Interview: Jay Sankey, A Magician Who Vanishes Into His Audience

Austin Kaiser
Aug 12 · Unlisted

Yes, he vanishes into them. How does it he do it? He’ll happily tell the secret. The secret is: telling his secret causes him to vanish into the audience. The act of telling grants him passage across the bridge erected by their eyeline, the line of sight stretching from the crowd to the stage. I managed to get him on the phone which I thought would deprive him of my eyeline but by the end of the conversation he had vanished into me too. By earline perhaps? It’s best that you read our conversation and make sense of it yourself. Can he vanish across text?

Jay: I appreciate you reaching out. When you contacted me, I checked out your writing. Very clear and conversational. It’s amazing how when you do something right you can make it look easy so congratulations on your success.

Austin: Thank you. That’s nice of you to say.

J: Of course.

A: This is your interview and everything you say is good.

J: I tell that to my children so we’re on the same page.

A: My first question is, what is magic?

J: Magic is many things. I apologize. Can I put you on hold for a second?

A: Sure.

*pause*

J: Austin, you there?

A: Hey.

J: Whenever my son or daughter or wife calls, I like to be available and, as corny as it sounds, put my love into action. As for your question, magic is many things. Ironically, one of the hardest ways to inspire the experience of magic is within the traditional format of magic. If I walk up to someone and say, “I am a magician,” I have an enormous chance of having killed any chance of wonder. It’s like a comedian saying to someone, “Are you ready to really laugh hard? I’m going to tell you a joke now. Boy, you are going to laugh.”

A: What is magic to you, personally?

J: Magic is also the experience in the magician. Fifteen minutes into a gig, I’m starting to flow. I have this wonderful experience of not being anywhere else. I’m in a pure response mode. It’s surreal. I’m inspired by the Dadaists, the Greeks, and Salvador Dali.

A: What is it that people love about magic? What makes them fall in love with it?

J: In this age of Google, we apparently know everything. One hundred years ago there was not that feeling. Magic and people’s love of magic can be a response to the idea of a know-it-all world.

A: What age were you when you invented your first trick? How did that come about?

J: I was eleven. I got a magic set for my birthday, from my grandmother who had come back from Europe. I was excited to see the bits and pieces of plastic, the funny playing cards and when I cracked open the instruction book everything was in German. I had no choice but to mess with the props. I was forced to fill the blanks. From that moment, the spark of magic took. I figured out a way to hold a coin in my hand so when I tapped it with a second coin it sounded hollow. I wasn’t creating magic. I was discovering it. I was pulling back the curtain, playing with the funny tendencies within our senses that we trust so much, oh, these blind spots.

A: In your invisible stir straw video, you said, “One of my obsessions is to take an item and try to figure out the hidden, deceptive qualities in it.”

J: I’ve been lucky to work in different arenas. I’ve been hired by think tanks, there’s one in Chicago, in LA, and they bring me in for a fresh perspective. Here in my office, I’m holding a bottle cap, a metal Heineken cap. In my palm, the edges almost feel like tiny, broken sticks. I’m fascinated with getting to the blank page. I try to drain my presumptions and experience things in a slightly less cluttered and historically presumptive way.

A: Do all magicians think like this? Or is this specific to you?

J: It’s a part of my state of being. I honor that. You go to artists to see a unique perspective, to see an artist reveal him or herself in some way. Magic typically doesn’t do that and that’s why it needs to change. 5% of magicians create the illusions for the other 95%. That is why people often think of magicians interchangeably. Creative people typically move out of magic because there is not a million dollars to be made in the industry. Who would focus on 52 pieces of colored paper for decades? It’s a weird thing to do. But I have love for it.

A: You have stayed so long because you love it?

J: I got into it when I was eleven. At fourteen, I went to magic camp in New York. At the end of the week, they held a competition. There was close-up magic, sleight-of-hand. There was stage magic. We were all young and learning. I went into this competition and did coin tricks, told silly puns, and gave a presentation and I won. When you’re young and you win a prize and people are applauding… I’m not saying you’re doomed but, boy, it makes an impression on you. At eighteen, I was touring the world — Australia, Japan, Germany, and France lecturing to magicians in their 30s, 40s, and 50s about the psychology of belief, sleight-of-hand, the use of humor. When you’re young and doing that, now you are doomed. I got positive reinforcement. The magic community was so supportive, magically supportive. No wonder I’ve stuck around.

A: What does it feel like to perform magic?

J: Before a show, there is a gathering of energy. Then a vanishing point. I have the method, the mechanics down cold so I can forget about them and go beyond the script. Performing is vanishing, vanishing into other people, the one person at the bar, the fifteen people at the business meeting, the four hundred people in the audience. The I, this I, vanishes into…it sounds corny but it’s true… a shared identity. It’s pure delight.

A: Do you still surprise yourself?

J: When I perform, someone will say something and I’ll have this response that is witty or insightful or compassionate and the audience will laugh and applaud. In that moment, there’s a part of me that almost wants to cry… it sounds corny, brother, but I almost want to cry out of gratitude because I could be that conduit. I am able to be pure expression. I pulled that line out of nowhere. For a moment, this magician is baffled by his own magic. The thread snaps. The ping pong ball is supposed to be floating with a secret thread, but the thread snaps and the ball stays up. That is humbling and amazing. That’s how it feels to perform magic.

A: Is it true that you are the world-record holder for most tricks invented?

J: I’ve contacted Guinness before and they do not have a category for creating magic tricks. It’s hard to measure. Starting ten years ago, people in my community would say, “Hey, Jay, last count...” Last count, it’s 1,500 distinct illusions small and large. I’ve created for Criss Angel and David Blaine. David Copperfield performed some of my stuff. There are magicians who have invented 5, 10, 50 tricks…but mine are in the hundreds and thousands. You’re talking to an obsessive, extreme personality who dug deeply for many years. I trained my brain to see everything in magic terms, deception, presentation. I’ve created a fake lunar eclipse for a TV show. I can show you how to give fifteen people on a patio the experience of a lunar eclipse using a wide variety of their senses. I can create any effect I can think of. For years, I would create and create and create. I would wake up and, like moths fluttering around my head, they’d be there, these ideas. Then I came to a point where, and I’m there now, where I changed my brain back. It’s taking off old rubber bands that have been wrapped around my head for years. Some snap and crack and some come off easily. The impressions are still there. I really forced my brain for many years. I don’t live there anymore. I’ve moved because I want to explore other areas.

A: What do you do with your new free mindspace?

J: I’m moving into public speaking, corporate talks particularly. I also do workshops. I run seminars on creativity, problem solving, and communication. I’m putting the finishing touches on a book called Being More Believable. I’m fascinated with the conditions of belief.

A: You’re at a mature point in your career. You’ve gone through phases and they’ve accumulated.

J: Absolutely. I’ve also learned through parenting. I have an enormous passion for it. In another lifetime, I would be a guru of parenting. There’s a pattern from the clown to the magician to the priest. That has described my interests.

A: What are your performing philosophies?

J: These are some that probably reflect me as an individual as well as some that reflect broader principles that can be applied and tested by others. First, the audience has the power. I don’t have the power. They have the power. That would be one thing. To balance that, you can imagine a hanging mobile being balanced, it’s important not to give the audience too much power. I never go in front of an audience and give them the power to decide if I’m good or bad, if I’m funny or not funny. Lord help you if you allow them to too much influence over your perception of your own work. For me, every performance is one step in my own creative development. I’m here mostly to serve my own creative development. That’s top. But balanced off of that is respect for the audience and a sincere desire to entertain them, to have a good time with them, right here, right now.

A: Can you walk me through lucky moments in your career?

J: Let me see. Also, your questions are awesome. I haven’t been asked a lot of these before. Very cool.

*pause*

One of the early tricks I developed when I was a teenager was a trick called airtight. It’s a deck-in-a-balloon trick where the deck suddenly melts inside a balloon. It caught the eye of David Copperfield. I remember the phone call where I picked up the phone and a woman’s voice said, “Is Jay Sankey there?” I said, “This is Jay.” She said, “Hold for David Copperfield.” There was a long, one-minute pause which I can’t begin to tell you about as a young person. I was bursting. Is this a gag? Is this real? What’s going on? David Copperfield? Is the next voice I’m about to hear David Copperfield’s? Sure enough, after a minute, came a friendly, warm, lovely guy. Very down-to-earth. We talked about my deck and balloon trick and he wanted to know if he could have the rights to perform it on one of his live TV performances, if I’d be willing to send him a video. He had questions about the handling, the technique, and if I’d teach it to him in greater detail. That was a lucky moment. Other lucky moments? In magic, I would always use a bit of humor. Time and time again people would say, “Man, you’re funny, you should do stand-up.” For years I thought, “Why would I do stand up?” From what I understand, there’s no money there, terrible working conditions, people are drunk, this and that. One night I tried it. I went up and started telling jokes. I did it for eight or nine years and by the end of it I was a headliner in clubs in the US and Canada and Great Britain. I can show you a magic trick and there are five or six responses to it that are all legitimate. With comedy, there is only one. There is only one appropriate response and everybody in the audience knows whether or not people are giving it to you. I learned from the rigor of that. Now when I do magic, it’s a wrestle. Comedy and magic fight it out. Some performances swerve into comedy and magic takes a backseat. There are times when, for whatever reason, the magic has more of a chance and that teeter totter, that struggle, has been a part of the last twenty five years of my live performances.

A: Tell me more about the relationship between comedy and magic.

J: One of the best forms of misdirection, the best moment to do your secret move, is when people are laughing. When laughing, their attention shifts, their whole relationship to the experiences shifts. They are so in the moment. It’s fascinating for me to put sounds together, over the phone or whatever, funny sounds — ooh, ah, pop — in a certain way that the person on the other end of the phone feels this construction inside their chest and all of the sudden comes this air and it’s a bark or a titter or whatever. When do we hear the word ‘titter’ ever? I don’t know, brother. I find comedy fascinating. I used to do a joke where I said I would put my dog on a walk by putting her in the clothes dryer. She runs in the clothes dryer. Anybody who actually believed I did that wouldn’t find it humorous. They would call the Humane Society. Rightly so. But somehow they don’t believe it at all. They buy into it on the level of entertainment. What’s great about sleight of hand and close up magic is, when I borrow your ring and I pick up a spoon from your table and I slowly put the head of that spoon through your ring…sometimes you get laughter but often you don’t. It’s not funny. It’s something real. To get people to buy into that is really interesting. So much of life — sex, comedy, magic — is about tension and release. Performers are geniuses at knowing how to build tension and give opportunities for release. Like bursting a bubble with a pen. Magic can create tension and comedy can be the pin.

A: What is heat?

J: If I take a playing card, the four of clubs, put it in my pocket, snap my fingers, reach into my pocket and take out a six of spades, there is going to be a lot of heat on my pocket. People are going to be interested, like, “Okay, we’d like to see your empty pocket now, please.” Heat is attention, focus, and it ties into the notion of suspicion. People are trying to bust the magician. One of my missions is to, in my own small way, add conversation to the magic community regarding our relationship to ‘the secret.’ A lot of magicians believe that the lifeblood of magic is the secret. Lay people believe that the lifeblood is the secret. But now we are finding ourselves in the age of Google and everybody’s relationship to information is changing. Any magician who mistakes entertainment for knowing the secret looks silly. The ones who survive will be the ones who bring story, character, entertainment, creativity, all of the usual standards from the other arts, to magic.

A: What is a beat?

J: That is a term all live performers use. A beat is a pause. “Do it after a beat.” “Wait three beats.” I put a coin in my hand, close my fist, and wait one beat before opening my hand to show that it’s gone. I might wait a few beats depending on the style. Do I open one finger at a time? Just the pinky, and then the other fingers, slowly, to stretch the magic moment? Typically, you want the hundred people in the audience to experience together, at the same time, on the same beat. That gets a group reaction. That gets a maximum. Other moments you want to stretch out and maybe you want the people on the left to get it and the people on the right to get it later. It’s interesting to explore the timing of the things.

A: What is a large action? What is a small action?

J: As a magician broadly waves his hands, the large action of the wave conceals a small action. With the tip of his pinky inside his fist he’s pushing a coin into a certain part of his palm. If he didn’t have the larger action, you might… you are burning his hand, there is heat there and you might see the muscle on the top of his hand curl slightly and make you suspicious. A large action is often called misdirection but it’s not. You’re not trying to misdirect people away from the small action. They aren’t even aware of it. It’s better called ‘cover.’ You are covering. A large action covers a small action from being perceived.

A: What does it mean when a magician is far ahead?

J: I’m standing here in my dining room, holding my billfold wallet. I take it out and say, “Hey, I got a billfold,” and it looks exactly like a billfold from three feet away. But it’s really an ingenious ingeniously designed balloon, a dark brown balloon with some printed ink on it. The balloon is filled with jell-o. Maybe five minutes ago I used a real wallet and the audience got a chance to see it. I didn’t say, “Examine the wallet.” I said, “Will you remove a $5 bill from my wallet?” In removing it, they got to handle it and everyone understood implicitly, “Okay, it’s an ordinary wallet.” The human mind will take implicit information wholeheartedly while explicit information is often analyzed and suspected. I secretly switch the wallet in my pocket. I use a beat. Now I’m far ahead. Rather than needing to do more secret actions, all the work is done and my performance is essentially a reveal, step-by-step, of the true state. What’s great about being ahead and why many of my favorite tricks are based on the structure is that the performer can relax. The secret work, the technical side is done. I can get myself into the all-important presentation and enjoy it myself which inspires the audience to enjoy, and their enjoyment fuels my own further.

A: What is a patter?

J: It’s a verbal element of your show. The patter is like music in a movie. It frames and guides how the audience is supposed to feel and care.

A: What does it mean to appeal to someone’s imagination?

J: This is huge. People’s imaginations will bring more value to your show than you can. For example, I tell a story about a ladder and an apple. I saw an apple bounce down a ladder, all twelve steps, and come to rest on the ground. When I tell people that, everybody has their own ladder in mind. Everyone has their own apple. Someone said, “It’s a good reader that makes a good book.” I believe that. Whenever there is a way to leave room and welcome people’s imaginations, I do. When I pick up four coins and, one by one, make them vanish into thin air, I don’t say a word. It’s an enormous invitation to people’s imagination to make of it what they will. Everything we do, including these words I’m saying right now, live on in your memory a beat later. Everything is a memory immediately. Our memories do a beautiful job of recoloring and sketching and morphing things. That’s another place the imagination makes of your show what it will. All performers should leave space and beats for people’s imaginations to invest itself.

A: What makes a good magic student?

J: Even though it’s a hard word to describe I’m going to go with it… the ultimate word of all…love. You bring to the experience a thirst for knowledge, a love of the subject — thirst is the intellectual drive, and love is non-judgmental. It’s like with my own kids, I love them. There is enormous fondness and affection. And humility. I’ve become interested over the years in the idea of being an empty cup. As my cup fills with knowledge and presumption, I try to not only to tip the cup regularly but grab a napkin and really make sure there are no drops at the bottom. I open myself wide and track my assumptions. If a company is trying to develop a new kind of raincoat, they’ll assume that the material has to be waterproof. That’s where I’d say, “Stop.” That’s not necessarily the case. Maybe we’re going to make it out of wood. It’s a raincoat made out of wood and people immediately feel the problems with that. And there are plenty. But it’s about being open. In the old days when safecrackers used to crack safes in the Old West they would take a sheet of sandpaper to their fingertips to make them as sensitive as could be, to get any accumulated tissue or dirt off their fingertips. That’s an important metaphor for students. As a teacher, I… there is a paradox… I often find myself overwhelmed by my openness, my humility, that I almost feel like I’m reduced to the state where I go I don’t know anything. I really feel it. I feel insecure, bereft, I have anxiety dreams all the time about…buddy, oh my God, I cannot tell you how often I dream that I show up to a gig and I don’t have my props. I’m not wearing pants. I’m outed. I’m fumbling in front of an audience. Maybe you can take humility too far. I don’t know. But this desire to empty your glass and stay open and watch the accumulation of presumption that’ll slow you down…barnacles on the hull, my friend, barnacles on the hull. I try to keep them scraped off. That’s a great part of being a student.

A: How important is practice?

J: A pianist playing the piano makes it look effortless. It’s because of the practice. Magicians not only try to do these amazingly complicated moves and cons, moving around the pack, certain palms, getting things into their jacket, their mouth, but a magician all the while is also looking to conceal their skill. With a pianist, while there will be a simplicity and minimal quality because of their practice, they don’t actively work on top of that to conceal their mechanics. This is one of the things that makes magic demanding and interesting.

A: Have you ever met a hero of yours?

J: At a magic show, I met Paul Harris. Paul Harris brought a surreal, almost acid-trippy sensibility to card magic. He had a trick called whack your pack and it was deliberately an allusion to masturbation. He would make a card jump from one pack to another and call it Las Vegas Leaper as if this would be a death-defying card trick. He was animated. He brought vitality and originality and playfulness to this dust-covered genre and he inspired many in my generation. I was going to New York City, driving with ten people in a pickup truck. We barely made it to the border. I parked in the wrong place and got towed and all the luggage went missing. At the Magic Symposium, Paul Harris was there. I spotted him in the lobby. I spent an hour following him through the streets of Manhattan, keeping a half block away. I remember watching Paul Harris eat a street dog. I brought so much to the moment. That was surreal and transcendent and amazing. Later on, I did get a chance to meet him. He was humble and sweet and kind. I’m proud to call myself one of his stalkers.

A: Who is a hero of yours that you’ve only known through books or film?

J: I think there was a guy by the name of Neil Postman, he wrote a book called Amusing Ourselves To Death. It’s an extremely important book for our time. I actually spotted him once in a grocery store. Movies? Oh. I studied movies in college. There’s a strong overlap between the history of movies and magicians whether you’re talking about Orson Welles or A Trip To The Moon by Georges Méliès. A lot of early cinematographers were magicians, hobbyists and professionals. Tarantino and Guilermo Del Toro… there are many filmmakers I’ve spent hours enjoying, sitting front row center in an empty movie theater in a matinee. I’ll have a coke and a hamburger brought in as contraband on one side and a deck of card on the other. I start with the food. By the second half of the movie, I’ve cleaned my hands and I’m practicing tricks while basking in the experience.

A: How important is that you have interests outside of magic?

J: People are shocked at how little I know. I’m not always clear about who the Prime Minister of Canada is. Politics I know nothing about. Sports I know nothing about. Conversations at parties where people reference this book or that book, I can do a bit of that but I’ve been focused on magic. Philosophy was a big thing for me for many years. This is going to sound condescending but I poo poo facts. I don’t believe in facts in a way. I’m all about creative expression and fostering that in other people. Anybody can get facts these days. There are people who seem as if big parts of their personality can be built by facts. That’s cool. We’re all looking for what makes sense to us. But I’m all about being in the moment and being creative. I’ve probably read two books this year… I used to read… oh, man, before kids and a career, I used to read all the time. I see every movie you can think of. All the new releases. All the cheesy stuff, everything and anything movies. But I wouldn’t describe myself as somebody who has a lot of outside interests.

A: Tell me about your early days on YouTube.

J: I’ve been on YouTube…it’s got to be fifteen years. I started videotaping myself when I was fourteen. I grew up in front of the camera. YouTube is a natural expression. I put up videos and people respond. It’s an amazing way to share. Recently, I’ve stopped working with my videographer because I’m having a great time being more direct. I set up my phone, press record, and try to do the performance and instruction all in one take, like a live lecture. I keep it candid.

A: When I watch your tutorials, one thing that comes across is the kick you get from the trick. You yourself are a fan of the trick being explained. Is that accurate?

J: Totally. It’s about service. I’ll be damned if I’m not going to make sure care and love comes through the whole thing. Even if the video is imperfect and flawed…my lighting might be sloppy. Fuck it all. I’m going to press record and share my enthusiasm. I’m grateful that that comes across.

A: Tell me if my memories is wrong because I swear….

J: It’s wrong.

A: *laughs* I swear you used to have a video explaining that you were on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us and you double fooled them. But that video is not online anymore.

J: That’s correct. Have you heard the expression “too cute by half?”

A: No.

J: Anyway, the Penn & Teller thing… aye yai yai. If I would do it all over again, I wouldn’t have double fooled them. It backfired. I was being clever in a way that I thought would work. I have respect for Penn and Teller. The last thing I wanted to do was share something in the media that a bunch of people would see as a burn or as disrespect.

A: Can you start from the top and explain what the show is and what you did?

J: There has been a show for several years called Penn and Teller: Fool Us. It’s one of the most popular shows about magic. Lots of people watch it. Lots of magicians would like to be on it. They approached me. I thought, “Of course, I’d love to be on the show.” I’d been a fan of Penn and Teller for many years. They’d done a lot for breaking down the cliches, the corny aspects of magic. They also let audiences into the secrets. They’ll show you how a trick is done and then show you again. They’re deconstructionist and I admire that. The idea of their show is to go on and try to fool them by performing a trick. It could be a trick they know but done in a new way. Or it can be a trick they’ve never seen. And they are master magicians. They know all of the principles. The show appeals to a lay audience because there is a question of, “Will I be fooled. Will they be fooled?” When you want to trick a lay person, you do a ‘sucker trick.’ Yes, it’s a poorly named. You put a coin in your left hand, show that it’s gone and then you hold your right hand a little awkwardly. Everybody thinks it’s in the right hand. Then you show your right hand is empty too. You use that awkwardness. When I went to Penn and Teller, I thought, “What could I do for Penn and Teller that would be misleading?” I created this groundbreaking, innovative trick — a torn and restored playing card trick. Traditionally, all torn and restored card tricks that have ever been performed use an extra piece or some kind of duplicate or switch in new cards. I created a way of restoring a card that didn’t use extra pieces. It’s a ballet of the hands. There are a lot of athletic moves in there. I performed that for them and, included just for Penn and Teller, a couple of actions to mislead them into thinking that they knew the method. At the end of the performance, they got to guessing. Their guesses were not very clear. Penn referred to a torn card and suggested that he hadn’t been deceived. I wasn’t convinced but when they asked, “Do you feel that Penn and Teller guessed your trick?” I erred on the side of being gracious, oh, the Canadian thing, and said, “It sounds like they were in the ballpark so I’m sure they understood what I did.” And that was that. I didn’t know how to say, “Hey can you tell me a bit more? Can you guess a little more?” After, I was getting emails from my fans on Instagram and Facebook all saying, “Hey, we know your method and you deliberately made it look like a certain thing. You fooled them. You deceived them. You should go public with that information.” I thought about it and thought about it and said, “Look, if I create a short video that right off the top says I’m a fan of Penn and Teller, I’m not being disrespectful, I’m just giving a behind-the-scenes story, it’d be cool.” So I made the video and it blew up in my face. Many magicians saw me as showing Penn and Teller disrespect. Other magicians said, “Well, you are claiming to have fooled them but we can’t really know so you’re being a liar.” That video was online for a year and I got negative comments every day, people attacking Penn and Teller or attacking me. The sad part is that Penn has a podcast and in one of his episodes he referred to me and acted like a total ass. I felt badly for the guy. He acted like he didn’t know how to pronounce my name. There were disparaging comments. I’m hesitant to give you too many words for fear that they’ll be misunderstood in your article but the bottom line is that Penn went on his podcast and ran me down as if he was responding to disrespect I had shown. I never intended to and I don’t think I did. But anyway the whole thing went sideways so I took the video down. My fans, my longtime fans, know what happened. It’s important to keep your career serious but Lord help you if you take it too seriously. What could have been an interesting addition to my career and growth didn’t go as well as I hoped. Number one. And number two, I hate the idea that Penn and Teller think I have anything less than respect for them. That part I really hate.

A: For what it’s worth, as a person outside of the magic community, when I saw the video I just found it clever, cool. And that was the end of my reaction.

J: That’s the other thing. *laughs* Performers and artists, we can really mistake our own little world. It’s you and six people stuck on an island. Nobody really cares. It’s so important to keep that in mind.

A: How does it feel knowing that your YouTube lessons are the reason there are more magicians? You improve the curiosity and attitude those magicians have. What does that make you feel?

J: I’m grateful. Ask anybody who has met me live and wanted to come up for photographs or a signature and I know they will tell you that I came across as a humble person with nothing but time for them. Whatever I have was given to me so I give it on to somebody else. I’m trying to keep it real. I trust that if I keep it real then people can watch my videos and they’ll take from it what they will and hopefully only positive stuff.

A: It’s unfortunate that there seems to be negative consequence to it all because I see your videos as displaying your love for magic. You’d like magic to persist and you’ve done that literally by teaching others.

J: I’m glad you take it that way. When people complain that I’m revealing magic, I have a reply. “If nobody shared the so-called secrets of magic, magic would die in a single generation.” There would be no magicians. The question is never, Should we reveal the secrets? It’s, Who? When? How? Those are the questions.

A: If you could live to be 200 years old, in good health, what would you do with those extra hundred years?

J: I have a lot of passion and some insight into other areas, parenting like I mentioned. I would love to spend fifteen years focusing on parenting. Public speaking around parenting. Writing books around parenting. *pause* Music. As a young kid I dabbled in violin and piano. A little bit of drums. I have a crazy love for music. I was sitting in the theater recently watching Rocketman, the Elton John movie, and I was enthralled. I’ve never been a believer. If you asked me, “Is there a God?” I would say, “Everything is connected in a mysterious way blah blah.” But I thought for a second and felt this weird, uncontrollable urge come off of me. Maybe music is irrefutable proof for the existence of a god. I have a relationship with music that is powerful, beyond my understanding. If I had extra time, I would dive into music. I love to dance. I have rhythm in me that has got to get out. Some of my favorite times are going out and going up to people. In my public speaking, I talk about SUV experience: seeing, understood, valued. It’s the art of helping people feel seen. What that requires of me and requires of them is trust. I have passion for simple human interaction. Maybe I would pack a lunch in the morning and wander in my city and talk to whomever I encounter. Talk about wandering wizardry. *laugh* If I lived longer, I would spend a decade doing that.

A: What is in the future?

J: More public speaking. As a magician, I use props and techniques….imagine a short story that went: there are people in this world who actually have supernatural powers but they lack belief and understanding so the closest they can come to it is finding your card. The tragedy, the missed opportunity of that….My public speaking about vulnerability, connections, about shared identity, these things have been in my work the whole time and I feel like putting the props aside so it’s just me and a microphone.

A: Jay, that was my last question.

J: Amazing.

A: Thank you very much.

J: Thank you, dude. It’s a special thing to have someone ask these questions. You rock. You seem like such a, not only smart guy, but I sense a lot of compassion in you.

A: Thank you for being present and engaged. It makes a difference.

J: If you have follow up questions, I’m here.

A: Awesome. Talk soon.

J: Have a great day.

A: Bye.

J: Bye.

When reading the interview did Jay vanish into you? I think he did. He’s vanished into his 300,000 YouTube subscribers and David Blaine and David Copperfield. This is the same vanish Paul Harris pulled on him years ago. It seems every artist we interact with vanishes into us and leaves souvenirs. Their mania, methods, and metaphors populate the pink jell-o of our heads. This realm is hard to describe, exciting to be landlord of, and, over a lifetime, sure to be visited by a Manhattan block’s worth of rocketmen, Dadaists, safecrackers, and wandering wizards. To them I say, “Welcome. Just leave room for my imagination.”

June 24th, 2019
95 minutes

Unlisted

Austin Kaiser

Written by

i write about art and artists

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