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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New Light on the Ancient Cups & Balls

Take a look at this lamentable picture from the Beni Hasan tomb in Egypt (the original mural painting is well over 4,000 years old) and marvel at the level of self-delusion and conceit only possible among majishuns. It may seem ridiculous today, but for decades we have boasted about this thing here being “the oldest proof of a cups & balls performance.” Yeah, right!

Looking at the details, the Gestalt of this very routine would actually deserve a “revolutionary” rating. Why?

  1. What we see is obviously a one-on-one performance. Thus, this image also depicts nothing less than the birth of close-up magic!
  2. It is also the first known document of active audience participation, as the spectator is clearly seen lifting one of the cups. Further research needs to be conducted on the question whether this indicates rather a “Do as I do” plot or an early “Spectator vs. Magician” theme.
  3. Preceding Tommy Wonder and David Williamson by more years than I care to count, this trend-setting routine actually features only two cups!
  4. The climax of this routine is even more astonishing: Boy, look at these loads! As we can see, two more cups (possibly solid ones) are being produced from under the lifted ones. The loads even look bigger than the cups – ample proof that the Egyptian magi were also well acquainted with optical illusions… Yeah, right!

Be that as it may, I enjoyed the point of view Scott Wells took in his introduction for Kreg Yingst‘s fine book The Magic Show in 52 Linotypes. He wrote: “Some believe they were merely baking bread but I like to think that they were magicians who may have also been chefs.”


Addendum: The above reminds me of an old joke told among magicians: “Have you heard? In Mesopotamia, they’ve found a petrified man about 6,000 years old. And guess what – he didn’t wear gloves. It’s obvious that this guy must have been an early stage manipulator who had just vanished his gloves!”