Chris Pilsworth is an acclaimed performer, creator and consultant. In this interview, he shares a ton of incredible value for magicians at all levels. From originality and creativity to sharing a clever audience warm-up routine, don't miss this interview with Chris Pilsworth.
In this Interview with Chris Pilsworth:
Chris shares a fun audience warm-up routine.
Does Chris create magic habitually or does it just happen?
Where do Chris's ideas come from and how does he record his ideas?
How long does it take for a new idea to hit the stage?
From busking to the theatre, can all Chris's routines work everywhere?
Chris talks about consulting for other magicians
Where magicians should put new material in their show?
Does Chris ever remove tricks permanently from his show?
Full Interview with Chris Pilsworth
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Chris Pilsworth Biography
Chris Pilsworth was born in Toronto in 1963 but has lived most of his life in Ottawa, Canada's capital city.
Chris' enthusiasm for magic was sparked at the age of twelve when he attended a magic show at Ottawa's National Arts Centre. This interest continued unabated throughout his high school and university years. After graduating from Carleton University in 1986, Chris decided to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time professional magician. The degree he earned in Industrial Design (with distinction) has greatly enhanced Chris' ability to create unique props and illusions.
After entertaining thousands of satisfied customers at corporate and private events, Chris was drawn towards the theatre. In 1997, following many years of planning, he independently produced and starred in his own theatrical magic show. Entitled: Disappearing Nightly, the 'dramagic' production brought together many never-seen-before illusions with music, dance and drama. The premier show played a full week to capacity crowds at the Ron Maslin Playhouse in Kanata, Ontario, and received standing ovations every night. This and the show: Catch The Magic has continued to tour throughout the province of Ontario.
Chris has participated in many magic competitions and won awards at both the national and international levels. He is a winner of the Tom Auburn Award in Montreal. As a result of his unique, very personal approach to the performance of magic, Chris has become a well-known and highly respected throughout Ontario and Western Quebec. Whether the event takes place on a theatre stage, at the Governor General's Garden Party, or the opening festivities of the Corel Centre, home of the Ottawa Senators hockey team, Chris continues to wow his audiences.
Chris Pilsworth: I think the reason there's not as many creators is that one reason is I think that when you're doing magic, it's not like a singer. It's not like a comedian. It's a, it's like, it's, it's very black and white in terms of, I mean, ultimately we're in the entertainment business, but you need to fool people. And so there's no middle ground in that. There's not like, Oh, you almost fooled me. There's no gray zone. It's like you did. Or you didn't. And because we're the ones who were presenting, it feels, uh, it bruises our ego. If, you know, we've all had that experience when we started. And sometimes even when we're a little older that it didn't work and you feel like crap about it. And so if you're doing a trick, which is created by someone else, then you have the implicit insurance that the trick will work because it's worked for someone else and they wouldn't be selling it or publishing it if it hadn't worked. So there's that sort of, uh, internal guarantee. And when you're doing your own stuff, when you put it out for the first time, there was no guarantees whether it's going to work or not. I mean, as you develop more, you get a better sense of what will work and what doesn't work, but ultimately, you know, you're, you're, you're doing it the first time and that can be a little bit daunting and scary at the same time. So I think that's one reason why people don't create quite as much.
Ryan Joyce: That's really great insight. Probably the best answer you do create, um, habitually or does it come out of you? How, how do you describe yourself?
Chris Pilsworth: Hmm, that's interesting. Um, it kind of depends on what I'm working on. Like I think for me there's times when, when the material that I'm working in my show is good. I'm happy with it. So I'm not really, um, push to, to develop more things like those, those levels that you go through. Where, because for me, I take so long to, to go from concept, to being a pretty good trick in the show. Like once it's in the show, I kind of consider those tricks to be the babies. I'll put maybe one baby in a show. And then after maybe five shows, they start to feel a little bit more comfortable. And then the events that they become, you know, kids and then teenagers and adults, and then grandparents and the grandparents on your show are the ones that you can do anywhere at any time. And you know, that they'll succeed because they've been through everything. I mean, they've been through the Wars. And so, you know, that those ones are like, you're a material with just super dependable, but when you're putting stuff in for the first time, it just, it's going to take time even after you've built the trick or, or purchase the tricks. So
Ryan Joyce: You really have such a diverse background. Like you, you, yeah, we were just chatting before we press record and you have just dire dove into busking. You have corporate background. I saw you personally, the first time I saw you was on one of the biggest theaters in our area on a theater tour, you've really done it all. You're also performed in Hollywood. You're one of the most creative magicians that I know I'd love to chat about your creative process today. Um, but first, where do your ideas come from? Where would you describe the source of your inspiration
Chris Pilsworth: To sort of backtrack a little bit? I studied product design, industrial design at Carlton university. So, uh, that's um, I graduated in Joyce 86, like way once upon a time. And so my parents had encouraged me to get a degree to back up the magic with, and, uh, they didn't force me to, but they, they strongly recommended that. And at the time my dad was teaching a session, a lecturing, a Carlton in marketing, and he had shown me, uh, told me when I was didn't grade 12 or maybe grade 11, that, uh, every year at Carlton, the school of industrial design, which had a graduating class of 30 students would put on an ex exhibition of all the products they designed. And, and so he took me to see that it was like totally awesome, because it was like all of these models that they made look like the real thing, but you couldn't touch because they were like wooden plastic, but they look like, you know, like the product you'd buy it store.
And so I said, well, if I'm going to take anything that I think that would be a lot of fun. So, uh, graduated after four years in 86 and then, uh, spent, uh, up until I worked in the prop shop at the national arts center, uh, for, on a contract for a month and a half, uh, that was in, uh, November and December of 86. And then, uh, I decided I was going to try magic full time. So that was the beginning of 87. And so as far as the creativity goes, uh, I took art all the way through high school and then did product design. So it's always been, I think with me to, to be creative and frequently with magic props. Uh, when we were starting out, a lot of the stuff was Mac magic, which was, you know, interesting tricks. You go into the magic shop and it just be blown away by all this exotic stuff, but it doesn't really look like anything you'd seen before.
And so over the years, my, uh, my ideas have become a little more organic and, um, and I'd buy props and they would, they would work, but not, not really well because they hadn't had ergonomics factored into them or, or some of those other things. So you had to sometimes be working against the prop while you're doing your show and concentrating on, you know, is this gonna work this time when you should really be focused on if you know, what your performances and your presentation and keeping engaged with your audience? So, uh, for me, it was sort of out of necessity and also my skill sets. Um, but when I'm looking for, for new ideas, usually, usually like things will just pop in my mind. Sometimes I'll be at the store. Like I like going to a, to a toy shops, for example. And, um, recently, uh, I had this idea for a long time and it's kind of come, it's coming together now.
So it's been sort of on the back burner for a long time, but I found one of these, um, small basketball sets, uh, like a back board that you can hang on the top of a door. And the basketball is like super small. And, uh, so I was thinking about tricks that I liked, which was, uh, like sliding his paper ball over the head. Uh, Michael Finney does card on forehead. Uh, there's a bunch of them where the audience knows what's going on, but the volunteer doesn't. And I thought, well, that's kind of a neat premise, but I didn't necessarily like those ones. So the idea has changed since then, but the original idea was to take this back board and make 'em shoulder harness sports. I've put that on the back of a kid and then I'd take the small basketball and step away from them and I make the basketball event and then they turn around and now the basketball was in the net.
And, um, so that was super fun. That was the idea. But, uh, the idea that I've come up with recently, because now it was a case of what's the method going to be. So you'd need in that one, it'd be like two basketballs. You need to be loading them or maybe a basketball in the shell. Um, and honestly kind of like a cardboard mirror box that looked like the boxes you'd buy a basketball in to get rid of it. But the idea that I have now that I haven't actually tried, but I think it's gonna work nicely is, um, I'm going to attach the basketball to a, a fishing line. And then the fishing line is going to go through a, an Island on the top of the bed, on the top basketball board, and then it's going to go, uh, to my thumb. So I, so I got, I can pull it.
And so, um, what I'm going to do is I'm going to take the basket. I can put that the basketball backboard on my back turned around and they can see it's empty. I take the basketball, and then I take a towel, like, you know, the athletes, I think in a, drape it over the ball and turn my hand upside down. And then as I've pulled this hand down, that's going to draw the basketball around my back, up to the top of the back board. And then when I come back like this, then the basketball is going to lower into the net. And then I'm going to put some courts midway in the net. So the laksi does arrest inside that inside there. And then I'll be able to put the tape, the towel away and show them both sides and then slowly turn around and they see that the basketball is now inside the neck.
So it's a bit like, yeah. So now the trick is a little bit more like, uh, other tricks that I like, which is, um, there's one word. Um, you, um, you make a cigarette vanish and then you hold out your hands and you turn around. And when you face the audience again, the cigarettes in your mouth that, and then Kevin, James came up one with a M I think a knife where it's a, you know, I won't say how it's done, but the knife. And when he turns around that he's got a knife in his mouth. So now the trick, the premise for the trick is different kind of different from what it was before. And, uh, and I think it would be even better. I think it would just be fun. So I still have some work on that, uh, to make sure, you know, little, um, blow up kind of basketballs dollar store items give away, or is it, um, it's like a real small basketball that comes with those backwards that you can get.
So, uh, yeah, so, but what I did is the backboard that I got, uh, was rectangular and I wanted like the old style old school style ones, like the white ones with the curve on the top, and then the orange square. So what I did is I put some photographs off of, uh, Google images. And then I, um, I got one that was like a front on one. And then I scaled it to the right side because the, uh, the net on the one that I bought, actually it actually pivots up it's on a hint, so it will drop down, but you can still put it up. So now the whole thing packs flat, super nice. And then at the towel that I have, I can just drop it into the towel so that when I put it, in my case, a thing doesn't get scratched up or anything like that.
So, you know, it starts to like when you start to get an idea and then it starts to, uh, to work nicely, you can just feel how all the pieces slowly just like find their way. Uh, you know, so in terms of coming up with ideas, I like to look around and just see unusual things, you know, sometimes props that are bigger, smaller, like, here's one that I got, I don't even remember where I got it. See that. So fun, little tiny mug it's minuscule, you know, and then, um, this, I got at, uh, an airplane, which is the small single size wine bottles. So that, so when we're talking about shows on zoomers live shows, I mean, you can start to play around with these things, right? Like you have a wine glass like this, I could say so true. You know, I'm, I'm, uh, this, uh, this, uh, corn team has driven me to drink, you know, I'm, I'm down to one bottle of wine a day and, and, and the go, unfortunately,
Ryan Joyce: Lovely.
Chris Pilsworth: It's a pretty small bottle.
Ryan Joyce: That's a fun visual. That's a great visual. How long would have idea fester in your brain before making it to some kind of stage or platform?
Chris Pilsworth: It all depends. Some come together really quickly. Like I came, I had an idea for, um, a variation on the grab box, uh, uh, grant, I think it, those F grant who put out, uh, this, uh, pamphlet whenever about cardboard mysteries. And in that one, he had a really great box trick that a magician and Ottawa I'd seen do. And it was just awesome. It's like a cardboard box, uh, held up so you can see through it, doesn't have a bottom to it, but the four flats come up and then you, you just tilt it and you reach inside. And he pulled a rabbit out and it blew me away. And so I'd always loved the trick, but, uh, sometimes when they're putting the other new things, there might be a part of the trick that I don't like, like maybe it's the mechanism or perhaps it's, um, uh, the sequence or there's something they don't like about it.
So I try and figure out if I can change it. And so I came up with an idea to modify the mechanism on that, and it, and I was coming home from university and it was a garbage day downtown where I had to make a bus transfer. And so they had all the cardboard boxes out and there was this one Asian place that had this box. And I looked at it, I go, that looks like about the right size. So I just picked it up and they brought it home. And like maybe in a couple of days, I've made it up. So, um, my brother had gotten me the thousand watt light bulbs. There was one that he had at work, which is like the one that Marvin Roy would produce. It was fairly big. And so, uh, for this production, I made this, uh, clever harness for this.
So I could show the box empty and then open it up and reach inside and collect this, this light bulb. And so the idea was that, you know, oftentimes when I try to come up with ideas, it's important to think outside of the box. So I'd show the box and then a, and then a big idea would come up and then I'd pull out this light bulb. So it'd be like the visual metaphor for coming up with a, with an idea. So that one was pretty quick, but, uh, other ones have taken like sometimes years to get from the concept to, to being finished, not so much because it would take necessarily that long, but because there's other stuff and I reach a stumbling block where I don't really know, uh, how to solve a certain problem.
Ryan Joyce: And then all of a sudden, one day something somewhere sparks that missing piece ultimately. Right. That's how it all tends to work. How do you, at least from my experience, it all seems to be random one day in the middle of nowhere, you see something that this connection Idea that you've had 10 years ago, or maybe two months ago, how do you archive your ideas? Do you have a process for recording or capturing?
Chris Pilsworth: Yeah, when I was, when I was starting off, I made up, um, uh, um, a template that I printed off. I just printed it off. I think it was on Excel and then removed all of the, uh, the grid lines. So it was pretty simple. It was just, um, on the top half, uh, it was like, um, whatever the trick title, but like the working title would be, or whatever the effect would be the date. And then I put in, I don't recall exactly but categories. So whether it was like close up or if it would be a stage or if it'd be illusions, when I was doing illusions and then, uh, what the source material might have been like where the original idea came from, and then maybe a few other categories, uh, if it was for adults or kids, that sort of thing, like what, what the end market would be.
And then the bottom half, there was just a line bottom half would be just blank space, right. To do some sketches and drawings. That would be enough for me to later on, be able to recall what I was, what I was thinking. And then I put them into a binder with dividers. So it would be a closeup stuff. There'd be stuff for stage and stuff for illusions. And so then I'd be able to just sort of go back through them. I don't do that as much anymore. Mmm. I usually like, yeah, sometimes I'll, I'll write it, I'll type it up, uh, different ideas, like in an Excel spreadsheet to do that. Let me show you, let me show you one that was on the back burner for a long time. I'll show you the trick. I'll show you how it works as well. Um, so, uh, when I was doing, um, I, I, I, the, the original idea was to, uh, I don't know exactly where it came from, but there were, there was little elements that kind of like added together to create something interesting.
So, but ultimately this trick in my show is, um, used as a warmup. I always, like, I remember a long time ago, like when it's first started, David Guinn put out a couple of pamphlets for kid shows like kid Joe warmups. And they worked pretty well, you know, just to get the audience used to clapping and cheering and applauding and, and knowing that they can make, they can vocally make some noise to warm them up. And then sometimes with the tricks, like there's some that have been put up for kid shows, like it might be a meter that goes like that, clap and cheer, and it goes, and there they have their place, but it wasn't really magic. So I wanted to have something that I thought would achieve that goal, but be a good match at the same time. And, uh, when I was, um, doing busking, I've used this and it works pretty well because people are sort of distracted by the magic that they don't really think they're being coerced into like clapping and cheering.
And when you're out on the street in a festival that helps to draw more people in which means you get more money at the end. So this one here, um, it's, I'm going to step back and see if we get the frame better here. Okay. That works nicely. So the idea is that, um, I've trained this tennis ball to respond to your enthusiasm. As I'm talking to the audits, I say the more they can clap and cheer a higher, the tennis ball goes, this is level one. This is level two, and this is level awesome. So then what I do is I say, I'm going to divide the audience in half. I say this half will be group one, our team one, and this half will be group Bay. So I let the first team go. I say, just a gentle clapping and cheering. So I say, when they do that, then, uh, the bottom court no longer needs to be in because they're clapping and cheering a little bit. And as they do that, then you can see that the kind of spouse slowly starts to rise. It's like that. And then, uh, let me just, I got the, hang on two seconds here. There we go. Okay. It's been two months in. I had to show.
Okay. So here we go. So it goes up just a little bit and I got all of that's good. They made level one. I go, I go group a, do you think you can do better? So they go, yes, like on the count of three. So then they start clapping and cheering and it goes up a little bit higher like that. And then I say, no one has ever taken it to the top. And that's because I divide and conquer. So we're going to work as one big group, or we're going to see if we can take it right to the top. So I go clapping and cheering. And so then it starts to go up, up, up, up, and then when it's almost there I go louder. And so now they're really stoked. And then it goes all the way to the top like that.
And then it comes back now. And, um, and then I said, do you know what that means? And they go, what? I mean, that means the show continues. And so it turns to some great, some fun magic. And, uh, and it's got its purpose in the show is just to get people like, you know, applauding and everything. So two things are happening, but they're only kind of aware of the fact that it's just magic happening. And then in terms, so let me show you another version of this one. Uh, and then I'll kind of explain, uh, sort of what I recall of the process that, that led to that. So, um, um, my friend Eric would, he wanted one, but he wanted one that was more organic. So what I was thinking of is I thought, Oh, I know we could take, uh, a tennis ball container. I'd put the stripes on it as well. Cause that just gives you, it allows to have certain beats in the routine. If you don't, then it's just like, it's a bit ambiguous. Um, but it works essentially the same way. Yeah.
Okay. Here we go. Works the same way. So you can get the ball to go up. Yeah. Okay. So now in terms of, um, the method originally, I have a friend, uh, so these tennis balls are the one that Alan Wong put out. He's put out a whole bunch of stuff with, uh, foam foam items. So these are foam tennis balls. So the advantage there is that you don't need as, uh, as heavy of thread to, uh, to constantly go up and down. And that means, um, and then the other advantage about having something, a self contained like this is that this acrylic, uh, too is made by, um, an extrusion it's like, um, they'll heat the plastic up and shove it through like a toothpaste container. And what that means is that there's just ever so slight lines that go down the tube. Oh, great.
And so optically, it's not as clear as one which has been cast in a cylinder, which means that you've got a little bit of a camouflage on the thread. And then, uh, so the tennis balls hooked up to a thread. Um, and then I didn't want to have, uh, the pool one-to-one. So that means every time I moved my hand down an inch, the ball only rises. So in terms of creating, uh, oftentimes like when we were doing industrial design, we took physics in first year. And so you can start to pull on, um, scientific principles to gain advantage. So if you use a pulley, that means every time I pull my hand down an inch, the ball rises up two inches. And so what happens is the thread goes from the ball. It, um, I don't know if you can see, Oh yeah, right there.
You see a hole. Yep. Spread goes up. I send it the whole, so it's smooth. Right? The thread comes down to the bottom cork and on the bottom cork. Yeah. Can you see, there's a little pilot there, so that islet, I cut a very small safety pin and shoved it into the cork. So the thread goes from the ball, the toll down to the islet, and then it goes back up to a second pole, a smaller one. You have a double pulley system right there. And that's where it's tied with a knot. So every time I lower the cork Ryan inch, the ball goes up two inches. Right. So I designed the tube at this height because that's about as far as I can make the ball rise without this hand looking like it's, uh, causing the action. But then when I was playing around with it, there's a few things that are kind of cool.
So even once you got the trick going, you still make discovery. So what I learned was that if I move just the two, like this and the ball rises, you can kind of notice that, see, and then the other way of having it happen would be this, which would be to have the court go down and the ball go up, same thing, but opposite. And so then I noticed that if I do both at the same time and you're kind of splitting the difference, see, so now there's not as much action. And then the vital discovery was the best one. Here's the best one. If I start off with, with the, uh, the safety pin here, and then I'll turn to the side and now I'm going to rotate my hand. So the safety pin is going to start at the top of the court. And as a rotate, the safety pin goes down towards the bottom. Okay. So if I'm here, I can go, I can go with this. It's great. It's so great, man. Just roll my hand, get through half the distance. So, so what I've discovered is if I put all three of those actions together and I can get it all the way to the top, without too much, too much emotion involved, I can go like this.
See? And because of the balls moving faster than any other part of my body that draws the attention to it. And, um, so it becomes like pretty, a pretty decent illusion. And then, um, so magical, it's self contained. So it means that, um, you don't need to worry about hooking threads up, uh, or anything like that. Cause it's all here. Uh, it's fairly compact. It's visual. Like you could do that in a thousand seat theater because the ball is like this fluorescent yellow. And then, uh, if I'm outdoors doing festivals Mmm. If it starts raining, I don't need to worry about it. Cause this is water repellent and the cork doesn't matter. So that's good too. And now that I think about, I think the original idea came from a 10 year old trick where they had a square tube and like a ball, the size of a ping pong.
Well, I think, or maybe a bit smaller. And the gimmick was that there was a, uh, a long piece of clear plastic, which was inside the square tube. And when you held it at the bottom and pinched it, that piece would move towards the back wall. Like if you're looking at the side and as you're pinching it, it's forcing the ball up because it's a V shape and it forces it up. And I thought, Oh, that's pretty cool. And so I think that's probably where the original idea came from for this. And then, and then somehow it ended up where, where I came to. But the original idea for the action was I have a friend who was into electronics. So we were going to, we were going to create a custom court, like I'm Sean Bogan, dancing handkerchief in the bottle, you know, where the, the, the it's in the court.
So we thought that's how I would work. And then for some reason or other, uh, we were working on it. And, uh, I dunno, I just, I just originally I thought about the thread, but I had just a one to one hookup and that's the reason I just put it on the shelf. It wasn't like good. So he said, well, we'll do this. And so for some reason or other, it was taking time and I wanted to try it in a show. And then I thought, what if I do this with it, with the thread, maybe that'll look okay. And, uh, so I made it up pretty quickly. Like in, under two days I had it made up and tried it out. I thought, Oh, this is working. Okay. And this idea for the double pulley, I, um, sometimes you get an idea and then you're able to reapply it again.
So I've got a version of cardiographic and if the guys want to see that, uh, on my YouTube channel, Chris, Pilsworth, uh, I edited a version of that. That's when I did it, the magic castle. And so on that one, um, on the original one, when you're sliding the magnet down, it's one to one. So how, when you split it halfway, you kind of have to read grip in order to move your feminine, bring it back down again. So what I did was, um, let's see if I can find it here. Oh, I'll show you later. Um, I figured that, um, if I had, um, I had these, uh, magnets, which were the, like a donut shape, like a washer. And so I thought, well, if I put the thread out over the back of the pad, and then it goes through this magnet washer and it goes back up to the top and it's tied there. Then when I pulled this washer down, if I pull it down just like three or four inches, which is the amount that I can do, then that card can rise twice as much. So that's where I was using this one. And then for that magnet, then, um, I designed this, uh, this piece where the magnet fits into it, which is a three D printed, a piece of plastic. So there's actually a tab that sticks out that my thumb can engage just to make it easier to yeah. Move back down.
Ryan Joyce: You really do play all sorts of different environments. Can all of your material play equally well in the busking scene as well as the corporate scene, as well as the theater scene?
Chris Pilsworth: No, not really. Um, the first time, if anyone ever works outside at festivals, doing magic, they'll discover pretty quickly what technically doesn't work. So if you've got stuff that's lightweight like handkerchiefs, or if you've got stuff with sponge balls, they're going to be blowing away. If it's, if it's windy and if you work enough, you're going to end up with the day where it's windy. Uh, and it can blow over lightweight things too. So those, those items need to be eliminated from the show. And you just, you can't, you can't. I remember before I started doing busking, I'd go to a festival and I'd have the newspaper tear. Jean Anderson's newspaper chair was always my finale. And I was always concerned, you know, is it going to be too windy? And so there'd always be anxiety about, you know, what's my finale gonna be. Um, cause you don't want the wind to blow open and expose the, uh, you know, the, the packet.
And so, uh, the, uh, the busking turned out to be really good in terms of being able to, uh, pick material, which would, which would work anywhere at any time surrounded. So angle proof, wind proof, um, some things might show a shadow like the newspaper tear, if you're, if the sun is behind, you might see the shadow of the packet or something like that. So it has to be angled proof, windproof sun proof. Mmm. All sorts of things. So those shows ended up being a Bulletproof pretty well, which is, which is good. And some of the material that I honed out on the street has turned into the best, uh, best material in my show because, uh, you get a chance to do it over and over and over again, without worrying if, if it's going to be good or not, because people don't pay until after the show's over. So if they didn't like it, they walk away and there's like, it's no big deal. So, but there's certain tricks that will work better under different circumstances. For sure. Like, uh, my cactus trick where I put a cactus inside a balloon, uh, that one, that one sorta needs a bit of a stage. It needs, you can't really have
Ryan Joyce: You also market that as well. Right. That's something people can pick up on your website.
Chris Pilsworth: Not no, no, no, not that one. Yeah.
Ryan Joyce: No, that one's no, that one's exclusive to you. Okay. And it's true. It's true. That's really such a great piece of,
Chris Pilsworth: It's not probably exactly exclusive, but, uh, I'm, I'm not making any more. There's a friend of mine in China. Um, he's got one and he's got exclusivity in China and Taiwan. And then, uh, another friend of mine, Rick Wilcox, who was just recently on the cover of Lincoln ring magazine. So he's a good friend of mine. And for both the past six or seven years, ah, he flies to me in for a a week or two weeks, uh, each year to, uh, to work on him with his show, like to improve things, to build things.
Ryan Joyce: Is that, do you, do you enjoy that process? I would imagine that would be a lot of fun.
Chris Pilsworth: Oh, it's super fun. Like I've been doing more consulting that sound, my business is evolving a little bit. And so the first, uh, Oh, and so finally he's got one daily scout, one in China and then max King in Vegas as the, uh, the third one. So what an honor. Wow. That's so great. I find, yeah, so, so that consulting is, uh, is cool. So, uh, my friend Daley, I met him at factors and he loved the cactus and he kept asking me, you know, could I get it, could I get it? Cause he does a lot of TV work in China and I held out for maybe a couple of years, but then we worked out a deal. And then, um, Daley was the host of this 12th department magic series that happened in 2017 in China was like this multi multimillion dollar budgeted show.
And, uh, they brought in consultants from around the world to create material for the Chinese performers. Roses are 12 episodes. And so I ended up being one of the consultants. So I was in Nanjing, uh, for 17 weeks spaced out over about five months. So we were there usually for like maybe three, four weeks at a time and then there'd be a break and they'd send us back home and then we'd come back again. And um, yeah, so that was, uh, that was an interesting experience. So for sure, like first time in Asia and they worked it out really well. Like they, they spared no expense. So they flew us in first class, put us up at a nice hotel. Uh, they had translators for us and then they would, uh, feed us. We went out on our own on the weekends, which was fun. I got to know non-judging pretty well. I'd explore every weekend. And it's a midsize Chinese city of 7.5 million people.
Ryan Joyce: Right. Right. I remember the first time being, I'm not a city guy. I live in a small city, so I'm, don't do the subway very often. And I remember one of the first, like maybe 30 trips was in Beijing on a subway and that experience changed me. Is this a tap that you can turn off
Chris Pilsworth: The creativity? Yeah, no, it's a blessing and a curse.
Ryan Joyce: Yeah. It really is. Um, how often do you add material to your own show?
Chris Pilsworth: It, uh, it's sometimes it takes a long, a bit of time, but, um, I get ideas and then I get excited about the ideas. So that sort of pushes me to, to get the stuff in. So right now I've got a, a list of about six or seven things that I'm, I'm, I'm working on. And, um, they're all in various States of, uh, of getting them done, uh, somewhat like, um, and sometimes it's an extra thing. Like, um, one of the tricks that I started doing on the street because, um, another friend of mine is his name's Roy Cottey. He's uh, and I'd been in Ottawa. He's in, he's like either late seventies now or early, uh, early, I think late seventies, they might be 90, but anyway, you still, you still great. And he was kind of like one of my mentors in Ottawa.
He was a part time magician. But, um, when I joined the magic club, when I was 18, uh, if I was ever working on something new, I'd always ask Roy first because he wouldn't necessarily have the answers, but he would at least know where to guide me to look. And so he was always like, you know, the GoTo person. And when I started busking, he said, uh, the turbine trick is a great trick. He used to do that cause he did a bit of busking too on the street. And I'd been busking maybe for a couple of years. And I thought to myself, okay, I don't think that's going to be a good trick because all the magic happens like after about six or seven minutes of making it, you don't get to the point until the end, but I tried it and it worked really well.
It's like, it's a great trick on the street. And I came up with a really lovely presentation and then I knew that came up with like, uh, so in my presentation I have like usually a husband and wife and the husband cuts the fabric and I make it like, it's a big accident. And one time when I was doing it at a festival, um, my music was running and I'd have to, um, I didn't edit it to keep going and going and going. And so I got to the end of the music and the music stops like just after he cuts it. Right. So I'm, I'm saying, Oh, you made a mistake. And, and people kind of think, Oh, it's part of the, it's part of the show. Right. But then the music stops and the moment the music stops, it's like, Oh, it's serious now.
Like it, it, he really did screw it up for him. And so, um, I thought that's a great moment. So I do that now I stopped my music, like I'm going on? Like, and then I go, I am so sorry the show's over. Right. It's like, and I go and it's all Bill's fault. And I turn and look at the guy, right. He's like, Oh, what have I done? And I was, so then my idea for the ending of the trick is it all goes back together again. And, um, so I say, uh, at the NSA, thank you, bill. And then I turned to his wife was been the other side and I'd go on Margaret, thank you more. So there's like a big laugh. And then I say, I said, bill, I don't want you to be sad because, and so what I'm going to do now is I gather up all the fabric and I say built, I don't want you to be sad because if I couldn't put the fabric together with magic, I would have used this.
So now I reach into the bolts of the fabric and I had produce a sewing machine is awesome. Yeah. So, um, so I was looking around, uh, at value village and places like that for sewing machine. And, uh, it took like about maybe six months to find one that, that looked, it looked okay, look good. And I took it apart and took out the, so it's a little bit lighter. And then I was going to take out all the guts. But after I took out the motor, I realized you can't take anything else out. Cause it's a plastic shell or whatever. So right now I've got the sewing machine and that I'm gonna, I I'm sort of figuring out a way to, to make it appear. And so the idea that I have is to get, uh, I have, um, a paper bag like you get at, uh, I dunno, like I'm like the ones that have like the little string handles on them and, uh, I'm going to set that up so that my sewing machine is going to be inside, um, a cloth bag, which is someone from the same material as the fabric that I have, I buy, uh, it's a cotton Polyblend and you can get them in 'em.
Yeah. For the States, it'd be like a 45 inch width. And so I, I cut it into quarters and just tear it. Then they get a boat, maybe six or eight yards, so that after done the trick about a foot gets cut off every show. And so by the time it gets down to maybe, I don't know, maybe eight or 10 feet, it becomes a little bit too short for just like the visual. And so I use the same fabric, put the sewing machine in that, and then I've figured out a way to have the, so at the beginning, I'll pull the fabric out of the bag and the scissors out of the bag. And then at the end, when they've cut off, when they've taken the pieces that I trim off the knot, they're holding onto those, I say, Oh, you can put them back in the bag.
So I'll pick up the bag and I've already got the, the fabric, like the long length of fabric in my hands. When I pick up the bag, I'm getting away that, um, the sewing machine can come out the back of the bag and just be loaded onto it, like a dump steel, right? Your dub holders, the same color as the silk that you have, or the newspaper, whatever. Uh, so it'd be like that. And then, uh, so then the lady will put hers in, then I'll swing the bag over, but I'll still keep the fabric in this hand and then I'll set the bag down. So my load is made now that load can be made, uh, in the round, it can be done. And, um, and I don't need a table for it because yeah. The bag will serve that purpose and the bag.
Hopefully it's just going to be like the Brown craft paper bag, like that color. So it kind of be very organic and ride under the radar that it works. Like it's been tricked up. So very forgettable. Yeah. And so that's my, um, that's my plan right now. I haven't actually gotten around to that yet, but I got the sewing machine. And so I'm, I'm, you know, maybe, maybe halfway there wearing your show. Do you put a new piece when you're going to test it out? Yeah. I sort of like go with the, sort of the, uh, standard operating procedure, put it somewhere in the middle. Yeah. And then that way you start strong and you finished stuck and it's something in the middle of it, you know, it's the thing is the tricks, no matter how well you rehearse them, there's, there's always going to be work ex you know, more work. I mean, that's just sort of like a starting point, as far as I'm concerned.
Ryan Joyce: W will you pull a trick or will you retool it and retool it? Do you have a cutoff?
Chris Pilsworth: I've pulled some,
The one that I remember the most pulling was, um, uh, Carrie polemics, Stan and Edith, which is the three card Monte with a rhyming poem. And the poem is like all these, um, it's, it's not really double entendres, but each time it's, it goes to maybe a word, which is like a bad word and it ends up being something different. Right. And this was long time ago. I think I might've been in my twenties and I thought that's a great trick. I love that trick. So I was rehearsing the lines in my, in my shower, you know, just, and you know, it's like maybe three weeks later, I got up to the point where I thought, Oh, I'll give it a try. And I think I did two shows with it and I go now, not for me, cause it didn't, it didn't suit my character, my persona, anytime that I would, um,
Anytime that I had something that was sort of even remotely sexual, it just didn't feel right with the character. And that's not to say that I haven't found things since then, which could be the same way. Like, um, I used to do with Haydn's four ring routine, which was great. I got tired of doing that version. So I got a new one, but I remember when I had a kid, I'd say, uh, he'd linked the race together. I haven't looked you out. I say, um, uh, hold them up. I go, not too high. It looks like Mickey mouse. And then I go, ah, and then I go, not too low, different reasons.
And so I figured out a way that I could get away with that with a line like that, that was like, that didn't even come close to the edge, but it was everyone knew what I meant and it was kind of in my, my character. So I think that's another to you. If you're a, trying to create a presentation for a trick that try to make sure that you tailor at least your script and the music to, uh, to your own persona, your own character, or just like yourself, if you're playing yourself that way, it rings true. Uh, even if it's a trick that other people that maybe the other magicians do, at least it feels like, you know, you're not just like a cookie cutter. I remember as reading some reviews from cruise ship magicians on some site. And I think one of the, the worst reviews, I like the worst, uh, it was kind of derogatory, but the person said the cruise ship magician was derivative. I thought, uh, that is like so intelligent, but at the same time, so bad, if you're the magician, meaning that, you know, it could have been any magician, it wouldn't have made any difference because they were just like every other one that they'd seen. So yeah. That's I never want to be derivative.
Ryan Joyce: Yeah, no, no doubt. And that is a lot of magic, whether it's lack of creativity or lack of effort. I'm curious personally to see once this, um, pandemic is over. If people have utilized their time for creative purposes, I wonder if we will see kind of a surge of fun, magic or whatnot. I don't know. I have no predictions for them,
Chris Pilsworth: But I think it's going to be the same. I think it's going to be the same because, uh, I think perform full, full time pros are trying to figure out how to do online stuff, to generate some income. And so it's the same game as before. It's like, you gotta come up with material and, and the stuff that's ready-made, you know, use it straight out of the box is, uh, is like the GoTo materials. So, um, the people that create will continue to create, uh, and create in, you know, like I'm putting together some, some online shows and I'm just sort of trying to figure it out now, but, uh, I've already got ideas about what I think could be some interesting stuff, uh, to exploit the medium. And, um, so, but I think for other people they're just basically taking what would be a regular show and just like doing it online, nothing different.
I mean, there's nothing wrong with that. There's, you know, it's like sometimes I wish I was quicker, but by the same token, I guess for me, it's like, I prefer to, I like, I want to be a great magician. Always that to me is like my primary objective. If I can make a, a reasonably decent living doing that, then that's okay too. But maximizing profitability hasn't really been the top for me. Um, and not to say that guys that to sell out, but, you know, there's, there can be respect for performance at all. Levels like Copperfield, you know, the pinnacle, even he, he would, he would get other people's material. He pick the cream of the crop, but his presentations were always his. And then in some instances for maybe some of the midsize tricks that he had you, the, it would be commercially available. And so you'd see the originator do the trick and then you'd see Copperfield do it. And I hate to say it, but 10 times out of 10 Copperfield's version of the trick was always better than the person who originated it. Yep.
Ryan Joyce: And he's just the most authentic version of himself. And that's a lot of people are never really their true, authentic versions of themselves. They maybe don't get enough stage flight time to figure out who that is. That's one of, one of the hardships, I think nowadays, maybe they don't even try, you know, some, a lot of limitations are just hacky, but Copperfield is just
Chris Pilsworth: No,
Ryan Joyce: Just perfectly like him. Everything he did was every touch, every element, every script, every piece of it, it was just,
Chris Pilsworth: Yeah. And I knew Gary will let as well, Gary will let, uh, was working in Ottawa. And so he'd come out to our magic clubs and we'd actually see Copperfield's TV shows before they came on TV because he bring the, uh, the rough cut, which would have actually the spaces. And like, it'd be a VHS of the show with the spaces for where they're going to drop the commercials. And so the club, when he was working for Copperfield, we would sometimes see the show before it came out. And the thing that, the thing from the limited knowledge that I had from Gary was that Copperfield probably was the hardest working magician, I would say ever, like ever in the history of magic and even still, so today I would say that he, they would, they would rehearse at the theater, that videotapes stuff. They'd just keep doing it over and over and just, you know, I think anyone could be as good as copper field, but you just need to have the single-mindedness and maybe, uh, sacrifice pretty much everything else in your life to be a great performer.
And I think that's perhaps why we don't see more of that because there's a huge price to pay with that. Not to say that they're not willing to do that, but, um, it's crazy, but I mean, the results, wow. The results were just like in my lifetime, I'll never see someone as great as that ever. Like he's not at the pinnacle anymore, but Holy smokes, like you can just ask someone like, what are your favorite Copperfield memories? And then like, there's just this explosion of visuals that pop into your head and it just keeps going on and on and on. It's really extraordinary. And, uh, but in terms of why people might not sort of be authentic and be themselves, I think there's a few reasons for that one is Mmm. Yeah. In the beginning you kind of don't know who you are. So that's one way.
So I remember when I started off, I remember doing a show for my Sunday school. When I was going to Sunday school, we had a party on a Saturday night and there was a show that was hosted by James Randi, I think. And they, I know now that they had taken a bunch of camera crews down to colon, Michigan too, Abbott's get together. And there was one older magician named monk Watson and monk did this rope trick on this show and a doll that's really good. And for some reason or other, like I was like maybe 10 and monk. Might've been like the seventies at the time, but for whatever reason, when I'm doing my church show one of the tricks, I start to perform it. Like I was monk, like I'm like 70 year old magician. Absolutely no sense whatsoever. But it was just that, well, he was good and I'll do it his way, you know?
And it wasn't the same trick. So I think you just, you don't know who you are. And then I think another reason too, is that, um, sometimes it's, I think as performers we have to, uh, we come to a point maybe where you acknowledge that you you'll never be Copperfield or you'll never be duck hunting, or you'll never be lapsed burden because, cause that's not you and there's a little bit of, um, and so that means you have to be you and you don't think that you measure up to the, to the Kings. And so there's a bit of a, well, we wouldn't say depression, but just like you're, you're discouraged, you know? And, and like, well, how am I ever going to be there just being myself. And so I think there is a, you know, you end up being a little bit, um, and some of the things, but eventually I think with, you know, like what you say enough, enough performing time that you, you sort of, you get beyond that.
You say, no, this is who I am. And, and, and I'm, I'm doing OK. You know, like, even if you're not at the top that you can, there's, um, there's a certain amount of honest pride that you can get from, from doing it your way. And, you know, and you feel better too, when you get a good response from an audience and, you know, yeah. That, that trick wasn't mine, but I made it mine and they, and they were responding to all the hard work and effort that I put into it and the craftsmanship and all those things. And, and so then I guess that gives you a little bit more courage to keep, to keep trying to put more of yourself into, into the, the tricks and the presentations and all those things. And, and so then you start to become, um, more confident in your, your capacity and your capability.
And you also get praise from your, from your peers as well. You know, like those and not to necessarily say that magicians are the best judges of what is good or what isn't good, but when you do something that's yours and you get encouragement either from your peers or from your audience, then that gives you the, uh, the courage and strength to keep, keep doing stuff the way you do and have competence to, um, to act upon your, your instincts and your gut feelings about what, what a trick could be and what a good trick would be and what a good premise might be. Or also if someone else has done a trick that you liked a lot and you put a lot of work into, but it turned out it's not working the way you to, then you can cut it loose or, you know, set it aside and try and come up with a new premise, which works for you. You know, you, you start to gain a little bit more, uh, your judgment improves a little bit more.
Ryan Joyce: I just sort of sat here and absorbed Chris. This has been so insightful, man. You've got so much wisdom and you're so sharing with your knowledge. Um, thank you so, so much for this time. How can people follow you?
Chris Pilsworth: Uh, I don't put too much on YouTube, but I do have a YouTube channel. So just go Chris Pilsworth or Chris Pilsworth magician. And then if you put in, um, Chris, Pilsworth magician. My, my, my channel ends up being like second from the top. At least when I do it, I've got maybe about, uh, I don't know how many videos are up there. There's some stuff that I did from the castle. Um, I recently did a little stop motion animation. Uh, that's posted there. It's like, um, one of the projects that I'm doing well, there's a little bit of extra time. And so I'm getting more into that as well. I've got an idea for another one, so they can find me there. And then, uh, in terms of products that I sell, there's a little bit of stuff. I don't really have a portal for that, but, um, a few years back in 2014, it came up with the egg bag, which was called a PB and E which stands for a paper bag and egg.
And, uh, I partnered up with bill Abbott, so he sells those. And, uh, I'm really, uh, I'm proud of all the stuff I'd come up with, but that one that I liked a lot and a lot of magicians, we sold over a thousand of those worldwide and, uh, continue to sell it. And it's like, um, it comes to the full presentation, which once again, it's like what I said before, you know, it's like, it's tailored to fit me, but it's been really encouraging when magicians have emailed me saying that they bought the trick and they told me what they did with it. You know, like they scrap the script completely, or they came up with a completely brand new idea for its African
Ryan Joyce: Jason. Have you changed your routine by any ideas that you've had since you've released the product?
Chris Pilsworth: Uh, not really. The things that have changed have been a bit of scripting. Like there's been like in the, in the script, I got the idea for, um, for that from a scripting magic. Mmm. And in one of the routines that was like, you have a volunteer and every time you ask them a question, they're always to say, yes, I think that's what went in. Nothing. I thought, Oh, there's an address in premise. So I came up with the boat two or three tricks. I didn't actually make the tricks. I just came up with scripts forms. I thought originally, uh, I came up with one, which would be like maybe bill to impossible location, which never went anywhere. Uh, so I set that aside and then I think the next idea was, uh, Oh, I know in a show it would be kind of cool to have three tricks with volunteers. So one would be, uh, where they answer. Yes. And then like maybe two or three checks later, you have another check and they have the answer. No. And then, and then I'll be funny as well, cause it'd be like a call back, but different. And then the third one would be maybe.
So, so then, so then that's kind of like what I was thinking about. And then with the egg bag I'd been doing, uh, the Sterling egg bag for a long time in my kid show with a wooden egg and a plat bag. And then the next one, Jean Anderson put me on to the young Maline bag with the Ken Brooke routine, which I did pretty well kind of verbatim. And then, uh, I was unhappy with the bag cause I was black and I was wearing it like a blackout, but didn't show up much. So I was thinking about a paper bag I thought, Oh, that that could work. Cause now they can see it and it'd be something that would be normal. And at the time I was doing, I still am doing the vanishing wine bottle and I'd get these, um, like whatever, the number eight grocery bags.
And I can remember, I got somewhere when it crumpled up the bag, the bag tore, and you could see a little bit of the green bottles showing through so that, Oh, that's not good. So I got, um, some the next bachelor ordered where the double wealth bags and that is the perfect now won't, you know, won't break and there were the grocery ones, but double-walled as opposed to the hardware ones, which are a little thicker. And so then I thought to myself, well, Oh, what if I put an egg in between, like between the two layers. So that's how that kind of all started off. And so I probably made it about like 30 or 40 bags, just each time, improving the design a little bit. And um, so anyway, it kind of all merged. And then when I was coming up with a presentation at that element, this, this could work.
So the lady always says no. And uh, so, so one of the lines that's not in the DVD is, uh, sometimes I'll ask a question and the lady will just answer normally. And so I didn't want to embarrass her. So one time I said, you're not going to forget what to say, are you? And so she goes, no. And then to remember, she's supposed to say no, so we get a laugh. That's great. And I pull her back on script and I don't make her feel like a jerk. So three, three benefits, you know, so always, always learning
Ryan Joyce: Really fun. Honestly, Chris, this has been so insightful. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate you sharing all your knowledge and wisdom with us. Um, and,
Chris Pilsworth: But let's say one more thing. Yes, please. One more thing. Cause this'll wrap it up nicely. Um, I've been doing magic since I was 11 and uh, I'm 56 now. And I remember when, when I was starting off, I got my information from the library and then, uh, there was another magician helped me when I was in my teens. And then I joined, uh, the IBM club in and then went to conventions and bought books and, you know, just was trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible. Like we all do when we're starting off, you don't know anything and everything's brand new. And I recognize now, as I'm older, that when people magicians took the time to write books, whether it was Tarbell or any of the books that you bought or they taken the time to make DVDs, obviously they want to earn a bit of money from that.
But you know, there's easier ways to make more money than writing a magic book. And I feel that, that our art form that we all really love and care so much about, I sort of liken the knowledge that we have of that to a water. Well, and when we're beginning, we go to the well to acquire knowledge, we draw water from the well to, to, to give us knowledge. And as we get older, I think it's important that in whatever capacity we have, that, that you put the knowledge that you, that I've acquired in my career, things that I've learned on my own, that knowledge, that water I pour back into the well so that the well never runs dry and that new generations of magicians have more foundation to build upon. And, um, and, and more ideas in that way. We, uh, we allow our art to grow and as difficult to disease right now with live entertainment being shut down.
Uh, I'm also encouraged because I think magicians in the, in the world of entertainment are probably some of the most creative and resourceful men and women around. And, uh, and what seems like a super big challenge right now for performance. We're slowly beginning to learn how to adapt and change and evolve. And when it all finishes, I think there'll still be a component of our business, which will be like online shows. And so I think it's important that we, uh, we share and we give back to the art form, uh, to keep it rolling forward. So it's been, um, um, I'm really happy that you asked me to be a part of this. And, um, and, and, and thankful that I have something to give back to, um, to our art form and all of the practitioners
Ryan Joyce: I've enjoyed every second of this. There's so much insight here. Thank you Chris