Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Morning I Found A Mind-Blowing Essay in My Inbox

By Brian Brushwood

Hey gang,

Lately a lot of young magicians have been asking me for advice, which has caused me to remember one of the most valuable correspondences of my life:  one of the most mind-blowing letters I ever received, chock-full of insights that to this very day guide my career and philosophy in both creating and performing magic.

This is a pretty long post, but with Teller's permission, I'd like to share with you the secrets he gave me 14 years ago to starting a successful career in magic.

First, a bit of back-story:  Penn and Teller have been my heroes in magic since I was 8 years old.    Back when I would watch just about anything related to magic, P&T were special because they were so damned cool.  They'd connect with their audience, let them on the inside... even teach them some tricks to do at home.  I was hooked.

By the time I was 19, I was a decent semi-professional magician, trying desperately to figure out both who I wanted to be onstage and what I had to say, when in the summer of 1994 I got my first chance to see Penn and Teller live.  I drove three and a half hours with my best friend Gordon to watch the performance and (more importantly) get the chance to meet them afterwards.

As they've always done, Penn and Teller hung out in the lobby after the show to meet anyone who'd like to say hello.  While we waited in line, Gordon and I started brainstorming ways to stand out from the crowd and make an impression on my heroes.  Gordon had a hilarious idea that he was too chicken to try, so with his permission, I asked Teller to sign my three of clubs " my bastard son, Brian."

I was totally jazzed when this got a laugh from Teller, and positively giddy to spend the next few minutes talking to one of my heroes about how to get started in magic... Best. Show. Ever.

One year later, I was much more serious about magic, and much more frustrated as I was still struggling to find my own voice, character, and presentation.  That's when I happened upon Teller's email address, and in a fit of frustration-induced bravery, wrote the following letter:


  1. There's more to learn from this story: It never hurts to write letters to people! You never know who might reply. I've written hundreds of letters to various high-caliber people (and received many answers). It's perfectly alright when they do not reply, but at least there's a X% chance of hearing back from them. Not trying = 100% failure.

  2. Wenzel, your passion to share economics/news through an Austrian lens is clear. You are definitely Rothbardian. My question to you is, who are your “Hitchcock’s, Poe’s, Sophocles’, Shakespeare’s, and Bach’s”?

  3. Spectacular essay, RW. Thanks.

    Dale Fitz

  4. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  5. When I was in college I took a class called Pseudo-science. It talked about everything from the loch ness monster to aspartame, and how all the myths around them got started. Every Friday the professor would have Brian Bushwood come in and do some tricks to drive home the point that we can all be easily fooled. He was a fantastic magician, and I'll never forget some of the tricks he did. That was over 10 years ago at the University of Texas. Very cool to see his story show up on EPJ.