For episode 162, Jonah sits down with Dan White to discuss working with a team, creating a show, and performing on television. Dan has appeared on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon ten times, has an on running show at the Nomad, and has consulted for people like David Blaine, David Copperfield and Kanye West.
When Dan was a boy, his father gave him a magic kit, sparking his interest in magic. Growing up in Philadelphia, Dan had access to a magic store where he was able to go to learn and share magic. Eventually, Dan began to work there which allowed him to repeatedly perform tricks and polish his style during his eight years at the shop.
While Dan attended University full-time, he was still performing magic. During this time, Dan moved to New York to further his education and his magic career. By living in New York, Dan was able to perform gigs at nightclubs and bars. New York also gave him the opportunity to meet magicians and give him access to the real inner world of magic. Soon, Dan met David Blaine and eventually stated working with him. After working with Blaine on his show, Dan was given the chance to consult for David Copperfield which led to him working with Robert Smith, Blake Vogt, Patrick Kun, Homer Liwag and Chris Kenner.
After working with Copperfield, the restaurant 11 Madison Park approached Dan wanting to create a deck of playing cards for the restaurant and a trick that they could incorporate into their dessert course. When they completed this project, they asked if Dan would be interested in performing a show at their hotel. Since then, Dan has been performing The Magician at the Nomad Hotel in New York.
Working with a Team
Whether he’s consulting for a show or creating his own material, Dan is often working with his fellow magicians and peers to develop ideas. Often, everything starts as a spark, a seed of an idea that comes while he and his friends are talking. When they come together to share their ideas, it gives then a chance to discuss the concepts and develop them further.
Dan highlights that by working with others, you have the chance to utilize their expertise to better execute your vision.
Creating a Show
When Dan was crating his show for The Nomad, he knew he wanted it to be more than an open mic format or a standard show. At the beginning, it was primarily him developing a narrative that would be the through line for the show. Nailing down his narrative was the most important part as it gave the show more than just a series of tricks. Dan also knew that he would have the audience’s attention when they entered the room, so it became a process of how to give the audience the best overall experience.
In terms of effects, Dan often asks what would be cool or interesting to do on stage that would fit into the narrative. While he isn’t switching in and out new effects constantly, he is ways creating new effects as he sees no reason not to be.
Performing for Fallon
Jimmy Fallon discovered Dan after seeing the second half of Dan’s first ever show at the Nomad. Enjoying what he saw, Jimmy invited Dan onto the show to perform.
There’s a different between performing on television and performing on The Tonight Show, Dan explains. On The Tonight Show, Dan is trying to cater to Jimmy’s brand while also performing effects that interest him and allow the most amount of people to participate. Dan also believes that a television show appearance shouldn’t be a one and done moment; the effect you decide to do should have multiple hits and moments that get the spectators involved in the magic rather than as passive observers.
Built in Experiences
Dan wants to be like a musician but with magic. Like music, he wants magic to consistently deliver an impact moment that can be experienced over and over again by lay people. He wants people to watch a trick and get chills from the presentation.
You can of course deliver an experience through magic by focusing on building peaks and valleys into the show. Give your audience the ups and downs they want. Have the gruesome and sexy moments mixed into the hard hitting and calm moments. Dan points to Copperfield as an example of someone who truly understands how to take the audience on an experience.
To help build this experience, Dan highlights that you need to connect with your audience on a real person level. You can see different results when you interact with people in certain ways. You first need to recognize there is an antagonistic side to a magic show, and that you need to defuse that atmosphere to help bring up the energy to a place where the audience can relax and be entertained by the performance.
What do you like about 2018/2019 magic? What do you hate?
There is nothing major that Dan hates in the current magic period as even when he is presented with something he doesn’t like or disagrees with, he still appreciates that it has him thinking and that it is clearly pushing a boundary. If anything, the only thing he doesn’t like is people still releasing DVDs instead of downloads, and how people do interviews before explanations for their tricks.
What Dan likes about the current state of magic is the fact that we’re living in a new period of magic that has seen Instagram magicians rise. It is a different direction for magic, and he is interested to see how it plays out.
Take Home Point
Jonah liked the idea regarding sharing information because you’re passionate about magic and want the community to grow; we should be focsing on making connections, not being competitive.
Dan believes the most important part is the idea of peaks and valleys in your act. You need to push that idea hard because you need to get the emotions to bring people into your show.