The Daily Gamecock

Magician Justin Willman speaks about career, magic

Magician and host of Food Network's "Cupcake Wars" Justin Willman performed at the Russell House Theater Monday night.  Both his quick wit comedy and his clever new angle at magic really kept the audience intrigued and involved throughout the entire performance.

Willman’s acts typically include pieces that involve technology, traditional magic tricks and comedic bits.

After the show, The Daily Gamecock interviewed Willman about his life as a magician, which started when he attempted to ride a bike while wearing roller blades 23 years ago.

Willman’s bike trick to impress the ladies ultimately resulted in two broken arms and the need of some sort of physical therapy, so Willman was told to learn some card tricks. “Card tricks became my therapy, and that is how I became obsessed with magic.”

It only grew from there. Willman studied journalism in college and performed magic shows to help pay for tuition. He began a personal business performing at parties and colleges. He moved to L.A. after college and began auditioning for different shows, but touring and performing magic was always his primary role.

Willman’s life now involves magic on a daily basis, from going to shows almost every weekend, to being asked to attend parties and performing a quick trick while there.

Magic isn’t the only career Willman has going on right now; he is a comedian and television host as well. Even with these careers, magic continues to be his passion. “What I love about the live performing is you get an instant gratification with the audience.” He continues to explain that he enjoys hearing the applause, and with a television show, you don’t receive that.

"I am always thinking about magic," he mentioned. “It’s kind of a blessing and a curse,” Willman explains, “it’s kind of annoying for my wife sometimes in that it just never turns off.”

The potential inspiration for a trick is what keeps magic in Willman’s daily life. He enjoys taking a classic trick and updating it or altering it to please the audience. Willman explains that the tricks he comes up with on his own are the tricks that he tends to prefer.

Willman explained to us the thought process he goes about when creating his own bit: “Here’s what I want to talk about. What magic trick or idea serves as a good metaphor for that?” From there, he uses his creativity and inspiration.

“My favorite bits are the ones where you think you know where it’s going, and then I make you think that you were right, and then you let your guard down, and then you realize you weren’t right," he said.

Willman also enjoys expressing his opinions on highly discussed topics in a way that keeps everything light-hearted but also gets to the point.

One of his favorites that he created is about transgender bathrooms. Willman created a bit with peanut butter and jelly to explain transgender bathroom laws to adults like they were children. He created this to address the excuse parents use about explaining certain topics with their children.

The peanut butter and jelly bit, along with more of Justin Willman’s magic tricks, can be found online.

"I think it's really fun when you can make a smart, intelligent, 'with it' crowd kind of feel like a kid again," Willman said.