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Joshua Jay Interview

We kick off our interview section with international close-up magician Joshua Jay.

Many thanks to Josh for sparing us the time to answer these questions!

How old were you when you first went to a magic convention and what are your memories of it?

JJ: I was about seven or eight years old. The Columbus Magi-Fest, which remains one of my favorite conventions. It’s sort-of a regional event but a huge draw.more than 1000 magicians usually. Year in and year out it’s the same group of attendees, too, so it becomes very friendly for repeat attendees.

It was special for me in so many ways. First, even though I was a little kid, I was treated like an equal. I loved that. Second, I went with my dad, and it was sort of our thing together. I even remember the talent: Jeff McBride, Dave Williamson, David Harkey-it was so earth-shattering to see what those guys could do.

Where did you first lecture? How old were you?

JJ: My first lecture was a disaster in almost every respect. I lectured alongside Andy Leviss at a Tannen’s Jubilee. I think I was fifteen or so. I remember that two of my eight tricks didn’t even work smoothly.and I fared better than Andy-only one of his tricks worked at all! Andy has become a really clever guy, so it’s a constant source of amusement to tease him about it when our paths cross. I think we can both share some embarrassment about that “first one.”

Where are some of the most interesting places that you have lectured?

JJ: I like to lecture at any club that will actively participate. The groups I like to work for are the ones who ask questions, add comments, and participate as though they will add the routines to their repertoires. Lectures have become so casual and commonplace that it sometimes seems like a spectator sport. So many people come to lectures just to watch.not to learn or participate. That’s not as much fun.
Interesting lectures.hmm.I did a lecture when I was about seventeen in Sioux Falls, Iowa. At that time my lecture was really card heavy and fairly difficult. I remember that after about three effects, I asked how many card magicians were in the room. As it turns out, not one person did card magic. Further.they broke the news that it was actually a clown club!

Other interesting lectures. I was the first magician to ever lecture in El Salvador. That was pretty cool. They brought me down to perform at an Earthquake Victims Benefit and then I did a lecture. Even though the magicians there were absolute beginners and had never seen a magic lecture, I really felt like I was making a difference because EVERYONE was there to learn. That was such an exciting environment.

One time I was going on Spring Break with my fraternity to Acapulco. I called up Chen Kai in Mexico City and told him I would be in the area. They flew me in from Acapulco to do the lecture in Mexico City and flew me out the next day. I remember that one well because all my friends asked where I went for one day.and I told them I had a gig in Mexico City. Not only did it pay for the trip.but I think I even made my friends think twice.

As far as interesting PLACES I’ve lectured, I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve circled the globe several times with lectures. Places like Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, El Salvador, Mexico, Canada, Iceland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia New Zealand, Vanuatu, and most recently South Africa.

Who is your favourite magic lecturer?

JJ: David Williamson gives a great lecture. It’s so much fun to watch, and it’s like a show. Bob Read was like that, too. For those guys, the lecture is more like a show, but I learned more from their “show” than most lectures.
Gaeton Bloom also gives a great lecture. He’s ridiculously clever. In fact, it could be argued that his methods are more interesting than his effects, but whenever I work with Gaeton I’m always struck by how clever he is and how well-received his lecture is.

You’re the busiest magician on the lecture circuit – do you know how many lectures you clock up each year, on average?

JJ: I think it’s funny you say that. Several magicians in the UK have written that or asserted that to me, which is ironic because I’ve never gone on a lecture tour there.only isolated spots or conventions.
The thing is, I graduated University a year ago, so during that time period there were years (plural) where I did no lecturing at all. Similarly, there were years when I would leave the day school got out and not come home until the week before school started. So, there is no average number. I can tell you I did almost 80 lectures in the last eight months. I can’t believe I’m still alive.
What do you think are the essential ingredients of a good magic lecture?
I’ve thought an awful lot about this, and it’s always a struggle between giving the audience the lecture they want to hear vs. giving the lecture I want to give.

Magic clubs want to book lecturers who are funny, who have cool things to sell, and who do easy, non-card magic.
I would love to do an all-card, fairly difficult lecture and talk about some lofty principles, almost like a group discussion. The problem is, I lose too many people when I experiment with this format.

Which 5 magicians would you book for your ideal magic convention?

JJ: No real thoughts on this.

Which magician would you have most liked to see lecture, but were unable to?

JJ: Dai Vernon, Slydini, Goshman, Jacob Daley, Alex Elmsley, Dingle in his prime.magic lecturing is a fairly new thing.I don’t know that there were pre-Vernon lectures in the way we think of them today.

Magic lectures have been around for over 50 years, how do you see them changing in the future?

JJ: I fear they’re becoming too common. Our local club used to save and fundraise all year to have one or two lectures a year. I know that when I go to Europe, I’m on a tour that hosts a different lecturer EVERY month. That seems like information overload to me.

Joshua Jay 2006 for Magic Convention Guide.com


About Joshua Jay
Joshua Jay is widely recognized as one of the world’s most promising young magicians. Joshua as been performing magic professionally since he was 10 years old. At just 23, Joshua has already accomplished more than most magicians will in their entire lives. Having won several major awards, he is also a headlining lecturer. A respected author on magic, Joshua is a monthly columnist for MAGIC Magazine and has written two best-selling magic books.
A performer for distinguished politicians and major celebrities by night, Joshua is a full-time Ohio State University Honors student by day. Interview by Noel Qualter