Tommy Johns – The Inside Magic Interview

Tommy Doing What He Does Best!

Inside Magic: How did you get started in magic?

I was 18 before I saw my first live performance of a magic show.

Irv Wiener (Mr. Fingers) performed on campus at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and I was BLOWN AWAY!

Later that semester, I found out a friend from Spanish class was a Gospel magician and I bugged him to teach me some magic until I wore him down and he did. About 8 months later, after attending dozens of his shows and learning his stuff, he called to tell me he was sick and needed me to cover his show.

I borrowed his props and tuxedo, went to a church basement, performed a sponge ball routine (his standard opener) and got applause! I was hooked from that moment on to performing magic.

Inside Magic: Who were your biggest influences?

Starting out in the late seventies there were a number of obvious influences – Henning, Mark Wilson, Copperfield, some of the guys at the magic shop in Birmingham.

Later I was influenced as much by story telling comedians (Bill Cosby, Christian humorist Grady Nutt, and Jeff Foxworthy in particular) who could tell a story that would take you “there,” wherever “there” was that they wanted to take you.

Now I almost never tell stories about ancient temples and shamans and the occasional wise man of the mountain when I develop patter for my routines. I tell stories from real life (or as real as I can get them!) about growing up, families in the south, my experience at a rope store, or playing “oops! got your nose!” with clowns (the opener for my sponge balls routine).

Storytellers, in my opinion, do amazing magic for their audiences with no props. If the magic in the story can be made even better with the addition of illusion, then I have improved both the story and the magic.

Inside Magic: What is your favorite type of magic to perform or watch?

I would far rather see (or be) a magician in a smaller venue (living room, restaurant, church basement) performing wonderful comedy magic that involves the audience and a real spectator/volunteer than all the flashy cabinets and dancing girls that Vegas can hold!

Of course I buy tickets to see Copperfield every year, and am looking forward to going to Vegas to see the shows there, but IMHO, nothing beats magic in an intimate setting, and meeting and talking to the magician after the show.

Inside Magic: Is it tougher teaching magic or performing a show?

Far more difficult to teach, because of the individual nature of teaching a student. For a group, you aim for the middle, but with teaching, you have to consider the individual. After all, “it isn’t teaching if they aren’t learning!”

Inside Magic: Do you think a good kid…

Tommy Doing What He Does Best!

Inside Magic: How did you get started in magic?

I was 18 before I saw my first live performance of a magic show.

Irv Wiener (Mr. Fingers) performed on campus at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and I was BLOWN AWAY!

Later that semester, I found out a friend from Spanish class was a Gospel magician and I bugged him to teach me some magic until I wore him down and he did. About 8 months later, after attending dozens of his shows and learning his stuff, he called to tell me he was sick and needed me to cover his show.

I borrowed his props and tuxedo, went to a church basement, performed a sponge ball routine (his standard opener) and got applause! I was hooked from that moment on to performing magic.

Inside Magic: Who were your biggest influences?

Starting out in the late seventies there were a number of obvious influences – Henning, Mark Wilson, Copperfield, some of the guys at the magic shop in Birmingham.

Later I was influenced as much by story telling comedians (Bill Cosby, Christian humorist Grady Nutt, and Jeff Foxworthy in particular) who could tell a story that would take you “there,” wherever “there” was that they wanted to take you.

Now I almost never tell stories about ancient temples and shamans and the occasional wise man of the mountain when I develop patter for my routines. I tell stories from real life (or as real as I can get them!) about growing up, families in the south, my experience at a rope store, or playing “oops! got your nose!” with clowns (the opener for my sponge balls routine).

Storytellers, in my opinion, do amazing magic for their audiences with no props. If the magic in the story can be made even better with the addition of illusion, then I have improved both the story and the magic.

Inside Magic: What is your favorite type of magic to perform or watch?

I would far rather see (or be) a magician in a smaller venue (living room, restaurant, church basement) performing wonderful comedy magic that involves the audience and a real spectator/volunteer than all the flashy cabinets and dancing girls that Vegas can hold!

Of course I buy tickets to see Copperfield every year, and am looking forward to going to Vegas to see the shows there, but IMHO, nothing beats magic in an intimate setting, and meeting and talking to the magician after the show.

Inside Magic: Is it tougher teaching magic or performing a show?

Far more difficult to teach, because of the individual nature of teaching a student. For a group, you aim for the middle, but with teaching, you have to consider the individual. After all, “it isn’t teaching if they aren’t learning!”

Inside Magic: Do you think a good kid magician has to like kids?

No. He or she has to LOVE kids! Spend time with them. Talk to them. Understand what’s cool to them – today, this week! Know who sings their favorite songs, watch their movies, visit their websites.

Last year’s show, if it was relevant, needs to be looked at in light of what you’ve learned about kids this year. If you don’t like kids, consider doing yourself, the kids and me a favor – find something else to do. Find somewhere else to perform. Find something you LOVE to do and do it!

Inside Magic: What are your plans for the future?

For at least the immediate future, I hope to book my summer doing magic camps at local recreation centers and fill in with magic mini-camps (a new idea for me) at child care centers for school age kids. I will probably add another restaurant to my evenings.

Long term, I see me doing magic for kids as long as I can stand up and make them laugh. I have a new show in development for schools and child care centers, and a new one for churches, AND I have a BIG deal in the works that I hope to be able to share in mid-April!

Inside Magic: What events do you have coming up that you’d like to promote?

If the summer works as I hope it does, I may have a new book/lecture on magic camps and mini-camps. If it’s a total flop, don’t mention it!

(Editor’s Note: We look forward to doing a further article on Tommy’s secret big deal. We’re sure it will be a great success.)

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