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A stand-up magician A stand-up magician
by Asa Butcher
2006-11-01 09:59:10
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"I do a brand of magic that is humorous. It is like a stand-up comedian, but I use magic props to tell the jokes. My show is never scripted, although I do know what I am going to do, but how I get from the start to the finish completely depends on the people in front of me," begins Malcolm the Magician. "I can be an 'Oh good evening and welcome' magician or I can be a very down-to-earth, 'Hi, I'm the bollocks! Pleased to meet ya!' kind of magician!"

Everybody seems to know Malcolm the Magician, a.k.a. Malcolm Matson, an Englishman from Sunderland, who has been performing his particular magic in Finland for nearly 17 years. He has entertained passengers of Viking Line, a Finnish ferry company, in his regular Midnight Show and he has worked all over England, America, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and all the Scandinavian countries. "Within seven months of turning professional, I was an international magician, I have never looked back," says Malcolm.

Getting into magic

"When I was seventeen, my father bought me a German Shepherd dog. It was my first ever dog and it was my job to train it, so we joined a display team, where they do jumping through fire and over big walls. I was in the living room of the trainer one day, when he picked up a little Papillon dog, put it in its basket and said, 'Have you ever seen this?' Hocus Pocus and the dog disappeared! I was like, 'Wow! How did you do that?' 'I'm a magician,' he said and that's how I got into magic."

After pestering his friend for weeks, Malcolm was finally shown his first trick and began practicing it, but in his own way. When he performed the trick, his friend was amazed, "He was like, 'Wow! You do that really well…how did you do that?' By the time I reached twenty, there were professional magicians in England telling me to take up a profession as a magician, but, at twenty-years-old, I didn't have the courage to stand up in front of people, so I didn't."

Instead, Malcolm became the head of a debt-collecting department for five years, until he was made redundant from that job, "At thirty-years-old, I turned professional as a magician. I just made the decision that nobody else was going to sack me!" A couple of years later, he came to Finland for the first time for a three-week gig on board one of the Viking Line ferries, "When I was told that's my boat, I do actually remember asking the agent, "On which part do I row? I was a bit shocked," he laughs, "but that was perhaps the best learning curve I've ever had in my life."

"It was a very small boat, it was crewed only by Finnish people and, out of a crew of about 100 people, I think there were two that spoke English. After my first fifteen-minute show, I went back to my cabin and, honestly, I cried. I thought, 'What the hell am I going to do? I am here for three more weeks, three shows a day!' It was a nightmare. I laid out all my magic around the room and I started to create the show from the principle that people would understand 'Yes', 'No', 'Thank you' and 'Please come here'."

"Now I can work in either Finnish or Swedish, but I've never worked the whole show in one language. I always use English, but I punctuate with Finnish or Swedish. If I get an older lady up, who doesn't speak English, then I'll speak Finnish just to help her out, but everything she tells me I translate to the audience in English, which in itself becomes funny because they ask, 'Why is the idiot telling us what we already understand!'"

You've got an easy job!

"I'm not what you would imagine as a magician; I would look really silly if I tried to stand there in top hat and tails. I wear trousers, a shirt and a very bonny coloured waistcoat. The bright-coloured waistcoat, no matter where I work and no matter what the people are in, whether it is jeans and t-shirt or in black tie, I stand out. I only have a wand for kids, although I can't tell you about my other magic wand!" laughs Malcolm.

Malcolm is the consummate professional while performing. He will never drink before a show, he will never swear in any language during a performance, he uses innuendo so the audience can judge how rude they want him to be and he never leaves the house without a balloon in his pocket. "I used to be offended when people would say, 'Oh, you've got an easy job - 20 minutes on the stage, with a pack of cards!' However, I now realise that is a very big compliment because the more I have practiced the easier it looks. It is only when you try a little bit yourself, then you understand how much pressure it is to stand in front of people who know that you are being paid to make them laugh and enjoy themselves."

"I am nervous in every job I do. For example, I was working in Jyväskylä recently and I couldn't believe how much my hands were shaking during the first two card tricks. My hands very rarely shake, even when I first started this job, my nervousness is inside, but, once the laughter started, it all died down. Every time I go to work, I want it to be the best night, I want people to remember me - you're only as good as the last show you did. I've made some mess-ups in my time, but not very many, I've been very, very lucky!"

"The audience love it when something goes wrong. I do a lot of magic that deliberately goes wrong that leads people up the garden path, so when the actual punch line comes…'Wow!' I think that is a very good style of magic, it is enjoyed by a lot of people when they think they have got one over on the magician," smiles Malcolm. "I am one step ahead of you all the time, so if something does go wrong I can always change what I am doing to something completely different and usually I can get away with it."

Usually he can get away with it, but once his grand finale illusion, called Audience Acupuncture, made some inappropriate noises and then broke on stage in front of 1,600 people, so he had no choice but to politely explain, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the difference between David Copperfield and Malcolm Matson. He has £20m and 300 people to make sure his tricks don’t do this. Unfortunately, I work for Viking Line and we are bollocksed! Thank you very much indeed."

It even baffles magicians

'Effective magic' is the term Malcolm uses to describe his style, which has developed during his professional life. His magic is too small for a stage, but he plays it very large, "When I'm working for somebody like Viking Line and doing the Midnight Show, I do a 20-minute show and it has a lot of small magic in it and a lot of audience participation. The tricks are an adaptation of basic tricks because I am what you call 'cuddy-handed' - I am a right-handed person, but I use my left-hand. Therefore, every trick needs to be converted back-to-front, so I can do it with my left-hand."

Malcolm's unique performance of magic led to a lecture tour of England's Magic Circles a few years, since his style of magic actually confuses magicians because he's not doing the standard moves. "Even magicians are baffled. They know the principle behind what I am doing, but they can't say how I am doing it. 'Oh, you didn't do that!' 'Yeah, I did!' and when I show them they go, 'Bloody hell! That was amazing!"

It has made learning magic quite difficult for him and demands a great deal of practice every day in front of a mirror. "Eventually you get to a point where you confuse yourself, you can't see what you're doing, then you know you can perform the trick, but then you spend months and months performing the trick until you perfect the patter that goes with it," explains Malcolm.

Magic is all about presentation, your persona and your character, which is why Malcolm has spent years perfecting the patter to accompany his actions, "You could show me a card trick now and I could do exactly the same card trick in five minutes time and you'd be like 'Wow! That's a miracle!' It suddenly becomes different, but that's just presentation, practice, smoothness and ease of hand."

"Anybody can do magic, you can start when you are fifty. It is a great hobby. It just helps you wile away some hours, especially if you like playing with cards or messing about with woodwork, making your own things, it is a great hobby. When people ask about getting into magic, I always tell them to read a magic book or buy a trick from a joke shop and practice. If they come back and show me, I'll actually teach them how to do it properly. If they then show me again and I think that are performing it well enough, then I might start teaching them a bit more or tell them whom to contact."

Go on, do something!

"Whenever I step out of my house I am the magician. If I don't want to be the magician, I stay at home. The classic conversation when I meet somebody new and ask what do I do, they always say, 'Go on, do something!' I must be able to pick something up and do something straight away, otherwise the illusion of you being a magician is completely blown out of the water or you're labelled as misery guts. In a way, it is a very strange job to have, as far as jobs go. It's not the normal run of the mill thing you hear and not many people get to meet magicians."

"One of the bosses on Viking Line, who is the guy that brought me back to Finland, has probably seen my show five or six hundred times, and I said to him, 'After four or five years of watching my show, surely you must be sick of it.' 'No, no,' he said, 'every night you do something or say something that makes me laugh, and that's why I like watching your show because it is different every time.' It's not a bad comment, I suppose."



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Craig Kidd2008-04-25 18:02:59
Super article about a super talented guy.

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