5 Hidden Dark Sides of Life as a Street Magician

#2. Getting Attention Means Setting Yourself on Fire (Accidentally)

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Street magic is a never-ending battle for people's attention, and nothing gets the attention of passers-by like doing a stunt that looks like it can set the magician aflame at any moment. This is accomplished by actually doing a stunt that in fact can set you aflame at any moment. We magicians would do things like fire spinning as a form of advertising -- you use it to make people notice you, and only then mesmerize them with your actual magic.

For example, I used to do tricks with fire knives, like you see this guy doing here:

... until, while in Miami, I fucked up a twirl and set my hair on fire in the process. Burning hair is not as easy to put out as you'd think, so I had another one of my frequent encounters with emergency services. Hey, it's not like this is a tightly regulated industry with some guy with a clipboard looking over your shoulder to make sure you're using all the safety precautions. There's nothing stopping you from going out and juggling some flaming machetes right now.

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Aside from the Home Depot cashier who will obviously be calling the cops
when you show up with a cart full of machetes and liquid butane.

Other than the law, that is -- for some strange reason a lot of cities now frown on this and have made it illegal for street performers to use fire, except at certain city-sponsored events (where they can have emergency personnel on hand to deal with any spontaneous Ghost Rider situations).

So why the hell would somebody put themselves through all of this? Well ...

#1. Magic Can be Used for Good, Too

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Don't let me make it sound like magic -- even street magic -- is for borderline crazy people and aspiring con artists. There is a reason magicians have been around for thousands of years -- people love to be amazed, to see something happen right in front of them that they didn't think was possible.

Natalia Bratslavsky/iStock/Getty Images
Like a guy dealing cards on the street without any obvious gang affiliations.

A while back, I met a boy named Jimmy who was sick with leukemia. His father wanted me to teach Jimmy some magic, and I gladly did. We hung around for four months doing magic together, until Jimmy passed away. Later, at his funeral, his father told me that I was the best thing that happened to his son since he was diagnosed.

I started crying. Not a dignified, "one tear rolling down my cheek" cry, either. We're talking full-on, "blowing snot bubbles, can't breathe because I'm choking on pure, unfiltered sadness" type of crying. My little buddy was buried in a suit and tie, with the deck of cards I gave him on display in his front pocket.

And that's why I can't stop doing magic. It's an emotional roller coaster that takes you to the highest and lowest parts of your own self, but the good bits ultimately make the entire ride worth it. Even if you occasionally get stabbed.

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"All worth it, kid. Now go look in my magic hat and see if there's anything we can use as a tourniquet."

Matthew Collins has since gotten a real job designing websites for people. You can contact him with questions about his time as a magician, or commission a website here.

Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist and editor. Contact him at c.j.strusiewicz@gmail.com

Related Reading: Cracked talks to all manner of fascinating people with wild jobs, like these local garbagemen who know your horrible secrets. We also sat down with a man who escaped North Korea and the unwitting accomplice to a mass murder. Cracked's talked with everyone from drug dealers to people raised in in Christian fundamentalist cults. And if you've got a story to share, message us here.

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