Tag: Alan Watson

Couldn’t Have Happened to a Nicer Guy: Johnny Thompson Honored by LA Critics

A while back we gave our review of Teller and Todd Robbins disturbing but very entertaining show Play Dead then showing at The Geffen Playhouse here in Los Angeles.

The writing was fantastic and matched the outstanding performance given by Mr. Robbins.  The magic was, though, was truly magical.

Today we learned through Teller’s contribution to Alan Watson’s always jam-packed with goodness Magic New Zealand newsletter that Johnny Thompson’s work to make the illusions and effects so effective has been recognized with a LA Drama Critics Circle award.

Mr. Thompson has an encyclopedic knowledge of our wonderful art and its history.  According to Penn Jillette, there is no one who knows more about the subject.  With his wife Pam, Mr. Thompson often performs as the hysterical and technically brilliant The Great Tomsoni & Co.  Though we have seen the act many times, we still embarrass ourselves with our high-pitched, almost girl-like laughing fits each time.

For as good as he is – and we agree with Mr. Jillette that he the elite of the elites – he does not engage in the type of self-promotion and chest-thumping we see from lesser-lights in our industry.  He does not even make a big deal of the fact that he is modest.

We get that “business” is an integral part of the term show-biz and that self-promotion is often the only type of promotion available to a young performer.  We accept that hiding one’s light under a bushel basket is an inefficient career move and only adds to one’s carbon footprint.  But it is refreshing to encounter performers who are really, really good and are not afraid to be judged solely on their work.

But Mr. Thompson could be modest, talented, lack the need to proclaim his superiority and still be a jerk.  In fact, he would deserve to be a jerk if he wanted.

But Mr. Thompson is decidedly not a jerk.

He is not dismissive of magicians who are just honored to meet him at a regional magic convention – say in Toledo – and seem unable to speak in complete sentences in his presence.  He does not dismiss those same magicians who encounter him, say, in Dallas at a national convention.  In fact, he is the kind of person who would invite that lesser-talented magician to sit and take part in a late-hour conversation in the lobby area with professionals the gawking magician had only seen on television or read about in magic magazines.

Mr. Thompson must have off-days.  He must occasionally feel it is unnecessary to cross a room to introduce himself – as if that would be necessary – to a magician/fan at a magic conference  set in some bucolic Michigan magic mecca setting like the Abbott’s Get-Together.   There must be times when he does not feel the need to engage in conversation with lesser magicians about their shared roots in Chicago.  We have never seen him on those days and, significantly, never read of others seeing him in that way.

Congratulations to Mr. Thompson for his award and recognition from a notoriously tough group of people to please, The LA Drama Critics.  We, as magicians, are fortunate to have people of his ability and demeanor in our art.

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Magician v. Clown Follow-Up

We have said it many times and written it here just as often: all magicians need to subscribe to Alan Watson’s weekly newsletter Magic New Zealand® here. It is truly essential reading for anyone interested in magic.  Mr. Watson gives us an update on Inside Magic’s most read article of last week.

Magician v. Clown

Regarding (Cornflake the Clown) Justin Lane and his magic clone Magic Matt for making false and misleading claims on awards for publicity purposes.

The New Zealand Commerce Commission has concluded its investigation into this matter and has issued Cornflakes Magic World (Justin Lane) with a Compliance Advice Letter.

A Compliance Advice Letter informs the trader that the New Zealand Commerce Commission has received complaints, outlines the details of the complaint and informs the trader that the Commission is of
the opinion that they are at risk of breaching the Fair Trading Act 1986.

Justin has now complied with the Commerce Commissions requests and removed from all his websites, social media and promotional material items that were of concern and he also has apologised.

If you have similar problems with dishonest and misleading advertising by performers in your area or country then it is worthwhile looking at what legal channels you can pursue to have these false or misleading advertising claims removed.

Alan Watson

Magician v. Clown – Magician Wins

As noted by early Irish Magicians, “There are no winners in a career death match between a clown and a magician.” (“Níl aon buaiteoirí i gcluiche bás gairme idir fear grinn agus draoi”).

By attributing this aphorism to people no longer walking this earthly turf, we realize some unenlightened readers of this daily alternative to staring blankly into space may poo-poo the notion as outdated and irrelevant.

However, they poo-poo at their peril.  The truth of this truism is irrefutable; so don’t even try.  Recent studies demonstrate one cannot swing a virtual dead cat in the online academic journals without pinging solidly against scholarly work on just this point.

Our recently published survey on the topic found that while the vast majority of all academic writing said nothing about clowns or magicians, some did.   Most of the literature including the words “clown” and “magician” did not address competition between the two performing arts, but some did.  Of those studies where the words “clown” and “magician” were written and their inherent struggle for predominance was examined, most of the researchers agreed with the old Irish saying – or at least did not disparage the theory.

(See, “Magician v. Clown: A Survey of Scientific Literature from Gutenberg to 2010,” Tim Quinlan, Performance Science Quarterly, 2007, No. 8;  “The Psychology of Conjuring Deceptions,” Norman Triplett, The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Jul., 1900), pp. 439-510, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1412365; “Madmen as Vaudeville Performers on the Elizabethan Stage,” Louis B. Wright, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Jan., 1931), pp. 48-54, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27703444;  Mitochondrial Dating and Mixed Support for the “2% Rule” in Birds Irby J. Lovette The Auk Vol. 121, No. 1 (Jan., 2004), pp. 1-6, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4090049 (An example of article with mention of “clown” or “magician” but not both).

Given this axiom, therefore, it is difficult to understand how a magician or a clown could willingly enter into battle.
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