"Hi, I'm a Magician!" – A Social Experiment

“Hi, I’m a Magician.” I said this last night more than I have in a long time. It was part of a social experiment.

Ever since I was young, I’ve had an issue with saying “I’m a Magician.” When I was young and first studying magic, it was difficult to determine at what point I WAS a Magician. After I had mastered one trick? Three tricks? One show? One year of performing? Later, the issue became whether or not I wanted OTHER people to call me a Magician. I always thought being a Magician made me look nerdy, and I wasn’t okay with that. So I did what many other Magicians did. I used other terms. At first, it was “I’m an Illusionist.” Then I realized how ridiculously pretentious that is unless you’re doing large-scale illusions (in magic jargon, the terms “illusion” and “illusionist” are generally reserved for large-scale tricks involving people, large stage props, big animals, cars, etc.). Then I was a “Magical Entertainer” because that’s what my boss at the time told me to tell people.

As my act developed into a comedy act, I would learn to tell people I was a “Comedy Magician,” but no one knew exactly what that was. So I started saying “Comic and Magician” or “Comedian and Magician” which is easier for people to understand. There are common social situations in which people commonly ask what you do. One of them is when you’re getting your haircut. This has been a time for me to play with different ways of explaining what I do and giving my little elevator speech. Sometimes I’ll simply say “I’m a comedian” because that way I know they won’t ask to see a trick. Another fear is if I say “I’m a Magician,” the next words out of their mouths are “Aww, my 6 year old daughter would LOVE that!”

Last night I attended a Speed Networking event for the local Chamber of Commerce. For those of you who don’t know what that is, Speed Networking works the same way as Speed Dating. There are several small tables set up and you rotate every three minutes to meet someone new and briefly explain who you are and what you do, exchange business cards, then it’s off to the next table. Just enough time to tell someone what I do – not enough time to do a trick. It was the perfect opportunity to try an experiment. I wanted to tell every table there very plainly and very openly nothing but the words “I am a Magician” and see how they react.

It may not seem like a big deal, but it actually was for me. It’s been a really long time since I’ve simply introduced myself as a Magician without adding some sort of other word to help distinguish me from what my insecurities told me was already going on in his or her head. In my head, they’re asking questions like “when are you going to grow up and get a real job?” “you can make a living out of that?” or “Aww, my 6 year old daughter would LOVE that!” So I added things like “I am a Magician for adults,” or “I am a Magician who makes fun of magic while also doing magic.” These are fairly accurate descriptions and they set me apart from the other Magicians. But part of what I’ve realized is that most of the people I meet have never met another Magician. And some might not ever meet another Magician. So instead of trying to distinguish myself from the other Magicians with words – why not just tell them “I’m a Magician,” and see where their imagination takes them?

I used the Speed Networking event to do just that. I sat down at the first table and said “Hi, I’m Michael Kent. I’m a Magician.” I said it with bright eyes and it was kind of fun to say. Every set of eyes I said it to lit up. It was a different reaction than “I’m a Magician, but…” or “I’m a Magician who…” It wasn’t confusing. It was straight forward and direct. I am a Magician. I am. That’s what I do. I would let my personality, my appearance and my rapport with them tell the rest of the story. Maybe THEY would go home and say “I met a Magician, but he wasn’t like other Magicians.” I don’t need to tell them that. If I’m a Magician who’s also funny, I would tell them “I’m a Magician” and simply BE funny. Otherwise I’m not telling them the truth. Don’t call yourself an Illusionist if you don’t do Illusions. Don’t call yourself a Mentalist if you read minds for 10 minutes of a 60 minute magic show. I’m a Magician. All of the other things will come out socially and naturally. But the core of what I do – the most marketable aspect of what I do is just that – magic. The experiment was a success. I received so many interesting reactions last night that from now on, I believe I’ll be thinking differently about how I introduce myself to people.

How do mimes do it?

9 thoughts on “"Hi, I'm a Magician!" – A Social Experiment”

  1. You know Michael, I went through the same thing over the last few months. As you might imagine, I too have always added a modifying term since I do comedy AND magic, and I don’t perform for kids. “I’m a comedian and magician” or “I’m a comedy magician” or “I’m a magician for adults” etc have all been things that I’ve said.

    I’ve discovered that by introducing myself as a magician, and then simply responding to their reaction is easier. If they say the old, “My six year old would love that!” I respond, “Actually, I’ve never done a kids show in my life,” which prompts them to ask what I do (because they’ve only ever considered magic being for kids), and it adds a new aura of mystery surrounding my work.

    And I came to the same crashing realization that you needn’t tell people that you are a funny/comedy magician. Rather, just be funny and they’ll get it.

    Great stuff, thanks for sharing.

  2. On introducing myself as a magician…

    Me: “Hi I’m Robert. I’m a magician.”

    Other Person: “What instrument do you play?”

    Sort of puts in perspective where we rank in the big scheme of things.

  3. Hey bud! Great topic… I’ve always thought “Magic” or “Magician” was very generic but useful at times. It’s about as descriptive as a guitarist saying they are a “Musician”. The difference is that the PUBLIC understands that there is a large range of declines and uses in music… from composing, rock, jazz, classical, guitar, drums, flute, etc. … solo, band, etc… I think there is a misconnect with MAGIC and I wonder if educating people is a good or bad thing. Perhaps leaving the mystery and thought process up to them and adjusting as needed is best. Personally, I say I’m an entertainer… it’s even more generic and does not allow me to be pigeon holed one way or the other. Anyhow, hope to see you again soon! RICH

  4. Rich,

    Thanks for taking a look. I think in this instance, I’m talking about instances in which the most generic term actually conveys more information than getting into specifics. When time is an issue and you want to convey what you do, maybe “magician” actually conveys MORE information than anything else because you’re using their existing ideas about magic. My hope is that those ideas are formed in a positive way in conjunction with the information they inherently pick up from meeting you.

    In saying “I’m an entertainer” (which I have done as well), it isn’t a very efficient way of communicating what you do because 99% of the time, they will respond with “what kind of entertainer?” When you’re trying to have a lengthy conversation with someone, this might be okay because you’re making them facilitate conversation. But in my mind, that “I’m a magician” moment is a memorable first impression that sticks with them. When they are looking for an magician for their event, I think it’s more common that they would be thinking “I need a magician – Oh remember that guy Rich we met?” rather than “We need an entertainer – Oh remember that guy Rich we met?” I could be wrong about this, but I think “Magician” is much more memorable because it uses the stereotype that we’re all running to avoid. I LOVE your title of “The Ice Breaker.” I think it’s clever and unique. In print it works. But I think in a brief social encounter, it makes things more confusing for them. Which is funny to us, because we’re inclined to think that more descriptive=easier to understand. I dunno – I could be wrong about all of this. Just my thoughts!

    Hope you’re well. I’ll be out in LA next month doing a couple guest spots!

Leave a Comment