I chatted with Justin Willman about his career in magic, comedy, and entertainment.
Q: I read you started entertaining after breaking both of your arms at age 12. Is that true? What happened?
It is true! I was riding my bike while wearing rollerblades (I was clearly a smart kid) and fell off breaking both arms at the same time. I was in casts for six months. Instead of putting me in physical therapy my doctor suggested I learn card tricks to get my dexterity back. It worked, and I found a career in the process. If that’s not an endorsement for rollerblading then I don’t know what is.
Q: Was becoming a comedian a natural progression from doing magic?
It really was. I was never comfortable doing magic without a tongue in my cheek. Magic is an amazing art form that I love dearly, but I always felt more comfortable adding in humor. It became part of the misdirection. I think magic is inherently funny even without injecting comedy. There’s something about the joy of being fooled that naturally makes people laugh. But I always found that combining magic with a comedic point-of-view set me apart and gave me an outlet to express my joys and frustrations in an original way.
Q: What’s the best part of being in front of a live audience?
Magic in real life is the best…for the performer and the audience. I get to witness people having their mind’s blown, which is incredible to watch on a nightly basis. I also get to riff and make people laugh, which makes me giddy as well. But as an audience, there’s something electric about seeing impossible things happen right in front of you. You can look to the left and right, and see that everyone is having the same surreal experience you are, and it unites a group of people in a very unique way. Plus I like having people clap for me. It’s good for the ego.
Q: You’re a magician, comedian, actor, host. What do you want to conquer next?
I added “father” to that list this year. My son Jackson is 10 months old. He’s not a fan of my magic, comedy, acting OR hosting yet, but I’m working hard to impress him eventually. Getting a laugh from him is worth its weight in gold, so I’m eager for any tips that other parents can offer.
Q: You hosted “Cupcake Wars” and “Halloween Wars” for a few seasons. What is your favorite thing to cook?
I have ZERO culinary credibility, however I’ve become obsessed with meal delivery services like Blue apron. They send you all the ingredients and you get to make dinner from scratch. As a kid I learned my first tricks by following the directions carefully and it feels just like that. Making dinner for my wife gives me a feeling of satisfaction that few things can match.
Q: Your Netflix show, “Magic For Humans”, was released in 2018. Do you find people are more curious about magic or dismissive?
There are way more magic fans than there are doubters. People are craving wonder these days, they’re aching to have an escape from the real-world. In our tech-laden society it’s rare to have your mind blown. I find a sense of calling in that. Season two of Magic for Humans comes out December 6th and it’s been the most gratifying year of hard work creating it. Putting your heart and soul into a project that you know will provide joy to people is an honor.
Q: What was it like creating a show specifically about magic?
I’ve been doing magic for 27 years now. It’s the only thing I feel qualified to call myself an “expert” on, and yet I feel like a beginner everyday. Making a magic show is not easy. And just because a formula works one day doesn’t mean it will apply the next. But that struggle also makes the final product more gratifying. Magic’s appeal has no age or demographic restraints, which means I strive to appeal to everyone while simultaneously making each individual viewer feel like the show is made just for them. In the end I just try to make the show that I’d like to watch, and luckily, that’s worked so far.
Q: Is there one trick that freak people out the most?
The finale of the my live show tends to be the one that people talk about. I don’t want to spoil it, but it involves math.
Q: Are you excited about your show in Charles Town, WV?
So excited to bring my Magic in Real Life tour to Charles Town. I love history of this town and plan to soak in as much as I can while I’m there.
Justin headlines Hollywood Casino at Charles Town October 20th!