s why people like spending time with children, to look through their eyes and see a world full of astonishment and wonder. People still want to believe in magic.  

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