Sankey Magic

I don’t really want to spend this month showing you tutorials and stuff for Magic. It’s a discipline with a lot of different ways to learn, including numerous extremely technical books and documents and one-on-one demonstrations. What’s grown in popularity these days is jargon-light videos, where you’ll see someone show you how to do things, with simple terms used to describe them as opposed to the deliberately obscure and difficult form of our discipline. Between being a literal criminal subculture and the scholarship being spread across numerous countries, there’s a host of things magicians do that are described in a user-hostile language of unhelpful bullshit.

Youtube, however, has been pretty good at establishing new language for this stuff. Particularly, there are a few channels that mostly are just archives of tricks, demonstrated and given clear, specific explanations. There are, in essence, only about seven fundamental structures to a magic trick, but it’s not a discipline where knowing that unpacks anything for you; you may know that there’s been a ditch or a load at some point, but that doesn’t mean you have any idea which of the two it is. If you know your principles, though, Sankey does a great job of showing you a lot of different tricks that use the same small number of skills. What’s more, Sankey does something I see a lot of magicians avoid, which is that he’s inclined to use gimmicks, and he teaches you how to make them.

This makes sense: Sankey is trying to make money, and the ways he does this is with long-form instructionals and things like printable and digitally distributed gimmicks. This is not strange at all. It’s still a pleasant thing to see, because it’s often surprising how many magicians simply do not approach gimmicks these days – deck prep, sure, but things like ironing labels or creating fake gum wrappers, that’s its own discipline and it merits respect.

(Though uh, one of his recent tricks involves blowing air into a bag of food, which, you know, maybe don’t do that right now.)

Now, before I recommend this channel: Sankey is not, as far as I know, a dude who’d be considered ‘of my circles.’ I have no doubt given his style of patter and his general demeanour that he might drop some casually unpleasant or thoughtless joke, because the point of patter is to disrupt your attention, meaning that they always veer towards the racy and the rude even as they involve the self-deprecating. There’s going to be use of the word ‘insane’ and ‘crazy,’ in a lighthearted way, but it’s still a lot.

There is a nonzero chance that Sankey’s channel has, somewhere in its huge pile of videos, Jay saying something that’s pretty awful, and probably pretty awful in that thoughtless, ‘didn’t even think this was a thing to care about’ kind of way. I’d love to be surprised, but to be able to vouch for him I’d need to be able to watch every single video and then also be expert enough in all the ways he makes jokes to know for sure. I just want to make sure if you’re checking him out, that this guy is not carrying a Talen Seal of Approval.

Still, it’s a good resource for a wide variety of simple, approachable tricks, and over time you will see with a fairly random assortment of tricks that look interesting, the library of ideas that tricks like these are based on. You can check out his channel here.

There’s another added bit of weirdness here. Sankey was on Penn and Teller’s Fool Us, which is a show that has a lot of weight in the magic community, and maybe I’ll talk a bit about it and what they ‘value’ in terms of magic tricks. But Sankey went on Fool Us, and he did a routine and they talked about it nicely, and he ceded, on stage, that he hadn’t succeeded at fooling them, then he left.

Then on the internet, he claimed that he had in fact, fooled them, because that was his plan all along. This … looks dumb. Penn and Teller didn’t really say anything about it, though on a podcast, Penn did cite Sankey  specifically for a type of magician who was doing very expected things, and how they had to winnow out acts that were like that, because they weren’t at risk of fooling them.

Now, lots of people who go on Fool Us are effectively just building brand. They’re making sure they get seen and they’re promoting themselves with the segment – and the praise from the magicians is important. Magicians are also extremely egotistical people, and often quite obnoxious.

Not that it matters, but if you want a ‘truth’ from me here, I’d say that Sankey almost certainly didn’t fool Penn and Teller; that the line once off-set was an attempt to build his own brand further; and that Penn and Teller do not care that much about his claims to have ‘double fooled’ them because they’re both millionaires and some of the greatest in their craft. Does this make him kind of an asshole? Kind of? But magic is, sadly, a place where most of the luminaries of the form are all Hatsune Miku.