BuzzFeed spoke with Justin Willman who – in addition to touring and having a show on Netflix called Magic for Humans – does intimate magic performances at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel.
One thing that makes Justin different from other magicians is that he incorporates humor into his shows. His invisible man trick (where he literally convinced people they were invisible) went viral last year, with over 47 million views.
So, we first were curious about how Justin got into magic. He told us that it was by accident. "Literally. I fell off my bike when I was a kid and broke both my arms. The doctor told my mother I should try sleight of hand magic to help with the healing process. It wasn’t great medical advice, but it turned out to be great career advice," he said.
Justin admitted that magic on television is a little harder than magic on stage. "Magic as a form of entertainment is much older than television, and as a result of that, magic on TV is subjected to much more scrutiny. Often people think that it would be easier, which is exactly why it’s harder," he explained.
OK, now here are the answers to questions from the BuzzFeed Community!
Q: "I know 'magicians never reveal their secrets,' but have you ever actually shown anyone (like friends or family) how to do all those magic tricks no one else knows how to do?" —rachelh42bb3f7b8
A: "I hate to break it to you, but magicians reveal their secrets all the time. Long before the internet some masked-dingus did a TV special, and now you can Google almost everything. I, personally, don’t tell people how stuff works because people don’t really want to know. They think they do, but they don’t. They want their minds blown. Anyone can tell people how the trick works, not a lot of people can actually do it."
Q: "What do you do if your trick doesn’t go as planned on stage?" —chloect
A: "If my tour manager hears me say, 'Are you sure?' three times, he starts the car and waits for me outside. We’re usually gone by the time people figure out it’s not a bit. Luckily, it doesn’t happen too often."
Q: "How do you come up with new tricks?" —bandfanatic
A: "It usually happens one of two ways. Either something will be going on in my life that I want to talk about on stage or I’ll get excited about a technical or mechanical aspect of something new. From there, it’s just trial and error – mostly error at first. Sometimes even after all that work, you finally get the magic fleshed-out and all the jokes written and then it just doesn’t connect with the audience. You have to scrap the whole thing and start over."
Q: "What was the first trick you ever learned?" —hayleykral
A: "The appearing coin trick. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up making much money appear doing magic for a long time after that."
Q: "What type of person makes the best magician? Ex: mathematicians are logical, people who do music are creative." —evasims
A: "I don’t know what would make someone a good magician, but I do know what would make you a bad one. If you hate animals, don’t like kids (or aren’t legally allowed to be near them), hate traveling or can’t keep a secret…magic is probably not for you."
Q: "Has a death-defying or dangerous trick ever gone wrong on stage? If so, what happened?" —lucyt410579ade
A: "If I did a death-defying trick that went wrong, I wouldn’t be here today, which is why I’ve always stayed away from stuff like that. What’s the point of doing an amazing show if you’re not around to take a selfie with people after (or get paid)?"
Q: How do you keep animal participants quiet during a trick before they’re revealed? —caseyloren
A: "'Animal participants?' You make it sound like the animals are there under their own free will. I don’t do any 'animal stuff' in my live show, however, I’ve been known to collab with the occasional goat or piglet on the TV show. I try my best to only work with the quiet ones."
Q: "Did you go to a 'magic school' or just practice on your own?" —juveniletomato
A: "While Hogwarts sadly isn’t a real place, the real-life subculture of magic is equally whimsical and surreal. I’ve been fortunate enough to have more mentors than I can count."
Q: "What types of tricks have you found impress people the most (or leave them scratching their heads the longest)?" –Anonymous
A: "Whenever you can do something with an ordinary object, something from someone’s pocket, something they brought with them, it really connects. If I do magic with a deck of cards, yeah, it’s cool. But, if I do something with your drivers license or your iPhone, that’s really impressive."
Q: "In your own words, what is the difference between an illusionist and a magician? You consider yourself a 'magician,' correct?" –lejnocean
A: "I guess I do. But, I don’t really think of myself as any one type of magician…or at least I try not to. It’s made it a little harder to establish myself over the years, but it also gave me the freedom to do whatever interests me as opposed to only stuff that people expect to see. I think it’s fair to say that you have no idea what you’re going to see when you’re watching our show or if you come to see me live. I like it that way."
Q: How do you determine what kind of tricks to do for a small group vs. a large audience? –Anonymous
A: "My repertoire is pretty consistent regardless of audience size. I manage to get away with the same material whether it’s 6 people or 6000. Jumbotrons are helpful though. What's unique about the Roosevelt show is the space: it's less than 100 seats, so you're up close and personal. No seat is more than 30 feet from the stage."