At 7:30 a.m. I boarded a flight to Detroit. I made my way down the aisle to the coach section where we were packed into our tiny seats like eggs in a carton. I found myself seated next to a young serviceman. Army I think. He was in uniform and had carried on a duffel bag as if he were headed back to his base. A moment after we had both gotten situated, a guy makes his way back from the first class section, stops at my row and says, “Go take my seat. I’ll switch with you. You deserve it.” Woo Hoo! It’s my lucky day, I thought. He must be a fan of The Phil Factor.
As fate would have it, he was talking to the young serviceman next to me. Little did I know that both the young serviceman and I were in luck that day. My new but extremely weary travel companion was magician James David. He must have pulled at least $40 in change out of my ear during the hour long flight. I’m kidding of course. His real trick was staying awake. He had performed until late in Buffalo the previous evening and then during the night drove over an hour to get to Rochester where his flight was leaving from and he hadn’t slept all night. He was exhausted but was patient and pleasant with the guy sitting next to him who kept peppering him with questions instead of letting him sleep. So now, a little over two months later I’m again pestering him with questions, some from me and some from my readers.
TPF: Hi James.Welcome to The Phil Factor. Thank you for taking some time for my readers. I’ll get right to the questions. When watching magic people enjoy the surprise seeing the impossible happen. When you watch other magicians, is it more fun to know how it’s done or is it more fun if you don’t?
James: It’s definitely NOT as much fun to know. The enjoyment comes from the look on someone’s face when I disturb their reality. I traded my” inner-child” for the adrenalin rush of watching people become excited again. I really don’t know another job that transcends to most ALL ages, races, religions of people. Most 4 year olds to 104 year olds enjoy the art of magic. That’s the enjoyment I get from magic now. I just really like giving someone a break from their day!
TPF: Did you ever have another career? How did you come to the conclusion that you wanted to pursue magic as a career?
James: Hahah YES! I have always been a “jack of all trades” kinda guy. I worked construction, bar tended, was a substitute teacher, varsity basketball coach, ran a basketball shooting clinic, and sold knives. Yes, knives! Shout out to all of the cutco reps trying to make that “$15/hr.”
Previously, I knew that I was always meant to be a college basketball coach. It was my passion. So when I was offered my first varsity coaching job I was so excited. While substitute teaching I took up magic as a way to entertain the students so they wouldn’t mess around in class. It was so much better than the previous job I had, which was roofing when it was -35 degrees outside for $8/hr.
I soon fell in love with magic and performing. My big break came when my neighbor introduced me to a famous magician out of NY. He happened to be here for a show in Stevens Point, WI. After seeing me perform, he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a basketball coach and was pursuing my dream of being a college coach one day.
Then he said it. The quote that changed my life. He said, “Do you want to travel the country and perform at colleges, corporate events, celebrity functions and make your yearly basketball salary in ONE show? Or do you want to have parents yell at you? Ummm… no brainer.
Did you hear that? I think somewhere I just heard a coach just pick up a deck of cards. 🙂
TPF: Although I know that you’re now married with children, one of my readers wanted to know how magic affects one’s love life. Is it a repellent or a total chick magnet? (and when I say chick, I’m only quoting the reader who asked the question and of course meant chick in the most respectful way possible)
James: First, lets not jump to conclusions. He could have been talking about young chickens. In which case, a pocket full of corn can get him all of the chicks he can handle! Ok so… is this a trick question? (Sorry to be punny) I mean, are you TRYING to get me in trouble? HaHa. Well, the answer to your question may surprise you. The answer is… BOTH. It can help AND hinder you.
Because I started to learn magic later in life, I wasn’t exposed to the typical “Pull a rabbit…” kind of magicians. I was exposed to David Blaine. He was the first magician that made me realize you don’t have to fit a stereotype to be a magician. He was natural and yet “unnatural” all in the same breath. Magic has opened so many doors for me to meet people. It can do the same for anyone. However, the common mistake is that a lot of people try to be something they are not. Magic is a personality enhancer. If you are a jerk, you will be a jerk that does tricks. There is a fine line between confidence and cocky, funny and cheesy and doing it all while being charming. You want to be charming. Magic will open doors for you to meet women if that’s what you want. But it’s how you use that skill to keep that door open or have it slammed in your face.
Speaking of magic leading to meeting women, here’s a picture of James with Heather Graham. I think that answers any questions you have about magic and meeting women.
TPF: Another reader wanted to know if the digital age and newer technology has impacted magic performing?
James: Yes, it has DEFINITELY impacted performing. I can be exposed to thousands or even millions of people with just the click of a mouse. Everyone can see anything at anytime. The internet has become saturated with material. You can only do the same trick so many different ways. It’s really hard to find GOOD new things to do. That’s why you have to be creative. Which in turn leads to using technology to your advantage. There are a lot of cool tricks you can do because of the “smart phone” as well as other technologies. Just like any other business, you have to adapt with technology or die.
TPF: Have you ever completely botched a magic trick in front of an audience? What is the worst magic fail that you’ve ever seen?
James: No, I’m a professional. I’ve never messed up! Well, that’s what most magicians want you to believe. I MAY have messed up on stage, but did the audience know that? Nope. Magicians have what’s called a “magic out.” If they would ever mess up, they just make it look like they messed up on purpose. It can lead them right into the next trick.
Or…. I could be lying. Because that’s what magic is. It’s lying. I am making you believe something that didn’t really happen. So the truth is, all magicians mess up. Just not me. 🙂 Come on, you didn’t really think I was going to tell you that? Did you?
The worst magic fail I have ever seen was a guy performing “smash and stab.” It’s a trick where the magician puts a knife or steel spike under a cup. The magician typically has someone from the audience mix the cups up and then the magician begins to smash every cup using his hand. Obviously trying to avoid the sharp object. Let’s just say I know a guy who DIDN’T avoid the sharp object. Google “smash and stab gone wrong.” You’ll see what I mean.
TPF: How do you feel about magicians who reveal the secrets behind others tricks?
James: It really depends on the situation. I absolutely hate it when someone who knows secrets of magic exposes what you’re doing to an audience. ESPECIALLY if it’s another magician. If I’m caught because I am technically not good, then I totally deserve to be exposed. The truth is, most people don’t want to know the secrets behind magic. It wrecks the fun for them. I just think it’s common courtesy that if you are privileged enough to have been taught the secrets, you should keep your mouth shut. But that rarely happens.
If you’re talking about the “masked magician” then that is a completely different story. I think this guy saw a hole in the market and took advantage of it. Whatever his motives were, he made his family financially secure. Do I think it’s right? Absolutely Not. The funny thing is, people may watch the show to learn the secret, but no one ever remembers how it is exactly done. I’ve had a few people approach me after a show and say, “I know how you did that trick!” My response is always, “Cool, so how did I do it? Not ONE time has anyone even come close to the correct answer. So revealing the secrets behind magic does not bother me in the slightest. Chances are you will forget anyway. And if anyone ever gets it right… Still no big deal.
In a fist fight between you and David Copperfield, who wins?
James: David Copperfield. He owns an island. You can’t fight a guy who owns his own island! I would just keep thinking, “Why am I fighting David Copperfield? I can’t believe he has his own island.” I would be distracted. One of his body guards would sneak up and kick the crap out of me. You just don’t fight a guy that has an island. Everyone knows that.
TPF: Doing my research for this interview, I found a video of you performing magic for ESPN’s Monday Night Football crew. What other interesting and fun opportunities has magic led you to?
James: Actually, let’s start here. I am a huge football fan and especially a Green Bay Packer fan. Not only was I lucky enough to attend a MNF game, but it turned out to be one of the most historic games in the NFL’s history. The play that ended the “lockout.”
On a plane I was sitting next to a guy who just happened to work for ESPN. His name was Rob, and we were both fighting the bitter cold and early morning sleep deprivation. Sound familiar? After striking up a conversation, we both realized we have a love for sports. We kept in touch over the course of a few months and eventually he invited me to a MNF game to entertain the ESPN crew. After doing this for a while, I’ve found that it’s not as much fun if you can’t share these experiences with your friends. So I invited Tom, my brother-in-law, who is also a huge Green Bay Packers fan. After the production meeting I got to perform for Coach Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico, as well as the other crew members. During that performance we also met Gerry Austin. Gerry is one of the most experienced refs in the NFL and now the head replay official for ESPN. After chatting for a while we went to our seats to watch the game. When that infamous play happened, “the interception/no interception” play, we realized they weren’t showing the replays on the big screen in the stadium. So when the ref came back after the booth review and said it was a touchdown, we had no reason to not believe it. We didn’t know anything was wrong until we got back to the airport to catch red-eye flight back home. We really wanted to see the replays on TV. I had a Delta sky lounge pass saved to finish the trip off our already amazing experience. When the door opened and we stepped in, we couldn’t believe it. The first person we saw sitting there was none other than Gerry Austin.
If there was ONE person who we ever wanted to run into at that time, it was Gerry Austin! Gerry invited us over to sit with him and have a beer. We peppered him with questions about the call on the field. As we were watching the replays on SportsCenter, Gerry explained the botched call. I then realized a guy sitting next to us was listening to our conversation. He had a Seattle Seahawks shirt on, so of course he had a different opinion on what Gerry was explaining. He began to argue with Gerry on his view of the call. Tom and I just looked at each other and realized, this guy has NO CLUE who he is talking to. After a few minutes of discussion between the two, the end of the story goes like this:
Seattle fan: “It WAS a touchdown because he had one arm wrapped around the ball when he went to the ground. Tie goes to the offense.”
Gerry: “No, it was an interception because the defender had BOTH hands on the ball and cradled it to the ground. One arm around the ball does not constitute possession.”
Seattle fan: ” Well, what makes you such an expert anyway?”
Gerry: ” I was an NFL ref for 24 years, I reffed two Super Bowls, I saw it on 29 different camera angles, and I’m also the head replay official for Monday Night Football! “
Seattle Fan: “oh…. I guess that does make you an expert.”
This is a memory I will have forever! I’ve also performed at a few children’s birthday parties.
TPF: As far as magic tricks go, is there a white whale out there for you? Is there one incredible trick that no one else has done that you want to create and perfect?
James: No, there really isn’t a trick that’s unattainable. My job is to create something that no one else has done. But I’m also a little bit different. I’m a sarcastic comedy magician. So the “grand illusions” that are out there don’t do me any good. I like to have fun with the audience. However, I am currently discussing a concept with some close friends and confidants. I guess you’ll have to wait and see what that is. I’ll get you some tickets to a show…..for half-price. 🙂 Ok.. you get it for FREE!
TPF: Awesome! Free tickets! Count me in. Ok, last question. (Yes, I know on our flight you probably wish I had said “last question” as soon as they closed the cabin door) Your name. A lot of magicians come up with creative names like The Astounding Incredible James David or Burt Wonderstone. Why did you choose James David?
James: Well the story might be kind of boring but David is my middle name. My real last name is very hard to pronounce. When I started performing, people were butchering it. So I made the decision to just use my middle name and thought it would be a lot easier. Sorry to disappoint you.
Or…I could tell you the real story. I was on a fishing trip in the Florida Keys when a freak storm appeared out of nowhere. The captains name was David. His boat was called “David & Goliath.” We were getting beat up by the waves and wind. Captain Dave decided to move the boat to the backside of the islands to get us some shelter. He accidentally got too close to the island and we got stuck on a reef. The waves were crashing into the boat and we started to take on water. We had to use a life raft to get to shore. Luckily there was an EPIRB (Emergency Positioning Indicator Radio Beacon) on the raft. It sent out a distress signal and we were picked up by the coast guard some 8 hours later. I was so grateful to the captain for keeping us alive, I decided to use the captains name in my show. Hence, James “David.”
Or…. I could be lying. Because that’s what magicians do.
Ha Ha, thanks James. It’s been a lot of fun talking to you again. If you want to follow James and find out when he might be coming to your town you can find him on Facebook and at his website MindGameJames.com. As always, if you’ve enjoyed #ThePhilFactor please share by one of the social media buttons below. Have a great week. See you Thursday. ~ Phil