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The Illusionists: Dan Sperry

May 2013

I WAS four years old when my grandparents took me to see a David Copperfield show in Minnesota, where I grew up. It’s a mid-western state right up by Canada where it’s all hockey, fishing and that kind of thing.
I can still roughly remember him getting cut in half as part of an escape that supposedly goes wrong. I thought I had just seen a guy die.
It was my first non-clown, non-balloon twister experience of a show. My brain hadn’t developed to understand the idea of magic yet.
You could say what were my grandparents thinking taking a four-year-old to a show like that but nobody knew Copperfield would be opening with that.
That was really the beginning for me; the reason why I do this for a living now.
I was doing birthday parties, I was going to libraries and doing school assemblies when I was a teenager but I kept it away from my friends. I didn’t feel that it was necessary to force it on them.
It was cool though because I got pulled out of school quite a bit to go and perform at other schools.
I always knew I was going to do it for a career, though my parents didn’t. They were telling me ‘you’ve got to have something to fall back on, this isn’t a real career!’ My dad is a partner in a business and my mom works in retail. So I went to university just to appease them. I studied digital art in Chicago.
It was during that time that I was offered tours and shows in inner city schools in Chicago where eight-year-olds were throwing gang signs at me. I had a buddy of mine who was a stripper and he’d come with me carrying a gun. It was a learning experience, that’s for sure.
I started filling in for another magician in Vegas when he was on vacation and eventually the producer said ‘how about we just don’t bring him back and you stay on?’
That’s when I moved to Vegas. It was about seven years ago. A couple of years after that was when YouTube really took off and I started throwing videos on there and getting a lot of attention.
Just before then I did a birthday party for Johnny Depp at a club in Los Angeles called the Magic Castle. It was one of his kids’ birthdays and he’d hired out the whole place. But we didn’t get to talk to him because they said ‘you’ve got to be professional’.
I started describing myself as ‘the anti-conjuror’ to give myself a title when I was opening for bands in rock clubs. If I was billed as ‘magician Dan Sperry’ people would think ‘what the hell is this?’ I didn’t want to be immediately disliked because I was a magician.
I’ve used it for years now and it’s worked. And I’ve trademarked it.
I’m not offended that I’m described as Marilyn Manson meets David Copperfield. It was used for a TV show and it’s kind of stuck. I guess it’s an easy way to describe what I do. I do magic tricks and the presentation style is a little shock and gore and craziness but there is a lot of dark humour. It’s not to offend; it’s just silly.
I went on America’s Got Talent to publicise what I do. I knew I wasn’t going to win. I looked at it as a great free TV commercial.
We did The Jonathan Ross Show this week and I was sat next to Yoko Ono in the Green Room the whole time but we didn’t speak to each other. I took a look at her and she took a look at me and I think internally we both just thought ‘Nah!’

The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible UK tour comes to the Royal Concert Hall on Wednesday, October 2. For tickets call 0115 989 5555 or go to Watch videos from the show at
Their appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show is repeated on ITV1 on Saturday, May 11.


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