I grew up in Western Pennsylvania which most people in the Midwest consider to be the East Coast; even though my home was over 300 miles from the ocean. But I grew up there doing a style of magic that I have been told is an East Coast style of magic.
Coming to Chicago
When I came to Chicago in 2003 I was introduced to the Chicago magic style. It has two defining features that make it different than what I was used to. First, If you are working at a bar you work behind the bar. In Pennsylvania liquor laws are so arcane and odd that no one is allowed behind the bar with out certain certifications and licenses. The second thing, if you working in a restaurant or banquet setting, you sit down with the people at the tables.
I’m a familiar person. I have no problem talking to strangers. Part of being a comedian is to break social conventions, but to sit with a strange family or group violates a physical space that took me some time to get used to.
And then comes the fact that when doing magic, I have to hide somethings. I know, I’ve broken your heart. But I learned to hide all the necessary things and point out all the things that I need audiences to pay attention to while standing and while others were sitting. I had to essentially relearn my entire show. The only thing I can compare it to would be learning to play a sport with one’s other hand.
It all Changes, Again
It seemed to me as soon as I had relearned to do my tricks while seated, it all changed again. The old guard of Chicago magic were retiring or sadly passing away and the newer generation weren’t seating down with strangers to perform their magic. They, like I had done years before, Were standing next to the table where the audience was seated. I am torn about the closing of this chapter in magic. I am much more comfortable standing but to see that “friendly” style go away makes me a bit sad. You can still see table side magic at restaurants in Chicago but if a strange magician sitting at your table freaks you out, you don’t have to worry about that anymore.