By Ryan Meehan
Magician Andrew Kelly has been performing for twelve years, and has delighted audiences with his dazzling display of card tricks. Fresh off of his most recent appearance on Ellen, he took the time to be my guest today in this very special edition of ten questions.
RM: Do you consider yourself to be a magician or an illusionist? What are some positive and negative connotations that people have associated with either of those words which draw interest or turn people off?
AK: I guess I would consider myself to be a Magician. When I personally think of an illusionist, I think of the guy on stage performing big illusions with big props. Whereas a Magician triggers the idea of a guy performing magic with everyday items right on front of your eyes. The latter is what I try to achieve. I think both of the words ‘Magician’ and ‘Illusionist’ can sometimes sound a bit cheesy. I think often when people think of a Magician, they expect colorful silks… rabbits to come out of hats… and all of these trivial tricks. I try to make what I’m doing seem appealing to the onlookers by only using familiar/borrowed objects.
RM: I saw on your website that you said what initially drew you to magic was when you saw someone do it at a family wedding, and it was more the feeling you got from it than the actual tricks themselves…How does one go about creating intangible feelings around the focus of such tricks? On a scale of one to ten how good at doing that would you consider yourself to be?
AK: I think that the tricks themselves are only a fraction of what Magic is really about. A lot of people can learn how the tricks are done…but it takes a certain type of person to transform these illusions into something important that people will want to remember. I personally think David Blaine is an excellent example of a Magician who knows how to effect people with his magic. He has a relaxed, slightly edgy demeanor which doesn’t look cocky or arrogant, so therefore all of people’s attention goes onto the magic he creates…rather than how “clever” he might be as a person. I too try to be relaxed and allow the magic to speak for itself. I’m never forceful and my primary goal is to make people escape from their daily life just for the small amount of time that I spend with them.
RM: Do you have any sort of formal speech training which has taught you how to use your voice to create that kind of calm environment around the trick, or have you always spoken in that manner? How often would you say you use language to distract the subjects from what’s going on in front of them?
AK: That’s an interesting question. I’ll take that as a compliment! No, I’ve never had any speech training or acting classes to help me develop. However often what I say is essential for creating the illusions. Without giving away too much…many of the sneakier tricks depend on distraction either by performing an action that I want the viewers to watch, by saying something, or by creating laughter. For example if I don’t want someone to look at my right hand, I myself don’t look at it. If I do want someone to look at my right hand (to distract), I too look at my right hand and the spectators will follow. It sounds incredibly simple but it’s surprising what you can get away with. I have removed wristwatches from people without them knowing. In fact…I should probably give those back sometime…
RM: How does an entertainer such as yourself go about finding ways to create new tricks when there are so many of the classic ones we are all so used to seeing? Does the brainstorming process consist of you simply messing around with a deck of cards, or is it something that could potentially come to you when you’re in the juice aisle at the grocery store?
AK: This is difficult. Magic really is one of the oldest art forms out there. It has existed for absolutely ages so therefore it is difficult to create something completely and utterly original. That said, I try to use my knowledge of old tricks and put a spin on them to create new effects. I’d say that while I do think about magic all the time, the ideas come to me while I’m playing with cards and trying to learn. Often I think of what I want to create for an audience, and then work backwards to work out how I can achieve the effects. The finished product always comes before the method with me.
RM: I saw your appearance on Ellen…How much easier was it to do a huge TV appearance like that because of the positive environment she creates on that show? Was there considerably less pressure than it might have been if you were on Fallon or Colbert and it was late night television?
AK: Ellen was crazy because it was the first time I had performed for a large audience, the first time I’d performed for a celebrity and the first time I had performed on television! A lot was going through my head at the time! I tried to treat the performance just like I would any other person. I tried to block out the pressure of the cameras et cetera and just treat my time on the show like I would any other event I perform at. After the first trick I relaxed a little and enjoyed it more. I think I was also helped by the fact that the whole show does have that positive, relaxed vibe. I knew that Ellen likes Magic as she’d had several Magicians on the show in the past. She doesn’t heckle and loves to be surprised…so I had some fun with it and thankfully everything went according to plan! I’d love to go back and do it again. I think Fallon would be equally as enjoyable…I’d love the opportunity.
RM: What was the best compliment you received – either in person or online – after that appearance? Why do you think that particular piece of energy meant so much to you personally?
AK: From the Ellen performance? I had emails from all sorts of different places. People dropped me emails from New York, India, Philippines et cetera just saying that they really enjoyed the performance and that they found it inspiring. There was no compliment that stood out as the best, because they were all equally nice. I found this really touching because my original reason for practicing magic was to make people happy. To have all these emails come in really felt great as it’s nice to have affected people in that way. I also had many emails from people saying that the performance had led them to learning magic…which to me is a massive compliment. It’s important to inspire others and keep the art alive.
RM: What’s your take on the people who post these “reveal” videos on YouTube that show how certain tricks are done? Does that upset you at all, or do you just kind of figure that it’s going to happen to everybody given the manner in which technology has taken over our lives?
AK: Unfortunately YouTube isn’t always a magician’s best friend. Naturally some people treat magic as a puzzle that must be worked out and shared with others. This is a shame for those that enjoy the magic, as the illusion does get tarnished. However, as you say, it makes sense that such videos would exist because there are videos of just about everything on Youtube. You can learn whatever you like. I do think this is great for getting people started and it’s great knowing that these videos keep people learning. However it is a shame that literally anyone could come across a “reveal” video just by typing it into YouTube, when really it can be nice for the secrets to remain slightly hidden away.
RM: If somebody wanted to go about getting started in your field, what are some of the first bits of footage you would suggest that they watch in order to become well educated about illusionism? Is it easier to learn with other people who are also interested in the skill as well so that each of them have someone to practice with?
AK: I think the best way to get started is just by watching some of the big names in magic doing their thing. Magicians like David Blaine, Dynamo, Derren Brown, David Copperfield and Penn & Teller really are excellent performers. It’s also great to actually see a live performance, as I did. Seeing it on television is one thing but if you go to a stage show, you really get an understanding of just how real the illusions can be portrayed. From there I think the best way to learn is from books and just have fun with it. I was self taught and never practiced with anyone else simply because I didn’t know any other Magicians.. but I’m sure this would be a good way to learn.
RM: Can you see yourself eventually getting into any form of mentalism? How much different is that genre of close-up different from the tricks you do with a standard deck of cards?
AK: Yes. I perform close-up mentalism as well as magic. Mentalism is a broad subject which to me deals with the art of mind reading. The idea that somebody could think of an object, and the performer is able to tell them what they are thinking of. This type of performance appeals to me because it is often very personal and requires little/no props. I have brought people to tears on more than one occasion because people just get so stunned that you could reveal such information. Making a chosen playing card appear in someone’s pocket is one thing… but I think things get taken up a notch for an audience when you are predicting who they will see later that day, or revealing information about someone such as their birthday.
RM: Is there anything within the entertainment industry that you would really like to try your hand at, but for whatever reason just haven’t had a chance to do so just yet? Do you think that ten years from now you’ll have be able to say you’ve done it?
AK: I’d like to be able to perform on stage for larger audiences with Magic. I think I would find this highly rewarding and it would certainly push me out of my comfort zone, which I’m always trying to do. Other than that, it’s all about learning more magic and performing for as many people as I can.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2016 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
AK: Just like with revealing how a trick is done, I’m afraid I can’t tell you that… 😉
Official Website: http://www.andrewkellymagic.com/
Andrew on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/andrewkellymagic
Andrew on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/andykellz
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