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A magician, a comedian and a hypnotist walk into Sheslow Auditorium…

The multi-talented Josh McVicar performs a magic trick in front of Drake students, where he duplicates bottles of wine. Photo by Lily Wasserman.

…And the usher says: “One seat?” 

Magician, comedian and hypnotist Josh McVicar performed to an audience of Drake students on the last day of Welcome Weekend. The show was part of an effort to welcome first-years to campus and returning students back to campus. 

“I hope that it brings Drake students more involvement and more openness,” Katelyn Martin, Student Activities Board’s co-chair for entertainment, said. “We want to hold many events like these, but we also need interest and obviously attendance for us to hold those events.”

Martin added that it was significant for first-years, who are still being introduced to Drake’s community. 

“We want the first-years to see what fun things Drake has planned,” Martin said. “I feel like it’s also a break from welcome week because it can be exhausting, in the best way, of course. We wanted them to be able to sit down, watch a really fun show, laugh a little bit, meet some new people and learn some new things.” 

McVicar began performing magic in high school entirely by accident. After being asked to entertain elementary schoolers at a club fundraiser, he decided to pick up a magic set he hadn’t opened in years. 

“I had about a month to prepare. It was a terrible show. I’d been on for hours, but it was some of the most fun I’d ever had,” McVicar said. “People were just gathered around me and just ad-libbing and having so much fun with it.”  

After the show, he joined a magic class and then was asked to join the Society of American Magicians. Throughout high school, McVicar performed tableside at restaurants five nights a week while learning magic from other magicians. 

In college, McVicar realized that he could perform magic as a career.  

“I honestly wasn’t 100 percent certain where I was going to go. I went with backup plans, then I’m like, ‘well, you can go bigger,’” McVicar said. “When I found out about college entertainers, who get the bigger shows, I was like, ‘I’m going to see what that’s about,’ and it’s kind of exploded since then.” 

He has since performed thousands of shows, learned new tricks and perfected his repertoire. 

“I define magic as a performance art. I love to work on magic and practice magic, but the real joy comes in presenting it to others,” McVicar said.  

Part of his work has been learning to adjust to audiences, such as improvising, and making the show more about the audience. At orientations, for example, he tries to do more hypnosis so he can invite students up, which allows new people to get to know each other. 

“What makes me remember a show is not so much ‘I was this good’ or ‘I was this on’ or ‘I was this funny.’ It was how much an audience connects with you,” McVicar said.  

The audience connection was one factor that resonated with SAB, according to Martin. The group found him through YouTube videos. They’d been looking for a magician after the positive reception from previous years’ performances. 

“When I was watching his videos, it felt like I was in his presence. It was awesome,” Martin said. “So I was like, ‘Oh, we have to book him immediately.’”

McVicar began the show with a series of magic tricks interspersed with bits of comedy before transitioning to hypnosis. After calling up a set of students, he sent them into a hypnotic trance, having them perform songs and dances for the audience or respond to suggestions such as temperature changes. 

“There was a whole movie production. I was closing my eyes and the curtains opened. It was crazy,” first-year Lisa Kuriakose, who was hypnotized, said. “I ten-out-of-ten recommend, and if you thought you didn’t believe in hypnotism, you might want to reconsider.” 

Throughout the show, the audience applauded, either for the participants or McVicar. At the end, they gave him a standing ovation. 

“My favorite part was when everyone was hypnotized and he got the audience involved. The audience immersion made it feel more real to me and made it come alive,” first-year Rayce Meyer said. 

But, McVicar said, what is important isn’t what he receives from the show, but what the audience receives. He said he tries to have everyone walk out laughing. 

“I wanna make sure this was about them and [that] they walk away remembering it forever, making it a core memory,” McVicar said. 

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