Joshua Jay Fools Penn & Teller & Us

Inside Magic Image of Penn & Teller's Fool UsWe readily admit we are the lowest of the low.  We are a hypocrite of the first order.  That’s generally true but most painfully evident in our behavior last week.

It started out innocently.  We were catching up on our TiVo of Penn & Teller’s Fool Us.  We enjoy that show and are happy to hear they have been signed for a second season with the CW here in the US.  The show makes us smile and as our little reward back to the producers, writers, directors and stars of the show, we do not fast forward through the advertisements.  We are gracious in that way.

Like most viewers of the show, we take delight not only in seeing great magic but the interesting way Penn attempts to describe what he and Teller believe was the secret at work.  They use vague code words and make reference to great magicians from history to convey the message that they know the know-how.  There is no exposure but for those of us in on the craft, we know whether a magician has been foiled in his or her attempt to fool Penn & Teller.

Joshua Jay is a great magician.  We feel like we have watched him grow over the years; likely because we have.  He began performing in utero and has ascended the lofty limbs of the magic forest with aplomb.  (Sorry for the last sentence.  We farm out parts of our articles to off-shore content creator mills and they a great at maximizing word count – that’s how they’re paid – but struggle with metaphors in our language).

Mr. Jay performed an effect that blew us – and Penn & Teller – away.  We could describe the effect in great detail but won’t because that is evidence of our hypocrisy.  Our father always said, “there’s no sin in beating yourself up, but always know your safe word.”  We’re not sure he intended that sage advice for revealing one’s foibles on the internet but it fits and thus we happily appropriate it for our writing herein.  (Another off-shore sentence beginning at the word “that”).

You can check out a YouTube clip of his performance here.

Penn & Teller were fooled by the trick.  After all, how could anyone have a spectator think of a card and then produce the card as the only printed one in an otherwise blank deck.  Penn & Teller offered their solution but Mr. Jay denied what we assumed had to be the secret.  Granted, we did not see him perform the sleight but figured there could be no other explanation.  We, and Penn & Teller, took him at his word.  If he said he did not use the sleight, he did not.

That left us to engage in behavior that we find contemptible and boorish.

We replayed the video of his routine more than two or three times.

We live alone here in West Hollywood while we await our family’s move to California.  We have fully paid-up subscriptions to the prominent magic magazines, surf the web for news and tricks, sometimes go for walks along Santa Monica Boulevard and visit The Magic Castle.  Those activities can be accomplished in a few hours each and so that leaves us with roughly 14 hours times 7 days a week times 30 or 31 days each month to sit, stand or lie down while eating or sleeping.

We watched the video incessantly for a solid 24 hour period.  We used the slow motion button to analyze every move, every nuance of Mr. Jay’s performance.  We were frustrated by some of the camera angles and cuts but those were not Mr. Jay’s doing.

The proof of a bad motive is often the corrupt results, said the inventor of the modern day Capri Pants.  Once again, lessons from the world of fashion instructs the world of professional magic.  (Other examples include the cape, pockets and the classic pop-up tie).

Precisely one day after beginning our analysis of the Jay Tape, we came to the conclusion that Mr. Jay did not perform the accused sleight.  We also concluded he must have accomplished the miracle by some other method.  We have no idea how he performed the effect.  We love that feeling.

Yes, we are embarrassed to say we used our access to modern technology to discern the secret but we failed.  It was a wonderful lesson learned.  The feeling of being truly amazed was the reason we got into magic.  The attempt to figure out the trick only diminished that sense of wonder.  Congratulations to Mr. Jay for fooling Penn & Teller and us so completely.  It was fantastic.

Magic Waters and Confused Animals in Cheltenham

Inside Magic Image of DynamoThe Session is billed as the UK’s only close-up magic convention; it is “a conference for serious close-up magicians.”  This year the two-day fete was held in Cheltenham.

We have never been to Cheltenham but it sounds wonderful.  According to the internet, the town “has no fewer than five festivals, devoted to Literature, Music, Science, Jazz and, perhaps most famously, National Hunt racing.”

We are not sure what category close-up magic would occupy although probably not “National Hunt racing.”

The town was made famous by its spas or the ‘waters.’  Visitors to the waters have included Queen Victoria, the Duke of Wellington, Jane Austen and Lord Byron.  We have heard of each of these people and therefore are very impressed.

We were even more impressed by the line-up of magicians in Cheltenham this weekend.  Promoters listed Juan Tamariz, Asi Wind, Michael Weber, Peter Clifford, Luke Jermay, Andi Gladwin, Joshua Jay, Boris Wild, Roberto Giobbi and Daniel Madison.

But we have it on good authority – YouTube and Twitter – that David Blaine and Dynamo were also in the area.

According to the social media authorities, Derren Brown, Dynamo and Mr. Blaine went to Kukui, a nightclub on Bath Road. Danny Valentine is the manager of that establishment and told local media that the “punters” were stunned by Mr. Blaine’s magic.  “He was really great and did tricks for people in his private booth. He was really nice and polite and let one of the customers play with his pack of cards.”

Just below the article about these icons of magic descending on this historic town was a link to an article that may or may not have been related to this weekend’s celebration: “Walter the dog is confused by his squeaky toy – VIDEO.”

It sounds like there was a lot of surprise and fun confusion happening.  We wish we could have been there.

Read more about the event and Walter’s confusion here.

A Magician Seeks the Rough Way

Inside Magic Image of Harry Robson's Roughing StickThe magical principle of Rough and Smooth occupies a special place in the litany of things that matter to the world. Granted, it is very low on the list and even among magicians, it is still down there with the consistency of Magician’s Wax and the tensile strength of threads.

But, for some reason, likely attributable to the amount of time we have to think of such things, it has become of paramount importance to us.

In the old days, before Twitter, we would do our own roughing and smoothing using a fine liquid we purchased by mail from Tannen’s in New York. It came in a small bottle and had a very special aroma that likely led to our demonstrable brain damage in later life. We would use cotton balls to dab, never wipe the special liquid on to our decks. Wiping would lead to ink smearing and would ruin the deck forever. We had piles of otherwise perfect decks of cards throughout our room that had been marred by improper dabbing.

Sure, we could have bought decks already treated with the special liquid but that cost money – likely less than what we were paying for new decks and the special liquid – and we thought it inhibited our creativity. And what creativity we had!

We made several otherwise commercially available decks and thousands of unworthy packet tricks over the years. In fact, we are pretty sure we never used a deck we prepared in an actual performance, anywhere.

Perhaps, we thought, we were wasting our time. Perhaps we just liked mastering the artistic technique of dabbing. Perhaps we were addicted to the fumes. There is, a wise man once said, a fine line between aroma therapy and huffing.

Then came the revolution wrought by the aerosol spray technology. It worked for processed cheese and string so it made sense that roughing fluid would be the next application. We purchased special cans of roughing fluid and made our own decks and learned that the fumes could now fill a house, a porch (when we were forced out of the house because of the fumes) and finally a garage.

The spray worked wonderfully. We could do entire decks at a time and never worried about smearing the ink. Now we had perfectly produced decks that we still never used in real-world performances.

At a convention, we learned that one could buy commercial products for the lay consumer that did what the roughing spray did and at a tenth of the cost. We bought cans of the product from our hobby store and went to work. Same quality, less cost but we still never used a single deck or packet in real performance.

Recently, the magic world learned of a new substance from Card Shark called Science Friction. It was a roughing fluid applied by aerosol technology. It got rave reviews from critics and chemists weighed in on its likely composition and less expensive alternatives. We almost bought it but balked given our new living situation in a small apartment in West Hollywood next to a bakery for dog treats. We did not want to be evicted because of the odors – the dog treat bakery actually smells wonderful – and had no desire to buy a special, portable spraying booth just for roughing and smoothing.


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Joshua Jay Announces Lecture Tour for USA

Joshua Jay - Magician, Author, and Good Guy We just received a nice note from the amazing Joshua Jay.  He is about to launch his new tour of the US!

I am embarking on my first lecture in years, all across the US. And I’m bringing along Anna, my longtime girlfriend who many of you have met at various shows and conventions. She and I have never seen some of the national parks, museums, and great cities this nation has to offer, and so we’re hitting the road to do 25 lectures and a healthy dose of sightseeing. If you are within driving distance of any of these cities, please JOIN US! It will be great fun. Carpool with friends and make the journey. I promise it will be memorable and meaningful.

I’ll be doing LOTS of new material, much of it unpublished. So even if you’re very familiar with my material, there will be many surprises. If you have never seen me perform or lecture, I hope you’ll share an evening with me and experience the original magic I have dedicated my life to developing.

The list of cities I’m visiting is below, along with contact emails in case you have questions about venue and timing in a particular city. You can always reach out to me by email at joshua@joshuajay.com. I’ll be updating www.joshuajay.com with the latest in tour info.

March 11 – Harrisburg
March 12 – Baltimore
March 13 – Va, Beach
March 15 – Richmond
March 17 – Charlotte
March 18 – Raleigh
March 19 – Atlanta
March 22 – Orlando
March 24 – W. Palm Beach
March 27 – Ft. Lauderdale
March 28 – Ft. Myers
March 30 – Huntsville, AL
April 1 – Nashville
April 3 – Chattanooga
April 4 – Birmingham
April 7 – Memphis
April 8 – Little Rock
April 10 – Albuquerque
April 14 – Tucson
April 15 – Las Vegas
April 17 – Los Angeles
April 21 – Sacramento
April 22 – San Francisco
April 25 – Boise
May 7 – Salt Lake City
May 13 – Denver
May 15 – St. Louis
May 16 – Indianapolis

I would LOVE to meet you, talk to you about what’s fun to do in your area, and show you some of my very favorite and newest routines. See you very soon!

Joshua Jay

Joshua Jay Gets Q and A Today

The Cleveland Plain Dealer gives tremendous space to favorite son, Joshua Jay.

The interview is a great read and gives an insight into Mr. Jay’s creative background and passion for magic.

He credits his study abroad whilst at Ohio State for helping him to see, think and develop magic to be seen and thought about in a different way.

I also spent a year at the Sorbonne studying medieval art and architecture. Twice a week we met at the Louvre and every weekend visited chateaux and churches. It gets you thinking in a different way.
You realize that architects and artists had magic on their minds and they wanted to inspire people and amaze them and give them a sense of awe.
In some indirect, subconscious way, it has inspired the direction my magic has taken.

Mr. Jay describes how he was incurably infected by the magic bug early in life.


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