A Cheap Victory

Judge Steffi Kay

Judge Steffi Kay

Last night was Cheap Tricks 2, the nightmarish magic contest envisioned by Mysterion, Canada’s most awesomely coiffed, sartorially resplendent mentalist and half of the mindreading duo The Sentimentalists. Each contestant receives a series of constraints and has to create their act in just a few hours before performing on stage at Revival.

I appeared alongside John Roldan, Jim Byrnes, Beyond Mental Borders, Jonah Babins, Harry Zimmerman, Jacqueline Swann and Shamus MacGregor. The contest was judged by Steffi Kay of the Sentimentalists, Ben Train, Rayn, and the previous champion Chris Westfall. (I was a judge on the first contest in 2017, but agreed to give up my spot to Chris.)

My set of constrains was that i had 3 hours to build an act using a budget of $5 with only material procured at a the nearby A&W. I also had to present in the theme of a XXX-rated Adult Film…. magic for grownups indeed. I’m so glad I forgot to invite my mother to watch. I’m more glad that magic elder statesman Mark Lewis was in the audience to witness me debasing the art of magic.


But a contest is a contest and I played to win (much to Mysterion’s regret.) You can watch the full performance below — cheaply filmed and edited by the Cheap Tricks elves. Although there’s not necessarily any reason you would want to. And certainly don’t do it with your children around:

The tl/dw is that I won…. proud of it, but not proud of what I had to do to get it. Thank you to the judges and to everyone who attended the contest.

James Alan & Mysterion the Mindreader

James Alan & Mysterion the Mindreader

L to R: Shamus Macgregor, Beyond Mental Borders, Harry Zimmerman, Jacqueline Swann, James Alan, Jonah Babins, Jim Byrns, John Roldan

L to R: Shamus Macgregor, Beyond Mental Borders, Harry Zimmerman, Jacqueline Swann, James Alan, Jonah Babins, Jim Byrns, John Roldan

I can’t wait to get back to doing normal magic!

The Endless Chain

On Tuesday night, I gave an impromptu performance at The Newest Trick In The Book, put on by the Toronto Magic Company and hosted by the charming Jonah Babins. I had just come from another event and had been asked to step in for another performer who couldn’t make it. You can see photos from the event from David Fulde here).

Toronto’s magic video elf Chris Mayhew shared the video of that performance:

The Endless Chain is an old crooked gambling game. As Whit Hayden and Chef Anton described in their monograph on the subject, the most difficult thing to do while presenting the Chain is to convince people that it’s actually possible to win.

Normally it’s presented as a piece of close-up magic (and you can imagine it would be much clearer if you could be sitting around watching the chain from above). But from the composition of the rest of the show, which was heavy on card magic, I opted to switch to this, literally on the walk up as I was being introduced. But it felt true to the rules of the Newest Trick as it’s something I’ve never performed in that setting before.

Photos from Magic & Martini in Toronto

Last night we had another sold out Magic & Martini at the gorgeous SpiritHouse in downtown Toronto. We have a limited performance schedule coming up in August as I will be travelling, but we are back in full swing in September. Readers can use the code secrets for a discount on tickets when purchasing online. We will also be back in Hillsburgh and Oakville in October.

Here are some photos from the show courtesy of Tyler Sol Williams

Photos from Magic & Martini Featuring The Evasons

Last night's sold out Magic & Martini was an unbelievable treat for me. One of the most rewarding things in this industry is collaborating with other performers. For two and a half years, I had that chance every week when I was hosting Magic Tonight. But there was one act that was never able to perform on the show.

The Evasons, while originally Canadian, perform now almost exclusively in the US. And since Magic Tonight wrapped, Magic & Martini has been a solo endeavour. But the opportunity presented itself and I couldn't resist, so last night's show featured a brief interlude from the world's foremost mentalist duo. (Which was a total surprise to most of the ticket buyers since we only decided to do this on Wednesday!)

Jeff & Tessa Evason

Jeff & Tessa Evason

They are unquestionably the top in their field, if not in the world then at least in the English-speaking world.) There's something that happens when your name becomes synonymous with what you do. The way you reach for a Kleenex and you don't "search" for things on the internet, you Google them. Among magic-folk, what was — once up on a time — "Second Sight" is now just known as "The thing the Evasons do."

Thank you to everyone who attended the show. Here are a few photos from the night from Tyler Sol Williams

We have some dates with space still in August. Readers can use the code olive for a discount on the price of tickets when booking online

How not to lose $100

A short excerpt from Magic & Martini at SpiritHouse in Downtown Toronto. This is a piece of magic I created based on a trick of Tommy Wonder's several years ago. I first began performing it in 2012 as part of my show, Lies, Damn Lies & Magic Tricks

It appeals to me because of how direct it is. A lot of magic is based on distraction and surprise where the climax comes out of left field, but here I get to say what will happen and it happens. 

The trick is called "Elizabeth V" for reasons which would take a while to explain. 

Magic & Martini continues with through the summer with selected dates in Toronto. Readers can use the code olive for a discount on the price of tickets when purchasing online. (We will be back in Oakville and Hillsburgh in the fall.)

Tommy Wonder

One of my early inspirations in magic was a dutch performer named Tommy Wonder (ne Jacobus Bemelman). I devoured all of the Tommy Wonder material which was available. (Which at that time in the history of the internet, making far too many purchases on eBay.)

One of the things that made him such a memorable performer was that more than doing magic, he was someone that magic happened to. (And ending prepositions with sentences is a situation up with which we must not put.) He took after another dutch forerunner, Fred Kaps in that respect. It has been over ten years since he passed away I reached a point where I thought I had seen all that there was.

Yesterday, the YouTube algorithm (probably prompted by my review of Jamy Ian Swiss' article about him) turned this up for me and I remembered what I found so inspiring years ago. So enjoy a rather grainy television performance from the late, great Tommy Wonder: