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“There is no magic. There are only magicians,” said Harry Anderson, veteran magician and former sitcom star. He was onstage in a ballroom full of amateur and professional conjurers at the 2013 convention of the Texas Association of Magicians, held Labor Day weekend at Addison’s Intercontinental Hotel.

More than 500 conventioneers, many of them men older than 50 who do magic as a hobby or for charity fundraisers, listened to keynote speaker Anderson for two hours Sunday afternoon. If they thought they were going to get a tutorial in how to perform some of Anderson’s famously baffling card tricks and illusions, they were in for a bit of bait and switch. Lectures and tutorials are what usually happen at magicians’ conventions. Trade secrets are revealed. Dealers hawk their wares, including standard magic tools like fake thumbs and $250 sets of chrome cups under which foam balls appear and disappear. Magic conventions are where you can work with pros to perfect the double card lift, learn the needle-in-the-arm illusion, levitate tables and turn “silks” into live doves.

But no, Anderson felt like talking. And not just into any microphone. He didn’t like the head mike he was wired into. A standing mic was found as he warmed up the crowd by telling any parents who’d brought kids to the convention that he wouldn’t be curbing his tendency to curse (even though he’d signed a “no blue language” clause in his appearance contract, a TAOM member told me). “If you brought your kids here,” Anderson warned, “go hire a ****ing sitter.”

He then performed a quick R-rated trick called “The One-Armed Man Counts His Change.” Think about it.

Anderson, now 60, starred on TV in Night Court and Dave’s World, but he started his showbiz career doing street magic and stand-up comedy in L.A. clubs in the early 1980s. A recurring role as con artist “Harry the Hat” on Cheers, plus eight appearances on Saturday Night Live, led to his big break with Night Court, which ran for nine seasons. His three secrets of success, he told the magicians in Addison, are “Get up as early as you can. Work as hard as you can. Get two sitcoms.”

He believes in old-school magic, tricks and illusions learned from books that go back centuries and procured in his early days haunting magic stores in Los Angeles. “You could buy a trick at 2 in the afternoon and perform it at 6,” he recalled. Anderson can count cards and make things float, vanish and change into other things — just four of the 19 skills it’s said great magicians can perform.

After Dave’s World ended its four-season run on ABC in the late 1990s, Anderson and his second wife, Elizabeth, moved to New Orleans, where he opened a French Quarter magic shop called Sideshow, and performed his comedy-magic act at his own nightclub, Oswald’s Speakeasy. He admits he completes only three tricks in his hour and 45-minute show. The rest is comedy patter and shtick: “This jacket was a surprise present from my wife. It was on the chair in the bedroom the other night.” And “my wife asked me to get her something expensive she doesn’t need. So I signed her up for chemotherapy.”
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Profile of ClintonMagus
I think that Harry Anderson is a great magician and a tremendously funny man, but why do these folks insist on performing "blue" material at family events?
Things are more like they are today than they've ever been before...
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At the lecture, Anderson also explained about his early cockiness--"I didn't just have issues, I had a subscription."

But the heart of his lecture, not reported, was the idea that in any performance, including magic, there is both the conceit and the instantiation. That is, the what you are passionately trying to prove, and the specific way you go about it. Most performers spend a lot of time on the latter and very little on the former. That is, more on mechanics of specific effects rather than the intention. But the audience will attribute conceit whether you intend it or not; and the default conceit in magic is always, "I know something you don't know." If you want to alter that perception you must work consciously to change that conceit into something else.
arthur stead
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Years ago I saw Harry Anderson do his stand-up comedy act in Las Vegas. He had a great bit where he handed a spectator a deck of cards, and asked her to "mix the deck." Then he pretended that she did not understand what to do. He acted like he was getting more and more exasperated, repeatedly saying "mix the deck" ... "mix the deck" ... and not getting the right response. Finally, he pulled out an egg-beater and a plastic toy boat, and demonstrated how to "mix the deck." I guess you had to be there, but his delivery was hilarious and the audience really cracked up.

Arthur Stead
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