This happens often: Mixed into a group at an event is a “magician.” This guest is easy to spot. Either he mentions his work with magic directly to me as I’m in the middle of a trick, or one of his friends pipes up and gives him away. That’s fine with me. Most of the time, however, a “magician” is the one who leans over to his buddy and whispers methods as an on-going play-by-play commentary of my work.

Before I go on, let me define what I mean by “magician.”

This is a person, generally male, who knows a few tricks. He knows a few of the classic moves and bits of sleight of hand. He had a book when he was a kid, and even did tricks for his friends at school.

He is not an actual magician who has dug into the artform and truly is in pursuit of the creation of magic. He does not perform on a regular basis (or ever) for money. Sometimes, he is quite polite about his knowledge, and withholds his understanding so as to prevent damaging my performance. Other times, he becomes the know-it-all in the group and can destroy the magic.

I handle “magicians” in a few different ways, depending on the nature of things. If they are good natured, and polite, I have no problem chatting with them about magic. Often, they become some of my biggest fans. These guys sit back and enjoy watching a pro magician work. I like to ask them about the magic that they used to do. It helps me gauge their level, and encourages me to choose something out of my arsenal that they will enjoy. Occasionally, if time allows, I’ll even teach them a small bit of magic. Essentially, I’ve made a new friend.

At the other end of the spectrum is the jerk who knows several pieces of magic and can’t keep his mouth shut. Maybe he’s whispering methods to his friends, or maybe he simply comes out and says the secrets for the whole group to hear. As soon as I figure this out, a few things happen.

First, I put away my cards. If they know about magic, there is a 95% chance that their knowledge is in cards. Simply by changing the props and systems involved, I can work outside of their knowledge and entertain. Perhaps I’ll bend a fork or coin.

If my “magician” knows a decent amount about magic, I’ll move to something much deeper. I have to be very careful in these situations, because I do not want to ruin the magic for the rest of the group. I want them to continue to be entertained without showing that there are any issues. The selection of the next piece of magic is important. I will usually dig deep into my studies and do something that is rarely performed today. Most of the time, this is a mind-reading style of trick. The techniques are much less circulated, and exceptionally invisible. This is usually enough to put the jerk “magician” in his place. It also sends a subtle message that he is seeing a true pro at work.

In the end, I never try to create a confrontation. It is the single, fastest way to ruin a performance. I messes with my mental focus for the rest of the night, and hinders me from doing my job properly.

In the worst cases, I have had to quietly talk to a “magician.” In these instances, I tell him that I’m there to work and entertain the group and that he is getting in the way of that happening. I tell him, if he wants to talk about magic, we can do it AFTER the event is done. I keep it good natured, but firm.


Two things. First, you’re hired to entertain. Do what you need to in order to make that happen. If that means that you have to cut a set short and move onto another group, do it. If you have to talk to the jerk, do it very quietly and discreetly.  If word gets back to the client who hired you that there was a confrontation between you and a guest, it will be YOUR fault. Even if it wasn’t your fault, it will be credited to you. That means that you will not be rehired. Keep your cool, and be diplomatic about things.

Second, the existence of “magicians” serve as a good reason to study a variety of styles. If everything you do is card magic, then you have zero alternatives to work with. If you have put in the hours to work with coins, billets and other props, you will be greatly rewarded in these situations—because no matter how good your card technique is, they will still recognize the tells.

Bottom-line: Don’t let them see you sweat. They can smell fear.