10 Magicians Make Your Sides Hurt without Cutting You in Half
The magician often uses humor as an essential form of misdirection. Even without this in the performer's toolbox, magic can often elicit laughter without any overt jokes. Here's why...
It’s the release of shock or tension. The tension is caused by the perception of something going very wrong—wrong with the laws of the universe. Because this impossibility is framed within the context of a show, and not a spontaneous event in your ordinary and mundane life, the you know that you're safe. That allows you to feel secure and laugh at the unsettling absurdity of it. Or maybe, if you don’t laugh directly in response to the magic moments, you’ll find yourself laughing at your friends who do have the normal reactions to a supernormal event.
In the following list of ten magicians, I’m including those who made me laugh the most. David Copperfield is surprisingly funny in his stage show, but I believe the comedy, for him, was a necessary afterthought. With the following magicians, the comedy is so in your face that you almost forget that you are watching a magician.
1. Tommy Cooper
The first modern comedy magician and most influential hilarious magician. He would often make a mess of a trick but would always retain the secret and come out looking good in the end.
2. Chipps Cooney
This sad sap, inept magician performs his tricks with a, “What’s the point?” air about him. It's almost as if he's being forced to perform a magic act against his will.
3. Tom Mullica
Funny-looking magician Tom Mullica, best known for his astounding ability to eat lit cigarettes, is blessed with an enormous mouth. He can somehow hold in his mouth over a dozen lit cigarettes.
4. John Archer
John Archer is a very funny magician. He uses mostly mentalism to entertain his audiences. Though you’ll probably be fooled (after all, he fooled magicians Penn & Teller), you'll go to his magic show and feel entertained regardless.
5. Steve Martin
Not many know that Steve Martin got his start as a magician. In the end, he took the comedian path. His early magic shows were so good that I’m tempted to steal them myself.
6. Whit Haydn
Whit “Pop” Haydn is a disarming hillbilly character from Tennessee with at least one groundbreaking technique having to do with (in general terms) influencing a participant to select a playing card from a face-up spread of playing cards. You wouldn’t guess it from his nonchalant, somewhat silly persona.
7. Harry Anderson
You may know this magician as the judge on Night Court. Or maybe you were lucky enough to see him on his night club show Hello Sucker. But he got his start as a street magician. He continues to influence magicians around the world to this day on the lecture circuit. There are some accounts of him (by other magicians) performing the miraculous. One example I recall: someone was walking down the hall in The Magic Castle, and looked into one of the rooms. In this room, Harry Anderson was caught sitting at a table. Magician Harry Anderson was sitting there watching a deck of cards deal itself onto the table.
8. Mac King
First time I saw the Mac King comedy magic show I was rolling in laughter. King he comes across as cheesy, but his magic is still quality. He once said that Teller's sleight of hand is only eclipsed by his slight of stature...which brings us to the magician duo...
9. Penn & Teller
It’s safe to say that one half of Las Vegas magicians Penn & Teller cares more about the show than about the magic. The magic serves the show, not the other way around. That's obviously a good thing. Teller (the quiet one) has a passion for magic. Penn (the tall, bombastic one) is a juggler. After meeting, they joined and started on the street performing street magic shows (and juggling to draw a crowd).
They have done a great show, but what makes them stand out is Penn’s business genius and Teller’s encyclopedic knowledge of magic. If you, like me, watched the ascension of Penn Jillette on Donald Trump’s reality TV show The Apprentice, you’re well aware that there’s a depth to Penn you’d never expect.
Penn met Teller when Teller was a Latin professor. You may be surprised at this, since Teller, though you never hear him profess anything on stage.
10. David Williamson
David Williamson is one of the funniest magician I’ve ever seen. He’s so funny that it can take a while before you realize how technically advanced he is. You won’t find his technical proficiency in this clip, just magic plus a lot of laughs.
In the future, I'll add a list of 7 more hilarious magicians. One such magicians is the magician the Amazing Johnathan. Another magician is Kevin King, who got his start performing in several venues in Central Indiana and became one of the most popular magicians in Indianapolis.