Jeff McBride Interviews Kevin James

Kevin JamesJeff: Is it true you are related to a rather famous American showman?

Kevin: Before I was ever interested in magic, my grandmother on my father’s side would tell us that we were related to P.T. Barnum. I kind of forgot about it for years, I didn’t really know who that was. Just before she passed, I asked her, how are we related to him? She explained it to me. It seems that our family is related to the Clark’s who are related to the Hurds. Samuel Hurd married P.T. Barnum’s second daughter Helen. Samuel was also Barnum’s right hand man at his Museum in New York City. So it is not by blood but I am on the tree. There are some other funny coincidences like my huge affinity for the strange and unusual. Barnum had a lifetime relationship with Tom Thumb and I have Antonio Hoyos. Barnum also loved magic.

Jeff: How did AGT change your life?

Kevin: AGT gave me lots of grey hair but if I had a show to promote, I would do it again. They like to put you in very stressful situations as it makes for good TV. It is also a very vulnerable position to put yourself into. I was very lucky that things turned out the way they did. My Operation effect went viral on YouTube and I am still getting work from it. I actually was asked to perform at the White House from the AGT videos on YouTube.

Jeff: What has been the biggest TV audience to see your show?

Kevin: I was asked to perform on a TV show in Indonesia, which also came from YouTube. As I am getting ready to walk onstage the producer told me that it is a live show and if anything goes wrong just get through it. We cannot stop and reshoot it. There were 1,000 people in the studio to give a nice energy to the taping. I went on and everything went well. As I was packing up I asked him how many people just saw this live transmission. He said that there are only 3 channels in Indonesia, this is prime time, this is the most popular show, he estimate that 200 million people just saw my act. The next day at the airport we really got recognized so I think his calculations were right.

Jeff: What is the best part about touring the world with your show?

Kevin: I really feel blessed that I can share my magic and ideas with people all over the globe. Getting to travel and make people happy is the best job in the world. I am grateful and have no regrets.

Jeff: How do you come up with your ideas and why do you share your ideas with other magicians?

Kevin: I find inspiration from many places, literature, cinema, toy stores, hardware stores and all life experience. I wake up every morning and know that my day will be different from the last. I completely expect to discover something fun and new. Just try to live with curiosity.

Early in my career I gave the Floating Rose to Copperfield in exchange for a video endorsement that I could use at the beginning of my promo tape. It was just to get on the map. I thought if I had an effect in his show it would give me some credibility as an inventor. I don’t use the video endorsement anymore but he still uses the Floating Rose in his show.

Now, if I choose to release an idea, it is for other reasons. Usually it has been in my show for quite a while, it gives an effect a second life. It hopefully helps fellow magicians have a better show, gives me some credit for historical reasons and a little money. Now with China stealing everything, that money is even smaller. So now there are fewer reasons to release an effect. In fact, I have some very inventive friends that have gotten out of the business because of China. This is bad for magic in general.

I do find some joy in seeing how other performers adjust my effects to fit themselves. A few that really stand out are Eric Buss with Bowl-A-Rama and Joel Hodgson with my Living Amputated Arm effect. Both are really clever routines.

Jeff: What is in store for 2013?

Kevin: I am very excited to be a part of “The Illusionists” team. We are now being handled by the William Morris Agency. It looks like we will be very busy in 2013.

I have a new website going online in about one month.

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