Ricky Jay, master magician

I just came across a ton of videos of Ricky Jay performances on YouTube. Ricky Jay is one of the world’s great sleight-of-hand artists, as well as an expert on the history of magic and author of several books. I highly recommend this New Yorker article. A small excerpt:

Deborah Baron, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, where Jay lives, once invited him to a New Year’s Eve dinner party at her home. About a dozen other people attended. Well past midnight, everyone gathered around a coffee table as Jay, at Baron’s request, did closeup card magic. When he had performed several daz- zling illusions and seemed ready to retire, a guest named Mort said, “Come on, Ricky. Why don’t you do something truly amazing?”

Baron recalls that at that moment “the look in Ricky’s eyes was, like, `Mort- you have just fucked with the wrong person.’ ”

Jay told Mort to name a card, any card. Mort said, “The three of hearts.” After shuffling, Jay gripped the deck in the palm of his right hand and sprung it, cascading all fifty-two cards so that they travelled the length of the table and pelted an open wine bottle.

“O.K., Mort, what was your card again?”

“The three of hearts.”

“Look inside the bottle.”

Mort discovered, curled inside the neck, the three of hearts. The party broke up immediately.

Here is a video showing what he does:

If you want to see more, here are some excerpts from his one-man show “Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants”: Card finding and Four queens. There’s more – check out what he did on Arsenio’s show, for instance. (And can you resist the video called “Ricky Jay penetrates a watermelon”?)

I would love to see him perform live one day. What does magicianship have to do with interactive entertainment? Believe it or not, there is a link (it’s not called Intelligent Artifice for nothing). I will post about it soon.

Comments 3

  1. thomers wrote:

    for me, “real” close-up magic is all about involving the audience, making it truly interactive. otherwise, it’s just showing off with some more or less obscure items.

    maybe the most interactive form of magic is mentalism – you have nothing to work with but the minds of the audience, so the whole point of the show is constant communication and interaction with some spectators, without any flourishes or “hey look you can’t do what i do” bragging.

    some of the magicians i enjoy watching are Derren Brown, Richard Osterlind, Max Maven/Phil Goldstein.

    Posted 29 Oct 2007 at 4:23
  2. Jurie wrote:

    So, Mister Thomas doesn’t think Ricky Jay is a good magician? :P Did you watch the videos?

    Especially this one:

    I call that audience involvement.

    Posted 29 Oct 2007 at 4:41
  3. thomers wrote:

    i did watch the videos, and i didn’t say he’s not a good magician. hey, i already stated i’m a derren brown fanboy :-)

    besides, i like the “four queens” variation by copperfield better:

    emotional blabla (typical for DC in the 80s/90s) at the start, very fitting music and no voice overs during the presentation, very dramatic ending (watch how he waits to show the final card)…

    of course, in this version it’s basically the opposite of audience participation, but i think it heightens the effect tremendously. (i admit i fall for dramatic presentations.)

    Posted 29 Oct 2007 at 5:22