Curtis Kam joins Jonah this week to discuss coin magic, thinking about your audience, and finding interesting plots. Although known for his coin work, Curtis is a well-rounded magician and writer who takes a unique approach to his presentations. He also once opened for a volcano.
Curtis didn’t start magic with a magic kit. His journey began at the age of eleven when his parents had him tag along to magic classes with his shy younger brother. Growing up in Hawaii, his access to material was extremely limited. Between the single magic shop, limited books, the odd conventions, and the isolation from the mainland, Curtis approached magic with a unique take due to the isolation from the magic community.
However, work was not sparse on the island. Birthdays, resorts and restaurants provided plenty of opportunities for Curtis to perform, allowing him to develop his performance skills early on in his career. While he may have not had the academic backing that magicians on the mainland on, he had the stage time and the freedom to pursue magic with his own interpretation.
King of Coins
After diving into the New York scene during his time at University, Curtis wanted to contribute to the scene. Sure, he could contribute another card trick, but he noticed a lack of coin magic and figured that was the route to go to gain people’s interests. His Palms of Steel series is what established him as a coin guy in the field (even though he has material in other areas).
For those looking into learning coin magic, it can seem quite intimidating. However, Curtis points out that it comes down to the instructions they receive early on. If you find yourself trying to read difficult material or going through Bobo’s cover to cover, you’re probably going to get discouraged. While there aren’t exactly self working coin tricks to get your bearings, Curtis recommends learning Two in the Hand, One in the Pocket, and the Seven Pennies trick to learn the basics.
Whether you approach it method or effect first, there are a lot of wonderfully unique things you can do with coins. If you have a desire to use a technique, then you realize you’ll need to place the focus on something else, giving you the motivation to think of premises and plots that will allow you to redirect the audience’s attention. Exploring a prop is another approach one can take when developing material; Curtis’ Okito Box routine came from his desire to find a use for the prop.
Curtis recognizes that not everyone is going to be a professional magician. The requirements that they have for the magic they’re performing is different from the professional, so saying “hey look at this” is fine in a casual setting. In a formal setting, there are different expectations. One of those it better be entertaining while communicating an idea; you need to determine what they want to hear and how you can you deliver it to them. Putting a blank narrative over a trick (especially in coin magic) won’t cut it.
Anybody can find competent tricks. It’s about how you frame them and the meaning you place on them that gives the audience something to connect to. At the end of the day, Curtis is a writer who finds ways to connect with the audience.
Wrestling with Magic
Wrestling Magic is a little book Curtis has that is an essay on magic. The essay focuses on the similarities between reality television, wrestling and magic, and how, when these mediums blur the lines in the right way, they become the most entertaining. The book can be found here:
What do you like about 2019 magic? What do you hate?
Curtis likes that we’re entertaining into a phase where people are magicians. As in, they don’t have anything to do with magic, they just are magicians. It’s not as unusual as it use to be or socially ostracizing to be a magician. He’s also pleased to see magic moving out of restaurants and into theaters.
Curtis is pretty happy with magic right now. He could do without the knockoff products though (If you’re interested in Okito Boxes and want an amazing one check out his friend who makes his boxes here.)
Take Home Point
It’s okay to be an amateur. It’s okay to do magic that isn’t like the professionals do. It can be just as interesting and just as impressive.