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James Randi is the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). Randi began his career as a magician, but when he retired at age 60, he switched to investigating[…]

Real magicians don’t pretend to be mystical characters. By telling us they’re just performing tricks, they make their feats all the more breathtaking.

Question: Why do audiences fall for—and want to fall for—magicrn tricks?

rnJames Randi: Well, I don’t know that we fall for them.  We acceptrn them.  But let’s not put it quite that way.  People like fantasy, they rnlike to believe that there is a supernatural world out there, and devilsrn and angels, and all kinds of things like that.  They like to believe inrn that kind of mythology.  And if they can be part of it, if they can be rnpart of the action, or witness something to that effect, they like to dorn it.  A legitimate magician, as myself, a conjurer that is, will always rntell his audience is that what you’re seeing is simple tricks.  They arern illusions.  They don’t really happen.  Or at least you try to get that rnidea across to them.  After all, I think very few people thing that rnDavid Copperfield actually uses a buzz saw to cut a girl in two pieces rnbecause that would be a waste of beautiful girls for one thing, and the rncostumes would be all torn up and everything.  That would be a terrible rnwaste.  So, it’s actually a trick.  It’s an illusion.  These are very rngood illusions in most cases, or they don’t work at all.  So, you’ve rneither got to be good at the thing, or you’re not in the business any rnlonger. 
rnBut people do enjoy seeing this kind of fantasy happen.  Now, mind you, rnin the days of computerized movies now where you can perform miracles onrn the screen, on the silver screen, as they say—and in 3D, remember rnthat—the magician is sort of challenged to do something just a bit rnbigger than what he or she did the last time.  And it’s getting more andrn more challenging for the conjuring profession.  But you’ve got Penn andrn Teller, you’ve got Lance Burton, you’ve got Matt King, you’ve got rnpeople in Las Vegas like that who carry on every day. 
rnNow, Matt King has been doing the same act for like 16 or 18 years now. rn And why?  Because he’s pretty damn good at it; highly entertaining. He rndoesn’t have to be a mystical character.  He’s a magician and he’s funnyrn and he’s entertaining, he’s quick.  He’s got great wit and such, as rndoes Penn and Teller and Lance Burton, of course.  But they’re pros.  rnThey’re dyed in the wool pros, and they are great examples of the rnconjuring art. 
rnOn the other hand, we have the so-called psychics out there who say theyrn can bend spoons with their minds.  Duh.  You know, do ESP and various rnthings like that.  And these are people who are lying to the public.  rnThey’re not playing fair with them at all and they are leading them rnastray and are taking away, in my estimation, their emotional security, rnas well as their money.

Recorded April 16, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen
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