Danny Dubin has had an appreciation and fascination with magic ever since he was a little boy. When describing his first magic store purchase and subsequent first trick at age 8, it honestly sounded incredibly complicated for a young kid to deliver. When I pressed him on the feasibility, he responded, "Well, I don't remember how well it actually went -- all I remember is I wanted to preform magic!"
Dubin graduated from American University this past May, where he had been performing magic alongside his studies. During his senior year, he began contemplating his career, calling home every week with a new idea: Live in Israel for a year? Make aliyah? Study Talmud? He ultimately opted to follow his inner 8-year-old.
Naturally, I wondered how Dubin's family took this decision. His mom and sister are teachers, his dad is in real estate and his brother is an accountant. (Dog Mazel is currently unemployed.) He said his family wasn't surprised and has been incredibly supportive of both his journey and his professional choice.
And after talking to Dubin, it's obvious that magic is at the core of his soul. He talks about it like, well, like magic is real. Magic is a special opportunity for him to entertain "without walls" and connect with the audience. Without an audience, he says, there is no magic. A play can go on without spectators, but a magic show cannot. Magic depends on the interaction between the magician and audience for the energy, curiosity and amazement.
Judaism is clearly magical to Dubin as well. His time spent at overnight camp OSRUI, youth group NFTY, studying abroad at Hebrew University and time at Congregation BJBE has deeply rooted him in his Jewish pride and identity.
Beyond peppering Jewish phrases into his shows like "make sure everything looks kosher," he concludes each and every show with a special message of compassion, which he explains is way more amazing then any trick he can ever perform. Now that's a Jew you should know.
Check out my interview with Dubin below and see him perform at 8:15 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 8, at Goldies Pub, 3839 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets are just $10 and can be purchased here.
1. Please tell how you decided to make this unique profession your career.
I first got hooked on magic when I was eight years old. My first paid gig was probably when I was 10. I performed at a friend's brother's birthday party and received $20 along with free cake. I started performing for birthday parties and at local restaurants once I got to high school. It was an awesome opportunity to build my own business while doing something that I loved. I took my magic business with me when I left for college at American University in Washington, D.C. I began to perform less and less birthday parties and received more requests for private parties, corporate and special events. When I graduated college I decided to continue pursuing my passion and perform for corporate events and private parties, this time a little closer to home in Chicago. I've always wanted to try going "full speed" with my magic, and I knew if I did not give myself this opportunity now than I would always regret my choices. I don't know what the future has in store for me, but I feel incredibly fortunate and lucky to be able to have a job that feels less and less like work each day.
2) How do people respond when you tell them what you do for a living? Do they immediately ask you to do a trick and if so, which one do you most often informally preform off the cuff? Are you the family entertainment at all holiday gatherings?
Most people are taken back when I tell them that I'm a professional magician. Or, some mishear that I'm a musician and begin to talk with me about the kind of music I play. It can be an awkward 45 seconds or so. It's not uncommon for people to ask me on the spot to perform some magic for them, and I'm happy to do it. After all, I love my job! I always have to be prepared to perform magic, which is just the nature of the profession. One of my favorite pieces of magic to perform on the spot requires a volunteer to think of a dream they have. Then I proceed to read their mind and write down that dream on a piece of paper. This can get the best reactions and provides lots of room for creativity with each individual volunteer.
3) It seems silly to ask a magician what he does for fun since being a magician seems like loads of fun, but ...?
I definitely work on magic all the time, whether I'm reading a book about magic or performing a show. But outside of that world, I'm very passionate about my Jewish identity. I love improving my Hebrew and studying Jewish texts with others. Travel is another big passion of mine, and I've been really fortunate to travel to some amazing places in the last few years. And of course, like any nice Jewish boy, I love spending time with my friends and family while watching movies, eating pizza or simply just goofing off and having a good time.
4) What's the hardest trick you've ever done and how long did it take you to learn?
I'm not sure which trick is the hardest that I've ever done. Some routines are hard from a technical standpoint, while others require more attention in the scripting and performance aspect of them. The grand finale of my theater show is one of the hardest effects that I've worked on over the years. Here's the short version: A locked box is hanging from the ceiling by a rope during the entire show, and its keys are handed to an audience member at the beginning of the show. Various pieces of information are taken from random audience members throughout the show -- it could be a set of numbers, a favorite quote or anything else. At the end of the show, the box is lowered down from the rope and unlocked. A clear tube is found inside the box, and a large piece of paper is folded inside the tube. The paper is unfolded to reveal every single exact detail. that was said by audience members during the show. This is one of the most fun routines for me to perform because the reactions of such an impossible prediction are priceless and worth every hour of work.
5) How do you come up with your tricks and how do you practice them?
The process of creating a routine is completely different for each piece of magic. Some routines are influenced by a particular story or experience I want to share, while others are added simply because I think it would be awesome. The magic community can be a very friendly community and many magicians share ideas with each other. I'm very lucky to have a network of magicians who have helped me over the years with designing some of my routines. I try to put a personal touch on every single piece of magic that I perform. You will not see, hopefully, a single person in the world perform a routine exactly the same way as me. I want my personality to be delivered through my magic.
6) Do you have a magician idol? Who and why?
I don't have a single magician that I look up to the most. But there are many that stand out in my mind for their creativity and work ethic. For example, Lance Burton headlined at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas for 14 years and he once worked for two years without a single vacation day. David Copperfield is the most famous magician today, and he has performed the most shows out of any magician alive. Both of these magicians' work ethics and drive for magic inspire me to work as hard as I can and perform the best magic for my audiences.
7) Have you ever had a trick go south? What did you do?
I believe it's inevitable that a routine will go wrong at some point in one of my shows. But what separates a professional from an amateur, is how the magician recovers from the mistake. Magicians use the term "out" to describe this process of recovering from mistakes and I work to think of different "outs" for different situations in my show. There are times when I mess up and the audience has no idea because I created an out to fix the situation that leads to a magical moment nonetheless.
8) What is special about the way you close your magic shows?
Fortune cookies are tossed to random people to grab the attention of different volunteers during full routines. I reference the fortune cookies toward the end of the show and say the following: "Throughout the show we've passed around a bunch of different fortune cookies. I received a special fortune a few months ago which I want to share with all of you now: 'A single kind word will keep one warm for years.' This speaks to me. I really believe that this message is the true meaning and magic of my show. If you're going to leave tonight with one thing, let it not be the routines or the amazing feats that you saw, but this one message. Because in this crazy world where good and bad things come about -- some under our control and some not -- I truly believe that compassion can change somebody's day or somebody's life." What could be more magical then that?