Top 10 Best Magicians Part 2

Greetings all! I hope last week you liked part 1 if you haven’t checked it out yet be sure to. Let’s get right in to it with #’s 5 to 1.

Penn & Teller5. Penn & Teller: So full disclosure, Penn & Teller are my favorite act. P&T are the ultimate modern magic act. They have been working together since the late 70’s and interestingly enough neither of them are sure how exactly they met. Penn, the larger and louder half, was street performing juggler and Teller, the silent one, a magic geek who was teaching high school. Today, they are one of the top magic acts in Las Vegas with their own theater at the Rio.

The Penn & Teller show is one of the most interesting shows around. P&T got their reputation as the magicians that exposed the tricks. What most people don’t know is that they created their own tricks and Illusions to expose only to fool the crap out of the audience moments later. They also took some great classics of magic, updated and personalized them. A great example is their Flag Burning routine. What makes P&T really special is the way they give the magic they do context. The show is probably the most cerebral magic show ever. There is often a message and point to the routines they do that makes the magic all the bit more powerful.

Where Penn & Teller also excel is their huge crossover appeal. Penn & Teller have a number of TV magic specials but also have appeared so many other shows to would take forever to list them. Their Showtime show “Penn & Teller: Bullshit” lasted for 8 seasons and was an important show for the Skeptics movement. Penn has his own weekly podcast on Sundays, and before that was on the radio and had regular internet video blogs. Teller has branched off as a theatrical director adding magic to Shakespeare’s Macbeth and The Tempest. Even with all this Penn & Teller are always thought of as Magicians first.


FredKapsPhoto4. Fred Kaps: Another name that might not be a house hold one in the America, never the less, Fred Kaps is the gold standard that many magicians hold themselves to. Not only was Kaps one of the best sleight of hand performers of the 20th century he was also one of the best showman.

His magic chops are backed up by 3 FISM Grand Prix wins, so far the only magician to do so. He was, and still is, a house hold name in his native Netherlands. He was one of the most sought after acts in all of Europe. He even used that reputation to get on the Ed Sullivan Show. This was the very same episode where The Beatles made their US debut

If this is one thing that is the biggest part of the Kaps legacy is was the he showed magician how it was done. Not to be copied but to be studied and learned from. There are so many magicians who have used Kaps as the model to compare themselves to. Kaps died of cancer in 1980 at the age of 53. Even so many years removed from his death, Kaps still well known at the standard of excellence among magicians


David-devant-magic-poster3. David Devant: David Devant is wildly considered the greatest magician the United Kingdom has ever produced. Even to this day he and his work are held in very high regard. He was the first President of the Magic Circle, England’s top magic club and co-author, along with John Neville Masklyene, of “Our Magic” one of the greatest books ever written on stage magic.

Devant was also one of the first big time “Bad Boys” of magic. After he was forced to retire early in 1920 due to health issues he continued to write books on magic for the public. This lead to accusations of exposé by the Magic Circle and caused him to get kicked out of the Circle, twice! This guy was kicked out of the organization he started…..TWICE!

Devant’s signature illusion is the “Mascot Moth” and the reason why I bring is up is that the legend is no one is really sure how he pulled it off. Other magicians know how it is done, and have replicated using modern methods, but no one’s really sure how he did back in 1905 since exact mock ups fail. So we know how he did is but we don’t know how he did it.

Perhaps my favorite legacy of David Devant’s is the great story of him talking to a young amateur magician. The story goes that the youngster boosted to Devant that he knew over 100 card tricks, and then asked how many Devant knew. Devant replied that he only knew a dozen…but did all of them really well. BOSS!


Howard Thurston

2.Howard Thurston: This was the man who did it all before it was cool. Thurston ran away from home and joined the circus, yep, that’s where this starts. He would become America’s Greatest stage Illusionist of the late 19th and early 20th century.

In a time when vaudeville acts ruled, Thurston broke free and toured with his very own show. On his terms. Back then most acts where about 10-15 minutes long and most shows were variety shows with a number of different acts. Thurston was one of the few on his own, and he was big time! The story was that it took eight rail cars to move the road show.

Not only was the show huge but Thurston was a grinder. He toured with his show for nearly 30 years. It took a stroke to final force him to stop touring. Interest in Thurston’s career gained renewed interest in 2011 after the publication of the book “The Last Greatest Magician in the World” by Jim Steinmyer.


Harry Houdini 18991.Harry Houdini: Of all the Magicians on this list Houdini is the one that all magicians are measured against. I think there wasn’t really any doubt here. Even today, almost 100 years since his death no one man is so connected to Magic in American and the world then Harry Houdini. Born Erick Weisz in Budapest, he moved to the USA in the 1870’s. He started his career in the early 1890’s as a card magic performer. Even billing himself as the “King of Cards” although as we all know this did not stick for long

It was Houdini’s escapes that became his trademark and made is legend. He became so good at escaping from handcuffs and jails that he challenge police to hold him. One of Houdini’s great lines was “I define the jails of the world to hold me” or something to that effect. This had a profound impact. The symbolism was not lost on America’s fast growing immigrant population, many of who live through and survived oppressive governments to come to America.

Houdini also did much to start the modern skeptic movement. After his mother died he was so heartbroken that he when to a Medium, someone that talks to the dead, or rather someone that dead talks to. When the Medium start channeling Houdini mother she called him Harry and spoke English, neither of which his mother did in life. After that Houdini began a second career exposing those who lie about their abilities and take advantage of people emotion and money.

Houdini was the ultimate crossover start. You didn’t need to know a lot about magic to know the name Houdini. He was the master of mass marketing. His public stunts became the thing of legend. Imagines of Houdini in a straight jacket dangling upside down form a crane are burned in the minds of the general public.

He was the model of the magician: a great showman, crossover star and an incurable taste to do the impossible.