At what age were you first introduced to magic?
A. Probably around 7 or 8yrs
old. I saw a magician perform at a neighbor's birthday party. My
father tells me that after the show I tried a card trick on him. I
had him pick a card and put it back in the deck. I guess I tried
to shuffle the deck because he said that I was dropping cards all
over the place but somehow I was able to find his card. To this
day I still have no idea how I did that trick.
Q. You were quite young when
you began to take magic seriously and performing for birthday
parties and other events. What was it like to be in your teens and
actually get bookings?
A. The best part was that my
partner and I had to be driven to our early gigs by our parents
because I didn't have my drivers license yet. I was 15 and he was
12. I think it was weirder for him when we were doing a party for
an 8yr. old 'cause he was only four years older than the kid. We
even had business cards that said Abra and Cadabra (I was "Abra
the master" and he was "Cadabra the apprentice"). Under our names
it said Amateur Magicians which makes no sense because we were
getting paid. I just felt like putting that on the cards so people
knew that we weren't really good yet. Damn, I'm honest... and
Q. Is that what truly hooked
you on turning your love of magic into a full time career or was
it when you began to realize that adult audiences reacted the same
when you hit college?
A. It was when I was in college
that I was like "I don't have to just do this for kids?!? I can do
stuff that I like to do!" Not just the kiddie tricks... that I
made goofy. The shows we did were never like normal magic shows.
In the beginning we wore t-shirts with our names ironed on to them
and goofy hats. I wore a Kangol with a foam frog on it. When I
look back it was totally ridiculous what we were doing in those
shows. The kids had fun but I don't think they completely got the
things we were doing. So when I did some stuff for my peers and
they were blown away I thought "Wow! there's a whole other market
out there for me! I never thought I would completely stop doing
magic before that, it just got me more excited about performing
and especially performing the routines that I had been playing
around with but couldn't get away with in kids shows.
Q. At some point traditional
sideshow acts became part of your show. When exactly did that
happen and what was it that made you want to add those acts to
A. That came later on in my
career but it was a natural thing for it to happen. I think it
really happened when I started touring with the Bindlestiff Family
Cirkus in '99. I became more aware of sideshow acts and realized
that my show already had that flavor built into it. I had been
swallowing razor blades for years as well as doing a comedy
pincushion routine (an illusion not the real thing although I have
done a bit of real pincushion as well). Adding the sideshow stuff
wasn't real conscious, I wasn't thinking that I had to add
sideshow to my act, these where just the things that I was
interested in, to me it was just adding another routine.
Q. Although magic was part of
the historical sideshows many sideshow performers of today frown
upon performing magic instead of “real” acts. Have you ever run
into sideshow performers that have looked down upon you for mixing
A. Nope, never. I've only had a
very positive response to my act from sideshow performers.
Q. What sideshow acts can you
Blockhead, pin cushion, glass eating, bed of nails, glass
walking, iron tongue (I use a gaff designed by Mephisto),
straitjacket escape, my geek act and I kind of count my razor
blade routine (although it's actually magic) and the pin cushion
illusion that I do because it's very much in the spirit of
Q. What sideshow acts do you
regularly perform in your shows?
A. Blockhead, straitjacket,
razorblades, pin cushion illusion, geek act. I throw in glass
eating from time to time (I'd like to have teeth when I'm 60)
Q. Do you let your audience
know what parts of your show are magic and what parts are real
sideshow acts, or do you just combine them for entertainment
A. I let them decide for
themselves what is real and what isn't. Sometimes it's obvious
either through the routine that I've designed or because of the
props (geek act for example). I don't think audiences really care,
as long as they are entertained.
Q. When were you truly
introduced to the sideshow industry and who was it with?
A. I was touring with the
Bindlestiffs when I met first met Ward and Bobby. Hearing their
stories just hooked me in. The next year we went on tour I got to
meet Melvin and Johnny Meah. It was pretty incredible.
Q. Do you still work with the
A. I do still work with them
and hang out with them whenever I can.
Q. You once worked at Coney
Island’s Sideshows By The Seashore. What did you perform?
A. I did a combination of
things. I've done shows there a bunch of times but worked the
actual sideshow just for one weekend filling in for Eak. I did a
magic set at the start of the show, straitjacket and the electric
Q. Do you plan on performing at
Sideshows by The Seashore in the future?
A. I'm sure I'll find myself on
that stage many more times. The summers are a little hard for me
to actually work the sideshow because I'm usually performing in
Europe but I rarely pass up the opportunity to work out there.
Q. In addition to Sideshows By
The Seashore you also worked with the Hall & Christ World of
did you get involved with that show?
A. I got involved in that
through the Bindles. Ward called them asking for some of us to
work with him at the Meadowlands. That year before I helped put up
the tent. I had already met Ward at that point and he wanted me to
do whatever shows I could while they were in NJ.
Q. How did it feel to be
working for one of the last touring sideshows?
A. It was pretty special. Even
the year before when I was helping to put up the tent I was
feeling lucky to be doing that. I was a tiny part of history. Just
looking around at all the props and displays took me back. I'm
proud to have been a part of it.
Q. What acts did you perform
while working the World of Wonders?
A. Well, I did the bed of
nails, ate glass, did magic, and the iron tongue.
Q. Currently you can be seen
working with Tyler Fyre and Insectavora in the Lucky Devil Circus
Sideshow. Where did you first meet Tyler?
A. I met Tyler in a bar. Not a
strange place for either of us to be. I actually saw him a couple
of years earlier when I went out to Coney to check out the show.
He was doing the bally at the time, nothing on the inside. I went
out there thinking about talking to Dick about working the show.
When I met Tyler he had just replaced Frankie in the show, and I
asked him about the possibility of doing some acts or talking the
bally. We exchanged numbers but that summer I was on tour with the
Bindlestiffs. That was probably 2000. In the winter of 2001 we
were doing a western show here in NYC and I had some gig and
couldn't do the show for a weekend. We called Tyler to fill in for
my part in the show - that's when we really got to be friends. He
asked me to fill in at the sideshow and we've been buddies ever
Q. How did you get involved
with the Lucky Devil Circus Sideshow?
A. Tyler told me he wanted me
to be a part of his show. He had worked out booking some shows at
CBGB's with a live band playing behind us. That was really the
start of me being a part of the show. I guess that was probably
last Jan or Feb.
Q. If the Lucky Devil Circus
Sideshow turns into a full time touring show would you give up
your solo career and just work that show?
A. I could never give up my
solo career. I have always managed to be able to work solo and
tour with a troop. I have a very successful street show that
allows me to travel all over the world and I couldn't give that
Q. Speaking of your solo career
you have performed just about everywhere including the overseas
market. What is it like performing for audiences overseas as far
as their reaction goes versus performing for US audiences?
A. Every place is different.
Even audiences in different cities in the same country can be very
different. Luckily almost everyone speaks English so when doing my
shows throughout Europe I don't have to worry too much about
language. You do have to speak slower and change some words and
jokes around a bit but that's about it. When doing sideshow I have
to present it a bit differently sometimes. In a lot of European
countries they don't know what sideshow is, or what our type of
carnival is so it's a matter of figuring out a way to explain that
Q. Do you prefer one over the
A. I don't really prefer one
over the other. It's actually very hard to compare them. It's very
different because here, although I am doing street shows, I'm
mostly working on stage whereas when I travel through Europe (or
Australia) I am primarily working the street, and stage and street
are two completely different animals. I love them both.
Q. Can you describe what your
2003 season was like?
A. Oh boy... Well, for starters
I did over 100 street shows in five different countries (Scotland,
Belgium, Norway, USA) - I worked the Forged in Ink Tattoo
convention with Lucky Devil, CBGB's, I did a lot of show the
Bindles at the Palace Of Variety here in NYC and some gigs out of
town, a few shows out at Coney Island, my own variety show that I
produce here in NYC... some corporate and private shows plus all
kinds of variety shows in different venues also in NYC... I'm sure
I'm forgetting something. I'd say I've probably done about 300-350
shows last year.
Q. Do you foresee yourself
repeating the same level or amount of performances for the 2004
A. I'm already on pace to do
more. In the four weeks I was in Australia I performed 31 street
shows and have done five more of those since coming home. Plus
we've done a few Lucky Devil shows and then there's my show that I
produce once a month. I'm probably up to at least fifty shows by
Q. Where have you performed so
far this year?
A. Australia (Adelaide Fringe
Festival and Sydney), PA (Forged in Ink), NYC (all over in a few
Q. Do you have any solo tours
already setup for 2004?
A. I'm either going up to
Canada or back to Europe - probably Europe. I'm planning on doing
the Edinburgh Fringe Festival again in August.
Q. With everything you have
accomplished in your career thus far where do you see yourself in
the next 5, 10, 15 years?
A. Damn this is a tough one...
Obviously I'd like to continue with my success - more shows,
better gigs, new routines. I am going to work on a fire eating act
(can you believe I don't do one yet...???) and I don't know what
else the future has in store for me. I'm really bad at looking way
down the road, I'm a sort of a 'why worry about tomorrow
when there is so much more to worry about today' kind of guy.
Yeah, I know it's not a good way to go about things but I'm used
to it. I try to plan the future out but I get too lazy. I have
more fun seeing how things play out short term because I know in
the end those decisions will affect my future. Take touring with
the Bindles for example, If I hadn't done that I don't think I'd
have had the experiences and know some of the people I know today.
That was never something that I planned 5-10 yrs. ago. I just
decided that it was time to go on tour with them so I did it.
Q. Looking back at everywhere
you've performed and the number of performances you’ve done one
question comes to mind. How do you get so many bookings?
A. I've been at it for a long
time, therefore people have gotten to know me and my act and they
want me to work with them, for them, etc. I also make a lot of
calls, following up with people, bugging them (but not to the
point of annoying them - it's a fine line), putting myself out
there and taking chances. I rarely turn down an opportunity to
work in someone's show because for one thing, it's what I love to
do and also you never know who could be watching you and that's
where your next gig could come from.
Q. The next question is how can
you deal with the amount of bookings you get physically and
A. I get antsy if I'm not
working. When I'm traveling through Europe doing my street show I
work everyday doing as many shows as I can and that's hard both
physically and mentally because I'm not doing 5-10 or even 15 min.
Typically the show is 45-1hr and you are going all out the whole
time - you have to because if you have a bad transition or people
don't think what you're doing is entertaining or funny they'll
walk away and
you don't get paid (well, by them). But I'm out there because I
want to work. The more shows I do the easier it becomes. You can
kind of get into a zone. I also try to eat right (if I can) and
try to workout if I can although my show in itself is a workout.
The most street shows I've done in one day is five. A few in the
afternoon and a few at night. It's a grind, but a different kind
of grind than a stage show or in the sideshow. There is no way you
can do as many shows on the street as you can on the inside. It's
not just the toll it takes physically but I don't think there is a
place in the world where you can do 15-20 street shows in a row
(that's about 15-20 hrs. of performing with the same energy). As
far as other shows go, whether it be stage, sideshow, or corporate
or private events, I say bring 'em on! The more the better. The
only thing that gets me down when doing shows are the audiences.
You just can't please some people. But really, the hardest part
about doing shows - no matter how many you do - is getting there
and getting home. The performance part is the easiest and most
fun. It's the traveling that is hard and a lot of times boring and
lonely, especially when traveling alone.
Q. Your show seems to consist
of a little sideshow, a little comedy and a lot of magic but what
do you actually do in your show?
A. Well, that's a difficult
thing. I think my show is really about my personality and
presentation. I had wanted to do stand-up comedy when I was
younger and thought that because I could do magic it would be
easier to combine the two because if the audience didn't think I
was funny they'd at least think the magic was cool. That was kind
of how I went into it. I also wouldn't say I do a lot of magic.
There is a thread of magic throughout the show (depending on the
show you see me doing), like on the street I do very little magic.
Basically it's about the straitjacket and chains and that's not
magic, it's an escape. I do a little trick in the beginning of the
show which is seen by just the first few people that I've
gathered, then I do a trick with a guy that I end up exposing at
the end of the routine, then pretty much the rest of the show is
the escape. So for those people it's not much of a magic show at
all. If you were to see me on stage, depending on the show I was
in, you may see a lot of magic, you may see a little magic and a
little sideshow, or you may see only sideshow. You may see me
perform as Dr. Frangible, a snake oil salesmen with an English
accent and a strange way about him. He does some magic and
attempts to demonstrate the powers of his Electric Lumberjack
Juice, but it all seems to go very badly for him while at the same
time becoming extremely entertaining to everyone watching. But in
all situations an audience member can expect to laugh a lot, be
completely surprised and hopefully have their idea of what a
magician is completely change. I like that about my act, that I
change people's ideas about magic and magicians. They usually
expect some flashy guy do things with birds and smoke and big
boxes. I go out there and make them laugh by pulling a bird wing
out of a magic bag the whole while telling them that they will
help me produce a beautiful bird that will fly out and land on
someone's shoulder. Suddenly it's like, "Oops, it's a wing of a
bird, but it's important to remember that we tried! " I set them
up for their normal expectation (magician produces a bird) then
surprise them with something completely different (a nasty looking
pigeon wing). I like to open with that routine because I think it
gets them ready for the type of show I do. I will also sometimes
open with my floating bottle routine; I use a real beer bottle
that I place on my table, then I have a very glitzy, magic looking
scarf which I hold in my hands cover the bottle. Suddenly it's
floating behind the scarf, above the scarf, all over the place. I
start to try and drink the beer but the bottle is floating around
and I can't grab it because I'm holding the scarf... In the end
I'm able to take a sip of the beer surprising everyone - basically
fooling them twice. I won't explain it here, you'll have to see me
in person to find out the surprise ending.
Q. The last question and maybe
the most important is who is Magic Brian?
A. Wooo, that's a good one... I
guess I'm a guy who figured out how to make people laugh at really
stupid things. Who figured out how to take magic and make it
different, present it in a different way while still retaining the
tradition and history of it. Making people laugh and surprising
them, fooling them is so much fun to me. I'm that class clown in
the corner of the room who's kind of shy at first but when he's
around his friends does some really weird shit acting really silly
making them laugh 'till it hurts. Just being a big goof ball...
and getting paid for it.
Interview by Derek Rose
For more information on Magic Brian