Archive for the 'Brian Brushwood' Category

What Makes A Real Magician?

Posted by Michael on September 11th, 2019

In this video from Scam Nation, Nate Staniforth catches up with Brian Brushwood as part of the Scam Nation American Magic series to discuss what makes a real magician, particularly in the modern era.

Scam School Throwback

Posted by Michael on April 3rd, 2015

We’re going to tie up our shortened Video Friday with this old episode of Scam School featuring egg tricks. Why? Because Brushwood’s spike ‘do is awesome and because it is Easter weekend, eggs will be laying around and I could not force myself to post a silk to egg video. Enjoy more Mr. Brushwood, who can also be seen Hacking The System on NatGeo, over at the Scam School YouTube page (or subscribe to the podcast).

Have a great weekend, everyone, especially for those of you spending it with family and friends. I am going to make luchador mask eggs with the kids now!

Learn To Pick Locks Like A Spy!

Posted by Michael on May 22nd, 2014

When people find out you are a magician, they have questions. Do you have a rabbit? Can you make my wife disappear? Can you cheat at cards? Can you pick locks? We can’t help you with the rabbit, them with their marital issues and will probably cover cheating at cards at another time… but today, dear readers, we are bringing you a short tutorial on picking locks with hair pins. This video from YouTube user Nighhawk In Light is actually kind of informative… If nothing else, you may learn how locks work.

If you want to learn even more about picking locks (you know, without going out and doing serious research on your own), Brian Brushwood covered using a bump key on Scam School about four years ago.

Magicians On The Tube

Posted by Michael on March 3rd, 2014

Above is a highlight from Brian Brushwood’s Hacking The System on NatGeo. In case you missed it last week, both episodes are being rebroadcast Thursday (March 6) at 5PM Eastern.

Also on NatGeo Thursday you will be able to catch back to back episodes of Dynamo: Magician Impossible starting at 7PM Eastern.

Justin Willman will be on Chelsea Lately Wednesday night with guest host Khloe Kardashian (iTricks isn’t sure which one that is, by the way). The show airs at 11PM Eastern on the E! network.

Who Can Be Trusted with Magic Secrets?

Posted by Editor on February 21st, 2013

Best. Card Trick. Ever. - YouTube.jpg

What makes someone a magician? Let me clarify this even further, what is the lowest possible requirement that has to be met for you to feel good about someone being entrusted with ANY magic secret?

We are talking children here. Do they need to be fascinated by a trick and then ask how it’s done? Do they need to save up enough money to buy a trick from an online shop or Amazon? Do they need to borrow a book or video from a friend? Or a library?

The goal here is to gather input on what the line is between teaching and exposure. With the recent magic kerfuffle over Brian Brushwood’s Invisible Deck episode of Scam School this is something that I am curious to hear your opinions on.

I am not saying that Brian’s video was any magic secret, but we can work up from there once we understand the baseline.

I’ll start: I believe that any inclination to find out how a magic trick works makes you a worthy of magic knowledge. Any interest in method, at all, full stop. It’s the cardinal difference between my friends inside and outside of the industry. Magicians care about methods, outsiders might be fascinated by tricks, but they really don’t care beyond a perfunctory “how did you do that?” wonder squeak.

If you care. You are special. You have an interest. And my hypothesis is that interest will make you more inclined to take care of that secret and build relationships from it than degrade it.

In that sense, I am not a magician. In the six years I’ve written on this site I’ve had far more secrets told to me by magicians than I’ve ever sought out. The performance fascinates me, the social dynamics fascinate me and the state of the industry fascinates me. That’s what draws me to this subject.

Explanations of methods are wasted on me. I don’t care enough to remember the specifics half the time and even if I do, I assume there are a many ways to skin a cat and would very, very rarely have enough confidence to declare how something is being done while it was performed. In fact, performances that overly go out of their way to disprove a method tend to bore me.

But this is about you, what is a magician?

Brian Brushwood: The Routine that Changed Everything I Knew About Magic

Posted by Editor on March 13th, 2012

We are proud to welcome our dear friend Brian Brushwood as the iTricks guest editor all this week. His new eBook Scam School Book 1 will be released Pi Day March 14th. It contains material spanning 200 episodes of the hit podcast including original audio tracks and embedded video demonstrations. Head to for all pre-order information.

I want to show you one of the most influential magic performances I’ve ever seen:

In 1994, I was just starting to learn magic in earnest. I was consumed with the tools and mechanics of the trade, but hadn’t given much thought to presentation… After all, it was obvious how magic was presented: Magicians all wore sequined outfits and played out-of-date 80′s music. Their assistants all smiled as they were cut in half and reassembled. Everything was blow-dried mullets and dramatic magical hand gestures.

And then I saw Simon Drake on the Secret Cabaret.

brian brushwood simon drake.jpgThis was like nothing I’d ever seen. It had a narrative that I cared about. It had a simple, haunting score that still gives me goosebumps to this very day. It was a visceral, graphic depiction of a man mutilated and killed for the intellectual benefit of faceless doctors.

And when he died, he stayed dead. I’d never seen that in magic before. If something was vanished, it had to be reproduced. If it was sliced in half, it had to be reassembled. Magicians were the ones who did the cutting, not the ones split in half and left to die.

This wasn’t magic. This was theatre.

In 1994, World’s Greatest Magic dominated television. Everything in magic was cheerful, colorful, and polished to a mirror finish… and two years beforehand, Simon Drake was doing this.

This was the performance that made me realize the magic could be something different. Something that could both engross and horrify. Magic could be a secondary concern after story, and you’d have a better performance for it.

Looking at my stage show, I can point to routines that are direct homages to this piece. My pale attempts to capture what I felt the first time I saw this in 1994.

I hope it inspires you as well.

Brian Brushwood: The 2 Biggest Lessons I Learned from Teller’s Letter

Posted by Editor on March 12th, 2012

teller brian brushwood letter.jpgWe are proud to welcome our dear friend Brian Brushwood as the iTricks guest editor all this week. His new eBook Scam School Book 1 will be released Pi Day March 14th. It contains material spanning 200 episodes of the hit podcast including original audio tracks and embedded video demonstrations. Head to for all pre-order information.

Recently there’s been a bit of viral buzz around this exchange between Teller and me from 16 years ago. I was a 19 year old kid starting out in magic, trying desperately to find my own voice, and Teller’s fantastic essay is, without question, the reason I’m where I am today. If you haven’t read it, I strongly encourage you to do so. Teller’s wisdom will absolutely sharpen your magic presentation and inspire you to try for ever-greater things.

However, I’ve not previously given any advice as to how I implemented Teller’s suggestions. Everyone’s different, but here are a couple of the lessons I’ve learned in the last 16 years:

#1 – Don’t wait. There’s a million very good reasons why you should wait just a little bit longer before you start your next venture… Ignore all of them.

Don’t wait to get started. Don’t wait to pick up the phone. Don’t wait to start writing new material. Say “Yes” and “Immediately” often.

You’re going to find eight million excuses on why you should wait. Wait for them to call you back. Wait until you buy better props. Wait until you can hire a professional photographer. Wait until your new routine is ready. Wait until know-nothing doofuses who happen to have started their careers before you write you back with sage words of wisdom (that’s me I’m talking about).

Don’t. Wait.

The only thing separating you from having your best show possible is 10,000 hours of live performances. And while that sounds like an unfair, daunting amount of time and effort to put into becoming great, here’s the twist: the time is going to pass anyway. You can either spend it working towards your goal, or waiting.

Whatever’s wrong with your show, it’s nothing that a thousand performances won’t fix. So get out there now and start performing.

#2 – Find a safe place to be bad, so you can become good. Failure is an integral part of success, so figure out where you can be safely be bad immediately.

For me, it meant performing on 6th street and getting chased off by the cops. I could get six performances under my belt in one night, and I didn’t have to ask anyone for the booking. The audiences gave me instant (and very honest) feedback, and occasionally I’d come home with 50 bucks in my pocket.

Before I started Scam School, I spent a year putting together travel videos of life on the road at They weren’t great (and nobody watched them), but it taught me how to tell stories and host in front of the camera.

Once Scam School became popular, I realized that I had zero experience keeping a live broadcast interesting… So I started doing the BBLiveShow, the “Best Worst Show on the Internet.” We developed a very small audience and had a lot of fun… and the experience was absolutely vital to creating NSFWshow, iTunes’ pick for a “Top Audio Podcast” of 2010.

Point is, no matter where you are, you’ve got more to learn. Don’t just be unafraid to be bad… find the right venue to be aggressively, fearlessly bad so you can figure out how to become good.