The Insider | Jared Kopf

By Damian Jennings - Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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In this episode of the show, I have a chat with Jared Kopf about why he is drawn to classics, mentors and unfinished paintings. Jared is one of our guests at The Session and The Event this year. In fact, the only performer to ever lecture and perform at both!

Transcript of the podcast

The Insider: What episode are we on? Episode four, blimey. Okay, okay, cool. Welcome to episode four of The Insider. Today, all the way from sunny Texas, we have Jared, Jared, Jared, Jared Kopf on the line. How are you, Jared?

Jared Kopf: Very well. How are you Damian?

The Insider: I'm peachy, thank you.

Jared Kopf: Wonderful.

The Insider: Thank you for taking the time out of your morning to talk with us. I wanted to talk about you and cards and classics because I'm obviously almost archaic. I'm so old and you're a younger gentlemen and a lot of young guys are into all the new hot shot stuff, but you like classics. Why?

Jared Kopf: Well, that is a very difficult question to answer because I have to admit, I like watching some of the hot shot stuff myself. It doesn't serve me to do that sort of thing in front of my audiences because I love to watch a juggler and jugglers are wonderful, but I don't want anyone to really know that I have that degree of skill when I do magic. So I question, even when I make a wide ribbon spread on the table, done too elegantly, it will have happened to you, someone will, you'll do a ribbon spread and people say, "Well jeez, how did you do that?" and you say, "That's the easiest flourish of them all. I learned that when I was eight." But the moment that happens, it's just not my ... It doesn't serve what I'm trying to get across. So like classical pieces have inside of them this built in, it's almost part of the method, right? It's this type of thing that's warned against in expert card technique saying, "Don't even riffle the front of the deck. Don't make sounds with the cards. Don't move quickly." Right? Because you don't want anyone to say, "Well, he's a sleight of hand expert. That's how that works."

The Insider: He's good with his hands.

Jared Kopf: Right.

The Insider: It gives them an excuse. It gives them a solution, doesn't it? Well, he's good with his hands.

Jared Kopf: Yeah. I'm not worried about people finding the solutions to tricks, especially these days. It doesn't even, it barely enters the picture. But part of me does want the trip to "fool." However, I don't want them thinking about that aspect of the things that I'm doing at all. I want anytime an effect happens, it's got a kind of, as Enrique Enriquez points out this wonderful and tarologist in New York. He talks about this in terms of pataphysics and says that the things that we do is swerve people, and so I want the swerve to be subtle, understated but powerful. The thing that makes people experience that glitch in the matrix, so to speak. That has to be kind of in the undercurrent. That's what the magician does when the person is ready to encounter the magician, and the classics just have that built into them. They're not ostentatious, but very dramatic things happened. There's no greater trick than Triumph, right, with cards?

Jared Kopf: Maybe out of this world is a contender but if you really think about Triumph, just as an example, the trick is over before they know what the conclusion is going to be, especially if you tell it with Vernon story or reference the story somehow, it's just has this drama in built. The ending is foreshadowed by the action, but it isn't. It's not underlined, it's not an anticlimax when those cards are all right at one way and except for one card, and on top of it, the whole reason you're doing it is to talk about how good can conquer evil. So that's what people leave with with a trick like that and I'm afraid that while amazing cuts and flourishes and and feats, juggling feats are, they do something and I like them, they do exactly the opposite of what I want to do when I'm performing magic or interacting with people.

Jared Kopf: It's not a judgment, it's just it's an aesthetic and it's a quality to magic that I think is worth preserving, which is, "He didn't do anything. She didn't touch the cards. That couldn't have been slight of hand." Right? So I think magicians these days want people to know that it is sleight of hand and isn't it wonderful? That's just, as meta and cool as that is, I just don't dig it as much. It's hard to explain.

The Insider: It makes perfect sense. So talking with trump with the kind of what Vernon would say about having the emotional hook is good Triumphing over evil. How important do you think the storytelling aspect is?

Jared Kopf: It depends on the effect, right? Some effects are so pure that they don't need a story and maybe giving them one would be a bad idea. You just kind of feel that sort of thing out yourself. You know what you want to say. Like if you vanish as a single coin, are you doing it to show how clever you are? In which case, you could talk about how a pickpocket reaches into someone's pocket and takes it in immediately. Apparently it disintegrates really. Of course, it went up his sleeve and into this envelope and dah, dah, dah. You could have an elaborate trick that would be charming and interesting, but maybe it's just better to hold the coin up and imply that it's melting away and you say nothing. So it's hard to know, like if you say, is that storytelling, I'd say it is at least in some fashion storytelling to say no story.

Jared Kopf: But it's a trick by trick basis. There's a piece I've been working on that doesn't have a trick in it. A thing happens that no one is aware of and I'm in the position of the ironist. I know that they only see the superficial thing that has taken place and they don't know about the ulterior, the hidden meaning that maybe a couple of magicians' off in the corner. Like if Max Maven's in the corner, he can wink at you and say, "I know what's going on right now," but everyone else doesn't know, and there's no effect in it. But I would still count it as a magic trick in that sense. That thing doesn't have a story, doesn't have a moment of an astonishment or anything.

Jared Kopf: It just has this moment of realization and it's kind of set me up to do something later down the line because they will remember this moment and they don't realize that that trick that had no ending, that had no real punch at the end, no punchline, it was really just there to facilitate something else. Even though it stood alone, it's a separate thing unto itself and yet it's really, really there, and yet there's another irony. It's really there to facilitate something else I planned to do.

The Insider: So studying and mentors, obviously you studied under Bob White. Can you talk to me a bit about that and how important you think mentoring is nowadays?

Jared Kopf: Well, I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was a really good education and friendship and having a mentor and an acolyte or a pupil or key grip that helps you run around with the guys. It was an adventure and I loved every second of learning magic and not experiencing ageism. That was important as a young person to realize, "Man, you can just roll with people who are 50 years older than you are and they're just your friends." Now, the thing is is Bob's kind of he's like my father or my grandfather too. I have that relationship with him. He's my family, right? So of course I wouldn't trade that for anything who ... Those are the most obvious aspects of it. Then I just happened to also not only make a person who helped shape me growing up and all that, but he happen to be a master magician.

Jared Kopf: I often say to people, I don't know how, what the rating of this podcast is, but I say you can count the number of living master magicians on the fingers of one hand and Bob White is the middle one, right? He's a Vernonesque figure. He's cantankerous and he's kind of a nun. He'd whack your knuckles with a ruler if you'd made that hitch move with the pet. No, no whack. Right?

The Insider: So is hard on you? He was hard on you?

Jared Kopf: Yeah, yeah. He's a hard bastard. Max Maven calls him an honorary Texas cuss. But he was great. He was awesome. He taught me how to tie a tie, right? It was wonderful. I think, is it important? There are so many different paths. I think it's inevitable though that you run into people who show you things and take you under their wing and help you out. Whether you have a formal relationship with someone like that, even if you feel like you're going at it alone or you're only interested in it because of the internet. Well, I mean, one day you'll go to a convention or you'll start meeting up with people in cafes and the next thing you'll know you'll have friendships and you'll start saying, "Who's the mentor? Who's the pupil? Who's the teacher?"

Jared Kopf: Those things start to blur as people progress and then you start realizing, "Man, all the great secrets are in the old books," and people have read more and older books or other books, books that you haven't read and they guide you there, right? It's our little invisible academy that we're in.

The Insider: I mean, how did you start with Bob? What advice would you give?

Jared Kopf: I don't know. I pestered him until he would talk to me. I was really young. He was mean to me. He'd say, "There's Jared. That little shit Jared is out there." Yeah, I could tell, you know. But I knew he knew the most, I don't know what it was. I'd buy a Vernon book. He'd say, "Where'd you get that?" And I'd say, "I got this from the Vernon book." And he'd say, "What do you know of Vernon?" Right? I could tell he knew stuff I didn't know, right? That was it. I loved magic, that I think became evident more and more and more so that kind of loosened him up, I guess. I don't know. Then eventually he started talking to me and then I would show him things and he'd say, "Man, you've taken that pretty far from the text and I can show you something in about five minutes that'll clean up your bottom dealer, this, that, and the other." Right? He did those things.

Jared Kopf: Then it was all very organic. It wasn't calculated. It just happened. I'm very lucky in that way because Bob, he's been my ... He's the one who introduced me to all these wonderful people first and allowed me to get myself out into the world with some juice. that's one thing you can't replace with the mentor people, really. It's like you get juice. They'll start introducing you to people in ways that are kind of clever. They'll say, "There's this young fellow or this young lady out there. I've seen them. They're so good. You've got to see this. You're never going to believe it." Instead of, "There's a young guy who'd really like to meet you, Mr. famous magician." Suddenly that stuff starts happening purely because you're all having a good time with this weird art that we like.

Jared Kopf: It's not that complicated. I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often. I just think people need to open themselves up. How would you go about it? Go to a convention, go to a magic shop if you can find one. These digital connections that we have now aren't, they're not as poor a substitute as even I might once have said. I think that Facebook and social media, email, there's kind of, there aren't really any more excuses. I get emails from young people, especially young people, and sometimes older people who like whatever it is I'm doing or like something I've said or I don't know. It boggles my mind. I get emails from people all over the world and they just have the tenacity to ask me a question. Sometimes I have to admit I read it, I'm like, "Are you kidding me? I'm not going to tell you that. That's hilarious that you'd asked me that."

Jared Kopf: Sometimes they ask me things and I say, "Wow, that really took a lot of effort and thought," and I've got one recently that said, "I've been thinking about something I saw you do at The Magic Castle a year ago." Right? It suddenly came in just a year later, he described what he saw and I was like, "Yeah, I did that at the Castle over a year ago," and this guy has been thinking about it and thinking about it and researching it and thinking about it. Man, I haven't replied to him, but if he's listening to this, just you wait, I'm going to, and all you had to do is have the ... Gosh, I might be opening, I don't know how many listeners you have, I might be opening up my mailbox here, but if you can find me and you make the effort to seek me out, I'd have a lot of nerve to call myself a magician and just reject people when they asked me things, right? Maybe you do need a rejection.

The Insider: If they've done their homework and a little bit of research.

Jared Kopf: Yeah. I'm impressed by it. It makes me smile.

The Insider: Waiting a year, I mean, it's like the whole Malini thing. How long do you wait? You wait a week. But no, this guy waited a whole year.

Jared Kopf: Yeah. Good on him.

The Insider: Can you tell us anything about what you're going to be doing at The Session and all The Event? You've got a performance and a lecture at both. Is that right?

Jared Kopf: I suppose so. Gosh, I don't really know exactly.

The Insider: You can.

Jared Kopf: I don't over plan for one thing.

The Insider: Oh, so you just don't know yet.

Jared Kopf: Yeah, I know. I do know, but it changes and it changes, sometimes it'll change for a week and then I'll go back and then I'll say I was on the right track there. Maybe I'll talk about this and it just is always changing. I used to try to do the thing where you just commit to ... You do a first draft and then a second draft and then a third draft. I'm not saying I always give my first draft. It's more that I accept that those drafts exist. I don't consider like, "I've done my first draft. Now, I'm going to take my second pass through." It's way more helter skelter than that. Then what gets delivered is purely the state that these thoughts are in, given my time restriction that it has to happen now, right? So all of them are unfinished paintings and once they're done, of course, there's really no point in even finishing the painting.

Jared Kopf: But that's how it, so at the magic convention, at The Session, I will focus mainly on what I always do. I'll do some classical magic. I will talk about some clever tricks that I think ... The last thing people need is a new trick. But I have a few tricks that I think are good at illustrating particular points. So by if you want to practice the point that I'm trying to get across, the sleight or the gambit, this little trick, this little ditty is a good one just to do to get the practice in, and then you can begin to apply the general knowledge that you've gained to the effects you're already doing. So I like that very much. Then I'll talk about some stuff that may alienate half the people...

The Insider: Oh, contentious, I like that.

Jared Kopf: Yeah, I'm just an opinionated person and I can't help that. That's just my personality comes out, says I. The thing is, is I think I'm right, right? I wouldn't say it out loud if didn't. I'm ready to be persuaded that I'm wrong, though. But I haven't heard any solid criticism that has swayed me yet as far as these things that I'll be talking about go. Then in The Event, which I think is the other one, right?

The Insider: Yeah, The Event is first and then The Session afterwards.

Jared Kopf: Oh really?

The Insider: Yeah. The Event's on the Friday and then The Sessions' the Saturday, Sunday.

Jared Kopf: Okay. So I even like that order better. So at The Event, I'm going to do, I think that's where I will make people feel very happy and upset a few people. But it will be good. No one will hate me, but I think because of that order, what I'm going to do at The Event will be the most interesting.

The Insider: What a tease.

Jared Kopf: I mean, if people have seen me before, I don't think it's going to be a drastic surprise, really.

The Insider: But it's going to be new material?

Jared Kopf: Some new, yeah. As I say, they're all unfinished paintings. So even if you've seen me do say the egg bag before, you probably haven't seen it this way.

The Insider: Right.

Jared Kopf: At the end of the day, all I can do is what I always do, which is, as Christopher Hitchens once said, "You must write, perform however you want. Put in your verb there. You must write as if you were addressing your wittiest and most ironic friend," and that's all I always do. My books always begin, "Dear," and then I imagine John Wilson, Paul Vigil, Johnny Thompson, Alpen Nacar, right? My buddies. I imagine I'm writing it to them.

The Insider: Okay.

Jared Kopf: Then how can it not be good? It's the expression of my true obsession, thoughts, love, and I love to write and I think I take each opportunity to write to improve my pro style and the way that I think about things because writing is ... It helps one to organize thoughts and so that's what. Whatever I do at The Session will be that and it's always like that. It's fast and loose, I admit it, but that's how I operate.

The Insider: If it works, it works, man. Who were you looking forward to seeing there?

Jared Kopf: I've never met Luke in person, although we've corresponded over the years and we have many friends in common and it feels as if I know him, but I don't. I can't wait to shake his hand, maybe give them a hug and a kiss.

The Insider: You can do that.

Jared Kopf: I can't wait to see Andi. It's been quite awhile since I've seen him. I know it's going to be wonderful because Josh and Andi and Luke just pick the best people every, all the time, so.

The Insider: They do try to.

Jared Kopf: Yeah, they try.

The Insider: We've got Andy Nyman for The Event. We've got Andy Nyman.

Jared Kopf: Yeah. Okay, great. Yeah, I can't wait to meet him. That would be cool.

The Insider: Ross Johnson.

Jared Kopf: Yeah. Ross Johnson's wonderful. He's so wonderful, isn't he?

The Insider: I've never seen him. I've never seen him.

Jared Kopf: Oh man. Oh, you're going to be blown away.

The Insider: I'm so looking forward to it.

Jared Kopf: He's the best. Luke's once said all mentalism is Q&A and I think that's a pretty good statement. It has definition. Ross Johnson does one of the best Q&As, maybe the best that's ever been done. So I hope he does something remotely like it because he can do like little mini versions of his act, and my gosh, it looks like real mind reading. What can I say? He's one of the best in the world.

The Insider: I can't wait. I can't wait. For The Session, we've got people like Danny DaOrtiz, Ben Hart and Ben Seidman, Mac King. Jason Ladanye.

Jared Kopf: Oh, Ben Seidman's going to be there?

The Insider: Yeah.

Jared Kopf: Oh, I love Ben Seidman. He's so funny. Mac King. Oh man, this is going to be great. What do you want? Who do you think i'mg goin to look forward to seeing? All of these people, my gosh.

The Insider: Everybody, right?

Jared Kopf: Yeah, that's amazing. This is going to be quite a get together.

The Insider: I don't know whether you're familiar with Marc Kerstein, the app creator, WikiTest guy.

Jared Kopf: I'm not.

The Insider: Oh, he'll fry you.

Jared Kopf: But that does interest me.

The Insider: He'll fry you. Tom Elderfield, another young British guy, does a lot of kind of Instagram stuff but he's incredible as well.

Jared Kopf: Awesome.

The Insider: So it's going to be a party and a half. I very much look forward to meeting you there, young man. I think we're about done. Thank you so much for your time.

Jared Kopf: Thank you very much for having me.

The Insider: I appreciate your insights. I will look forward to meeting you in January.

Jared Kopf: Oh, the pleasure will be mine, I assure you. Thank you so much, Damian.

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