Interview with Magician Jason Bishop
Posted on 07/24/2019
From his spectacular Double Levitation to his phenomenal illusions, Jason Bishop, along with his lead assistant Kim Hess, presents an astonishing magic show for all ages on September 22. Jason Bishop himself joins us to discuss the range of illusions that he does in his shows and the time and effort that goes into putting together a new trick!
Read the Transcribed Interview Below
with Bert and Kelly from All Access and special guest Jason Bishop.
Bert: Hi again and welcome to All Access with State Theatre New Jersey. This is the show that takes you backstage behind the scenes and behind the curtain at the legendary State Theatre in downtown New Brunswick. How are you doing? Great to have you checking out the show this week. I’m Bert Barron and joined as always by State Theatre of New Jersey’s Director of Communications, Kelly Blithe. Hi Kel, how are you?
Kelly: Hi Bert, how are you?
Bert: Doing great and ready for a brand new addition of the show this week and I always hate to introduce our next guest by saying, like, ‘I made a guy appear on the radio’, because I know he can press a button and make himself disappear… a great magician, an illusionist like this. But our family Day, sort of, highlight attraction on September 22nd we are so excited to welcome this great entertainer, great family entertainer Jason Bishop! He’s going to be bringing the Jason Bishop Show: Straight Up Magic to State Theatre on September 22nd. And Jason welcome to All Access! How are you?
Jason: I’m very well, thank you guys for having me. I appreciate being on!
Kelly: So, Jason, we are so looking forward to having you and, as Bert mentioned, this is our Family Day, so we’re gonna have so many people there coming to see you with your show Straight Up Magic. So, tell us, what is Straight Up Magic all about?
Jason: It’s a really versatile magic show. People love close-up magic, they love big illusions, and they love audience participation, and our show combines all of those things. So we use state-of-the-art cameras and transmitters and things to project video onto, you know, huge projection screens. So, if someone gives me a dollar bill and I turn it into an a hundred dollar bill and let them keep it, then everybody gets to see every detail of what’s happening. So, that’s the kind of smaller magic that we do. And then, for the big illusions, we’re doing things that people in Las Vegas don’t even do. Just exclusive illusions. We come up with things nobody else has and work with cutting edge illusions, so, people disappear and reappear and levitate and switch places and all those things in a blink of an eye. So, that’s what the show’s all about. It’s a fun time for everybody. We hear all the time, like “Oh, I didn’t even like magic and I came to your show and had a really great time.” And the show’s also really funny too. People, you know, always comment on how funny the show actually is. So it has a stand-up comedy element to the magic, to the close-up everything. So, yeah, that’s the best I could probably explain it I would say!
Bert: I would like to invest in Jason Bishop Industries if I may and give you a couple singles and turn them into 100’s and give them back to me! [all laugh] Sounds like a great deal for me. But Jason, it’s amazing, I don’t know if the audience really has a full appreciation of what it takes for something that they watch you do on stage that could literally just be a few seconds, the weeks, if not months of work that go into making that absolutely seamless and flawless. And that’s kind of a description of what it takes for you to do this show, right?
Jason: I think that’s true, yeah, I think that’s true. You know, I always thought, like, I used to play the clarinet when I was a little kid and then I took up the guitar later in life, much later. And I always thought the guitar must’ve been, like, super easy for musicians and when I started learning it, I had a whole new appreciation for guitar playing and the dexterity of it. And I think that’s really similar to magic. So, yeah, when someone puts in 50, 100 hours to really smooth out a song, that’s about the same. Teller from Penn & Telleronce said “the difference between a musician and a magician is that when a magician comes up with a new song a new ‘trick’ he has to not only write the trick, the song if you will, he has to invent the piano too.” You know, and it is that kind of thing, it’s like you have to come up with this big huge thing. But yeah, there’s this part where I throw playing cards, you know, to the back of the audience for 30ft or 50ft and I bounce them 30ft off of the ground. I throw the cards so hard it bounces off of the ground and flies in the audience. And that took probably 15 years to get, you know, the ability to do that reliably and correctly and stuff. So yeah, some of it takes a long time for sure.
Kelly: Wow! 15 years! I don’t know what to say at that point! That’s amazing! Obviously, once does not just jump into magic, right? There’s something there that triggers it… you seen something, you saw. Who inspired you and how did you land into being a magician and illusionist?
Jason: I think the first part of your question is dead on. It’s that, you know, you don’t just land into it in a way. I was just always interested, so like I was probably four, five years old and it caught my interest. And then I was seven, eight, nine years old and it caught my interest and I didn’t even do it. I didn’t practice it, I didn’t know any tricks. And then I was about 11 and I saw a kid who was like, 12 doing a whole show and I thought “oh my god he’s so far ahead of me, there’s no way I could ever do this.” And then finally, when I was, like, 15 there was a magic club in my school, a juggling magic club. And I didn’t join it, but my brother taught me a few tricks and it just hooked me! And I was like, oh my god this is so cool I think I could do this. And I just plunged into it without doing my schoolwork and stuff as much, which I wasn’t really doing anyway. So, haha, so 15 is really late to start magic and I saw David Copperfield. And I had an pretty emotional moment the other day, actually, I watched David Copperfield as a kid and really poured over his stuff. I mean, there were VHS tapes then, and you just wore them out. They weren’t in great shape after you watched them again and again and again and again. But the other day, I got invited to his warehouse and museum of magic in Las Vegas. And so I’m sitting in the room, and they play this video ahead of time–there’s only eight people allowed on this tour—just a small handful of people, and they play a bunch of the clips that I watched as a kid of David doing, you know, flying and walking through a great wall and all these highlights of his career. And he’s sitting 10 feet away from me in a chair watching the tour people because he gives the tour personally at 12 midnight after doing two shows. So, I got a little choked up honestly, haha, doing that a couple days ago.
Bert: So, first time you did an illusion or trick, Jason, that got a “how did he do that?” reaction from people. Was it the bent spoon? Or was it something sleight of hand with cards? What was the first time that you actually impressed somebody with a trick?
Jason: Actually, from the beginning, it all kind of like worked very well for me from the beginning. I would levitate a dollar bill in school. My classmates were always my sorta newest audiences. So, I would crumple up this dollar bill in my hand and then slowly open up my hand and it would stay floating there. And I’d walk away and it could stay floating in a brightly lit classroom. So that definitely, people were definitely wowed by that.
Kelly: Well, you have a money theme here going. [all laugh]
Bert: I’ve got to get to know him when he comes to town in September, right?
Jason: I never thought about that, you’re right.
Kelly: So Jason, obviously through the years you’ve been perfecting your tricks. So, when you get someone like an assistant like, Kim Hess, how do you work to put her in the mix? You know, that has to be a pretty intense rehearsal time and just getting to know someone.
Jason: Yeah, it is. Kim and I met actually in our very last couple months in high school and started working together then. And the good thing about her was a performer longer than I was. So she had been a baton twirler since she was four years old and I met her when she was 18 and she was the teacher of the baton group at that point. So she already had kind of that drive and that work ethic and she used to do parades from little kids on up and march for, I guess a few hours. So yeah, it is definitely intense and a lot of people would be really surprised at the hours and the time. So I think you just really need to find people that have that interest already and they know everything that goes into it. And magic is really tough on the assistants too. All the female assistants compare their stories about their bruises because, you know, you’re getting into these boxes and they’re made of metal, and they have tough edges, and wood, and you know, they beat you up those hard boxes.
Bert: I was thinking for your needs, you need someone who has really expert timing and somebody that can help be an entertainer and be a show-person at the same time because it’s entertainment, but there’s such pinpoint timing that comes into pulling this off convincingly that you need someone who’s a real pro and has dedicated a lot of his or her life to this.
Jason: Yeah I think that’s a really astute observation, frankly. The timing is extremely on. I mean, you know we have an illusion where 10 real swords went through Kim, let’s say is the illusion, and the timing to do that illusion is so precise. There may have been some mistakes in rehearsal, haha, but yeah. We don’t judge our timing on seconds, on a second, that’s too late. It’s like an eighth of a second, a quarter of a second. You’re right. Timing is really important.
Kelly: Yeah, so tell us about your life, I mean, the time put into your touring, putting together the tricks. Tell us about your typical year, I mean, that has to be a pretty intense year between your training, and coming up with new things, and going out on the road. You must lead a pretty crazy life.
Jason: I guess I do lead a crazy life. I just bought a house a month and a half ago and I’ve spent two weeks in it. And so, like, we just got back from three weeks on the west coast. We were in Alaska, and Vegas, and Anaheim, and LA. And then we just got back late last night at like 2am or something like that. But yeah, it’s a very odd life. You know, the property I just bought has a pole barn that I can store the magic in and rehearse and all that kind of stuff that’s really important to be able to have an idea at 4am and go out and go “oh yeah I can change this screw and put it over here and solder this little thing to make that light inside of there work better” and all those kinds of things. So, it’s a lot, it’s all consuming as any small-business owner knows, but you know, it’s rewarding it’s fun. But I don’t know, you definitely sacrifice some normal things for the growth of your small business.
Bert: No question about it. And I don’t know if people realize just what a fabricator a magician needs to be, because you just make stuff you need, and you construct it, and you make it happen and it becomes part of the show. I don’t know if people have that much appreciation for that aspect of just being able to make stuff you need to pull it off night after night.
Jason: That’s true. You seem to know an odd amount about magic. [all laugh]
Bert: Oh, well you know, just been a fan for a long time.
Jason: Oh really?
Bert: Oh yeah and seeing you as a kid from Allentown, maybe you aspired to do the Kutztown festival and you’ve gone well beyond that obviously.
Jason: Haha! That’s funny. I did do the Kutztown festival. That was one of my first big gigs when I was in college.
Kelly: Oh, nice!
Bert: What a thrill that had to be, right?
Jason: Oh my god, that was one of the most, I swear to god, that was one of the most nervous I ever was before a show. I was doing like a 10 minute maybe seven minute act, that’s it, just seven minutes. And I’m standing backstage and I literally thought these are my choices: go on stage somehow and fight this feeling in my stomach or just run out the back door and be done. [all laugh] And yet, I just finished on the west coast there’s this place called the magic castle where everybody, every big magician has performed, or whatever, and there are celebrities there. Neil Patrick Harris was on the board our first show there. Jenifer Aniston was in the audience and stuff. But I just did, they have three slots and each slot is 15 minutes and they have three different performers on each show each doing 15 minutes. So, we’re one of the few people who actually had the honor of having all three slots. We did the entire show which is pretty uncommon. And I was not anywhere close to as nervous as I was at Kutztown where I wanted to run out the back door.
Bert: Interesting, haha.
Kelly: Well, from Kutztown to the big leagues, right?
Jason: Yeah, haha.
Kelly: We are so excited to have you on September 22nd, it’s a Sunday, 11am and 2pm. The Jason Bishop Show: Straight Up Magic, thank you Jason for being on the show today, we look forward to seeing you... or not seeing you in September!
Jason: Thank you for having me, thanks so much guys.