Sunday, April 04, 2010

Project 365 (94/365): Jay Sankey

.:94/365: Jay Sankey:.

So, by special request, I was supposed to include Jay Sankey in this month’s comedy magic theme, and quite frankly, I’m still wondering why I’m supposed to.

If I recall correctly, you actually have to be funny to be considered a comedy magician, and I really just don’t find Sankey funny at all. It’s like he stole Jim Carrey’s hammy schtick and removed all the good parts. Needless to say, I’m not a big fan.

Still, let’s give credit where credit is due. As a creator, Sankey is very prolific. He has done a lot of different routines, handlings, and variations over the years, and nobody can deny that he has had an extensive contribution to the magic industry at large with all the things he has done. For about three decades, the man has certainly given a lot to the art, with his multiple ideas, revolutionary concepts, and most especially his coin magic.

At some point in his career, according to Genii Magazine, Sankey began experimenting with standup comedy, and this has allowed him to meet some moderate success in that particular facet of the industry. While I would readily admit that I haven’t seen any of his pure standup material, I am evaluating Sankey mainly for his comedy magic, and no matter how funny he may or may not actually be in pure standup, what he demonstrates in his magic videos certainly leaves a lot to be desired in the way of comedy.

Given that, let’s talk about what he’s really good at: coins. Sankey is known for being one of the best coin magicians of his generation, and younger magicians tend to think of him as a younger, zanier, David Roth. Some purists may scoff and cry sacrilege, but Jay’s sleights and ideas have been nothing short of revolutionary, and just watching the seminal “Revolutionary Coin Magic” DVD should give you a good idea what the man is capable of. Does he have great routines? Yes. Do I wish he stopped overacting and getting in the way of his great routines? YES.

The drawback with Sankey is that as prolific as he is, a lot of the time, he just keeps repeating himself. Over at the Magic Cafe, when Richard Osterlind joked that maybe he should just come out with one good effect and a bunch of mediocre ones on his next DVD, some rascal commented, “if you did that, you might get confused with Jay Sankey.”

There are gems in any given Sankey compilation, but in all honesty, you have to look hard. He’s good, he’s skilled, but he seems to be a lousy teacher. For anyone who wishes to learn magic, I’d rather have someone who is not as skilled but nowhere nearly as distracting. I can think of quite a few examples, and even some who are even more skilled than Sankey and better at teaching routines.

Man, I didn’t really intend to slag on Mr. Sankey. The man is a very successful magician, having established his own company, Sankey Magic. I suppose it all boils down to a matter of personal taste, and most laymen I know tend to be turned off by Sankey’s antics. As I consider myself more of a layman than a fellow magician when I watch a contemporary perform, I can see where that is coming from.

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