A Penny's Worth

Magician, Jason Hudy

Jason Hudy is a professional magician who has appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and performed for major corporations like Six Flags and Mitsubishi.

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Most magicians became enamored with the magic at a young age. Can you describe your first encounter with illusion and how it managed to grab a hold of you?
I first saw a magician when I was 12 years old at Noble Library in Livonia, MI. I don't remember any of the tricks I saw, all I remember is the magician said if we were interested in magic we should check out library books. That's what I did, my parents thought it would be a fad that would wear off. It's 14 years later, and the fad hasn't worn off yet!
A magician's craft is implicitly dependent on mystery. What kind of margin for error do you operate with, and does the possibility of your secrets being uncovered play on your mind during a show?
This is a good question, and I think everything here depends on before the show and being prepared. Some tricks/illusions will take months and months to get into my show, because it needs to be 100% sure-fire, that I can do it in my sleep before it makes it into the show. In fact, one illusion I started working on last April and 13 months later it still hasn't been in the show yet! Not until it's set.

The moments before the show are the most stressful for me. Once I'm on stage, all the jitters go away and it's all about entertaining the audience. But it's before I take the stage where the stress is at, making sure that the audience has a great time!
Men often purchase tricks from magic shops simply to find out how they're done. How do different groups respond differently to magic? (Children, teenagers, adults and the elderly as well as male and female)
Children, especially 6 and under, I'm using magic as a medium to present comedy. In fact, to a certain extent this is true with all age groups. I will often hear "gosh Jason, you were so funny" just as much as I hear "how did you do that." And that is fine with me, because if people are laughing, people are being entertained!

Of course, you can't do the same trick you would do for a 7 year old as you will do at a corporate banquet. Although I do have my "stable" of illusions that I will perform for nearly every age group, a set of tricks that seem to defy boundaries.

No matter the age group, the first few minutes on stage are kind of a gauge to see where the audience is. Once the audience likes me and shows they want to have fun, the "magic" becomes less important because they like me. But I've run into crowds that no matter what I do, the crowd for one reason or another just doesn't want to come along for the ride with me!
Comedians are famous for referring to "tough crowds". As a magician, what kinds of audiences have you found to be the most difficult and easiest to entertain?
Ha, just talked about this in the last question.

I had a show last night, for a first communion. They were having it at a banquet hall, or so I thought! I showed up there, and it was not a banquet hall, it was a restaurant. And, only 1/3 of the people in the restaurant were there with the group. Someone from the communion stood up and said "may I have your attention please, this is Jason, here to do a magic show for my son's first communion." THIS was a tough situation! People were there to have their dinner, they had nothing to do with the event! But, you do as best you can!
Magic is as much about illusion as it is the art of distraction, and like any vocation, the better the performer, the easier it's made to look. How and how often do you practice, and who serves as a test audience for your new routines?
As mentioned before, some tricks or illusions will take months or even years to get into the show. And the funny thing is most of what I start rehearsing NEVER makes it into the show.

I probably make my living on less than 30 tricks/illusions that I use on a consistent basis. With an average of 8 routines per show, a group can have me 3 years in a row before I start to have to bring in repeats.

So, for a new routine to make it into my show, it has to come to a level that is at or above what I'm currently performing. I would say that maybe 10% of tricks that I am interested in or start working on actually make it into my "repertoire", the others are just chalked up to research and development!
The greatest payoff for an entertainer is generally not financial. Can you describe the most rewarding aspect of performing before audiences?
Yes, if I was just in this to make money, I would pick a different business! Because even to this day, I'm still probably investing 70% of the money I make, it is re-invested back into the business. I still consider myself to be in a "growing" state, and because I have set goals of where I want to go in, I'm ok with that. If I wanted to stay at my current level I could take more of the money I make and pay myself more, but right now the "business" gets paid a lot more than "Jason".

And here's my philosophy of why I'm doing that. I need to differentiate myself from other magicians. And one way I can do that is by simply spending more than they do to purchase higher quality illusions. 95% of magicians out there will never spend $200 on a trick/illusion, let alone the tens of thousands of dollars that I invest. And I invest in two different ways.

There are some VERY creative inventors of magic out there, and there are some illusions out there which cost a lot, and because of this very few magicians perform them. For example, there is an illusion called the "Sword Basket" which may cost only $1,000. Well, because of it's low price, more magicians obviously purchase it. An illusion that costs $7,000, less magicians get, so this is one way I can differentiate myself, so I will have illusions that others don't.

Now, the magicians that are in Las Vegas obviously have larger budgets than I do, so I can't differentiate from them on this aspect.

The second way I invest is by inventing illusions that are all my own. And this is the phase that I am just entering into, so I'll let you know how it goes! But, creating one of a kind illusions require more R&D, equals $$$$.
A common practice in the auto industry called "badge engineering" involves selling identical cars under different labels. Can you talk about the importance of showmanship by magicians to differentiate themselves in an industry where many of the illusions are identical?
Yes, as I touched on before, the markets that I am marketing to now, the theme parks, cruise ships, theaters, I am working to differentiate myself by not performing the same illusions as everyone else. In fact, it is kind of a joke among magicians that if you go to a typical "illusion" show, you will see the same 5 or 6 illusions!

And, while I do perform some that are similar to what others perform, the one thing I'm trying to get away from is just "push on a box, do a trick with it, push off the box." I want the illusion that I'm performing to say something about "me". And, I'm still working to find out who ME is! It seems that more and more in my show I'm working on giving the audience a "behind the scenes" look. Because, during every show there are actually two shows going on. The smooth, sophisticated show that the audience is seeing onstage; and also the chaotic, scatterbrained show that is going on off the stage! This off-stage show, the quick costume changes, the hours of preparation going into each show, the "Jason" offstage, this is what I want to let the audience in on.
A well known proverb suggests that familiarity tends to breed contempt or at least indifference. What are the reactions of your friends and family who have been exposed to your magic for years, and do you perform for them regularly?
Yes, my close friends and family have a "jaded" view of magic now. My career is mostly "ho-hum" for them, except for the major events. But, for day in and day out shows, it's just "another job" to a lot of my close family and friends!
Disneyland employees find that the magic kingdom becomes less magical after working behind the scenes. What goes through your mind when watching a magician perform and who impresses you the most?
I don't really have this problem, I love seeing each and every magician that I can! I always enjoy good magic performed, if I'm seeing the magician for the first time or the the tenth time. Magic is my passion, and yes it sometimes becomes a "job" and I get burnt out, but only for a night
It's difficult to top causing the Statue of Liberty to disappear. Does every magician live in the long shadow of David Copperfield to some extent?
I believe magicians feel this way. But, in recent years, I've had a lot more "Do you know David Blaine" or "Do you know Criss Angel" or "what about that masked magician" Those questions are more common, probably 10 for the every one question about David Copperfield.
There was a story about a group of teenagers attempting to mug David Copperfield who thwarted them by using sleight of hand to give the impression that his pockets were empty. Have your skills ever proven useful in the real world?
No, sorry, I do not have a good story to tell in this question!
It's not every day that a person encounters a magician. What's the first thing people ask you (or ask you to do) once they find out about your profession?
Well, there is a wide variety of things. Everything from the "can you make my wife disappear" that I've heard ten thousand times, to "can you make some money appear." I laugh at these as if it's the first time I've heard them because as you mentioned, it's not everyday that you get to meet a magician! I hope to make it a special time for them!
With few exceptions, everyone loves magic, so in a sense you're dealing in the commodity of happiness. Do you ever give impromptu performances for strangers in an elevator or passengers on a flight?
Off stage, I'm very quiet and unassuming, and try not to give impromptu performances. At least, I don't volunteer them, but if someone asks for a quick trick I always carry one on me to amaze them with. I am really shy offstage!
Not everyone uses their powers for good: street peddlers around the world are infamous for swindling unsuspecting victims with the cups and balls trick. Could you turn the tables on them with your inside knowledge; swindle the swindlers, so to speak?
I would not have the "guts" to try to do this with someone in the real world! For the most part I can see through these "swindles" but will not call the person out on it, I don't want to get beat up!
Magic tends to begin as a passion before becoming a profession. If you weren't a magician, how would you be earning a living?
Magic is all I've been and all I've ever done. But, in the process of becoming a magician I've had to learn about running a business and marketing mainly, so I would probably be doing something in marketing!
While one monkey may be amusing, it's a proverbial barrel of monkeys which is synonymous with fun. Can you describe what happens when magicians get together?
Some of my cherished memories is when a group of magicians get together, and I ALWAYS look forward to these times! Magicians are a special bunch when there are a bunch of them together. As mentioned above, I'll usually stay quiet and sit back, but magicians have so many great stories they share with one another and "pet tricks" they try to fool other magicians with. I can't even describe how amazing it is when you have a whole bunch of tricksters together!
What is the best piece of advice you've received, and what was the source of that advice?
I have to believe that it's been most useful to learn business and marketing, or else I would not be in the position I am today. When I meet young magicians, I tell them this: Magic is a GREAT hobby, and the people you meet are some of the nicest in the world. I am so happy to be involved with magic. But decide what you want out of it. If you want a great hobby, you have one! If you want a career, STUDY BUSINESS AND MARKETING! You will not have a career if you are the best magician, you will have a career if you are a good magician and a good business-person!
What is the best piece of advice you've given, and who was the recipient?
I guess this answer I gave to the question above.
What would we find Jason Hudy doing if his long lost uncle left him an estate worth $10 billion?
5 billion to my family and friends. To me, money only buys freedom, and I would want to give freedom to my family and friends. Freedom to live life the way they would want to.

1 billion into savings that I would never touch.

1 billion to help out as many other charities and people I could.

The rest to build the best magic show I could so I can use it to travel the world and perform!
When you're on the cusp of death looking back on your life, what do you hope to see?
I have a quote on my wall. I don't know who said it, but it goes like this:

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming WHAT A RIDE!"
Would you rather a time machine or a teleporting machine? (Why?)
Well, a teleporting machine probably, because it would help out BIG with the act!

(Always thinking magic!)
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Would you rather be stuck in a booby trapped elevator with MacGyver or Batman?