After several recommendations, Joe Diamond finally sits down with Jonah for episode 141 to discuss ritualistic magic, believability, and engaging your audience. Joe is a mentalist based in Illinois who delves into the weird side of life through his magic. He has headlined at the Chicago Magic Lounge, performed alongside David Parr, and hosts a weekly show called The 13th Hour.
Joe’s introduction to magic is fairly standard. He was intrigued by the David Copperfield specials and received magic kits as a kid. However, it was not the puzzle side to magic that drew him in; it was the magic side of magic. Magic was a way for him to bring the weird and impossible things he loved to life. After seeing the first World’s Greatest Magic, he realized he didn’t have to do large stage illusions and could do effects that let him express his interests.
When he was seventeen, he worked at Six Flags performing seven hours a day for three or four days a week. During his time at the park, he was able to go out to try everything from mentalism to card magic to geek magic. His learning wasn’t isolated to a single vein of tricks. During this time, he also had the opportunity to fly to Toronto and work with Jay Sankey on a video called Underground Jam; this would eventually lead to them working on future projects together and becoming friends.
Joe only completed one year of college before realizing he was making enough money by performing magic. However, his decision to become a full-time magician was just before the 2018 financial crisis. Fortunately, he was able to adapt his mentalism and approach to marketing his shows to make it through the recession as a fulltime performer.
The 13th Hour
The 13th Hour is Joe’s weekly show for thirteen people. What started as a one-off show before he went on tour quickly became a weekly event as people in the area continued to show interest in coming out to the experience.
The 13th Hour is held in a reportedly haunted mansion which has been turned into an artist space. Joe has a yearly lease with the building to rent out one of the studios which is where he performs the show–a show that has been tailored for that specific venue. The intimate studio allows for him and thirteen guests to see and experience the magic with each other. Starting with traditional mind reading, Joe slowly moves into more esoteric tricks before convincing the audience that time travel is real.
First, Joe believes you should stop doing disclaimers at the beginning of your show. He views it as being condescending to your audience and underestimating their intelligence. By giving a disclaimer, you are not setting up a world that will draw them in, but, rather, telling them how to experience what they’re about to see.
If you approach your show wanting the audience to believe you have some gift, you are limiting yourself in what you can perform. This is why Joe has replaced the idea of believability with the idea of being “engaged with the premise.” Believability doesn’t matter if the audience isn’t engaged with what you’re doing; you should be going down the rabbit hole together. If you want your audience to believe in a concept like time travel, you need to build towards that, progressing your effects so that the audience is on your side by the time you reach the finale of the show.
Categories of Performances
When approaching performances, Joe breaks down effects into three different categories:
- Ritual Effects: A ritual effect follows the formula of A+B=C. A good example is his trick Diamond Jacks: the spectator needs a good luck charm, he has a good luck charm, they perform the effect.
- Setup and Payoff: Joe credits Carissa Hendrix for this definition. Much like how a joke has a setup and payoff, so do many tricks. Picking a card is your setup, finding the card is your payoff.
- One Act Play: Joe credits David Parr for this definition. You can approach your performance like a play where you have characters, conflicts and a plot surrounding your effect.
Joe goes on to explain that you can do three pick-a-card tricks with these three styles and your audience will experience different effects.
What do you love about 2018 magic? What do you hate about 2018 magic?
Joe explains how magic has given him so much, and how he is delighted to see kids still reading and learning from books.
He is not a fan of how people are hung up on online exposure. While he agrees that exposure can be bad, he reminds people that you can find a lot of these secrets at local libraries. Joe goes on to explain that you should be making your performance so captivating that people are Googling you after the show, not your methods.
Absolute Magic by Derren Brown