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|Interviews - Simon Lovell|
Simon Lovell is a world-renowned close-up entertainer incredibly gifted in the art of sleight-of-hand. His level of skill is second only to his ability to entertain and create laughter. His talents are especially popular at private parties and corporate functions where he can seamlessly entertain from group to group, amazing everybody along the way! Daniel Price has had the privilege to speak to Simon on behalf of MagicBunny.co.uk.
How do you break the stigma that members of the public have regarding the use of cards for magic...how do you convince your audience that they are viewing real magic and not some fancy sleights of hand?? Do you find that people switch off when a pack of cards is introduced?
Simon Lovell: I see no stigma when I work! When I do close-up I only use playing cards for my props so all of my effects are card tricks. However I also spend time getting to know the people and interacting with them before doing any magic at all. I ask their names and remember them (VERY important), I ask about them, their lives etc. People love to talk about themselves and this establishes a social friendship before any magic occurs. Card tricks are not boring, they can't be (they are, after all only bits of cardboard, with no power of emotional affect), but often performers of card tricks (no readers of this I'm sure!) are boring. Establishing yourself as a fun person means that it doesn't matter what magic you do, it's the performer they want to see. It's critical be make yourself the centre, not the magic. Interaction with the audience is far more important than learning a new Flippy Double Lift. Making your magic fun is much more important than making it difficult.
I tend to think of cards as a close up effect - how can a magician effectively employ cards as part of a stage routine?
Simon Lovell: I do two card effects in stand-up - the three cards across and my own Sleight-of-Tongue (a very gross version of card to mouth). When working with cards on a stage you just need to work bigger. You also need to make sure that the audience are aware of every aspect of what is going on. In the three cards across the cards are treated as objects. Values need not be seen, only how many there are. In the card to mouth variation the card is signed "big and bold" and I make sure everybody sees it. Because it is signed with a blue, thick, permanent marker, even if they can't see the value they can certainly see the signature (the blue ink stands out much better than black or red ink). Also, I always force a low spot red card on them (a two or four) so that the signature stands out very clearly against the white of the card making it very easy to see. But, again, it's not the props but the performer that creates the entertainment!
What support did you receive from your family in the very earliest days of your magic ventures? Did your family stand by you and offer to support you from the very outset or were there persuasions to find a real job? Did you take the time and effort to persuade your family that this was the career path you were determined to follow?
Simon Lovell: My family had no concept of what show business was and tried very hard to convince me that it was a terrible career to go into. However I knew from a very early age that this was what I wanted to do and so they did their best to help me along. Even not liking the career I chose they certainly provided both emotional and, some, financial support in the early years. It's nice now that when they see me on TV or, as happened recently, headlining the Broadway show Monday Night Magic in New York City (where I now live), they have grown to be rather proud of their mad son. I'm still not sure that they understand how anybody can make a good living from this business though!
Suppose you were caught on a journey without any cards and a fan of yours came across you - what effect would YOU chose to show, if you didn't have a deck of cards to hand?
Simon Lovell: I wouldn't do anything. I rarely do any magic unless I am being employed to do so. If a real fan comes along I do have a fund of stories (some nice, some horrors) about the career that I can entertain them with though.
What sleight of hand would you say was the cornerstone of a good card magician?
Simon Lovell: Since you are using the term magician and not performer I assume you are asking about which sleight-of hand techniques that are the important ones. A good Double-Lift would be right up there. Not tough to do but very tough to fool with. I must say though that the hardest move in card magic is simply the one you haven't practiced yet! Any move is easy after you've practiced it enough. People say that the Push-Off Second Deal is hard but it isn't to me, I've been playing with it for nearly forty years! Practicing moves till you can do them without thinking is a corner stone to being a great magician
How do you feel about the impact of the Internet on magicians and do you see it as positive or negative?
Simon Lovell: I see it as mainly negative. The explosion of information has made secrets much easier to access and I think this lessens their value. In my early days you had to travel miles to get to a teacher, earn their friendship and trust and then, and only then, be allowed to learn. Alternatively you had to plough through manuscripts (often poorly written) and work like a demon to make any sense of them. This gave the work a very high value for me. Nowadays when somebody says, "I don't want to buy a book, is it free anywhere on the web?" I cringe. When they say, "Is it on video or DVD instead of a book?" I feel sad. Sorry to say but if anybody tells me they are a "visual learner" I regard that as meaning that they are too lazy to read and study a book. This instant "I want it now" syndrome is responsible for a lot of very bad magic. On the plus side there are some very good sites who try to do things in a responsible manner - yours is one of them by the way which is why I agreed to answer your questions!
How do you feel about exposure? Do you see it as a threat or a challenge?
Simon Lovell: I see it as neither. One of the main reasons FOX made more masked magician shows after the first one was because of all the whining magicians made. Scheduled to be a one-off it suddenly garnered un-thought of publicity and so more were made. If magicians had simply laughed and said, "nice try but that's not how we do it," the shows would have vanished like a great trick. But, even with these shows, people just don't remember them well. Ask a magic pal to name all the effects exposed and they'll have trouble; what chance does a layperson have!?
If asked about them I just say, "Did you see any of the things I've just shown you?" They reply, "No" and I say, "So what they are showing are silly things, nothing that a professional would use!" If pushed I'll add, "Of course they don't even show the real methods, that's just stuff they make up for the show!" At another level I must say, again, that people choose to watch a magical performer not so much for the tricks but for the performer (the personality if you like)! They can expose a few crappy tricks but they'll never be able to teach the public that indefinable quality that makes a great performer! Exposure has been around for over 400 years, it will carry on but so will magic! Perhaps the dramatic drop in ratings for these styles of shows proves that people just don't want to know how it's done, they just want to enjoy good magic!
If you had to be remembered for one effect in your lifetime - which effect would it be and why?
Simon Lovell: I'd rather be remembered for me than any single effect though I'm pretty proud of my, often ripped off in whole or part, straitjacket routine with the puppets which I've been doing for over thirty years now.
Usually those who make it to the top, such as yourself, have some strong roots in their presentation from those who influenced their career. This influence could be a teacher or present and past performers who the person in question looked up to as their skills and abilities grew and took shape. Who do you consider to be your biggest influences in your magic, both past and present? Who are among your favourite magicians, both past and present?
Simon Lovell: Big influences magically would include Ken Pumfrey, Harry Baron, Fred Robinson, Ken Brooke, Fred Kaps, Eric Mason, Edward Marlo, Dai Vernon and many, many more. Non-magical influences include Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Lenny Bruce, Lord Buckley, Round the Horne, Monty Python and more. I read widely and try to let everything influence my performance. I will take inspiration from any source and am always looking. I have quite a few favourite magicians to watch so to pick any would be unfair. I just like to watch any good magic.
Do you have any advice for all the hobbyists out there trying to make it to the pros?
Simon Lovell: Unless you have a driving need to perform in your heart and soul don't do it. Just wanting to be a professional magician isn't enough - you have to HAVE to do it. It must be an overwhelming need. It's a very tough business and, unless totally driven, stick to performing at an amateur or semi-professional level. Most of the great creative magicians of both yesteryear (Vernon, Marlo, Jennings, Milt Kort etc etc) and of today (Bannon, Aaranson, Wakeman, Close, Anderson etc etc) are either amateur or part time magicians! By doing a normal job you get to do magic when you want, not because you have to. Don't forget also that being a pro means a lot of travelling (which gets real boring, real quickly) and that can mean a lot of time away from family and loved ones.
Being a pro means giving up a lot - don't try it unless you are really sure. If you are going to try it make sure you have a good education to fall back on. Show business is two words 'show' and 'business' - a good business degree will be of huge help to you. Also don't think that being good at magic is enough – you must study character, theatre, lighting, make-up, costumes, body language and a myriad of other things if you are going to have a chance. I hope those answers made some sense and that you enjoyed them!
Also check out Simon’s site at http://www.simonlovell.com