When I ask Justin Willman how he got started in magic, he tells me it all began at 12 years old after borrowing money from a bookie. When he didn’t pay it back on time, the guy broke both of his arms and sent him to the hospital.
One thing is for certain: Willman is an entertainer.
The real story, it turns out, is slightly less dramatic. When he was 12, Willman attempted riding his bike while wearing roller blades. The bright idea did result in two broken arms. His doctor suggested he practice card tricks to help get the dexterity in his hands back. It worked, and by the time the casts were removed, the seed was planted and Willman knew he wanted to be a magician.
Since moving to Los Angeles in 2002, Willman has been busy pursuing a career in entertainment fulltime. He’s been a regular guest on The Tonight Show, Ellen, and Conan. He landed a special on Comedy Network called Sleight of Mouth and hosted the Food Network show Cupcake Wars. His online videos have logged more than a 100 million views.
You might also recognize Willman as the star of Magic for Humans on Netflix. With the second season of the show dropping on Netflix today, we caught up with Willman to talk about what drives his creativity, how he views entrepreneurship, and how he defines success. What follows has been edited lightly for length and clarity. READ MORE
Justin Willman on Why Magic Is Better Kept a Mystery..
The comedian and magician demolishes all your stereotypes about magicians—including that they’re all lonely and miserable..
Justin Willman is not your typical magician–or, at least, he isn’t a stereotypical one. Willman pairs comedy with magic tricks in a way that takes the seriousness and pretension out of the art form. In his new Comedy Central special, Sleight of Mouth, airing tonight, Willman does tricks for stoned people in a Los Angeles dispensary and collaborates with Paul Scheer and Doug Benson. “It’s formatted like the old Chappelle’s Show,” Willman says. “We start in the studio, do some magic, some comedy, and then we have pre-taped video clips. Doing magic for high people is surprisingly easy.”
Willman started learning magic when he was 12 while recovering from a rollerblading accident and has since perfected some genuinely incredible tricks. He’s jovial and seemingly normal, which goes against some of the preconceived notions society has about magicians. We asked Willman to help dispel some of those ideas and give us the inside scoop on what it really means to practice magic for a living. Read more…
There’s always been an intersection—or at least a set of common interests—between comedians and magicians. Both groups are storytellers and performers, and both thrive in part because they require a little trickery behind the proverbial curtain. For magicians, it’s sleight of hand. For comedians, it’s taking an ordinary experience and presenting it in a way that’s so novel that it becomes hilarious.
Justin Willman is an expert on those intersections, being both a magician and a comedian himself. He’s appeared on Ellen, The Tonight Show, Conan, and Food Network, and his 2015 special, Sleight Of Mouth, ran on Comedy Central. His latest project, an as-yet-unnamed pilot, is in development right now at the network.
The A.V. Club talked to Willman backstage at Riot L.A. about the intersection of magic and comedy.
The A.V. Club: Why are magic and comedy such a natural fit?
Justin Willman: A joke and a trick are very similar, in that there’s a setup and a punchline. With a trick it’s got to be like, “Hey, here’s what’s going on. This would be impossible, boom—it’s possible.” For me, with a trick if you just go A to B with a joke where you say, “Here’s what I’m going to do” and then you do it, that’s boring and cliché. People get too ahead of you and that’s no fun…
Read this interesting interview and watch videos at:
Weddings can be magical, but for one couple they literally were. Magician, Justin Willman, made sure his Labor Day wedding to photographer Jillian Sipkins was one of the most memorable nuptials ever — and they have the photos to prove it.