How Justin Willman Turned Himself Into a Comedy Magician

Elisabeth Caren
Elisabeth Caren

Take one part actor, one part TV host, one part comedian, a sprinkle of musical ability, and then one part magician. Now blend them together and what do you get? Poof! Justin Willman! Justin takes the term "jack of all trades" and puts it to shame and he'll show you just that with his brand of comedic magistry (is that even a word?) at the Brea Improv this Thursday through Sunday (December 18th- 21st). Before the big event with Willman the wizard of entertainment goes down, we chatted it up with him about how he got his start, what people really think about magic, and what we can expect to be enchanted by with his performances this weekend.

OC Weekly (Ali Lerman): It's so weird because I actually know you best from the Food Network show "Cupcake Wars." You must have fans from all over the spectrum.

Justin Willman: It's funny because there is only a select few that know me from all of the things I do but mostly, that's just my mom. I have a very segregated fan base but I'm trying to bring them all together!

Yes, let's bring it in folks! What came first for you, the magic, the funny, or the acting?

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The magic 100% came first. I grew up in St. Louis and when I was 12, I was riding my bike with rollerblades on to attract some girls. I ended up falling, broke both arms at the same time, and ended up in casts for six months. My doctor recommended learning card tricks as physical therapy and I've been doing it pretty much ever since. At first it was magic like a nerdy magician guy and it wasn't until college that it became this magician/comedian type of thing.

It's interesting because magicians kind of get a bad rap but really, people do love it.

Yeah tell me about it! [Laughs.] Magic is just one of those art forms where people have some sort of idea in their head about what it is all about. And it tends to be pretty outdated. At the very least it's the mystery that keeps people intrigued and I'm trying to bring it back!

You're doing a good job with it because you're doing something totally cool and different. It's like you are doing magic for the millennium. Did your earlier magic tricks used to drive everyone crazy?

Magic for the millennium, I like that! I'm gonna use that! Oh yeah, I was all over the place and when I was in junior high, I would have cards in my pockets at all times. My parents were obviously the initial audience and I recruited my little sister to be my lovely assistant. I mean, she was six so she was adorable and of course, she was free. That was successful for a little while until she realized that I should be paying her so then, I went solo.

Ha! That'd be awesome if she gave you an invoice for retro pay.

[Laughs.] I wouldn't be surprised if that happened! I think she caught on.

I read that you went to school for Broadcast Journalism so I was wondering how your folks reacted when you were like, thanks for paying for school but I'm going to be a magician.

Yeah I never persued anything as a journalist and I always knew I wanted to be an entertainer but, you can't really major in that. My parents pretty much got it as long as I had something to fall back on in case everything fell apart. I more so thought about being a journalist as something to bring about positive change but the closest thing in that field to me is like, a magician is kind of like being a goofy weatherman. Like if I could have majored in doing magic in front of a green screen while talking about a cold front, but yeah, that never happened.

Colleges should really change their majors to coincide with the times.

Well the college I went to, which is Emmerson College, has just announced that they have a "comedy minor" so now you can minor in comedy. I guess people can do comedy writing and go up in front of people which is pretty cool but, it's odd.

I agree. Cool, yet strange. Speaking of strange, I read a Q&A that you did on Reddit and there were a lot of feet questions. Is there some fetish video you did back in college we need to talk about?

[Laughs.] Yes there were a lot of feet questions! I get these weird people on Twitter that ask me feet stuff too! I don't know who these people are or what they want from me. My feet are okay but, it's weird. Maybe there is something I did back in college that I need to know about because I don't even know about it. I'm glad you mentioned it though because I've always noticed it and no one has brought it up. I thought maybe it happened to everybody. I suppose it could be worse though.

Yeah I think not. I have great feet but sadly, no one inquires about them. Okay so tell me about your set for Brea. How would you describe it because you know what people think about when they think "magician."

Oh, I know the jargon. What can people expect? Lately I've been doing a lot of these comedy club runs and it's fun obviously when people know what I'm all about. But for those who don't, it's a high-tech mix of comedy and magic. I try to riff off us being saturated with all of this technology and the fact that if people don't understand something, they can just go Google it and that is what a modern magician is all about. I just try to poke holes in that. It's hard to impress people in 2014. People think that magic would be less viable but I find that it's the opposite. I think that the world around us is so amazing that we haven't had time to process it all. We're just numb to amazing things. With my show, I try to show people that being amazed and wondered is a great thing. That combined with the same laughs per minute that a comedy show has creates a vibe and show that people have never seen before.

Check out Justin Willman at the Brea Improv this Thursday through Sunday December 18th-21st, 120 South Brea Blvd. Brea, CA 92821. (714) 482-0700. For tickets go to www.Improv.com. For more info go to his website www.JustinWillman.com and follow him on Twitter @Justin_Willman.

See also: Steve-O Found a Way to Work Manginas Into His Stand-Up Comedy 10 Douchiest Guitarists of All Time 10 Douchiest Drummers of All Time

Follow us on Twitter @OCWeeklyMusic and like us on Facebook at Heard Mentality and follow the author on Twitter @AliNotAlli.


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