One of the questions I get asked most frequently is ‘Who inspires YOU?’

Well, the answer is, lots of people. Below are a collection of videos, each one highlights a performer whose work I love and admire. I’ve shared the reason I love each video too. I hope you like them!
(Ps… sorry if you come to read this blog at some point in the future and the target videos have been removed by Youtube or the performers themselves. At the point this was posted, all videos were live)

VIDEO: Alfred Hitchcock On Cinematic Tension
WHY I LOVE IT: I’m a huge movie fan. Alfred Hitchcock was the master of creating tension. This is a fundamentally important factor to good storytelling which I believe is the heart of good entertainment. I try to remember the rules here in the creation of every new piece for my show.

VIDEO: Gene Kelly, Sining In The Rain
WHY I LOVE IT: This is one of the most perfect pieces of cinema ever made. Gene Kelly embodies cool. This video encapsulates vision and dedication.

VIDEO: Al Jolson Sings
WHY I LOVE IT: My father was a HUGE fan of Al Jolson and I grew up listening to him. This video reminds me that sometimes all you need is to stand there and give it all you’ve got.

VIDEO: Avner The Eccentric
WHY I LOVE IT: Avner is among the greatest psychical comedians and variety performers alive today. I heard a podcast interview where he said that ‘A clown solves and easy problem in a difficult way and a difficult problem in an easy way’. This routine really makes me laugh.

VIDEO: Dennis Teeth
WHY I LOVE IT: I love unusual musical acts. Playing a saw is as good as it gets.

VIDEO: Harry Anderson Talks Geek
WHY I LOVE IT: Harry Anderson was the greatest. He talks with hilarious authority and he holds you in the palm of his hand for every single second. This performance (although I didn’t do the trick in the video) inspired so much of my character for the second half of my show ‘Sideshow Tricks’.

VIDEO: Charlie Caper
WHY I LOVE IT: I’ve been a fan of Charlie’s work for many year. Recently I got to spend a little time hanging out with him in his home town of Stockholm. His dedication to magic is incredible. He also packs every single second with visually interesting things. I like magic acts that ‘get on with it’ and don’t spend forever getting to the good moments. Charlie is a great example of this.

VIDEO: Ricky Jay Cups & Balls
WHY I LOVE IT: Three words: Scripting, Scripting, Scripting.
This, is how you write.

VIDEO: The Great Ballantine
WHY I LOVE IT: The father of modern comedy magicians. The Great Ballantine was ahead of his time in so many ways. He combined incredible pace with original funny material. We’re still trying to catch up.

VIDEO: The Great Kaplan
WHY I LOVE IT: Very possibly the greatest opening few minutes of an act ever. Incredible charm, talent and sophisticated ideas combined in the wonderful act.

VIDEO: Les Bubb
WHY I LOVE IT: I’ve always loved mime acts. I’m planning to work something like this into my own act at some point, I just didn’t get there yet. I will though! Les Bubb is the master of this stuff, everyone else is in his shadow.

VIDEO: Roy Benson
WHY I LOVE IT: If Ballantine is the father of modern comedy magicians, Roy Benson was the grandfather of them. He was a huge star in the days of variety and even appeared in early movies. He combine crippling great sleight of hand with patter comedy, something that nobody before him did even nearly as well. I love seeing his performances, I just wish there were more.

VIDEO: Claudius Specht
WHY I LOVE IT: I love when acts use technology in unusual ways to highlight an act. Claudius Specht does it perfectly without getting in his own way creatively. Less is more.

VIDEO: Benjamin Louche 
WHY I LOVE IT: There are so many reasons that this shouldn’t work, yet somehow it does, perfectly. Interesting visuals are so important these days. This video has them in spades.

VIDEO: Michael Davis Juggling
WHY I LOVE IT: Michael Davis could perform this routine on America’s Got Talent today and win. Good comedy and skill is timeless.

VIDEO: Wally Boag
WHY I LOVE IT: This video is an essay on the importance of charisma.

VIDEO: WC Fields
WHY I LOVE IT: The first place I ever saw Cigar Box Juggling which I now feature in almost every show. WC Field was an incredibly talented comedian, verbally and psychically. His sense of timing was remarkable.

VIDEO: Arthur Trace
WHY I LOVE IT: Arthur is another performer I’m lucky to have spent some time with. His work ethic is first class. This video is interesting because it shows that even a tough rock crowd will eventually lie down and fall in love with a talented performer. This performance is great.

VIDEO: Andy Kaufman Does Elvis 
WHY I LOVE IT: Commitment. That’s all.

VIDEO: Anthony Gatto
WHY I LOVE IT: It blows my mind that somebody could do an act as difficult as this twice per day for years. It’s faultless.

VIDEO: Paul Daniels
WHY I LOVE IT: If you’ve seen my show, you’ll understand that I’m standing on these shoulders in so many ways. This trick is always brilliant, every time I see it.

VIDEO: Penn & Teller
WHY I LOVE IT: This trick is the ‘Rube Goldberg’ of magic tricks. Theatricality at it’s finest, which so little required.

VIDEO: Edgar Wright – How To Do Visual Comedy (by Tony Zhou)
WHY I LOVE IT: If you’re a magician, I promise that watching this video will make you better.


VIDEO: JJ Abrams The Mystery Box
WHY I LOVE IT: My job is about mystery. I’m delighted to find out that one of the greatest cinematic visions of a generation does too.

VIDEO: Todd Various Cups & Balls
WHY I LOVE IT: Todd Various is a stellar performer. His act shows you that there is nothing more important than connecting with your audience.

VIDEO: Farrell Dillon
WHY I LOVE IT: Farrell is my friend, his technical skill blows my mind. I find it even more amazing that he isn’t afraid to showcase it. Be fearless.

VIDEO: Mark Kornhauser
WHY I LOVE IT: Two words: Be original.

VIDEO: Mick Miller
WHY I LOVE IT: Mick was one of the first professional acts I ever met. He was incredibly nice to me and I always remembered his very down to earth way. He was so nice offstage that it almost shocked me when I saw how dynamite he was on stage. In my professional career I’ve always attempted to mimic his down to earth way and to leave only good impressions on stage and off.

VIDEO: Voronin
WHY I LOVE IT: Character is everything. This guy KILLS me.


So there is it! There are probably 1000s more. I’ll do a part two in future if you guys liked it! 🙂

Stay well,
Mark James

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s