By Marcus Campbell
On Saturday, Oct. 11, Campus Life treated the Lawrence University community to a magic show by nationally renowned magician Daniel Martin. Martin’s website describes his performances as “a high-energy blend of Insane Magic and Sarcastic Improv.” A Chicago native, Martin was recently awarded “Best Live Performer” and has been featured on NBC, WGN, VH1, CBS, MTV, and ESPN.
Magic shows can bring out a vast array of reactions. There’s nostalgia as we reminisce back to the time we got our first dollar store magic kit, amusement and amazement as we see seemingly impossible things happen before our very eyes, intrigue as we try to figure the tricks out, and even fear, as we contemplate whether our senses are betraying us, telling us something that cannot possibly be true.
The modern magician is a far cry from the magicians of yesteryear. Gone are the top hats and rabbits, the inescapable shackles, the card tricks and the rigged props. As we see, and eventually figure out, these clichéd acts, the modern magician has to evolve, and he must become more than just a magician. Martin epitomizes the modern magician with his unique style and unconventional acts.
Martin’s style is like none I’ve seen before. He almost satirizes magic while still doing magnificent tricks of his own. He pretends to be a mediocre performer, performing tricks that are almost comical in their simplicity with all the earnestness of a witness under oath—such as making a soda ‘disappear’ by hiding a person behind a T-shirt while they drink the soda—before turning around and completely wowing the audience by doing something unexpected and amazing—in this case, crumpling a bag with the soda bottle inside showing that the bottle has in fact disappeared.
Martin’s use of understatement made each act appear even more astonishing. He supplemented this with an extremely liberal use of sarcasm and other improv comedy techniques. He often cracked jokes on participants and made even the most routine acts absolutely hilarious. At the heart of most of his comedy was his method of doing the unexpected and building upon the audience’s reaction. Martin was very responsive to the audience, and it almost appeared as if his entire show was improvised.
In a conclusion, Martin presented a video clip of his submission to MTV’s “Cribs” that he had given to an audience member early in the show. As the video played, the color slowly drained from the audience members’ faces as seemingly unplanned and benign responses from participants to questions asked throughout the show manifested themselves as prominent features in Martin’s video. Martin gave us knowing smirks as the clip played, chillingly telling us without saying a word that he was in control the entire time.
As frightening as that may seem, Martin’s motives for performing magic are far from insidious and actually quite noble. According to Martin, what he enjoys most about magic is the ability to temporarily take people away from the things that are bothering them as they become immersed in the show. Putting a smile on people’s face is what brings him the most joy.
I’d say he certainly succeeded based on the audience’s response. “I had goose bumps!” said freshman Rebecca Tapia Kandra Rudelius-Palmer, also a freshman, commented, “It was insane!” These represent only a small sample of the opinions of the audience members, but they say all you need to know about Daniel Martin’s show. He truly is the essence of an original, entertaining, modern magician.