The Insider | Ben Seidman
By Damian Jennings - Saturday, December 1, 2018
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I’ve always tried to keep these podcasts under 30 minutes, because the world has enough long form magic podcasts. However, I just couldn’t work out what to cut out from this chat. So it is a bit longer, at 44 minutes. But it’s all good stuff. I chat with Ben about his new Netflix show and the astounding material he’s created for it. Being funny. Flight time. Experience. Location. And how much he’s looking forward to coming over to London in January for The Session. Hope you enjoy it. Let me know how you feel about the length of the show in the comments. Too long? Want more? Let me know.
Transcript of the podcast
Ben Seidman: In certain circumstances you do not want to be talking for more than 30 seconds. Pleasantries and then you're out.
The Insider: Absolutely.
Ben Seidman: But speaking of pleasantry issues, shall we do an interview?
The Insider: Okay. Let's. Welcome to episode ... see how smooth I am. Welcome to episode four of The Insider from Vanishing Inc., that was a lie. This is episode five. Now carry on, and on the line today, am lucky enough to have Ben Siedman. Ben, how are you today?
Ben Seidman: Hello everyone, hello Damian, I'm wonderful, thanks for asking.
The Insider: Where are you?
Ben Seidman: I was on a private island in Miami a couple days ago and then Las Vegas at the Palazzo doing a show with Derek Hughes, and now I'm in the upper peninsula of Michigan, population, I think it's three now that I'm here. Things change quickly guys, don't get cocky.
The Insider: Okay. We're going to kick off with this, we have listeners around the world and you are more well known in the states than you are here. So with no disrespect intended, who are you and what do you do?
Ben Seidman: Oh, no, no, not at all. I'm very, very famous in the states, but let's just perpetuate that rumor right now.
The Insider: The very famous Ben Siedman. Who are you? What do you do? You have 43 seconds.
Ben Seidman: Okay, first of all, I'll use the first half of that to clarify that no one knows who I am and then I'll use second half to say I do magic tricks primarily onstage, I do standup comedy and magic together and that's most of my work. But my background is doing closeup magic, which I still do occasionally and still love.
The Insider: So there is something else that you might become more known for which is a new show on Netflix. So tell us about that.
Ben Seidman: Yeah, that's a fun thing, I'm very honored to appear on a Netflix original that just dropped about a week ago called The Brainchild. And the show is a science show for kids produced by Farrell and also Atomic Entertainment, who are the guys who did brain games that Apollo Robbins and other great magicians also appeared on. They teamed up with Farrell, designed this concept and it's a kid show version of Brain Games in a way where they want to teach kids about science, which I think especially right now, I don't know how things are over in the UK, but especially right now in the United States I think teaching young people about science is more important than it ever has been. There's a lot of people who are denying science in general. So getting kids into it is great.
Ben Seidman: I did segments doing magic on that show and I think they translated it into all of the languages. So wherever you are listening from-
The Insider: All of them?
Ben Seidman: Yeah, so wherever you are listening from, if you have Netflix, go on there and you might ... if you're in Korea, there might be a Korean person who has overdubbed my voice. I think wherever you are, if you got Netflix, you can search for Brainchild and see my segments, the ones that I'm most proud of are on the episodes space and social media, so it's episode one and episode five. There are pieces that I designed specifically for the show, for the theme and I'm really, really proud of that material.
The Insider: I've just seen them and I've just watched them, you see this is an interesting thing whenever anything is on television, YouTube comments always default to, although they may not know the particular vernacular, they will say pre show or set up or stooges. And I watched the first one and I was like that, "Okay, there's something that that's crazy."
The Insider: And the second one is a beautiful, elegant slight of hands. So do you want to talk about either of them or?
Ben Seidman: Sure, yeah, this is the first interview that I'm actually talking about them since it came out.
The Insider: Exclusive
Ben Seidman: I'm incredibly happy with how they turned out, obviously in hindsight, you always want to change things, but there's two interesting things here I think that are worth mentioning. Number one is the social media piece was ... I have one big concern with it and that's the people are just going to go with, oh, they're stooges because it really looks clean, it really looks good. But I'm incredibly proud of the method that I developed. They are not stooges at all, I promise from the bottom of my heart, they are completely completely fooled. I didn't have them write down information before the show or anything like that, this really hit them like a ton of bricks and even though it looks completely impossible, it's a method that I had developed several years ago and then continued to tweak and finally solved all the problems in time to make it work for this show. So that is my promise. People will say, oh, it's completely set up. I promise you from the bottom of my heart, they are genuinely fooled. It is really, really impactful for the spectators live.
The Insider: Let's pause because we don't want any spoilers. Anybody that hasn't seen it, go and watch it now. So it was episode one and episode five, right?
Ben Seidman: Yes. Episode one and episode five.
The Insider: We'll give you a couple of minutes and then you can come back and then we can talk about it. So the effect is you take a picture.
Ben Seidman: This is now the spoiler alert, we're assuming that people have paused the interview and they've gone, they've searched Brainchild on Netflix and they've watched my segments, which are about halfway through each episode space in social media episodes one and five and now we're back and we're talking about it.
The Insider: You have a camera and you take a photograph of you with a couple, and the first phase is the photograph is placed on top of the ladies iPhone case and it melts through the iPhone case so it's underneath it.
Ben Seidman: Yes.
The Insider: But that's not the good bit I mean, it's great, but explain the good bit.
Ben Seidman: Well sure, you've now hopefully watched them, if not, then-
The Insider: It's their fault man-
Ben Seidman: We gave them two chances. If you haven't done it, unless you don't have Netflix, I know that's expensive for a magician.
The Insider: It is. They're not going to see it anyway, so we can just talk about it, it's fine.
Ben Seidman: And then the last phases, cause the whole theme of the episode is social media and so they log onto their own ... I give them a choice of whatever social media account they want, they open one of them up, and then the photo that I just took moments ago is now their background photo on their own account.
The Insider: So when's the app being released?
Ben Seidman: That is not being released.
The Insider: You'd sell a lot of them.
Ben Seidman: Man I know. It's interesting, the last thing I put out was in I think 2010 and I haven't released anything since then intentionally. I really wanted to focus on just performing for people and I think that a unique idea is such a valuable thing so when I have an idea like that I'm very cautious about it and I'm very guarded. And it's not that I don't want to see other magicians doing something that I created necessarily, well no, it's exactly that.
Ben Seidman: Here's the problem, magic is such a wonderful thing, but you run into that problem where everything seems very derivative, especially to a lay audience. Like let's say you come out with an insanely good original version of Triumph, and you perform it and it's this beautiful piece that you developed the method on. You do that and someone else does a cheek to cheek deck, most lay people are going to think it's the same trick.
Ben Seidman: So especially a unique premise, not just a method, unique methods are important too, but especially unique premise is so incredibly rare and valuable that when I come up with things like that, I want to do them and I want to put them out into the world and I hope that when people see me, they go, "Oh great, we saw some stuff that we don't necessarily get to see anywhere else." So that's why I'm cautious about it.
Ben Seidman: Although I should say there's an idea that I had years ago that I've been doing, which is incredibly, incredibly strong, which I'm considering, I can't, make up my mind, but I'm considering lecturing on it at The Session and maybe putting it out.
The Insider: Cause that was good. That was going to beautifully segway into that, then just say what you're going to do at The Session, the 21 card trick or something.
Ben Seidman: Sure. Yeah, exactly.
Ben Seidman: No, at The Session, I'm doing my full show. I'm doing this show that I do, that I make my living with. So I'm doing that. And then I believe I'm doing also a little lecture as well where I'll talk through a couple of routines and possibly this other one, which is a mentalism piece, it's a closeup mentalism piece that has served me quite well and allows for these wonderful, wonderful moments. So I might put that up The Session, we'll see. But as far as the material on Brainchild, probably won't be in print anytime soon. There's the cell phone trick and then there's a coin vanish sequence switch.
The Insider: Oh it's a hell of a of sequence.
Ben Seidman: Oh, thank you.
The Insider: But what's interesting, because there's a couple of bits that a lot of it fooled me. But what I did figure out, and this was interesting, was that the methods are canceling each other out.
Ben Seidman: Yes.
The Insider: It seemed to be a sequential thing that went through it, vanish of how many half dollars is it?
Ben Seidman: I think it was six silver dollars.
The Insider: And everyone it seemed was a different technique.
Ben Seidman: Yes. I intentionally designed it so that the methods cancel each other out and for also the other naysayers, I should mention that although I did this to camera, it was designed for people. In fact, the day before I performed it, the executive producers asked if I could do it straight to the camera instead of for the spectators. And that actually made it far more difficult because now we're doing one continuous camera shot.
The Insider: And you can't misdirect the camera.
Ben Seidman: Yes, exactly. So even though that was done to the camera, it's designed for a live environment, and I do perform that live
The Insider: That's a beautiful thing. Everybody should go watch it now.
Ben Seidman: Thank you. And then the last thing to mention with this, unless you have any other questions, happy to talk about it, the other thing I'm quite proud of with these two spots is that unlike almost all TV magic shop for shows besides live appearances, these were done in one continuous take without any breaks, without any cuts.
The Insider: Why do you think the producers made that decision?
Ben Seidman: Well actually it was me who made that decision. Certainly with the social media piece, the thing with the social media piece in particular was I was worried that if there was any camera cuts, people would think that that's when we did something, they would think that that's when something sneaky happened, and so I was actually adamant. I think that producers really did want to cut social media and tighten it a little bit because once I take the photo, it takes like 30 seconds for that photo to print out of the camera. And so I think they would have been happy to shave it down, but I was incredibly insistent that we keep it all in one continuous shot so people didn't think that that was the method.
Ben Seidman: That was a challenge because obviously when you make cuts, it can be advantageous for a variety of reasons, but it was very important to me, particularly with social media to keep it as one continuous shot. And then when they asked to do the space episode, which was the coin sequence, when they asked to do that one not to the spectators, but directly in the camera, I said to myself, okay, well that's gotta be one continuous shot too, because there's no good place to cut, it'll be weird if we cut. I think they punch in once but it's still from the same cut. That was a challenge, but I'm very, very happy that I did it. It was such a cool challenge and I'm happy. I'm very proud that I did it and know that it can be done.
The Insider: I think it's astonishing that the talent got to be able to be so involved in making that request.
Ben Seidman: Well, in television, I think that can be rare, but if you put your foot down and you believe in yourself and you believe in what you're doing, then I think it can be done. When I did Penn and Teller's show, they asked for me to submit some tricks and I submitted the piece that I wanted to do and the producer came back and they had seen a thing I'd done on travel channel and said, "Oh we would love you to do this, this other trick." But the truth was I'd already done that on a show. I had already done that on a TV show, and so having the footage of that didn't seem valuable to me.
Ben Seidman: So I said, "No, I've already done that, this is the piece I would like to do." And I just straight up said, "This is the piece I would like to do on Fool Us and if you don't want that piece then find someone else for the show." And so they said, "Oh okay, well great, we'll do that then." I've heard stories of other people who've submitted multiple tricks, then the producers choose and then the magician is really bummed out, they're like, "Oh, I didn't want to do that one." If you're comfortable saying no and you're comfortable losing the job, then you have so much more power because you can call the shots. Worst case scenario they say no and you say no and you walk away as friends, they'll find someone else and maybe you lose that opportunity, but you stick to your guns, I think that the reward is greater than the risk certainly.
The Insider: Because in that situation you would have ended up with two bits of footage doing the same trick, and is one of the more valuable than the other? Maybe not.
Ben Seidman: For sure. And the travel channel specials I did weren't seen by that many people, Fool Us is watched by much more but the reason I did Fool Us is because it really showcases what my live performance looks like.
The Insider: There is a lot of comedy in it, so if anybody hasn't seen it, spoiler alert go and watch it, but he does Ring, Wallet and Watch-
Ben Seidman: Unless you're going to The Session, in which case wait you'll see me do it live.
The Insider: That's very good. But there's an awful lot of comedy in there, have you worked it out, is this important to you? The comedy to magic ratio?
Ben Seidman: It's not like a specific ratio where I'm trying to hit 60 to 40% or anything like that, but it is important to me that people walk away thinking that I was funny and entertaining. It's incredibly important to me and I think that's why people hire me is, a compliment I get from brokers and agents pretty often is yeah, the magic's incredibly great, but we know that you're going to be funny too. That is a huge thing for me. Enough tooting my own horn for me, everything is a work in process, I am not nearly as funny as I would like to be, and my joke writing is not nearly as good as I would like it to be, but I'm on that journey and I'm trying to get better every day.
The Insider: So with that, and we were talking about Ring Watch Wallet and watch, which is one of my pre written and organized questions, which was classic magic versus, I've seen you do both, that kind of classic thing, I think we can call Tommy Stuff Classic, and some more modern effects with like the transpo with driver's license and things. So in a fight who would win classics or modern and why?
Ben Seidman: Well, for me, I am not happy if I am not doing something that I feel is unique and is going into the world in a different way than it came into the world. So in other words, Ring Watch Wallet is an interesting example because Tommy Wonder is my favorite magician certainly magic construction wise, and I've loved that routine for years, although I think most people and possibly even Penn and Teller at first assumed that I'm just doing the handling that is put out in the books of wonder, the reason I'm really proud of that routine is because that method is entirely my own. It was designed to look as close as possible-
The Insider: Yeah. I'm doubly fooled then, I don't like you, we were getting on so well, I just though it was Tommy's handling as well, God damn it.
Ben Seidman: Thank you. What this came from is I communicated with Tommy via email when he was still alive and I asked him about how much it would cost for him to make one of those for me. I was in college at the time and the number he quoted was certainly reasonable, but way more than I was able to spend. Sure. And so I thought maybe I can come up with something of my own. And then the other thing was I was in college, I wasn't performing in sports jackets all of the time. Oftentimes I wouldn't wear a jacket, and I wanted a method that didn't use a holdout. And I wanted a method that was self contained. And even now that I do wear a sports jacket when I perform consistently, I removed my jacket during the show.
Ben Seidman: So having holdout wasn't going to work for me. I set off in this process of trying to develop a routine that looked as close as possible to his, but had different advantages because I can take off my jacket, it's all self contained, nothing can break. It's been one of the pieces that I do in almost every, I would say I do it in every single show because it really fits me. And the standup I developed really tells you very quickly who I am and what I'm all about.
The Insider: So that's what you open with?
Ben Seidman: It's very close to the beginning, it's probably the second thing on the set although if I'm in a smaller room and I don't have a microphone then I do open with it.
The Insider: Interesting. Okay. So for some particular unusual reason, you've got a captive audience on a desert island Ben, one of those people might be a football with a face drawn on it. You are only allowed three tricks. What are they?
Ben Seidman: Is Tom Hanks in the audience? Is he watching?
The Insider: No, no, no, no. I wouldn't do that to you.
Ben Seidman: Oh, well no, I would be delighted by that. All right, so I'm only allowed to bring three tricks with me?
The Insider: Yeah.
Ben Seidman: I would probably bash my head in with a rock, this sounds awful, not the tricks part, just being on the desert. And here's the thing, if I brought material with me, people would just be like, "Wait, you had the option to bring three things with you and you picked magic tricks? Not a radio or food or a fishing line?
The Insider: The premise of this is like 60 years old, I don't know how old it is, show on radio four called Desert Island Discs, where you're allowed like 10 records and you then talk to the presenter about why you picked those 10 records and the stories they tell you about your life. You're not going to be chastised because you didn't bring a tin opener and a radio transmitter. So let's just put all of that aside. There's no chastise, you are loved, and some people there would love you to show them a trick. You're only allowed to bring three.
Ben Seidman: What's the audience size?
The Insider: Let's say 75.
Ben Seidman: Great size, let's see. That is a tough one. I would want for silver dollars and a deck of cards for my own personal enjoyment and satisfaction of practicing things because that's pretty universal, you can do a lot of different things with that. But if I was going to do just three tricks, I would probably do the message in a bottle that I'm closing with at magic fest, which has been a part of my working repertoire for years now, I would probably do the phone trick that I did on Brainchild because I designed that for the show, but I'm just now starting to do versions of that live which is really, really fun and it's hitting really hard so that's exciting me right now, probably the trick I did on the travel channel with the broken bottle, which if anyone wants to see, if you search for me on youtube or my website, you can see that trick. It's a big sequence, but I shatter a broken bottle, I take one of the pieces of broken glass, I vanish that piece into my eye. I then gather up the edges of a handkerchief with all the broken glass in it and the bottle restores itself except for one piece that is missing, one piece of glass is missing, which I show my hands empty and then pull out of my eye and show that it matches.
The Insider: That must be a hit for the kid shows.
Ben Seidman: Oh, it's perfect for kids shows. Yeah, absolutely. If I can mess up just one child, then I feel like I've done my job.
The Insider: That's beautiful
Ben Seidman: That's a whole sequence. So those are probably three things that I would be excited to perform on a desert.
The Insider: They're good. I should have set this up actually because on the radio show, on the BBC, they are default allowed the complete works of Shakespeare in the Bible. So to translate to magic, we should like default you are allowed a deck of cards and four silver coins. What else do you have? I've switched that up for the next time, thank you for letting me test it on you.
Ben Seidman: No, no, that's good. I thought you were going to say, all right, so all you have is the Bible and Shakespeare, I guess Pegasus Page I don't know.
The Insider: Is it the Gimmick Shakespeare book testing that came out?
Ben Seidman: Yeah, seriously is that mother of all Shakespeare? I can deal with that idea, I don't know if it's the one I'd want to do as the only trick that I have left though.
The Insider: What can you do? So comedy, that's tough. Is there any way around what you've clearly done? Which is just loads and loads and loads of gigs and loads and loads of flight time? What have you learnt that can help people shortcut through some of the no doubt, pain and misery that you encountered Ben?
Ben Seidman: Well, Damian, there's two answers to this answer. Number one is you cannot cut past any of the misery. The real answer is flight time and I get that question a lot specially from magicians.
The Insider: Sorry.
Ben Seidman: No, it's fine, it's a good question and it makes sense. The sad answer is really there's no shortcut to being great at that. But I guess the positive answer if I was to really try to answer that question I suppose I would say the advice that I have gotten from my standup comedian friends, that I think is great advice is carry around a notebook or a audio recorder, and when you say something funny and the people who are around you laugh, write it down or record it. And it doesn't matter if it's out of context and it's not going to work as a joke you still do it.
Ben Seidman: One of my very close friends is a comedian named Myq Kaplan, Myq Kaplan. He's was a favorite comedian of mine before we even met and became friends. I love his writing, I think his voice is so sharp and it's so intrinsic to who he is and he's such a great joke writer, but he always has a recording device in his pocket and whenever we're hanging out, we're making each other laugh and any moment that he says something that is funny or even sometimes if something comes up between the two of us, he'll say, "Hey, do you mind if I record this?" And then he'll take out his recorder, he'll record journal entries of just like, Hey, on this day I was here and this funny or interesting thing happened. That's the easy part, is recording all of these things in life, and then the hard part is making yourself go through those recording and then transcribing them and then deciding what could be the seed of a joke and then sorting through those.
Ben Seidman: In the same way that I think I audio record almost every show and listen to almost none of them, but if I really was-
The Insider: But when you're dead people have this beautiful archive Ben.
Ben Seidman: I suppose if they can crack my iPhone passcode.
The Insider: You just need to have some celebrity nudes on there and someone will crack it then.
Ben Seidman: I don't know. There's an app called photo vault that is also password protected. Don't ask me why I know that, but I think it's good to really have that practice of listening to yourself and trying to find like, oh, that's a thing I never said before, but that will-
The Insider: And you've got these laughs
Ben Seidman: Oh my God yeah. Most of the things in my show are things that I just said and someone laughed, here's a perfect example, someone came to introduce me years ago, came backstage and said, "Are you ready?" And I said, "I was born ready." And then they kind of snickered and I said, "Wait, that's not true. I wasn't born ready, I was born wet and confused, which is the opposite of ready for most activities." And then I paused and I said, "Most activities." And he burst out laughing. And so I walked on stage and I opened with it and it worked. So that's a thing, and I don't say that in every show, but when the audience is right, that's a thing that sometimes can come out.
The Insider: Do you think being in LA was ... you moved to LA, right?
Ben Seidman: I did.
The Insider: How important do you think location is to success?
Ben Seidman: Well, it depends on what you want, right? If you want to become the best magician in your town and the working performer who's doing most of the shows, then moving to a big city is not necessarily a good idea. But I moved out to Las Vegas as my first step when I was finishing college to be around magic and the magic scene there, and I was always scared of LA. I liked it, I liked going there, but I was scared because that's where big show business is. Vegas is show business in a very specific way. But Los Angeles is show business to the rest of the country.
Ben Seidman: And I waited till I was ready to move to Las Vegas and I waited until I was ready to move to Los Angeles. I think had I gone out to LA too early, it would have been a mistake. Everyone who wants to move to the big pond, wherever that might be, you have to make up your own decision on when is right for you and where you're going. But I think it's important to try to be around people who are better than you. And if you are the best magician in your town, there's room for growth, but I wanted to be around people who just made me go, "Oh, why do I even try to do this? This person is so incredible.I should quit.
The Insider: That's what it's meant to be like.
Ben Seidman: Spend an afternoon hanging out with David Williamson and see if you walk away thinking you're still a magician. But every time I see him, I go through several weeks of depression because I'll never be that good, and then after that I get better because I spent time with David Williamson.
The Insider: So you start stuff doing close up and then transitioned to like platform comedy magic. How did that happen?
Ben Seidman: Yes I transitioned, I now identify as a stage performer.
The Insider: How did that happen? Because I imagine there's lots of people out there listening, there are closeup kids and close up performers and want to do more. So how did you do it?
Ben Seidman: Just start doing magic tricks for more people.
The Insider: Good idea. Thanks.
Ben Seidman: That's as simple as it gets. I think just put yourself in that situation. Try to perform, when you're doing close up, you can do a parlor set for people and many closeup performers will know the situation where they show up to do a closeup gig and there are these giant round tables that people are sitting at, and you can't really do closeup, the people at the other end of the table cannot really see what you're doing on the table coin work. That's the difference between three fly and coins across in your hands. If you do three fly, then they can see it and you can do three fly for a hundred people and make a play. So I think closeup performers who want to transition should start working on material that works close up if the majority of your performances are close up and start breaking it in front of groups of people there. You can do a closeup gig and grab two or three tables and say, "Hey, I want to do something for everyone, grab everyone's attention." And then suddenly everyone's watching, now you're doing a show for the room.
Ben Seidman: So yeah, if you do close up and you want to transition, just start doing stage shows that your closeup gigs.
The Insider: That's perfect cause talking about doing like three fly or coins across on the table. Elmsley talked about complaining about his wrists hurting when he first toured America cause he was having to do everything in the angling the counts so the audience could see it. So it does bring up challenges, but yeah, just do it, get on with it.
Ben Seidman: Close up magic really only works for like four people. I firmly believe once you're performing for more than six or seven people, you're kind of doing a parlor set. And it's unfortunate because there's so much close up that we love dearly, but unless the room is laid out perfectly, is matrix going to work for more than 10 people? It's going to be really hard for people to see it.
The Insider: Cool sense. So how important do you think is, cause you did a theater degree, right?
Ben Seidman: I did. Yeah.
The Insider: Look at me researching stuff and everything.
Ben Seidman: I'm very impressed.
The Insider: So how important do you think it is to have other people help you with your work in terms of writers or directors or even consultants for magic? I equally did a drama degree and I think there's so many magicians that could benefit just from learning how to stand on a stage, from learning how to move. So how important do you think it is to have other people to help you?
Ben Seidman: It's very important, there are certain magicians who get to a point where they just start hiring consultants who write tricks for that, that doesn't really interest me because it's the creation of new material and putting it on its feet that really gets me excited. That's not what I'm talking about but to have someone who has a good eye watching you and giving you genuine criticism and advice, that's completely invaluable. And if that person has experience as a performer, especially if they have experience as a performer in a different discipline, as an actor or as someone who can own the stage but doesn't do magic, you will get a completely different perspective.
Ben Seidman: I learned so much from my theater degree about performance and even just down to taking classes about technical theater and learning about lighting, when you show up to know what needs to be tweaked about the lighting at a gig, that stuff is very helpful, to learn proper microphone technique, all of those technical elements you have to learn and you can learn them by just doing it and failing and learning. There are hacks to it, maximum entertainment by Ken Weber is a great book for people who want to do more performances. I believe Ken is actually putting out a second version of that or an updated version at some point.
Ben Seidman: So that's a great tool if you don't have any theater training, but if you do have access to a director or someone who has that experience-
The Insider: If you are in a town with an amateur theater company in America, community theater, you call it, I can translate, to go and ask, those guys, they'd be happy to help.
Ben Seidman: Oh, sure. Community theater, you have people who probably love theater and don't do it to make a living because that's insanely difficult to do that, and most people who try don't, just like magic, but maybe even more difficult. If you're in a tiny town, there's probably still someone there who has experience that is going to help, and the key is to look at that person and what they've done and make your mind up about what advice you should listen to and what you should discount. But give everyone the benefit of the doubt, any constructive criticism from anyone is useful.
Ben Seidman: I have a friend called David Gerard based in San Francisco, one of my favorite performers to watch and he straight up after his gigs, not a corporate event probably, but he does like a small theater show, and he will walk into the bar where people are hanging out and sort of talk to people and he will actually ask people direct questions like, "Did you figure out anything? Do you think you know how that works? Tell me how you think that works." Most magicians are terrified to ask, he says, "That thing with the book, how do you think it worked?" Like seriously trying to crack it.
The Insider: I can't remember who it was, Pat Page or somebody said, "The best way to get feedback is hiding in the cubicles in the laboratories after a gig and hearing people," That's taking it to the next level.
Ben Seidman: Getting people's real opinion is incredible. If I had all the resources in the world, I would hire people to go and listen to the audiences they're walking out and make notes. Absolutely. Because most magicians, myself included, can be scared of what people really think and feel-
The Insider: Of course man we are human.
Ben Seidman: But if you can get over that, you get better quick.
The Insider: Sure. You coming to The Session in January, you were lucky, obviously escaping the sunshine of Los Angeles for the grey of London, but apart from the $50,000 you're getting what helped persuade you to come over? What are you looking forward to? Who are you looking forward to seeing?
Ben Seidman: Is everyone else getting $ 50,000?
The Insider: Yeah.
Ben Seidman: I feel terrible. They offered me $60,000.
The Insider: It was noted that you took the charity reduction and we thank you for that.
Ben Seidman: For sure.
The Insider: That's going to Josh and Andi.
Ben Seidman: Something has to go to Andi Gladwin shirt budget. By the way there's nothing behind that joke, Andi. I don't even know what type of shirts you wear, you look lovely all of the time. You're fine. I wasn't saying that your shirts are too nice or not nice enough, it could have been anyone.
The Insider: What are you looking forward to? Obviously not the weather. Who are you looking forward to seeing?
Ben Seidman: Well, when Luke Jermay lived in Las Vegas, he and I were very, very good friends and we work together and we did a tour together. He's a buddy who I don't get to see very often. Once he moved back to the UK, we kept in touch, but we only see each other once every handful of years. So I'm really excited to see him.
Ben Seidman: And I don't do many conventions. Here's what happened, Josh and Andy asked me to perform at Magifest this year and I was hesitant because I don't do magic conventions really, but I said yes and I did it and it turned out to be such a wonderful, heartwarming experience. It was great. And I realized that the problem was before I lived in Vegas, I was just surrounded by magic, I was inundated with magic and magicians and it was just too much. And by taking a break from conventions and then going back after so long, it really was just great.
Ben Seidman: So after that they asked me to do The Session and I'm doing a few other things truthfully because I had so much fun at Magi Fest so I'm just excited to be around the energy of it and to see friends and see what other people are doing. I'm always inspired when I see things that are completely outside of the box, things that I go like, man, that is something I would've never thought of or even, Oh man, I wish I'd thought of that.
The Insider: So can you tell us about anything that you'll be doing? I know you hinted at the beginning-
Ben Seidman: During my show?
The Insider: Not In your bedroom or the hotel, what you'd be performing. Does that change the question?
Ben Seidman: Well, do you think people are going to come or not come to the show based on what I say right now?
The Insider: Yes.
The Insider: This right now is the only marketing we're doing for The Session. It's what somebody that people in England might not have heard of might be performing. Go.
Ben Seidman: Give me a second to google who else is coming, hold on one second. I think Max is going to be there, right?
Ben Seidman: Isn't Mac going to be there? Mac is going to be there.
The Insider: Yeah, the gold fish guy, right?
Ben Seidman: Come for Mac, that's a reason to go, who cares about me? Mac King is coming. Oh, Jared is going to be there? Phenomenal. This is going to be great. This is a great lineup. This is a really good lineup.
The Insider: It bloody is, isn't it?
Ben Seidman: Yeah. It's really good. That's really solid. Yeah. This'll be fun. If you're coming to The Session, you're making a great decision. I hope it's going to be a great lineup. James Went I just met recently. I thought he was phenomenal.
The Insider: He just got very small hands.
Ben Seidman: Does he have small hands?
The Insider: Little small Welsh hands.
Ben Seidman: You can have small hands and to be a racist and become the president of the free world, small hands don't mean anything anymore. Did you know that? that president Trump has small hands?
The Insider: I didn't know he has small hands like Jeremy Beadle. James Went is astonishing. He's just doing a lecture tour with some master classes around the UK. So anybody listening go to see James Went's some website and we'll plug that as well because, hey, why not?
Ben Seidman: James was great, I really liked him a lot. And Jared is one of my favorite magicians. I mentioned Williamson earlier. If you asked me my two favorite living magicians, chances are I'm going to say David Williamson and Jared.
The Insider: I have never seen Jared's work live. We did the podcast with him last week where he nicely did his Professor imitation for me, which I had to edit out, he wouldn't let me put it out, but man, that's good.
Ben Seidman: Jared is, listen, I do what I do, I am the clown. I'll make people laugh and do magic and hopefully fool the room. If you really want great magic advice, you should listen to Jared.
The Insider: There's the advert for The Session right there. Thank you so much for your time, Ben. It's been a genuine pleasure. I'm very much looking forward to seeing you.
Ben Seidman: I'm very much looking forward to meeting you as well and to the people who are listening, if you come to The Session and you want to talk to me, just come over and say hello. Just say hi, just walk up. Say, "Hey, I heard the interview, I came to The Session."
The Insider: That is one of the unusual and beautiful things about The Session is that people can just go up, mostly the talent, the hangout in the bar and in the social areas, the first one I went to, I was working on a coin routine, in the bar about two o'clock in the morning, I had Eric Jones, and I'm going to call him Keenwah, because I do, Keenwah Harbottle helping me with a coin routine I was working on. I was like, "Man, it really doesn't get any better." And I was. Nobody, they were just helping me, and The Session is a lot of the bigger conventions, the stars will kind of go to the hotel rooms or go someplace else. But at The Session, everybody is wanting to help.
Ben Seidman: That's great, that's how it should be. If you are a young magician or a magician who doesn't have the notoriety of being a recognizable name in the magic community, if you're anyone besides Dani DaOrtiz is what I'm saying, feel free to approach anybody and do so kindly and graciously. And if you ask a question, make it a good question because I get messages from young magicians online pretty frequently and the ones who I help out are the ones who ask good questions. The ones who say, "Hey, what trick should I learn?" They don't get help.
Ben Seidman: The people who say, "How do I become famous?" They don't get my help. The people who have a really good interesting question that will hopefully lead them to becoming better magicians or performers, those are the people who I will happily sit down with and give my all to. So when you're approaching some of these giants in our industry, if you see Mac King and you go and you talk to him, ask him a smart question. Don't ask him how you get your own show in Las Vegas cause that's not a good question. Ask him something that will actually lead you towards gaining real knowledge, a reasonable question to ask to make yourself better, not something that that is related to fame or money or anything, all of the things that people chase the don't actually lead to happiness. If you love magic, ask questions that will help make you a better magician because that's what will actually make you happier. And that's what people at the convention will be excited to talk to you about.
The Insider: There you go kids, feel free to prepare your questions for Ben about whether he prefers red cards or blue cards and ask him at The Session this January. Ben, thank you so much for taking up so much of your time talking to us today, I really appreciate it and I very much look forward to meeting you in January.
Ben Seidman: It was my pleasure. Great talking to you. Wait, should I have hit record at the beginning of this?
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