The University of Connecticut welcomed Justin Willman to perform at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Oct. 14. Willman is a magician, well known for his show on Netflix called “Magic for Humans.” He was originally supposed to perform at UConn in the fall semester of 2022, but his second child was born days leading up to the performance.
His performance consistently had a humorous aspect to it. Willman kickstarted the show with a box, quite literally stating “I brought you a box.” He asked a member of the audience, a woman named Carolyn, to name her first crush into a microphone. Carolyn said the name “Steven B.” and of course, Willman pulls out a sheet of paper with “Steven B.” printed on it.
Some in the audience saw this coming, but many tried to guess how the trick was accomplished until Willman finally revealed how the act was done. Inside the box is a wireless Bluetooth printer, connected to the microphone that Carolyn spoke into. This is clever, but what made the trick even more magical was when Willman lifted the printer and crumpled it, revealing that it was a sheet of paper with the image of a printer on it.
Willman took the time to describe the kind of people he comes across in his shows. “There are people who love magic, and then there are the plus-ones.” This earned a chuckle from the crowd, many of whom were excited to see the magic show and had others that they dragged along with them. Willman recounted that he was not always interested in magic. An incident in his youth changed this, when he decided to ride a bicycle while wearing rollerblades and, as you can imagine, broke both of his arms. His doctor prescribed him card tricks in order to retrain his hands. It was from this that Willman learned to love the art of magic.
Another one of the main tricks of the evening involved taking a phone from an audience member, who was a die-hard Swiftie, and enclosing it in an envelope. Willman proceeded to place five other broken phones into identical envelopes and shuffle them. He then numbered them one to six. The audience member would then roll a die, listing off the number they saw and that number envelope would be eliminated. Once chosen for elimination, the phones were smashed with a hammer and thrown on the stage. This made everyone nervous about the fate of that person’s phone. As each phone was smashed one by one, the final phone remaining turned out to be that person’s phone, complete with a screen wallpaper of various Taylor Swift songs.
Willman then went on to describe his children, more specifically his son Jack. As all parents know, children ask a lot of questions that they might not be able to answer. When Jack asked him what inflation was, Willman showcased how he described the concept. He asked for a $1 bill from the audience, folded it up, and unfolded it to reveal a $20 bill. Then, someone in the audience gave him a $100 bill, and Willman performed the same trick and turned it into a $1 bill. “That’s what happens in a recession,” Willman jokes.
Some tricks were shorter than others, but they all were equally entertaining. For a shorter one, Willman placed two ropes into a paper bag and revealed the inside of the bag to show the audience the ropes. The audience knew that the ropes would be tied together, but we didn’t expect Willman to pull the ropes out “Tide” — when he pulled out the ropes, they were connected to a box of Tide laundry detergent.
Willman also has an obsession with Susans. In “Magic for Humans,” there is a recurring theme of Willman performing street magic for people named Susan. In this case, he performed a seance with an audience member named Susan. The trick involved the first row writing down names of beloved celebrities who have passed away and Susan randomly drawing those names from a box. She held a bell, which would ring when a spirit was supposedly with them. Two chalkboards were stacked on top of each other with a piece of chalk in the middle, allowing for the spirit to write their message. Willman also had a candle that he attempted to light with an extremely old lighter. Originally, it was supposed to go out once the ghost was done writing, but once it was obvious he couldn’t light it, he opted to have it light once the spirit was finished. It took quite a while for the bell to ring, but once it did, the candle was lit not long after.
Susan revealed the name of the celebrity to be Bill Cosby. The entire audience laughed for a few minutes. No matter what celebrity they thought it to be, it definitely wasn’t him. Willman appeared to be just as shocked as well, reiterating that he wanted the names of dead celebrities and beloved ones. Yet, the message on the chalkboards read “Jell-O Pudding,” as Bill Cosby promoted Jell-O Pudding in the 1970s.
The show was a true highlight of family weekend. Both magic lovers and plus-ones were able to thoroughly enjoy Willman’s tricks and unyielding humor. Those who were entertained by the performance should watch his show on Netflix and keep an eye out for his new show titled “Magic Pranksters” that will be released soon.