This week Jonah connects with Cody Clark to talk about his sensory sensitivity shows for autistic audiences, performing with autism, and the obstacles that still remain in the magic community for minority and disabled performers.
Won Over By Magic
Cody shares with us the story of his autism diagnosis and the choices his parents made at the time to not subject him to harmful treatments but instead continue to offer him the same opportunities that his neurotypical siblings were being offered. As he grew up he wanted to lean heavily into the arts or sports but both proved to be full of challenging barriers. That was until he attended a magic performance where he was invited onstage to help saw another audience member in half. Here he found something he could do. He immediately purchased his first magic kit and joined up with a local magic club.
As an austic performer, Cody is passionate about ensuring this shows are accessible to all audiences and provides unique sensory sensitivity shows where other autistic people can enjoy the magic without loud noises, like having a focus on silk magic. From there, Cody has found a niche in the fringe festival circuit where he’s carved out a space for himself.
However he shares with Jonah the continued barriers he faces in simply working with his market to be fairly paid for his work in a world that systemically undervalues disabled people and still allows for disabled workers to be paid below minimum wage in many countries, including the US.
Cody will share how a love of trains, a love of old school country music, and a love of magic have all combined to form his stage personas and offers advice to other performers on how to step out of their comfort and ask for advice or help when they need it. It’s been Cody’s experience that there is no better community to ask for him than in the magic community.
There was one mentor of mine I’ve been saving for this moment. I consciously did not mention them in other moments because I wanted to bring them up now. The big unsung hero of magic, the person who’s given me stage time and so many other stage time through indie magic, monthly, and also a transgender magician who does magic as Rodney The Younger, who does magic as Andrea Merlin, Queen of Magic,. Taylor Martin,.
They’ve been a professional magician for about 60 years. Based in Indianapolis and they are an unsung hero because they weren’t necessarily, well, they knew they were trans of course, but, they weren’t necessarily intentionally, like, I’m going to break barriers here, here, and here, like even I was. Instead, they just needed to make a living in this world and how they’ve dealt with the hurdles from places like the Magic Castle of all places. That’s up to Taylor if they want to elaborate, but they had the best Magic Castle rejection story I’ve heard, I will say that. What about all these barriers, how Taylor’s toppled these barriers has been so inspiring to me and that Taylor’s characters are why I have Conductor Cody, why I have Nudie Suit Cody and why I have just Plain Suit Cody.
The whole character thing comes from Taylor.
What do you like about modern magic?
To compare the things I like I will compare two hobbies, one that I left when I got into magic, and then of course magic. I’m into toy trains, especially Lionel Trains. When I left trains and got into magic, both hobbies were the exact same, old white guy hobbies who were dated. One hobby has since evolved and is currently publicly relevant. The other has stayed dying. Guess which is which.
Magic has listened to those critiques, magic has figured out how to evolve, how to be relevant, how to invent new ecosystems, to learn magic, how to get people exposed into it whilst retaining its core charm about what magic is. Where toy trains have continued the descent downward.
And they literally think, “oh, just make it operable on your iPhone. That will get kids in”. Where really, that’s just a bandaid on a larger problem with that industry. Where magic for all the faults that still has, it is now a relevant part of the ecosphere again. It’s gone from people being bullied for being a magician to people being celebrated for being a magician. That’s the big thing I like about magic a lot.
What do you not like?
I think there’s a lot of throwing the baby out with the bathwater in magic right now, because there is a lot about old white guy magic that needs to die. But at the same time, a lot of it’s still good material. Those L&L DVD still have a lot of gems. The elders are still in the magic club, the elders are still at the magic conventions.
There are still great people with great advice. But yet, I feel like we’re too eager to abandon those old routines. In my professional career, I consider myself like the country singer Emmylou Harris. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Emmylou Harris, but she takes the old Carter family songs and adds rock and roll to them.
So essentially, that’s what I feel I’m doing taking classics of silk magic, taking the misers dream, but yet covering them and my own personality so much, like with Emmylou Harris songs, you don’t realize until after the fact wait that wasn’t old classic wait, that was a traditional piece of music or magic!
And that also circles back to why I’m doing volunteer work for the S.A.M. and the S.Y.M. The place where magic clubs, I feel as an ensuring that their members learn basic magic skills. And it should no longer be a lecture club. But I do still feel there is a valid place for magic clubs in the future.
I’m not ready to let them die off. And that’s why I’m using my positions in the S.A.M. ecosystem to contribute ideas on how the societies, on how the assemblies, can become training grounds instead of just the lecture circuit.
Take home point
I’d say that liking things, I’d say that different types of audiences, that script writing, that all the things I mentioned today, they’re all nothing to be scared of, but rather it’s a different way of thinking. Whether it’s with disability is a different way of living in the world. A different way of thinking about magic routines is beyond stunts. A different way of thinking about how to have a career in magic.
Don’t be scared of any new things. Don’t be ashamed of being your honest self. Instead, just embrace and cherish your different way of thinking.
Everything you need for more Cody Clark can be found at codyclarkmagic.com
And lately Cody has been really enjoying TikTok where you can follow him @codyclarkmagic