Jonah is joined by Eric Dittelman where they talk about performing on TV, the usefulness of having an agent, the challenges of the past year going virtual, and the importance of creating a space where you can be bad.
Eric has competed on America’s Got Talent, appeared on Ellen, and performed on Penn & Teller Fool Us. He’s toured the United States performing at colleges and has produced shows in New York like the experimental magic and comedy show Amazeballs.
Doing His Own Thing
Eric wasn’t even aware there were magic organizations or clubs until he was in college. Until then he cultivated his interest in magic by visiting random shops and pursuing his own hobby on his own terms, which he looks back on now as a strength having not been influenced by other people he was able to come into his own identity as a performer.
That independent streak led him to mentalism where the cross between improvisation and psychological studies really appealed to him. As he found books to read by people like Bannachek and Bob Cassidy he began seeking them out, if there was an event where one was hosting a discussion he would be there to meet them and make connections. Those connections would foster lifelong friendships and mentorships, which Eric notes was very important to have.
Stumbling Onto The Small Screen
Eric is quick to point out that he stumbled into all his tv performances. If you have goals and you work towards them everyday they’ll eventually manifest and it’s just being ready and prepared for when those opportunities arise. After a producer saw one of Eric’s viral video gags he posted online he was encouraged to apply to America’s Got Talent, which lead to someone scouting him for Ellen, which opened doors later to appearing on Penn & Teller Fool Us. At first Eric kept his expectations low, at most he expected to be able to get a single clip from appearing on TV that he could use to compete for booking on the college circuit and he didn’t even tell anyone he was auditioning for America’s Got Talent. Eric shares his strategy on AGT and the risks he took at the end performing a trick for the judges that had only worked once before in rehearsal.
Surviving In Virtual
When the pandemic closed every live show in New York and across the country in March, Eric pulled back to take time to consider his next move. At first he was convinced that mentalism could not perform in the virtual space but after thinking about radio shows in the past and the shows he enjoyed listening to he decided to try a livestream show on Youtube with a “call in” line where viewers could join in via Zoom one at a time just like a radio call in show and have their minds read.
While sharing his story about setting up his virtual shows Eric expands on that to include his history in improv and the importance he’s learned in being able to create spaces where you can be bad in. You can’t be bad at a paying gig so you also can’t take the same risks or experiment with ideas you haven’t fully formed. But by creating a space, either with friends or colleagues, or a low-rent studio where the cost of failure isn’t going to harm you, you can push your creative limits and find new innovative ways to improve your performances. Never underestimate the power of letting yourself fail.
What do you like about modern magic? What do you not like?
Eric loves the moment of creativity where people find their own voice and find their own way
Eric doesn’t like the arrogance in the magic community which he doesn’t think is necessary to be a good magician.
Take home point
Create your own space and find a place to do your thing, and to actually DO the thing!
“You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.”
― Amy Poehler, Yes Please
ericdittleman.com (try and find a misspelling of the domain that doesn’t work!)
Twitter – @EDittelman