Syfy's magical new show, 'Wizard Wars' begins this Tuesday at 10pm. In each episode a team of magicians are tasked with creating the most jaw dropping stunts, as they compete against one another in teams. Famous illusionists Penn & Teller host and judge the competition.
Recently I had the chance to catch up with the shows creator, Rick Lax. The show was comissioned after Rick appeared on a pilot episode of the show with Justin Flom, on his YouTube channel. After years of practicing magic, and wowing the audiences on YouTube, Rick has finally had his dream come true in the form of a television series. We chatted about the art of magic, and what we can expect from Wizard Wars.
My grandparents had the best-ever collection of David Copperfield VHS tapes. We'd watch them everytime I visited. Blew my mind.
What is the first trick that you learned?
My dad isn't a magician, but he showed me my first-in person trick: The Vanishing Coin. But that wasn't the first trick I learned...because I never remember him actually teaching me the trick. (Though I now recongize his coin trick as a "False Transfer"...and a sub-par one, at that.) I remember the first trick I ever purchased at a magic store was the Color-Changing Handkerchief trick. I was pretty disappointed with the secret method. Guess I was hoping for real magic, but turned out the trick was a lot of work.
Who were your magic idols/influences growing up? And have they changed?
Biggest influence and idol was David Copperfield, hands down. And the only thing that's changed is I went from Copperfield fan to Copperfield friend. Also did some freelance work for him.
How are your parents feeling about you being a successful magician? And has their opinion changed over time?
My dad is a lawyer. My uncle is a lawyer. A bunch of my counins are lawyers. If I had any siblings, I'm sure they'd be lawyers, too. So for a while, yes, there was pressure to practice law. Especially after I completed law school and passed the bar. But they've grown to understand I probably won't be lawyering any time soon. But who knows...a decade down the line? I could see it happening.
What is your favourite magic trick? My friend Bizzaro makes this tiny red ball that turns green. It's amazing. I performed it for a bunch of cats, and they didn't seem to hate it as much as they hated the rest of the magic I did for them:
A magician never reveals how magic is done - have you ever revealed the mechanism behind your trick?
I do it every day. But that's only because I work for Penguin Magic, the biggest and best magic shop in the world. If you ask me the secret to one of my tricks and you're not a magician, odds are you're not going to get an education; you'll get a snarky reply.
The Magic Circle is always seen as something secretive and mysterious, are you part of the Magic Circle?
Nope. I've got my own "magic circle" here in Las Vegas, with my friends Bzzaro (who invented the ball that changes colors) and Justin Flom (who stars in Wizards Wars) and everyone else who passes through town.
The show has only come to fruition after a pilot was produced on Justin Flom's YouTube channel. YouTube is fast becoming a platform for content creators to expand into other areas - do you think this is a good thing?
Great thing. In the past, Who You Know mattered so much more than What You Got. Now, the opposite is true; the best ideas organically rise to the surface through up-votes, 'shares' and 'likes.'
The pilot for 'Wizard Wars' was created in your apartment on a budget of $15, how does it feel to know you have achieved a live-audience TV show on Syfy?
Dream come true. Syfy was always the #1 choice, for any number of reasons. And people told me, "The odds of you selling this show are 1,000 to 1. The odds of you selling it to the network of your choice? 10,000 to 1." So either those odds were off or I got really lucky.
How would you describe the show?
'Wizard Wars' challenges teams of magicians to create jaw-dropping illusions out of using random. The winning team of challengers then take on the world-renowned "Wizards": Two-time World Championship of Magic winner Gregory Wilson; Wynn Resort resident magician Shimshi; YouTube sensation Justin Flom, and internationally renowned mentalist Angela Funovits.
What can audiences expect from your new show?
Original magic. You're going to see Spam teleport into squirt guns, you're going to wooden rocking chairs transformed into paper, you're going to see massive swing sets float like feathers. Incredible, original stuff.
Have you worked a lot before with the magicians you feature on 'Wizard Wars'? Who can we look forward to seeing?
I've worked a lot with Justin Flom (pictured, left) on his incredible YouTube videos, which can be seen here.
And then there were other magicians I hadn't worked with before, but always wanted to. Like Gregory Wilson. He's an incredible inventor. I hate to date him, but...when I was a kid, I learned magic from his instructional VHS tapes. And he's only gotten better as the years went by.
How does it feel to be working with Penn and Teller?
Penn & Teller are the perfect judges for Wizard Wars. Because unlike so many magicians out there, they really do create and perform 100% original magic. So it was an honor to have them in the Wizard Wars arena. And they didn't disappoint.
Have you ever heard Teller speak?
I have. Don't tell Penn. ;)
You had trained to be a lawyer, and honed your skills as a magician. How does being a lawyer and a magician compare?
Both lawyers and magicians tell one-sided stories. The difference is, in law, you can't lie or else you'll get in big trouble. But you do want to recount the facts that most favor your client. And you want to cite the laws that most favor your client. Similarly, in magic, you want to minimize the 'secret method' and focus on the illusion.
You have released three books so far, do you plan to release any more books in the future?
Are books still a thing? If so, yeah, I could see myself doing another book one day. But bookstores seem to be disappearing faster than anything disappeared on the set of Wizard Wars.
What advice would you give to any aspiring magicians?
Have fun with magic. It's going to take you at least a decade to get good, and the only way you'll make it a decade is if you're having fun along the way. Also, try to learn from the best. Now if only there were some show on TV that featured the best magicians from across the globe performing new magic every week...