Jamy Ian Swiss – Skepticism and the Art and Philosophy of Magic

May 23, 2008


Jamy Ian Swiss is universally considered one of the world’s top sleight of hand performers, famous to magicians for his subtlety, skill and depth of understanding of magic’s history. He has appeared on a number of television programs in the United States, Europe, and Japan, including on The Today Show, CBS’s 48 Hours, Comedy Central, CNN, PBS Nova and the PBS documentary, The Art of Magic. He’s performed internationally for corporate clients, lectured to magicians in over a dozen countries, and is a co-producer of New York City’s longest-running Off-Broadway magic show, Monday Night Magic. He is also a co-founder of the National Capital Area Skeptics and the New York City Skeptics, and a long-time contributor to the skeptical movement and its magazines.

In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Jamy Ian Swiss talks about his skeptical beginnings, and argues that magic done well is an "entertaining form of skepticism, rather than a debased form of mysticism" (as described by Adam Gopnik in the recent profile of Jamy in The New Yorker). He explores some of the philosophy of why and how magic works, and examines ethical and artistic issues related to the performance of contemporary magic and mentalism, as reflected in the work of a spectrum of performers ranging from Derren Brown to Marc Salem to Uri Geller. He also wonders about the effectiveness of the skeptical movement overall, and the value of getting involved in the skeptical community.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Jamy's interview with Derren Brown, touching on ethical points raised in this episode
Interview with Adam Gopnik on the New Yorker profile
Simon Singh article on the Derren Brown performance