Editor's Note: Jeff Grow is a professional magician based in New York City. I caught up with Jeff to ask him about the appeal of magic and the life of a magician. To find out more about Jeff, check out his website here and Facebook page. Follow him on Twitter @Jeff_Grow.
Jake Horowitz (JH): Explain the timeless appeal of magic. In general, most people don’t like being tricked or conned. So why are we so drawn to magic shows?
Jeff Grow (JG): Magic plays with our concepts. We spend our lives learning to understand how the world works and then comes this moment that bends, or breaks, those rules. That can be a delightful thing to experience. It can also be frustrating. Our tendency is to try and define it – to create a new concept defining how the magic, or the ‘trick’, happened. One of the challenges of performing magic is to try and create more space for that first moment to continue before the audience begins analyzing. I think there are a lot of other things we encounter that bring about a similar experience, but many of them are more subtle – magic is distinct in that it goes right for that gap in concept.
JH: Are there periods throughout history when magic has been more popular? If so, why? Are we experiencing one of those periods today?
JG: Before movies, magic shows were the special effects of the day. In a time, long before a movie like ‘The Matrix,’ imagine what it would’ve been like to see a human being levitate. The advantage that magic holds is when it is live, and the closer and more intimate it is, the more impact it has. It’s very interesting that as our culture becomes more and more digital, live experiences become the novel and delightful place to explore.
JH: How did you decide to become a magician?
JG: My grandfather was a magician, so it’s something I’ve done since I was 7 years old.
JH: Describe the life of a professional magician. What does a typical day look like?
JG: There is a very entrepreneurial aspect to it. I do sales, promotion, websites, videos, etc. I have a hand in all aspects of the business, and then in the evenings I perform at corporate and promotional events, parties, theaters. Every day is different.
JH: If magic is a performance, than is it an art? Do magicians create and innovate their own tricks like artists create paintings?
JG: Yes, magicians are always innovating. Creating a magic effect is similar to creating music in that there is a scale, so to speak, and we can compose from that. There are about 19 different magic effects that can be created: vanish, appearance, transformation, levitation, animation, prediction, etc., that is the palate.
JH: What’s your most popular trick? Which ones “get” the audience every time?
JG: I levitate a lit cigarette. The thing about it is, people are standing right next to me and, as we said earlier, that is magic’s ideal situation – live and up close.
JH: Can you think of a time you’ve used magic off-stage and for what reason?
JG: There are always tools magicians use that can be utilized in everyday life. That's actually the basis of one of the shows I do called 'Creating Illusion.'