“I was always a magician. Nothing else. I was going to be a magician since I was seven years of age at Parkside Elementary. Went to career day. Other people were looking at firemen, lawyers, chiefs of police – they all came to talk. I went room to room trying to find the magician. Swear to God!”
– Shawn Farquhar
Guy MacPherson: I know you're from Victoria.
Shawn Farquhar: Not originally from Victoria. Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Transplanted Victorian.
GM: You went to school in Victoria.
SF: I did.
GM: From what age?
SF: Grade 12.
GM: That was it? Okay, so then you aren't from Victoria.
SF: Yeah, I came and did my last year of high school at Spectrum. I'd come from Three Oaks Senior High School in Summerside, PEI, and packed up my bags, moved to a motel room on the Gorge...
GM: As a kid on your own?
SF: Yup. And then moved in with my aunt and uncle when the school figured out that I was on my own. I worked at two pizza places and did magic on the side at the Cantebury Inn and the Old Country Inn and some other little places in Victoria. My physics teacher, Mr. Schwartz, found out I was not living, actually, in the school district. But my grandparents had donated that land, Spectrum's land, so I wanted to go to that school. My aunt and uncle lived not far so I moved in with them for a while, then back to the motel. But yeah, I graduated from Spectrum High School.
GM: Can I ask why you were on your own?
SF: Uh, yeah. Um, I wasn't a good kid in PEI and I belonged to a group of people that weren't good altogether. I think there's a word for that: gang. Yeah, and they got into some trouble.
GM: Those PEI gangs are bad.
SF: They really are, actually.
SF: Yeah. Third generation welfare. That's how you stayed safe. And I just got in trouble. They attacked my brother and came to our house. They hurt friends, knocked on their door and dragged them out. My dad said it wasn't safe anymore so I was snuck out in the trunk of the car and moved out of the province. My family stayed there and they followed me a year and a half later.
GM: When you become a public person after something like that, are you just looking over your shoulder all the time?
SF: I did for a very long time. I had a couple people knock on the door within the first seven or eight years and I was actually scared. But now I'm not too worried.
GM: Because they're all old.
SF: Most of them are dead. They didn't belong to a good group of people.
GM: You weren't in the gang, were you?
GM: That's what I thought at first, but why were they coming to get you?
SF: The other ones were coming to get me. Summerside was really made up of small little... like the Westenders and these other ones. I just belonged to a small group that tried to keep themselves safe. Our group was very small.
GM: And you were doing magic at that time?
SF: Yeah. Really weird dichotomy, right? I know. It was a time when movies were popular like The Warriors and things like that, and everybody wanted to belong to something. We didn't do terrible things. We vandalized things that shouldn't have been. I stole a For Sale sign and put it on a cemetery because I thought that was funny. I stole a stop sign. That was really bad because a person drove through it, but they didn't get hurt. But the judge didn't see it that way. I borrowed a car. You know, things you shouldn't have done.
GM: When you moved to Victoria on your own, did you keep your nose clean?
SF: Yeah, I was a totally different person. That very day was like a light switch. I did my community service for what I got charged for in PEI and they sealed those records because I was a juvenile. I haven't really told a lot of people. But I left there and came to start with a clean slate and started with a clean slate. It didn't work out that way. I ended up getting in some fights with bigger people but I won all of them because I was a mean little guy back then! Then when high school ended, I started again. I went, 'Nope, I'm gonna go a whole different direction.' And then I only hung out with good people.
GM: So when high school ended, what did you do?
SF: I went to work in a restaurant. I worked in a lot of restaurants. I worked at Lantern House Pizza at the Gorge. I worked there until I got a job working for Rattenbury's, which was a finer restaurant down in the Crystal Gardens, and became a sou chef there, starting off as a prep cook, broiler cook. Got a really short tenure as a sou chef and realized I didn't like it at all and packed it in and went to work for Northwest Biological and Chemical Laboratories as a stock boy. I packed fetal pigs in boxes and skeleton forms. I had my first summer vacation and drove to Ontario, California, to compete in a magic competition and I won, and went 'Screw this,' and went home and told my boss I was quitting and became a professional magician.
GM: How old were you then?
SF: Uh... twenty? Twenty years of age, yeah.
GM: So while you were doing magic on the side, as a hobby, were you obsessed with it?
SF: Oh, yeah. Well, I had a TV show when I was young in PEI that made it to CBC. And then that kinda died. The Canadian grant program gave me a grant to go around teaching health care for teeth so I did a whole magic thing on 'Brush your teeth twice a day/See your dentist, don't delay.' It was going around to libraries and doing this show.
GM: What was the TV show in PEI?
SF: Magical Interludes. It still airs some places.
GM: Just you?
SF: Yup, just me. A couple of dancers. Annabel Stewart produced it.
GM: How old were you?
SF: I was, like, 13. Red bell-bottoms with a page-boy haircut, a white satin vest.
GM: And you had enough tricks to have a show?
SF: It was 15-minute spots. I did 21 of them. We filmed them all in a row. I recovered boxes. The box would be white, spray-painted. Thirty minutes later I'd mac tack on it and would use that same box for something else. I'd put a black rabbit into a box, spin it around, open it up and have a white rabbit come out. Anything to recycle the props.
GM: So magic was your track, even though you worked at restaurants.
SF: Yeah, I was always a magician. Nothing else. I was going to be a magician since I was seven years of age at Parkside Elementary. Went to career day. Other people were looking at firemen, lawyers, chiefs of police – they all came to talk. I went room to room trying to find the magician. Swear to God!
GM: Where was he?
SF: Nowhere! I came home and told my dad. My dad was like, 'You know I do magic.' And I was like, 'Huh?' I just never paid attention to my dad doing magic. And then my dad started teaching me.
GM: So you came to that independently? You didn't even know your dad did magic?
SF: Yeah. There was a guy, Wilfred Lucky. He had a Herb Morrissey Catalogue of Magic that he got from Montreal. Boy, we would just stare at it for hours in my room, trying to figure out how the tricks were done. We'd look at the illustration and be like, 'How would that work?' 'I have no idea!' We'd save up our money together, mail it off and two weeks later it'd arrive and it was the lamest method ever. 'Ours are better!'
GM: So you won this competition in California.
SF: The Pacific Coast Association of Magicians convention. I went down and competed. The PCAM.
GM: What were you doing?
SF: I did an act with birds in a tuxedo and tails. I had a coat rack with a little wicker basket on it. My suit was a kind of eggshell tuxedo. And I produced birds. I was up against juniors from the Magic Castle that have become hugely famous now. Most are now friends. Some of them I was really surprised that I would ever have even been on stage with because they were being trained by professional magicians. I was being trained by me and some local guys in Victoria helping me with ideas. Good local guys: John Gilliland, Carl Hemeon, Tony Eng. They were the guys that helped me. So I went down and did this and came back with this trophy. I drove all the way home with the trophy on the dash of my van. When I got to the border, the guy said, 'You got anything to declare?' 'I'm a winner!' It was like I practiced that for hours coming to the border! 'Anything to declare?' 'I'm a winner, that's what I am! That's what I've got to declare!' Showed him my little genie lamp trophy. It was really cute. 'Well, good for you.'
GM: Any money?
SF: Oh, no. No. Very rarely is there money in a magic competition.
GM: But there's the respect and admiration of your peers.
SF: Yeah! And encouragement. And the fact that you feel what you've done has really paid off. And I went back to that PCAM over and over again winning their awards. In one, they had seven awards and I won all seven of them.
GM: What categories?
SF: Stage, close-up, originality, showmanship, presentation... Oh, I didn't win one of the seven. My wife did. At the time my girlfriend: Best Assistant.
SF: (laughs) Yeah, I won them all! It was quite exceptional.
GM: In your early twenties.
SF: Yeah, I'd be like 23, 25 by then. Now I run the PCAM magic convention on a regular basis.
GM: Is it always in California?
SF: No, it's in a different place every year. It's been in Chilliwack. It's been in Reno, Nevada. And I've taken it twice – no three times – on cruise ships. It's been to Hawaii. This year it's going to be split between two places, California and the Philippines.
GM: So you run it and go to all of them?
GM: You don't compete.
SF: I don't anymore.
GM: Is there an age limit?
SF: No. We have a juvenile category, a junior category, and then an adult category. Any level can compete. And in different categories. We have cards, mentalism, comedy, illusion, stage, manipulation. We have lots of categories now. There's way more than seven now.
GM: That year you won seven, was that unusual for somebody to compete in each one.
SF: Yeah, it was, very much. In fact, they've changed the rules and don't allow it anymore.
GM: Could you do multiple?
SF: Yeah, you can still do multiple; you just can't do that many just because the contests go too long because they're free once you register for the convention. In 2003, I think, we held it in Coquitlam, BC, and the contests went from 10 in the morning until 5 o'clock in the afternoon when the judges said they were quitting. People were just in every category.
GM: Who are the judges?
SF: The judges are made up now of past presidents of Pacific Coast Association of Magicians. Back then it was made up of performers that were at the convention so you were being judged by your peers. Now it's better that it's the past presidents because the continuity stays better. They know what is a good champion and what isn't. If you get a 95 on every scoresheet, they give what they call the Grand Prix and it's been given out six times in their history. Yes, I have one of those! The most recent one was Michael Dardant who came all the way from New Orleans to compete in Seattle, Washington, and won.
GM: Is he Pacific?
SF: Anybody can compete at the Pacific Coast. We have them come from all over the world. We've had them from Scotland and places like that.
GM: So you're in your early twenties, you quit your restaurant jobs...
SF: Yeah, quit Northwest Biological and Chemical Laboratories.
GM: Then do you get management?
SF: Then I starved. I thought people would just phone you, right? I moved into a crappy little basement place by the boneyard in Vancouver. Fraser and 33rd, I think, is where I lived, right across from the graveyard. I lived in a basement suite. I lived in a basement hole. Above me lived about nineteen people; next door were Hell's Angels. I lost everything because the sewage backed up and flooded out our apartment to about the 3- to 4-foot water mark of just raw sewage. Yeah, it was very cool. I applied for Unemployment Insurance, U.I. at the time. I did it fairly. I booked a birthday party so I got, like, $150. So that two weeks I claimed $150. 'Oh, you're employable.' 'What?' 'Oh, you're totally employable. You can't get any cheques.' 'Oh.' So that didn't work out. My friend David worked for the meat company Gainers and anything extra that they miscounted on the truck he'd drop at my house. So one week it'd be Spam, next week it might be bacon, some weeks it was nothing and I just lived on Top Ramen noodles and ketchup packages from McDonald's. Starving.
GM: Were you thinking, 'How do I turn this around?'
SF: Oh yeah, I was super thin going, 'How the hell do I make a living? I don't want to give this up.' And I didn't want to go back to doing a job; I wanted to be a magician. I did some kids birthday parties and I realized that was a really tough market because you're walking into their territory where they felt totally comfortable, and standing in the centre of their living room performing for a bunch of kids that had just been fed sugar. I won that over. It took me about a year to figure out the formula. I built a case that closed so that when the show ended I just pushed two latches and it locked so they couldn't touch any of my props. And every trick went in as it came out. I always told the parents I don't want to be at the start because parents were always late. So thirty minutes after they've arrived, I arrive. I'll set up right in front of them. I'll do 45 to an hour's show. When I end, I walk out the door; you have the cheque in your hand. I gotta get to the next one. I did three and four on a Saturday, two or three on a Sunday. I was making $30-40,000 a year doing kids birthday parties. Got myself an apartment that was decent.
GM: Just word of mouth.
SF: Oh, yeah, totally. If you didn't have me at your party, you weren't having a good party is what it became. I would drive into a cul de sac and go, 'Hey, I've done every house in this cul de sac.' It was area by area and soon it was pretty much the lower mainland was my little oyster. I drove around with one of those old map books and lived on Big Gulps because, boy, you needed as much sugar as you could get. It's the only way to stay alive with these kids. I started at ten o'clock in the morning first birthday, 5 o'clock in the evening last birthday party. Two or three during the week after school. And then I got some shopping centres. Somebody saw me at one of them. It's so funny, a guy saw me at a birthday party and he was a producer for CBC and they did a little feature on me that ran, like, 22 minutes. And Wayne Rostad saw it, and he had a show called On the Road. He saw the feature and said, 'We'll come out and do a feature on you.' I'm like, 'Hmm, they need better places than a living room.' They said, 'What circuit do you do?' 'The living room circuit.' But I was doing a couple shopping centres and I had a couple comedy clubs that I went into.
GM: Which ones?
SF: At the time Lafflines. And one out in Surrey. What the hell was it called? And there was one in William's Lake called Excalibur. A friend of mine Brian from England had it. And the next thing I knew, I was booked all across BC working these startup comedy clubs, where it was like one night a week they would turn a bar into a comedy club.
GM: All from this feature?
SF: Yeah. It was a producer from CBC who saw me and did this little tiny feature going, 'We're going to put you on the CBC news.' And they followed me around so I actually booked a show in Duncan in a theatre so I could look legit. I sold tickets with my friend Greg. And they came over and filmed that. They travelled and the crew interviewed me and everything, and it turned into something. It was really good. There were a couple poignant moments where he asked, you know, 'So if you grew up learning magic, have you ever experienced magic?' That's probably the most interesting question I've ever been asked in an interview. The fact is, up until that point, I'd never experienced magic. I'd gone everywhere trying to, because I understood how it works I never saw magic. Now I've seen magic. I went all over the world to find a magician who would fool me.
GM: Is that what he meant with the question or did he mean sort of in an artistic, esoteric way, like, 'Oh, that's magic,' like a sunset or love?
SF: Yeah, that's its own magic. No, he said, 'What do you find best in magic?' I said I love to see the wonder in another person's eyes because that's something I've never experienced. He was like, 'What?' I said, 'Well, when I make something disappear, you look at the kid's face. Never in my life had I ever gone, 'Huh?! What?! Wow!' I went, 'Oh, oh yeah, that's a very clever move or prop.' It's just how I was raised. I went analytical and tried to figure it out. But ninety percent of the time I had it before the trick was finished. I was looking at it going, oh yeah, that's what's going to happen. So I went all over the world. I drove all the way to Scottsdale, Arizona. Two days of just straight driving, Lori and I, to go see a guy because Scott Cervine, I was told, took an umbrella, popped it open, and floated in the air. I got there and it was nothing like that. I knew what was happening before the trick even started. I was so sad. Great show, nice guy, but I went there to experience that wonder and I didn't get it. It was in the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, a guy named Juan Tamariz from Spain. He sat down and did a thirty-minute show and I was just in awe. Had no idea. Then they said they were going to take a fifteen-minute break and then the maestro will return and explain it all. And I left. And I didn't come back. The man sitting next to me was Harry Blackstone, Jr., the world-famous Harry Blackstone. The next day he said, 'Young man, could I speak to you for a moment?' I was like, 'Yes, sir.' And he goes, 'I couldn't help but notice you were sitting next to me last night when the maestro was performing, but you didn't return for the lesson. Was there nothing in the maestro's show that you wanted to learn?' I went, 'Oh, on the contrary, sir! I didn't understand any of it. For the first time in my life I found a unicorn. And I wanted to keep the horn on so I didn't come back.' And he's like, 'Well, that's beautiful.' And Juan stayed my unicorn for many years.
GM: Was he doing a lesson for other magicians?
SF: Yeah. He literally did a lecture performance, so he performed first and then explained the entire thing to all these magicians so they all eagerly went back to learn the secret. And I eagerly left to keep the secret.
GM: Did you since learn?
SF: Yeah, sadly it was about ten years later. I kept buying his books and putting them, without reading them, in my library – I have a very large library of books. I kept putting them up there but not reading them. And then I was at a conference and somebody started talking about him and I realized what they were saying and I realized too late they were talking about him. The method they were talking about was very clever to them. 'Oh my God, that's a great method, blah blah blah.' I went, 'Who are we talking about?' They went, 'Juan Tamariz.' I went, 'No!' And immediately it was just waves. It was, 'Yup, exactly.' Since then I've had the opportunity to have dinner with him and spend the night until, like, seven in the morning talking with him. I told him the story of how he lost his horn. I still think he's really cool.
GM: I would imagine that you and other magicians of your calibre look for other things. You're not looking for how they do it. It's great if you can be fooled, but you're looking at the presentation...
SF: Style, presentation. I love to see when they do something unique. What inspired me to do this whole thing that I'm doing at the Shangri-La is going to Spain. In Spain I saw all these little tiny tucked-away theatres of 50 and 80 people. I was like, 'How do you make a living here?' 'People love magic. They pay a premium dollar to be one, two, three rows away from a magician and see it, as opposed to 75 rows back.' Then I went to Germany and there was all these little salons. Every city had one salon of magic some place. I went, 'Why isn't that a thing here?' And then I started looking. And in America, it is a thing; it's just not a big thing. I have a friend, Paul Gertner in Boston, Steve Cohen in New York, Ivan Amodei is in Beverly Hills in California, and they're doing them in hotels in their private little rooms and turning them into shows.
GM: And it doesn't have to be a big thing...
SF: It has to be small. If it's big, they can go see that anywhere.
GM: Plus, in a room that seats 36, it'll be like your birthday parties: word of mouth will do the trick.
SF: I'm back to the living room circuit! It's exactly where I am, but not with screaming little children. Yeah, I look at it as this is the opportunity: because it's so small, I don't have to advertise heavily. My room's 36 people. How easy is that to fill when I've been filling 1200-seat theatres all over the world? Steve Cohen, I think, is like 100 people. Paul, I think, is like 48 or something. He may be 30-something, too. I'd even like to make it smaller. I'd like to make it, like, 24, if I can find that perfect little back room of some place. I just want to make it so that I learn every single person's name and they all participate in some way, even if it's just naming a number or picking a card. Some will volunteer; I know lots of people don't – they just want to watch – but I want everybody to feel like they actually connected in the show. In a kid's birthday party, everybody gets to scream, everybody gets to do something. This will be the elegant version of an intimate affair where you actually get to see the magic I really want to do. Don't get me wrong, I do these shows all over the world, and the PNE last year where it was 4- to 6000 people a night, and I didn't do big things because I said I really don't want to; I want to do small and we'll use the giant cameras, and they were like, 'Hey, that really works.' The producer, Murray Hatfield, is very clever, and he was like, 'Show me... Yes, that's absolutely right.' But watching me do a slight of hand thing in a room with 4000 people on a giant screen is not as cool as being 12 inches or even 10 feet away from me.
GM: When I saw Woody Aragon in an intimate theatre, he called on me twice to name a card, and I was determined not to give the usual cards, the three of clubs or the queen of hearts. And he still got it. It changes the show for me.
SF: You became an element of the show. At that moment, it changes the whole experience because that guy could be somebody he knows, but I'm not! It's a great feeling. I went and saw Woody's theatre – he's a student of Juan Tamariz. He has a small one in a small town outside of a big city in Spain. I went and looked at this and I'm like, 'How often do you do this?' He says, 'Every day I'm home. This is my home now. This is where I feel my therapy. I get to come in here and I announce it three or four weeks in advance when I have an opening in my schedule. This is where I come.' I love this. It's like therapy and a place to experiment and create and evaluate.
GM: So you came back to the lower mainland and had this idea. How did you find this little theatre?
SF: It's in the Shangri-La Hotel, the tallest building in Vancouver. I came in on a cruise ship, the Disney Wonder, from Alaska. Vancouver's a port for the day. And I'm like, 'Okay, what do I do in Vancouver? I guess I'll go for a walk in Gastown. No! Let's not do that. Let's just go wander the streets.' So I was wandering and I said to myself, 'I wonder how many small little nooks and crannies there are.' And I googled and didn't see any nooks or crannies that would fit. Then I walked into a hotel on Georgia and said, 'Hey, do you have a private banquet room?' The guy said yes. 'Can I see it?' And he showed me. And I said, 'Yeah, not what I want. But thank you.' And I walked into several of them. I walked into an Italian restaurant down on Smythe and Seymour and said, 'Do you have a private room?' 'Yeah.' 'Oh, I like this one. Very cool.' Took a couple pictures. Walked on up Georgia and walked into the Shangri-La. 'We have a theatre.' 'A what?' 'We have a little movie screen theatre.' 'Can you show this to me?' 'Sure.' We go up and look at it. 'How many seats is this?' 'Thirty-six seats.' There's a projector so I can actually use projection at the end for something. 'I need to talk to the person in charge.' Of course they had an astronomical sum for it. I was like, 'Let me explain what will happen here.' And they went, 'Oh, we like this idea.' 'Yeah, it's something your guests will enjoy. It's something that will draw people to your hotel. There's a restaurant, the market is there. People can go have dinner at the market and come over and see the show, or they can see the show and then go to the market afterwards. I'll do two shows a night. Let's work something out!' And we worked something out. And we're doing a test for two, and if that works out, next September, October, November, December, I'm just going to sit there.
GM: Four shows in two nights doesn't give it a lot of time to build by word of mouth.
SF: Exactly. It's 75% sold out on all four shows, so word of mouth is okay. It worked very fast. A lot of people in the lower mainland are fans of my magic.
GM: And starved for magic, too.
SF: And starved for it. And they've seen my big stuff. I made an announcement one day on my Facebook fan page, that said tickets are available on Eventbrite, there's a VIP front two rows; the back rows are less, the back row is still closer than the front row if you're coming to see me in almost any theatre in North America. And tickets just went, boom-boom-boom-boom-boom. I was like, 'Wow! I'm almost sold out on all of them.' Which is really great. It's stalled now because it's a few weeks away but one more bump and it'll be exciting. And if this works, which I think it really will, and I think I really will commit to it for the fall, the idea is to see how it'll last with word of mouth, if it'll grow and people will go, 'Oh my God, this is an experience you should see.' For 36 people, it is an experience that you're not going to get anywhere because if you're going to see a strolling close-up guy, it's going to be at some bar or something, it's going to be loud, he's not going to be able to do sophisticated routines with thought; it's going to be a fast wham-bam magic trick. This will allow you to see a concert of intimate illusion.
GM: How long is the show?
SF: 75 minutes. A deck of cards, a Rubik's cube, and a handful of coins. And a cell phone.
GM: You don't even need the projection.
SF: No. I'm going to use it just for the ending.
GM: Woody had it.
SF: Woody had the projection, too. I love it. I produced that show. Woody's room was eight times bigger than the one I'm going to be in. There's no need for it but the last effect is an effect I created using the music of Natasha Bedingfield and I really want the audience to experience it as if they were seven inches away. So I bought a Go-Pro camera, a little tiny thing so it's non-descript, it won't block anybody's view if they choose to look at the table. It's HD. I worked out a system that goes wirelessly to this HD projector that'll project behind me so they'll be able to watch the table, watch the screen, look back and forth, and have a really good ending of the show.
GM: That's awesome.
SF: Yeah, I'm very excited by the feel of it. I just love the idea that I'll meet every person walking through the door and shake their hands, and meet every person as they walk out the door shaking their hands, and in between I'll just blow their minds for 75 minutes.
GM: Vancouver needs that. Has there ever been, in your years around here, a regular magic show?
SF: No. The closest thing would be my Cabaret of Wonders out in Chilliwack and it runs every January, February, March, April, this year going all the way into May. And it's only once a month and it's an ensemble cast. I bring friends in and it's a place where I practice magic tricks. And it's fun. But here in the lower mainland, there's never been, ever, a regular show. It's always been sporadic. And I know it can support it easily. And I love the idea that this will be something where you can go for dinner and see the show, or see the show and go for dinner. It's the perfect date night because now you have something to talk about. If you have dinner then come see my show, at dinner you get to talk about what's he gonna do? If you have the show first and then go for dinner, it'll be how the hell did he do that? It's a conversation piece afterwards.
GM: I know you're thrilled because you travel so much.
SF: I do. Two-hundred fifty days a year, fifty-some countries.
GM: When did that start after doing the little bars throughout BC?
SF: Well, that was pretty gruelling because I did sometimes 20 or 30 days on the road out there, jumping from bar to bar. The guy who put it together put it together like the Star of David tour – you're here then you're down at the bottom then you're back up by there. I'd go through Boston Bar four times but not play in Boston Bar. It was like, seriously there must be a gig in here some place! I went to cruise ships and cruise ships started getting me to travel places and gave me more reputation. And then I started winning larger international competitions. When I won the World Championship, I got on Ellen DeGeneres and fooled Penn & Teller and all of a sudden it was demand: 'Hey, we're a private client in Sri Lanka' or 'We're a private client in Dubai' or 'I want you to fly to Vienna for a night' or a private island off the coast of Madagascar. Pretty bizarre ones. 'I'm a gaming developer and I'm having this private party for seventy people.' I'm like, 'Yes, I would love to do that.' Hockey players for their birthday parties in Detroit and things like that. It's still 90 percent word of mouth. I don't have an agent.
GM: Never did?
SF: I tried some agents. But there were bookers in town who booked me, but they're not my exclusive agent. The guy who books me for Disney Cruise Lines used to be my student, which is really great. I got him on Disney Cruise Lines and then he left it to be an agent and produced larger shows in venues all over North America, and went, 'Hey Shawn, do you want to work for Disney Cruise Lines?' 'As long as you're representing me, that'd be great.'
GM: And you still do that.
SF: Yeah, about one a month.
“I practice all the time! It's what I do. I carry a deck of cards until they wear out.”
– Shawn Farquhar
GM: How much travel did you do in 2017? Do you keep track?
SF: 2017 was 235 days in 51 countries. I know that for a fact.
GM: How many continents?
SF: I did all except for Antarctica and Africa last year, but I've done all of them except for Antarctica in my life now. I posted on Facebook once, I said, 'Hey, I just realized I just haven't been to Antarctica.' And I got a private message back going, 'I book the military shows for there. Would you like to go?' And I was like, 'Yes! Of course I would!' And he's like, 'You'd be giving up a couple weeks of your life because you have to go down on a cargo ship and it takes a few weeks.' I said, 'There's no way to fly?' He's like, 'Well, we can fly you to a point where you get on the cargo ship but then you go there and you go back on the cargo ship back to where the flight is.' 'Yeah, let me think about that. I'll get back to you.' So I haven't done it yet. But it's pretty cool that the offer came literally within minutes of me posting. So there's a gig there. Holland America cruise lines is always asking for me and I really love the lady who runs it and they do cruises down there.
GM: But they don't stop there, do they?
SF: Yeah. They go down and you actually get off in small lifeboats with transponders in your jackets. You can walk on the ice floes.
GM: Do you ever go to sketchy dangerous places around the world?
SF: Sure. Been to lots of sketchy dangerous places. I've done them for some shifty clients. I remember going to one where the driver who picked me up, as he was getting into the car I could see he one of those little sub-machine guns under his arm. And I was like, 'Do you really need that?' He says, 'Yes.' Okay
GM: Where was that?
SF: In Brazil. It was pretty exciting. Places like Venezuela. I was there during the coup. We actually watched as they invaded the palace and were shooting and military tanks were coming up. Back in the eighties. A dozen of us rented a van from a guy. He said it was ten dollars apiece. We figured $120 was reasonable for a whole day of driving from the harbour port over the mountain into Caracas. We got into Caracas, we're at the presidential palace, and we thought it was fireworks, but we saw military running then tanks rolling up. Our driver snuck us out the back door, got into his van. We're driving, hit a checkpoint. He actually kicked a person at the checkpoint and then drove through. We went through literally a hail of bullets. We got close to the harbour but we weren't allowed down because the military blocked it because they had all the oil reserves down there. So we got out, we were all pooling our money together, and he's looking at us very confused. We're like, '$120.' And he was like, 'No, it's ten dollars for everybody.' We're like, 'No, no, here's $120. You got us out of the city in the middle of a coup!' Then we ran the mile and a half down through the checkpoint to get to the ship. The ship was already pulling out. It was pretty exciting. I've been in some sketchy places.
GM: This is why you want to settle down.
SF: I just want to be in one place. There are things I can do in one place that I can't do when I travel.
SF: Intimate magic tricks. When I'm travelling, I can't set up a theatre correctly. I don't know the environment. With this, I can see all the sight lines. I've been there three times already and looked at the venue so I know what will work that wouldn't work anywhere else. So I'm developing magic for it. I'm developing tricks specifically to do in the show to make it more exciting, and changing the method to tricks that I've done to match the room because if I'm going to stay there for months, it'll be exciting and different. So that's the plan.
GM: Tell me about the tradition of magic in BC.
SF: It's a huge history. Having never had a regular magic show fascinates me. But over the years, going back, our history is 75 years of the Vancouver Magic Circle. It's now in its 76th year. The Pacific Coast Association of Magicians has had multiple conventions all the way back to 1963 at UBC when like 900 magicians showed up here. Guys like Percy Poole and Charles Howard, but my favourite would be William Shelly. They even have a park named after him, the W.C. Shelly Park in Vancouver. He was a famous prominent baker. Joe Lambertus was the most popular man in British Columbia. He was named it five times in a row. The Vancouver Sun used to have a contest for who's the most popular man in BC. And Joe Lambertus, a magician, used to win it. He ran a bar in downtown Vancouver. Because he ran the bar and was a bartender who did magic tricks, he was the most popular guy. Francis Martineau became the suave deceiver, very clever manipulator. He's the only other person to win seven awards from the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians, which is really great.
GM: When was that?
SF: He won it in like 1963 or 1964. Tony Eng they called the Canadian Ambassador of Magic. John Gilliland was a walking encyclopedia. He graduated from university in England at Oxford with several other well-known international magicians. He belonged to a small magic club there, moved to Canada, and was a professor at Royal Roads Military Academy in Victoria. A walking encyclopedia of magic. Brilliant man. So many came out of here. Martin A. Nash, the Charming Cheat. Martin would love what I'm doing because Martin was a card guy and he would sit with a deck of cards and blow you away with gambling demonstrations. He passed away a few years ago. It was so funny, I was doing a sleight of hand show for about 1200 people on the Norwegian Star and this lady came up afterwards and said to me, 'You're very good, but we have a person in my town who's better.' I'm like, 'Oh really? Where do you live?' She said, 'Parksville, BC.' I said, 'Really! What's the guy's name?' 'Martin.' I said, 'Nash?' She said, 'Yes.' I said, 'You're absolutely correct, ma'am.' I said, 'So where did you see him?' She goes, 'Oh, every Wednesday he goes to the A&W in town and just does card tricks sitting at the table.' I said, 'He's working there?' 'No, no, he just comes and has a coffee. People know it so they all show up.' And I'm like, 'Really?' She said, 'Yeah, he just can't give up performing.' Wow, how cool is that? It's a great thing, when you think about it, that he's willing to just give it to people.
GM: Well, it is a job for you guys, but it's also a passion.
SF: It's an addiction. This is my passion project. Forever I've just wanted to be able to do it for a small group of people. I do it for magicians. Magic gatherings will bring me in. I'll do it for like a hundred people in a lecture, and sometimes as little as thirty people. I was just in a little tiny place in Spain, Almendralejo, which is in the middle of nowhere. Thirty guys, they rented a nightclub, hired me to come over and do a performance and then teach afterwards. And I sat there at a small round table, three rows of people going back, and I did the show. And they went insane. I love that feeling. And I went, I wanna do this more just because there's no other experience like it when you pick the card and that card appears in a wallet, sealed, in an envelope. You just go, 'Wait a second, that's my signature on the card; it's not some guy on TV.' I have a card trick where you merely think of a card. I show you an empty wallet. You take a picture of my empty wallet. Then you tell me the name of the card, then you look at your picture in your phone and the card is in the wallet. I do that on TV and you just go, 'Aw, it's trick photography, special effects.' When you see it and you're twelve inches away, you just go, 'Oh, that's just a miracle. That's all that really is. There's no other choice.'
GM: And some of the current crop of BC magicians.
SF: Shin Lim from Coquitlam... Wes Barker... Vitaly Beckman has his own show off-Broadway right now. He'll end September 30th. Ticket sales have been going crazy. Good for him. He went into Time Square and that giant billboard had his face on it. There's no way to express that. Here he does a one-off one night, and you go to New York and it's every night, six nights a week, for three months. We can support that here. We really can. It's just that we haven't been able to find a venue that thinks that's possible. For me, I decided I don't need to convince a venue, I'll just rent it and I'll convince them while I'm renting it and they'll go, 'Hey, this is really good for us, too. Look at the clientele that's coming through. It's a nice night to get dressed up and go out. Hey, the restaurant's making money and the bar's making money. These people are seeing our property. We should kinda do something with this to make it even better.'
GM: So wait, you have to get dressed up?
SF: You don't have to. But it's a nice opportunity to get dressed up if you want to. Most of the other ones that my friends I mentioned, like Steve Cohen and Ivan and Paul Gertner, have all put dress codes in because they really want to make it an elegant evening out so you feel good about going. How often do you get to look nice when you go out for the evening? Not very often.
GM: You're also doing another show in town.
SF: Bacio Rosso, the Italian red kiss. I'm very excited about this. Because, you know, I travel so much that everything was how can I change what I've been doing? Twenty years ago I went to Seattle and saw a show called Teatro Zinzanni and it was inside of a giant wooden spiegeltent. These are wooden tents that are built in Belgium, they travel all over Europe, and they have theatrical shows in them. When I say 'tent' it's not a tent; it's a building that looks like a tent but it's made of wood, with velvet, mirrors, and hardwood floors. And I went to this thing and I was just totally captivated. There was a magician in it from Ukraine named Voronin and he was launched to international fame. It was like, I want to be that guy. I don't want to be him, but I want to do what he's doing. For twenty years I've waited to see if he'd leave the show and of course he's never leaving; it's a dream gig. That went from Teatro Zinzanni in Seattle, they opened another one in San Francisco, and now they're opening one in Chicago. They just announced it's going to open in October. The artistic director that started Teatro Zinzanni in Seattle has gone out on his own and he's coming to Vancouver and wanted to recreate that whole thing.
GM: There are a lot of moving parts in it. What's the show?
SF: The show is basically a giant dinner theatre.
GM: Is it like Cirque du Soleil?
SF: No, because Cirque du Soleil you don't get a five-star meal. It has all the circus elements that you'd expect – trapeze, adage...
SF: Adage. Two people doing a kind of dance with physical emotion. It has comedic characters, singing, live orchestra – well not orchestra, a small band playing. Imagine you walk in to a restaurant for the evening and realize that something special is happening that night and that the hostess is going to tell you about this amazing thing that you just happen to be in their restaurant on this special night. Well, every night is that special night. But she would say something very special is going to take place, characters appear and disappear, your waiter will become somebody, the chef comes out and juggles or throws knives, the security guard becomes somebody, patrons turn into people that are special. It's all about this live theatre taking place around you. It's immersive. It's 360 degrees.
GM: It's like Tony and Tina's Wedding.
SF: Teatro Zinzanni started way before Tony and Tina's Wedding but the idea is similar in that you are part of the experience, and maybe the person sitting next to you is part of that experience. It's all done in the round, in circus. It has a stage, which is where the band is. Some of these will take place against a flat stage but 90 percent will happen in the circle and right at your tables. My job is going to be to create wonder and I'll be going in the centre ring but I'll also be going table to table freaking you out for an audience of four people, coming up to your table.
GM: Close-up magic.
GM: And in the ring it's...
SF: Stage magic. More parlour.
GM: Different acts go in and out?
SF: Yeah, they mesh.
GM: So you'll leave and then something then you'll come back?
SF: People are in, people are out. Courses of dinner are served. Even the wait staff come out dancing to put your food down and everything. They do dance numbers and stuff. Everything is this giant production. Three hours of a five-star meal and international entertainment just all immersed in this wonderful jewel-box theatre. Google 'speigeltent' and you'll go, 'Oh, that's not what I thought it was.' Wooden hardwood booths around the edge. All hardwood booths followed by hardwood floor leading up to a ramped up centre stage area. You'll see, maybe a girl's in a giant champagne glass dancing. I've seen some pretty bizarre stuff over the years. And there's a story that runs through the whole thing.
GM: So you're not just Shawn Farquhar; you're a character.
SF: Yeah. I'm a character. I'm being directed theatrically.
GM: Do you choose the tricks?
SF: Yeah, in conjunction with the producer. 'What can you do? Show us all your stuff. We like this, we like that. Can you do something with this? Is this trick possible if you did that with it?' 'Yes.' 'Okay, let's do that, then.'
GM: Have you rehearsed already?
SF: No. We go into rehearsals on October 18th. We're just having creative meetings right now. It's so unlike me. My costume is not like me. It's brocade with buttoned jackets with swallow tails. It's totally a different guy.
GM: And how long is it running?
SF: It's going to run for, I think, five months. I can't stay for the whole thing because of my touring schedule. I think the soft opening is the last week of October, it officially opens November. I'm doing all of November, all of December, and half of January. And I think it continues on until the end of March.
GM: Who will they get to replace you?
SF: I don't know. I think it might be Voronin, but I'm not sure. But I think it is. I think they went asking for him and he referred me, which I thought was a beautiful thing. It kinda comes full circle.
GM: That's very exciting. Not only doing something that you saw 20 years ago but doing it and a chance to stay home.
SF: In my own hometown! I have a regular schedule: Mondays and Tuesdays off, then do Wednesdays through Sundays, one show an evening. And developing a character and having fun with something that isn't me but will be me. I mean, the character that they've created for me is me amplified, but it isn't me.
GM: Can you learn from something like that doing it for a few months? Will that inform yourself beyond that?
SF: I think I learn from absolutely every gig I've ever done. I've learned something positive or something negative. Being in something for a longer period of time, there'll be a lot of lessons to learn. I've never done a character before in my life, so that'll be a lesson, if I like it or I don't like it. I'm happy that it's short and I'm sad that it's short, because if it's something that I really love, it'll be too short; and if it's something that I don't love, it'll be too long.
GM: But there will be an ending.
SF: Yes, which is good and bad. Because if I'm really having a good time, I'll be like, 'Damn, is there any way I can get out of the contract in Belgium and Germany and France?' to stay? But I have Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands and then into the UK directly afterwards so I don't have an opportunity to stay as long.
GM: It could be a grind, but it's also cool.
SF: I did a two-and-a-half-month contract in Malaysia at the top of a mountain, the highest peak in all of Malaysia, it's called Genting; it's in a rainforest. It's the largest casino in the world. And I went into it, 'Oh, this is great!' Every night was awesome. And by the sixth and seventh week, it was like, 'I feel like I'm trapped in a matrix. Every day I wake up and it's the exact same thing.' I had to eat the same stuff because I'm at the same place and there isn't really a big selection of food that I like. I walked the same route to go everyday and I know when I have to leave and I arrive and I know what the audience is going to be like, and after about two months I was like, 'Shoot me. Just shoot me.' I have video where you can see me screaming at the video camera going, 'I'm trapped! I'm just trapped! I think it's a loop! I'm not sure.' I started questioning my own reality.
GM: Some people love a routine.
SF: Yeah, I've never been a routine person in my life. So this will be exciting. I'll try not to be routine. I will take a different road to get to work; I will develop in the character; I will see stuff that works at a table and what doesn't work at a table and I'll change it.
GM: And also you'll be home so you can eat different things.
SF: Yes, exactly. Try something different every day. And I'll get some stuff done at home. That will be really weird because I usually come home and I'm home for here for 48 hours. Now I have to do those jobs that I've been procrastinating on forever!
GM: Both shows are very exciting. So if the smaller one works out, it'll be like Woody's thing where if you're at home, you'll do it?
SF: I would actually block off... Right now, Disney books me for the entire year. They lay out my calendar. And this year I said for next year, I don't want to book anything for September, October, November, or December yet. 'Pardon?' I said, 'I don't want to fill those dates yet.' 'Why?' 'I might have something...' 'No, no, we love you. If it's a matter of money...' 'No, no, it's not that. It's a matter of passion. Let me see.' What I'm going to do is, if this seems to be panning out perfectly, I'll make an agreement with Shangri-La to do just Fridays and Saturdays there. And then I'll say to Disney, 'Can you fit me in so that my schedule works so that I can leave on a Sunday and be back on a Thursday?' And I'm sure they'll make something happen to make them happy and make me happy. That's the plan. And if they don't, maybe I'll take a little break. I love the shows on Disney.
GM: Is it stage magic?
SF: Yeah. They're really great about it. To make me happy, I do the Walt Disney Theater; it seats 1200 people and I do a stage show. It's interactive and really fun. Standing ovation almost every show. It's just bizarre. Really a great feeling. And then they said, 'Would you like to do the small room? It seats 300 people and it'll be an adult cabaret, just for adults. Disney after Dark.' So I wrote an entire show, 30 minutes long, that's just for adults. I get to do that once a week. And then they were like, 'The people love you and can't get enough of you.' 'I can put together a 30-minute sleight-of-hand show but you'll have to have a professional videographer come in.' They have another room that seats about 400 people. So I do it there. And they stand in the hallways because they can't get into the room. And I apologize. Now they're putting a camera feed into other rooms. People sit in a room by themselves and I go, 'I can hear you! Scream.' So they scream. They're in the other room and down the hallway.
GM: When you're walking around the cruise ship, are people trying to get you to do tricks?
SF: Just coming up. I encourage them to.
GM: It's your version of sitting in A&W!
SF: Exactly! I say, 'If you see me walking around the ship, do not hesitate, walk right up to me and say, "Hey Shawn, how are you? Can I buy you a drink?"' No, I'll say, 'Ask me to do a trick.' I always have something. If I don't have something, I'll make something up. And I love it because you'll see the parents want it but they send the kid over: 'Go ask him!' And as soon as they do, they all walk over to watch. I'll do something just in a hallway and next thing I know I've got 40 people standing around me and I'm doing six or seven minutes of something amazing and they all go, 'Whoa!' Then I'll say, 'We're blocking the hallway. It was really nice to meet you.' Sometimes I'll just run into a young person who wants to talk, or an older guy. I met a guy, he was a fireman from L.A. He says he sits in the firehall all day waiting for calls. He says, 'I'm fascinated. I've read five or six books on magic.' 'Oh! Let's go sit and have a coffee and talk. Here's the next book you need to read; here's what you should do.' Next thing you know I've got this email coming, going 'Oh my God, I went on vacation with my family, it was a Disney vacation meant for my kids. My wife needed a break. I came home and realized I had the best time and it only took 30 minutes on one day. Thanks for making my whole vacation.' That's a pretty cool feeling. It really is. I've had some pretty cool experiences there. So I love it.
GM: Pretty good life.
SF: It beats not working. I've tried that. I talk about how your magic can affect people. Years ago I was cruising Alaska. Hannah was probably seven so that would be like eleven years ago. The show ended and I always took my family to the Blue Lagoon, this little cafe, and have a late-night snack. Lori put Hannah to bed and I went for a walk around the deck. It was probably one in the morning when I ran into a guy standing towards the end of the deck. We started to talk. 'Oh, you're the magician guy.' I said, 'Yeah.' 'I always wanted to do magic when I was young.' We talked. I recommended a book to him. I said, 'You should get this book. It'll change your life. It's got some cool things.' We talked literally until the sun came up. I looked around, there are passengers getting up for breakfast. 'Oh shit. Good night!' It was pretty cool. About two years later, Hannah started school so I came home to just sit around for a while. I was sitting around and the cruise line sent me a letter. They said, 'We got this in our mail. General delivery, magician, Norwegian Star. We assume it's for you. If it isn't, can you direct it to whoever if you can figure it out?' I opened up the letter. It had already been opened. I read the letter. It was this great letter talking about, 'I'm writing this letter two years after a traumatic event in my life and I just want to share it with you.' He said, 'Two years ago, I lost my son to cancer and my wife to the stress of the situation. What was supposed to be a family vacation turned into me just going alone on the cruise. And the reason to go was to commit suicide. I was going to jump over the side of the ship. I figured the Alaskan water would take me quickly. But on the night that I was standing at the back of the deck preparing to go over, you walked up and wouldn't stop talking.' It's pretty cool. He said, 'You talked to me until there were people around. I knew it wasn't going to happen. I went to my room. The next day I googled the book and ordered it on Amazon. When I got home, I started to read the book. I started practicing diligently. I'm a diligent student of magic. I practice every day in the same cafe. I have my same coffee, my same croissant. And one day this red-headed girl said she thought it was pretty clever. I showed her a few tricks. The reason I'm writing this letter is I proposed to her and we're getting married in Ireland and I want you to come to the wedding.'
GM: Did you go?
SF: Would you?
GM: Uh... yes?
SF: No. No, come on. What are you gonna say? 'Hey, glad you didn't off yourself! Wanna see a card trick?' No. It tears me up when I think about it because I never would have imagined...
GM: All that talking comes to some good.
SF: Yeah, at some point. It freaked me right out because I never thought my magic... I'm tearing up... I never thought my magic would have an impact on anybody. I just thought that I create a moment of wonder that usually disappears five minutes later. And I've had some weird ones. I had a lady at the end of a trick I do with a piece of thread, she said, 'I love that trick.' She goes, 'You know what? At the end, I know exactly what you're saying in that. I'm going home and telling my daughter to move out and stop ruining my life.' I was like, 'Huh?' There's nothing in my trick that I could possibly imagine that's what she saw in it. It made me laugh.
GM: I like to try easy tricks. I watched one of your videos and you were doing a card trick that looked super easy. At the end of the video, it said you can buy the trick for ten bucks. So I bought it. And I watched the instructional video, and watched it and watched it, and what I love about it is that I could practice that trick for a year, three hours a day, and not be able to perform it. And it doesn't bother me. It makes it even that more special. I go back and rewatch you perform it, and I go, 'I know he's supposed to be doing a move there, but I don't see it.'
SF: That's the best part.
GM: The trick is clearly meant for a professional who's skilled. When you perform it, it looks like such an easy trick. It was the Holy Grail.
SF: Oh, the H.G. Effect. Yeah, it'll take time. I get a lot of emails from people who are rank amateur. It's the first thing they've ever bought. First, they say the teaching is awesome. Second, they say it's great that I know how the secret works; it's even cooler that when I see it performed, I still don't see the secret. Which is the best part. Last night I had a guy write me from Sweden. He said, 'A week ago I bought your H.G. Effect. The final phase on the trailer is fooling me. Can you explain it?' And I watched the trailer and it fooled me. Me. I fooled me. Watching me, I was fooled. The second time I was like, 'Oh, I see it now.' Then I watched it a third time: 'Oh, yeah. Now it's clear.' And I wrote him and said, 'I'm going to be honest. I watched the trailer,' because I hadn't watched it in a year and a bit, and I said, 'and it fooled me, too. So I totally understand where you're coming from. But if you look at this moment, and in the instructional video 20 minutes in I explain exactly that move. Have fun.' He emailed me back an hour later and said, 'Oh my God, I don't know how I missed that moment.' But yeah, it fools me repeatedly. I find that every once in a while now I'll see something and I miss one part of it.
GM: Something you do?
SF: Something somebody else does. I watched a video in 2001. In 2001 I did a show in Macao. I built a whole show, an 18-minute act, just for that show. It was a festival of magic that ran for six days. So I built an entire show that would work for an audience in Macao, where I don't speak more than eleven words of Chinese. So I built a whole show. I didn't even know there was a video tape of it. I was going through the internet, googled my name, and up popped this video that said Macao. So I watched it and I was fooled repeatedly. I was like, 'This guy's good! Where did that come from?' I watched the whole thing without stopping. I told myself just watch it and enjoy it as best you can, because I know I'm analytical and I'm going to pick apart my expressions and my movements and everything. So I sat trying to just watch it. 'Where the hell did that come from?.. Shut up, Shawn, keep watching it.' Then the second time I went through and, 'Oh, yeah.' There were two points where I had to watch it up to three times and then go, 'Oh, hey, so that's that feeling. I like that.'
GM: So you've forgotten more magic than you even know now.
SF: Yes. Oh, yeah. Definitely. Oh, definitely. Yeah, and I'm learning more magic now that's shoving stuff out from the past because I've only got so much hard-drive left in my head.
GM: Do you have to practice?
SF: Sure. [pulls out a deck of cards from his pocket] I practice all the time! It's what I do. I carry a deck of cards until they wear out. I work on new ideas. [proceeds to do some tricks, mostly new ones he's working on.]
GM: Thanks very much, Shawn.
SF: No, thank you. I really appreciate it. I'll tell you: I didn't know you wrote for the Georgia Straight. I was unaware of that. Absolutely, completely.
GM: Yeah, I write about comedy.
SF: Yeah, I noticed! You know, because I kind of googled it afterwards. I kinda google a lot of things. It's my braintrust now. I had an ad in the Straight when I was a kid doing children's birthday parties. What was the line?: 'That special something for your something special.' 'Planning something special? I'm that special something.' 'We got a kids birthday.' 'I'm the guy.' 'We've got a stag.' 'I'm the guy.' I love the support they give for some of the local theatre stuff, like the Fringe. I saw a magic show there this year and the guy wrote me and he was very nice. He said, 'Oh my God, I saw you in the audience. Do you have notes?' And I wrote back and said, 'Usually when I give notes, people get angry.' And he said, 'I'm not that guy.' So I wrote like three pages of notes and he said, 'Oh my God, do you know how much I pay for that kind of critique?' He said, 'I agree with 90 percent of it.' I said, 'Tell me the ten percent you don't agree with.' And he did. Okay, those are totally subjective. I'd agree with you if that's not what you want to do, but I would argue that you probably want to go that direction for the future. He cussed a fair amount and I was like, 'You had kids in the audience. And although it's a Fringe show, you should look at it and go, "That's a 12-year-old. Maybe I won't cuss."' They'll write it in. I only learned because when I went to Disney, I had a show that worked comedy clubs so there was plenty of it in it. When I got to Disney, and I did the adult show the first time, I was all set to cuss and went, 'I don't think I can.' So I wrote the joke so it ended just before it. And they all wrote the end because they're educated people. I looked at them and said, 'What? What's funny about that?', which was even funnier. 'You know, I work for a mouse.' Which got a huger laugh. 'I really don't understand what the joke was!' And then I go on. And the next innuendo was a stupid little thing like, 'What page are you on?' She goes, 'Sixty-six.' 'That's close to my favourite number.' Place goes crazy. I say, 'Sixty-five.' Which is wonderful, right? Stupid, simple, but really rocks.
GM: And they know.
SF: They know exactly where you were going without going there. I learned that lesson when I was working Lafflines in New Westminster. I was headlining. I was full of words. I looked out while the second act was on and there was a guy in the back of the room wearing a priest's cassock. I kinda walked around and looked at him. That's Reverend Price from when I went to theology school, when I thought I was going to be a priest. I was like, 'That's wrong. I'm not sure I can say the word "fuck" in front of him.' Hmm, okay. I went back and I mulled it over for a while and went, 'Yeah, that's not going to work.' So I went out and I did the show totally clean. And I rocked. I rocked better than I did when I dropped the f-bomb because of those moments and just leaving them. The show ended and he goes, 'I really loved your show.' I said, 'Reverend Price, it's so nice to see you.' He says, 'Yeah. I was very surprised.' I said, 'About what?' He said, 'Well, this room is very blue collar and you didn't swear once.' I said, 'That's because you were here.' He said, 'How'd that go for you?' I said, 'Surprisingly well. I probably won't do that anymore.' And I stopped.
GM: Nate Bargatze works clean, too.
SF: Absolutely. Steven, his dad, is one of my best friends in the world. I produce all his magic tricks for him. Steven is just going crazy with Nate doing so well. Steven's other son is a missionary building churches in South Africa right now. Steven's always saying, 'I need a lot of help. Sell more magic tricks. I got two kids that aren't making money now.'