Monday, March 8, 2010
An Interview with Joshua Jay
By Greg Koren
The card trick is said to have fooled Winston Churchill, but it didn’t fool seven-year-old Joshua Jay. Not for long, anyway.
Josh watched his father, the late Jeff Jay, a dentist and amateur magician, perform Paul Curry’s Out of This World. Then Josh went into his bedroom, closed the door, and spent the next few hours figuring it out.
Then he showed his dad his own trick.
“That was a symbolic moment for me, because it epitomized everything I love about magic,” Josh said recently from his home in Chelsea, a neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side. “I have always put an emphasis on creating/problem-solving in magic, so where many magicians might frown on the idea of someone systematically trying to figure out a trick, this process has become very gratifying for me, and important to my work.”
And by work, the 28-year-old means performing close up and starring in his own one-man shows, as well as writing about magic (including the “Talk About Tricks” column in Magic Magazine), co-producing a line of magic products and publications, consulting on magic, photographing magic, and giving lectures on magic.
That last is the reason for Josh visiting The Magic Warehouse on March 26. He’ll be sharing all new material, including a card trick that combines his love of the pasteboards with his love of film. He calls it Hitchcock.
The famous director by that name is one of Josh’s magical inspirations. So are the Coen brothers, whose 2008 movie No Country For Old Men won four Academy Awards.
Lest you think no actual magicians influenced Josh, fear not. He praises Dai Vernon, Robert-Houdin, Hofzinser, Hollingworth, Tamariz, and Williamson.
Card sharp Darwin Ortiz too. “I think he’s a genius, and a huge influence on my more recent work.”
His greatest influence? His father.
Still, Josh’s appreciation of the artistic qualities of cinema, and of photography in particular, put his magic into perspective, he said. “Images are important to me. In most of the tricks I create, after you see them you can visualize a moment or ‘still’ from the piece, and I think this comes from framing it like a picture.”
Such framing, he said, helps to sharpen his skills and to enjoy what he’s doing.
And boy does he enjoy it. The Canton, Ohio native moved to New York City in 1996 to take advantage of the bright lights and big city prestige, and since then his star has only risen higher.
Josh has performed in more than fifty countries, appears regularly on national television (most recently Good Morning America and the Today Show), and is a perennial headliner at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.
Last year he wrote a 288-page best-seller, Magic: The Complete Course, and his fine-art photography focusing on magic and card cheating was exhibited in several shows. The exhibit currently can be seen at the Culture Museum in Linz, Austria.
Today, he’s hard at work on another book and his second one-man stage show, set to open in May. Of the latter, Josh has little to say except that he’s rewritten it twice. “Every time the show gets a little smarter and a little more innovative, but lots of stuff gets dropped. I want it to be perfect, and because that isn’t possible, I just get too frustrated and start over!”
Fortunately, he’s hired someone to help with his skyrocketing career, while his girlfriend, Anna, helps him stay grounded.
Looking ahead, the unabashed fan of all things Disney sees himself either performing in his one-man show or, he joked, in a ditch. “Or, if things stay as they are, I’ll be doing my one man show in a ditch somewhere. If that happens, please come see it!”
Meanwhile, there’s the March 26 lecture. Josh hopes people will use the material he presents.
“I know that sounds obvious, but my last lecture focused on theoretical elements, and I chose material I knew not everyone would be able to use. This time around, it’s the collection of material I’m focused on, and proud of. I hope people appreciate these are not small variations of existing tricks. They are substantive items new in many ways.”