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:Interview: Shock Illusionist Dan Sperry: Anti-conjuror

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Dan Sperry: Anti-conjuror
Interview conducted by William Nesbitt with Dan Sperry during December 2017 via a series of e-mails

Dan Sperry’s interest in magic began at the age of four or five when his grandparents took him to see a magic show featuring David Copperfield.  After that he began accumulating magic kits and books on magic.  He performed his first paid show at only eleven years old.  From there, he continued to develop his show and expand his popularity. 

What follows are just some of the highlights of his career.  By seventeen he had already headlined the Magic Castle in Hollywood.  He has appeared multiple times on Masters of Illusion.  He is the only magician ever to be awarded the title of most original magician on FOX’s “World Magic Awards.”

After appearing on America’s Got Talent as a semifinalist, he started his first solo national tour.  From there he became a part of The Illusionists magic show, which tours nationally and internationally.  That led to starting his own Off-Broadway production MAGICSHOW in Times Square in 2011.  MAGICSHOW was voted “Best of Manhattan” for 2012 and 2013.  He has earned the Merlin Award from the International Magicians Society.  He was the first magician to be a finalist on the German Das SuperTalent.  Jane’s Addiction had him create visual effects for their current tour.  Just this year he performed on Penn & Teller:  Fool Us.  Currently, he is preparing for a new solo tour.

As an additional note, I saw him perform a solo, close up show—card tricks, cups and balls, mindreading, deck switches and color changes—on May 25, 2015 at Wizardz Magic Theater with a maximum of 50 seats located in Kissimmee, Florida.  After the show he even autographed a promotional item for me.  That weekend I saw him perform big stage magic—helping make a train disappear, making a person disappear, making birds appear and disappear—as part of The Illusionists on May 30, 2015 at Tampa, Florida’s Straz Center, Morsani Hall, which seats over 2600.  While there are differences in the scale and size of each venue, the commonality is that Sperry delivered entertaining, fresh, and flawless performances.

In the following interview we hear some of Dan’s tips and thoughts about magic, his accounts of uncommon events during his shows, and a little information about his STRANGE MAGIC TOUR starting next year in Germany.

* * *

William:  You refer to yourself as an anti-conjuror.  What does anti-conjuror mean?

Dan:  It doesn’t mean anything really, just a weird word/name/title I came up with back in the day when I was starting to perform at goth clubs or industrial nights and fetish nights opening for bands or DJs, etc.  I didn’t want to have the word magician or illusionist on the flyer or promo for it and have people not interested, so the word anti-conjuror came from seeing an ad for a Hard Rock Cafe that said anti-established 1979, or whatever, and it just kind of came into my head to say anti-conjuror.  

William:  What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?

Dan:  I listen to anything, really.  I go from classic rock to industrial to emo.  I’m all over the place.  

William:  Is there a really big illusion that you dream of making?

Dan:  I have lots of ideas always going through my head but more than making a big illusion, I try to work with or create things that are much more directly memorable to people—as the saying goes, “size doesn’t matter.”  

William:  What are the challenges of an intimate one-person show versus a large stage show with other illusionists?

Dan:  I find the bigger the show, the more challenging it gets because there’re more people to rely on, more that can go wrong, and more people you have to worry about. 

William:  Who is your favorite active magician?

Dan:  David Copperfield. 

William:  What’s the most important thing to remember while performing magic?

Dan:  It is not a contest of the magician versus the audience.  You should give them a fun and memorable experience with wonder and amazement and not make it about you but about them and the experience and memories they will have. 

William:  What are three illusions every magician must know and master?

Dan:  The three most important things they must know and master aren’t even illusions or tricks; they are humbleness, self-awareness, and manners.

William:  What are some ways to get better at magic?

Dan:  Practice in front of a mirror until you don’t even have to think about what you’re doing and it just comes naturally like muscle memory.

William:  What is the future of magic?

Dan:  I don’t know.  I don’t really worry about that.

William:  Given that goth, in America at least, is a subculture, are you surprised that you’ve gotten so much mainstream acceptance, especially when so much of the image of magic is still men wearing suits?

Dan:  I am surprised often, yes.  I know I would have had it much easier if I was more vanilla, but there are so many faceless copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy magicians gaining mild success, I just couldn’t sacrifice what I like, what I like to do, who I am, and so forth, and create a fake personality or fake profile and do magic.  I decided years ago I’ll just be me and do magic the way I want and hopefully people will like it.  And that’s what I’m continuing to do.

William:  Do your neighbors know what you do and what do they think of you?

Dan:  I have no idea; we don’t really talk.  Every once in a while I’ll find like a Nerf ball that has come over my fence into my yard and clearly the children aren’t ballsing up and knocking on my door to get it back.

William:  What’s the strangest thing that’s happened at a show you’ve done? (e.g., an audience member said or did something odd, the cops chased somebody through the building, that kind of thing.)

Dan:  Maybe it’s not so much strange, but the most surreal thing that happened was somebody died, and I had to stop the show.  I was the only one with a cell signal and had to call 911 and try to keep everybody calm.

William:  To the people who may have strange-looking hair, or dress differently, or have a learning disability, or something else that sets them apart and maybe people look at them differently for it, what do you say to those people?

Dan:  Don’t worry about what others think—you’d be surprised how nobody is really watching anyway.

William:  You are a member of the ASPCA and an animal lover.  Besides all the birds, do you have other animal companions back at home?

Dan:  Yes, three dogs and just recently I, sadly, had to put down my hairless rat.

William:  Tell us about your upcoming STRANGE MAGIC tour.

Dan:  The STRANGE MAGIC tour is my biggest solo tour so far.  It is launching in Germany and then going to London and throughout Scandinavia and Europe before coming to the USA, but I can’t talk much further about it than that.  Germany is 22 cities and the dates are on my site—readers should just keep an eye on dansperry.com or my Facebook account:   facebook.com/dansperryofficial for updates, etc.

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