As a fellow club member in
International Brotherhood of Magicians Singapore Ring 115 since the
early 1990’s, I have watched J C grow and develop into the
star he is today. I had the pleasure to with him on projects over the
years; in fact, together with another local magician we worked on an
exciting marketing project in 1998 that spanned 30 continuous days of
close-up and parlour magic performances. He is friendly, highly
opinionated about all things magic-related, ambitious, and deeply
passionate about our Magical Art – you would conclude that he
is a professional. He will listen to your opinion, consider it, and
then challenge it if it is filled with holes. He intelligently argues
his points; whether you agree with him or not, you can be sure he is
learning and you can learn from him.
If you are still intrigued by this
dynamic, young performer and clever businessperson here are some fast
facts. J C began his magical education at 12 years of age, began
performing professionally at 17, and turned professional during his
undergraduate years in the National University of Singapore. He has
never been a staff, and his business approach is honed by studying
marketing and business books, and like his magic – he has
worked in the trenches to polish his style and approach. He is a real
Student of Magic, and he studies the magic books and Classics (in
magic) assiduously, delves into Theatre seriously, and consults with
professionals from dance, acting and music. Everything is planned and
executed with precision and a meticulous-ness short of a clinical
compulsion. You may say that, like his finely sewn costumes, he has his
work cut out for him!
Like one of his inspirations, David
Copperfield, J C has a warehouse of secrets. It is packed with the
latest illusions, and his many creations. With 3 best-selling illusion
books to his now-household name, J C has penetrated and permeated the
international illusion scene with his ideas. The last time I read from
his website, J C is working out a new flying illusion. Well, his career
is soaring as well as his many charges. He is also mentor to upcoming
personalities in magic, grooming them in his stables like fine Arabian
steeds. They will move fast and furious, yet well-groomed.
I have kept this interview, as is, as
J C is an editor’s dream – I barely edited his
words. I trust that you will enjoy this interview, as everything is
left intact, verbatim, uttered in the inimitable style and voice of The Thinking Man’s Magician.
Explain the ‘Thinking Man
Magician’. Was this inspired by Daryl’s moniker?
Daryl’s ‘Magician’s Magician’
moniker had nothing to do with it. The name came about in late 2002. My
team was looking for a branding name that encapsulated my style,
approach to magic and magic presentation. ‘The Thinking
Man’s Magician’ fit very well. It was Shawn Chua
(last year’s Ring 115 Parlour Champion) who came up with the
Who were you personal influences in magic?
Copperfield, David Williamson, Dai Vernon, John Carney, Jim Steinmeyer,
The Pendragons, Paul Harris, Lance Burton, Wayne Dobson, John
Cornelius, Michael Ammar, Frank Garcia and Franz Harary.
forgetting local magicians Richard Ang, Sai Thong and the late-Michael
Lim who played a significant role in my fundamental grounding in magic.
What do you love most about magic?
fact that it employs so many elements to create singular amazement and
entertainment. Multiple theatrical art forms (music, movement, story
telling, light, costuming, sets, props), scientific principles
(optical, mechanical, design), psychology and physical technique
(sleight of hand skills) are used in unison to create the magical
experience for the audience.
Which is your first love: close-up, or illusions?
the longest time, it was close-up. But lately, it has been illusions.
I’m still very into close-up especially with all the
‘Street Magic’ content we developed for MediaCorp
and SPHMBO in the last two years. However, now, instead of having a
deck of cards in hand during idle time, I’m sketching
illusion designs on a piece of paper. Also, 75% of my professional work
is in the area of illusion performance or design.
What were your major achievements in your career?
all goes well, the Impossible Teleportation mega illusion with SPH will
be a major milestone. But looking in the past, the 2004
President’s Star Charity and 2006 ‘Top
Fun’ TV segments did boost my career and elevated
expectations on myself.
also proud that I broke the glass ceiling for expectation and fees
commanded for a
magic/ illusion show. I raised the standard in the local industry to a
level that has never been seen before and is comparable to
international standards in the West.
last small, but significant achievement to me, is the success of my
illusion books in worldwide sales. I published my first illusion book
in Jul 2004 and have written 2 other books since. The 3 books have sold
hundreds of copies in 35 countries. Magicians from all over the world
have built some of my designs and I’m happy to be the voice
of cutting edge illusion design from
Describe your most memorable magical experiences?
far, the life-changing magical experience for me was watching
Copperfield’s Flying illusion on VHS tape in Charles
Choo’s shop in 1993. I borrowed the tape and watched it
another 20 times straight at home. Ironically, I had seen old
Copperfield specials his Statue of Liberty and Walking Through the
Great Wall of China, but I had never seen any of his then-recent work.
My primary influence of magic at that time was videos of magic acts and
local magicians. Watching Flying with all its theatrics, music,
choreography and storytelling blew me away; not to mention the cutting
edge illusion methods. That was a defining moment for me on how I
wanted to approach my magic.
experience but not magical per say was having breakfast with Franz
. He shared his approach to the magic business. And it was inspiring
and enlightening. Franz is virtually unknown to the mainstream public
but he is one of the most in-demand magic producers in the world by
How far do you think you will lead magic in
a bold statement. I think there are several prominent Asian magicians
in this generation who are leading magic in different ways. At least
South East Asia
, I think I’m in a leading position for high-end magic for
the event industry. I’m generally on the very short list that
gets the invitation when something magically big is required, whether
it is a show, launch, conference or media project.
has created a lot of opportunity for other magicians who may get spill
off work when my schedule does not allow or the budget does not allow
me to take up the event. It has also raised the standard of magic in
the region in general, because event planners expect more and are now
aware of what standard is available in this part of the world.
the general public, I only started focusing on mainstream projects
since 2005 so have only just began. As to how far it will go, I
don’t see an end in sight anytime soon. The mega illusion is
going to have a big impact, at the very least in
. I am about
to close the deal for a 2nd mega illusion with
another organization to be staged in Dec 2007 and I have several other
mega illusions conceived and designed.
What do you think about the exposure of magic on
I have no problem with it. It is just another medium where exposure of
magic is taking place. Magic has faced exposure from the start. A
decade ago, magicians thought that the Masked Magician would ruin
magic. Ten years later, magic is still as strong, if not more popular
than before with mainstream audiences. People who scour YouTube for
magical content represent a very small niche market, most of who are
magic enthusiasts anyway.
Which of your own illusions are you most proud of?
have several. My favourite illusion method is the one used for my
upcoming Impossible Teleportation mega illusion as it is unorthodox but
As a medium-to-large stage illusion,
my Full Throttle Motorcycle Illusion has served me well over the last
few years. It has evolved in presentation but in its current
presentation form, it is a very strong
illusion that can be performed in virtually any condition and packs
efficiently for transport.
favourite is a newly designed large-scale illusion that involves
passing through a giant 8ft industrial fan. This is completely
different in method and style to Jim Steinmeyer’s/ Andre
Kole’s Windshear or Walking Through a Fan (created by Jim
Steinmeyer and Performed by Steve Wyrick). Building for this illusion
will be begin in Sept 2007.
Who are the local magicians do you
think have made the most impact on magic in
are several criteria that one can use to make that judgment. Overall,
through time, the undisputed most influential magician in
was The Great
Wong. The Concept:Magic team recently did an article on The Continuing
History of Magic in
and have strong historical proof to back that statement.
terms of mainstream impact, no
magician has made it to public Asia-wide/ worldwide prominence yet. I
think I’ve scratched the surface for local prominence and am
confident that my upcoming projects will extend this overseas in the
next yew years.
think that interesting to note (regardless of whether they ultimately
do good) is the large impact popular magic shop owners have on the
magic community. Since magic shops are the breeding ground for new
magicians (I was one of those bred!), magic shop owners, do in some
way, play a role in developing the magic scene in
What about magic annoys you most?
What do you see your role in the next 3 - 5 years?
will continue to strive to be at the forefront of the professional
magic scene in this part of the world. I know that I played a great
part in changing the perception of the local event industry here
towards local magic talent. Now, it is time to elevate the art for the
also look forward to help new talent develop their full-time magic
careers. Currently, magicians like Shawn and Ning are doing well
full-time into magic and yet, they are only at the very beginning of
their careers and full potential have yet to be realized.
What would you be doing if you stop performing
if I stop performing, I will still be designing, writing and producing
magic-related projects. I will also be most definitely involved in a
marketing & consulting business.
What keeps you motivated and ambitious about your
fact that I have yet reached the pinnacle of what I can offer the
world. I’m also continually humbled by how much there is to
learn when I see new magic effects or presentations.
can expect a unique illusion that has never been performed anywhere in
the world before at this scale. As far as I know, this method has not
been employed for an illusion before. The mega illusion will be
performed live and in real time. If all goes right, it will be the
biggest single magic/ illusion live act in the history of
South East Asia
. Given the
fact that the illusion is designed and will be presented by a
is a pretty big deal – especially since SPH is the financial
What will we expect in the Mega-Illusion on 18
those interested, detailed info on the mega illusion and a trailer can
be seen at www.jcsum.com/megaillusion.html
What would you want to be remembered for?
that’s a tough one. I would have to say for “being
a pioneer and innovator and bringing
magic to mainstream prominence in
What are the relevance of joining magic clubs and
are too many benefits to list. Here are just five reasons: 1) The
opportunity to perform and share in a ‘safe’
environment. 2) The camaraderie between fellow magicians 3) The
opportunity to perform at public events, competitions and attend
lectures 4) The community support available to develop one’s
magic growth. 5) The club offers a structured way to develop
one’s magic, something that ad hoc and casual sessions cannot
meet many new magicians who do not see the benefit of a club because
they think that there is no one in the club who can teach them the
current style of magic. However, I’ve come to realize that it
is because they see it from the point of view of “How can the
club help me?” and not from the point of view of
“How can I grow with the club so that we can benefit each
can safely say that if I did not join Ring 115, I will not be where I
Who are your current mentors in magic?
got not real mentors so to speak. I’m continually learning
from multiple sources at any one time. This has been the case for my
entire magic career. But if I have to pin down one mentor now, it would
probably be the Internet J It’s the first thing I turn to for
How would you describe your relationship with your
is a great relationship as I have a great team that supports me for
shows, especially big ones. Most of my crew are also performers so
working on the big shows give them exposure and experience that they
can bring and apply to their own shows. I always demand high
professional standards from them with the hope that they put the same
demands on themselves when working their own shows.
You were the first (
) professional magician to enjoy a major TV
series. What are your thoughts about the emergence of other TV
magicians, i.e. Kyle Ravin and Imran?
it is great that other magicians are getting opportunities like this.
Each of the two mentioned magicians cater to distinct and different
target markets (Indian and Malay communities) so it is a great
opportunity for them to build their fan base from there.
first is always the hardest, because no network/ channel wants to take
the risk unless it has done before. One reason I inked the SPHMBO
‘Magic in Motion’ 24-episode deal was because of
proven success with the MediaCorp projects (‘Top
Fun’ and subsequent VCD/ DVD release)
sincerely hope that my future projects will also create opportunities
for more magicians to shine!