An Interview with David Regal

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„The process is my favorite part“

David Regal is one of the most original and most prolific creators in our field, and I am a huge fan. He is also a super nice guy who graciously cut out some time from his current schedule of shooting the final episodes of “The Carbonaro Effect” to do this interview about inspiration, creating magic, and considering retirement.

Hi David! Ten years after Approaching Magic your new book, Interpreting Magic, is finally coming out. What has taken you so long? 🙂

It doesn’t seem like a long time to me. It was simply the amount of time it took to develop material, interview people from different places around the world, and write the book.

Besides format and weight, how are the two titles or their content related? Do we read them like a progression, culminating later maybe in Strengthening Magic or Selling Magic, or is it more about a shift in your focus?

You think there will be another book?! I can’t conceive of such a thing. I honestly can’t imagine trying to tackle it again. I do think that Approaching Magic and Interpreting Magic link insofar as both deal with ways to individualize the magic we do. Either can be read alone, though.

Has your magic somehow changed over the past years, and if so, does this show in the book?

I have matured, but I don’t mean that in the way of something I have accomplished by virtue of will, more like something that happened to me. Over the past ten years I’ve written or collaborated on literally hundreds of magic routines, for television and in theatrical venues. I’ve tried to pay attention and learn, and my observations and experiences are part of my current book… in addition to a lot of material.

That is indeed a lot! Besides presenting dozens of new tricks, you have conducted more than 30 interviews with many of magic’s top creators and performers, from Simon Aronson to Rob Zabrecky. With what intention and to what overall effect?

I feel that by looking at so many different people’s “way in” to magic and their process, the cumulative effect is both inspiring and welcoming.

What’s your own favorite approach to developing new material? Do you rather start from the effect, or the method, or with an interesting premise or prop?

There is no one way. It all comes down to “What if…?”

Many creative people will tell you that they have special moments and places where their next big idea is more likely to strike them, like during their morning shower or while walking the dog late at night. How about you?

I come from television writing, where one cannot choose to wait for inspiration. Inspiration is lovely, but my training has been on the battlefield of production demands. Your favorite TV show? The one that seems particularly funny or well-crafted? It was at one time writers in a room with a deadline!

If pressed, who’s your favorite creator in magic, and why?

I particularly like Al Baker, maybe because I was fortunate to be loaned an Al Baker book by a neighbor when I was too young to understand or appreciate it all. As I grew the book magically informed me in new ways.

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With six big books under your belt now, your magic output is amazingly huge, diverse, and original. What drives and inspires you to go on and on?

The process of putting things together, working out the puzzle of it all, appeals to me. The process is my favorite part. For a while I felt guilty about that. Only recently have I started to accept who I am and what I’m drawn to, but better late than never.

Definitely! You are obviously way too young to retire, but if there was only one accomplishment in magic you wanted to be remembered for, which one would it be?

I am not too young to retire, but I like to occasionally flatter myself by imagining that my new book might one day be looked back on as something that was good for magic. I realize that sounds egotistical, but why would anyone go to the effort of writing a book like this without hoping the same thing?

Right, who isn’t into writing also with a faint hope of leaving a worthy legacy… Final question, totally unrelated: Any chances of welcoming you in Germany, the land of The Mugs & Balls (beer and soccer!) and the home of the Flicking Fingers, in the future?

I’d love a trip to Germany!

Great, let’s hope our convention and tour bookers are listening! Thank you so much for your time, David, and best of success with Interpreting Magic!

(Interview: Jan Isenbart)


MORE REGAL:

Check out the full table of content of Interpreting Magic here (PDF) and his website and online shop here.

In addition, here’s a recent podcast interview of David by Scott Wells from The Magic Word.

And finally, do yourself a favor and enjoy one of his shows from The Magic Castle, featuring Herman! (Spoiler alert: Watch out for the cheese!)


 

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Words and Thoughts on Wonder

Speaking of interviews, science magician and professional speaker Dr. Matt Pritchard from the UK runs a fine, scholarly website which I have been pointed to only very recently. In his own words, the site’s concept is quite simple:

I interview a host of creatives, magicians and scientists about their work and how they cultivate & share wonder. They are all people who have inspired me in my own work or just made me go “Wow!”

The 70+ interviews are a treasure trove of interesting people with fascinating ideas or areas of expertise. Advice: Do not only hunt for the magicians! (But make sure to read R. Paul Wilson.)

Highly recommended!

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Creativity in Magic (3)

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I have always found it amazing how new tricks, ideas, or routines come into this world. Sheer luck and mere chance seem to play a far greater role in their conception and delivery than any logical thinker could ever imagine.

Here are two more examples from the Tenyo company, as told on their website in the “Development Stories” section.

This is how the principle of “Impossible Pen” was discovered by chance by its creator, the magic genius Lubor Fiedler:

When Lubor Fiedler was originally experimenting with the materials used to construct this trick, one of the items rolled along the tabletop and fell to the floor. He searched for the prop, but could not find it anywhere. When he finally located the item in an unexpected place, he hit upon the idea for a new trick.

It was also by chance that Shigeru Sugawara found the magic solution to the “Money Shredder” challenge, but no further details are given.


 

Creativity in Magic (2)

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I have always found it amazing how new tricks, ideas, or routines come into this world. Sheer luck and mere chance seem to play a far greater role in their conception and delivery than any logical thinker could ever imagine.

Here’s another fine example, this time from the Tenyo company. This is how “Squeeze Play”, one of the most famous early Tenyo items, created by Shigeru Sugawara, came into being, as told on the Tenyo company’s website:

Years ago, Tenyo released a game product called “Mental Game.” This product included ring-shaped pieces that had been punched out of a plastic sheet, so in the factory, there were many plastic disks that had been punched out and discarded as waste. Sugawara thought that he might be able to use these disks for something, so he brought some back to the office where he placed them on his desk. He happened to have some dice on his desk, which led him to think that it might be possible to sandwich a die between two disks, and to make the die penetrate through them. He left two disks on his desk, with a die sandwiched between them. As he stood to get up from his desk, he happened to place his hand on top of the upper disk. When he did so, the die that had been inside was propelled out from between the two disks. This led to the idea that ultimately became “Squeeze Play.”


 

Creativity in Magic (1)

I have always found it amazing how new tricks, ideas, or routines come into this world. Sheer luck and mere chance seem to play a far greater role in their conception and delivery than any logical thinker could ever imagine.

Take the following example about Joe Karson’s creation of the famous “Zombie”, a wonderful story (if true) which I have just come across in Frank Garcia‘s “New York News” in an old issue of Magic Manuscript (Vol. 4, Issue 4, p. 45):

Incredible as it may seem, the trick called “Zombie” was invented by the late Joe Karson quite by accident. He bought a house and everything was fine but the toilet commode didn’t function, so Joe started taking the commode apart. He removed the balance ball attached to the rod and dried it with a towel. He then came upon the idea of making it a floating ball. The rest is magical history!

I will be happy to share more examples in the future. Stay fresh and stay tuned!

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Words of Wisdom (6): Some Darwinisms

How do you turn a good trick into strong magic? There’s is probably no quick answer to that question, but there’s a great book out there with a lot of ideas, rules and even “laws” how to accomplish just that. As such, it is by no means a work on “theory”, but of highly practical value to any aspiring majishun. That book is – you guessed it – Strong Magic by Darwin Ortiz.

I could probably quote at least 30 great lines and insights from that book, but here are just a few to get you started:

Magicians are obsessed by method.

The average ‘magician’ is just a layman with a bunny rabbit on his business card.

In magic, creativity in fashioning presentations has never been as recognized and valued as creativity in devising effects and methods.

Magicians like to pretend that method, effect, and presentation are unrelated subjects.

I do, however, believe that method only matters in regard to how it affects the effect.

The bulk of what is published in magic books and magazines will always reflect what is easiest to invent, not what is most effective to perform.*

Simplicity is an aspect of plot.

The best advice I can give you about working magician audiences is don’t.

Darwin Ortiz (*1948)


*Guilty, your Honor!