3 days into the new series of my podcast and you’d be forgiven for thinking the show’s lost a little bit of its magic. Well that’s all about to change, because today’s episode of “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Pumpkin Spice Lattes” features comedy magician Damon Conlan.
Damon started doing magic when he was just a little boy that no one liked. After seeing a magic show with his Dad when he was 7 years old, he became obsessed with it. Little Damon was especially a fan of “vanishing tricks”, and he thought maybe if he became a good enough magician, then he could make the bullies in his life disappear too. Unfortunately, it only made their presence more numerous. If there’s one thing more bully-able than a short, nerdy kid with glasses, then it’s that same kid waving a magic wand around whilst wearing a top hat.
Damon hasn’t let his troubled past affect his mediocre present though. After several years of therapy, he’s now a normal, functioning human that goes around the country desperately seeking validation from strangers.
“When did you decide to transition from regular magic to comedy magic?” I asked, before taking a sip of my drink and letting the delicious flavour of pumpkin spice dance about on my taste buds.
“Well I was doing close-up magic at weddings and parties, and I noticed I was getting a lot of laughs,” he said. “So I decided to write some proper jokes to go along with my act and I signed up for a comedy open mic night.”
Since then Damon has gone from strength to strength in the comedy circuit and has crafted his set into something that’s extremely passable. From legitimately impressive magic tricks, to comically-placed mistakes, Damon plays around with the form like it’s a goddamn hacky sack. In fact, he’s taking that hacky sack, turning it into a rabbit, pulling it out of a hat, and making it choke out a playing card. Is that your card it’s just choked out? No. That’s the joke.
One thing I noticed is he doesn’t really come with an off-switch. He’s always very enthusiastic and during the interview he kept trying out his magic tricks on me.
“Is this your card Eric?” He asked, showing me the 4 of Hearts.
“No it’s not actually, Damon. My card was the 6 of Clubs.”
At this point Damon started pissing himself laughing.
I just sort of smiled politely.
I do like all his “is-this-your-card-no-it’s-not” stuff, but I couldn’t help asking myself whether it was actually proper comedy. For me stand up has always been about a man or a woman or a non-binary person getting up there and talking about their life. Stand-ups are supposed to explore their minds and teach us about ours. Doing silly card tricks just seems a bit daft when you compare it to the kind of challenging subjects legends like George Carlin and Peter Kay used to touch on.
“Do you not ever feel like dropping all the magic stuff and becoming a proper comedian?” I asked, trying to broach the subject sensitively.
“Not at all,” Damon replied, as he pulled out another card from behind my ear. “Is this your card?”
Damon started chuckling again. I continued:
“It’s just, I feel like you could be doing so much more. You’re not asking what it means to be happy. You’re not challenging power. You’re not questioning the hilariously absurd concept of putting garlic on bread. It is kind of funny to show someone a card that isn’t theirs, but what’s it achieving?”
Damon sighed. He suddenly got a serious look on his face.
“Listen, Eric,” he said. “I used to be like you. I used to think everything I did should have some grand meaning and purpose. I used to analyse everything, break everything down, thinking it was important to constantly ask questions. Believing finding the answers to those questions would somehow find me happiness as well. But it’s just not true. For every answer you find, there’s a thousand more questions. It never ends. You drive yourself crazy. But when I do my silly tricks that are seemingly about nothing, people laugh and there’s a moment of joy for the whole audience. And really life is just a collection of moments. Some good and some bad. All I want to do is create as many good moments as possible.”
Wow. I didn’t quite know how to reply so I just drank what remained of my pumkin spice latte. Looking at the bottom of my cup, I was startled.
There lay a soggy playing card.
“Is that your card?” Damon asked.
I laughed too.
I think he might be right about life, you know.
Tune in tomorrow! X