Today is my birthday. Last week I got to appear on an internationally broadcast television show called Penn & Teller : Fool US, now in its third season. The show challenges magicians to try and fool Penn and Teller and should they do so, they win not only the bragging rights of fooling the best in the business, but get to come back to Vegas and appear on their live show. Truth be told, everyone who appears on that show is a winner. Getting to be on that show is like winning the showbiz lottery, just for the footage alone.
I’ve been on national TV before, in Canada, America and Asia. This however was the first international television appearance I’ve had in my 25 year career. It’s a massive deal for a Canadian to get on an American TV show, let alone an international one. Those opportunities rarely arise. I owe that to Penn and Teller, and brilliantly funny and amazing magician Michael Close, who’s the magic consultant on the show. He has a wicked genius of an eye for what works on camera and why. They gave me my first international TV break, and I will always be grateful for that. It’s an experience I’ll never EVER forget.
Overall, the experience was excellent, no question. From the minute the limo picks you up at the airport to the time you walk out of the theatre, you feel like a star. The Penn & Teller theatre at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas was the nicest stage I’ve ever performed on. All the acts agree on that. The production was top notch, 9 cameras and a camera on a crane. Crew outstanding. Mike Close and the legendary Johnny Thompson, over 2 rehearsals worked my set to make it TV ready and gave me some bits of business to use on the show. FREE advice from two of the best, most experienced magicians on the planet. I couldn’t pay for that kind of attention and advice. Truth be told, just meeting Johnny Thompson was enough. These production guys, yea… they mean business. I could never in my lifetime afford to shoot a video in a venue like this and have that kind of production value. Even national TV in the other countries doesn’t come close to this level of production value.
Some of the best magicians in the world come to perform on this show, so its nice to be in that company, though I’m acutely aware that I am NOT one of the best in the world. Not even close. Trust me. I know that.
Crazy, unbelievable luck landed me on that show. I’m forever thankful. Before you think I’m just bragging, the REASON I’m writing this is…
WEIRDLY, I have mixed feelings about the actual performance I saw on TV. When I watched I didn’t love my set. Later, a crap ton of magicians and comedians I respect very much, acts I would label as influential, took time to contact me to say that they loved the spot and enjoyed the show. They didn’t have to do that. They could have said nothing if it was crap. Surely that must mean I’m a madman with a magic tricks and I just can’t see the reality of it? Still deep down I think it wasn’t that great a performance. I KNOW for sure, 100%, I could have done better. I SHOULD have done better, given all my experience. For a host of reasons largely to do with the audience and how the show is shot and produced, it was a harder performance right off the top than other TV and theatre shows I’ve done. That threw me off. I won’t get into it. I’ve no right to bitch about how experienced producers and directors work their craft and run their production. Trust me though, they threw some curve balls that didn’t make it easy.
I’m not sure if this is general performer insecurity or reality. I’m pretty self aware about when I kill or do not kill for an audience. Walking off stage after the shoot I knew it wasn’t my best work. I have no idea what to do about it. I really don’t. Guess there’s nothing I CAN do about it. The tape is the best piece of promotional material I’ll ever have. It was seen my millions of people across the globe. It’s opened quite a few doors for me already and its only been a week. Yet, I KNOW that audiences aren’t seeing the best of me. It pisses me off. Funny how artists have a huge self-loathing about them.
End of the day, all the attention from the show has let me do things within my industry that I might never have been able to do. I got to tell acts who emailed to say nice things about my spot on Fool Us and inquire about the trick, that it was David Ben’s stage blocking for the tossed out deck that he wrote about in his excellent book “Tricks” that inspired me to orchestrate the blocking of my own trick as I did. Its David’s idea that’s gives it a powerful ending. In my full live show I close with the Underwear Effect and often get a standing ovation, that’s solely because of David Ben’s blocking on that piece. Seriously. David’s real genius, outside of his almost encyclopedic knowledge of magic, lay in staging small pieces for the big stage. It’s a facility I wish I had with consistency. I talked about the trick and its origin, as well as got to talk about the bits and work I’ve added to the piece, and in some cases thinned out from parts the original effect. Its fun to give credit to the people who influence you. Musicians do it all the time, Magicians rarely do. It IS the right thing to do. So, end of the day, good or bad performance, I got to do that. I got to publicly say thanks by way of giving credit to people who’ve influenced my work. What more can I ask for?…. maybe millions of dollars and to be the king of Vegas, but that’s it. My needs are few.
Maybe next I’ll write a list of people who have influenced my work. That might be fun.