He has developed a recognizable “Bannon” trademark of creative, easy-to-do, deceptive card magic. I have known John since the late ’80s, and I think we’ve discussed most of his tricks. (Even the ones that were not very good — but I’m under oath not to talk about those). His friends know him as a thinking man’s card magician who prefers subtlety over sleight, and discrepancy over dexterity. John thinks about the “whole trick.” He and I have discussed at length not only effects and methods, but construction, context, presentation, and impact.
So how does a high-powered, fulltime Chicago attorney have time for all this? I asked John about the balance of work, family, and hobby. When does he find time to create and think about magic?
“Actually, having a career and family makes it easier in a way, because it takes away the urgency. I work at my own speed and only publish when I have something really good. The alternative of having to ‘create’ for financial reasons, or under pressure, would not work for me at all. I keep a notebook of projects of interest, but sometimes I am more productive than others. It goes without saying, I like thinking about and working on card tricks.”
John’s pragmatic outlook is one of the reasons that he seldom gives lectures or appears at conventions. He says that, given his other obligations, it’s often difficult to commit very far in advance. I’ve booked him twice for magic convention appearances where he was the only performer who didn’t sign a contract. What else would you expect from a lawyer?Intrigued by his recent output, I asked John about his creative process.
“I don’t really have a ‘creative process.’ I come at different tricks in different ways. Sometimes a plot will catch my interest and I will start from scratch, or a good idea buried in a weak execution will give me a head start. Most of the time, the effort involves cross-pollinating from one set of magical concepts to a different set and developing the ‘intersection.’ In a nutshell, the skill is having as many nodes in your magic neural network as you can, encouraging interaction between them on conscious and unconscious levels, and developing the judgment to dismiss or exploit the various connections. Many times, I’ll come up with a trick that works well but is simply a linear series of moves. That’s just not interesting enough for me. There needs to be some kind of twist for me to be truly happy.”
BANNON AT THE
BY RAJ MADHOK
How many lawyers does it take to conceive, write, and publish a book of great card magic? One — if his name is John Bannon.
No joke. Even if you just do casual card magic, you’re probably familiar with his work and likely do one or more of his tricks.
John is known for his popular books Impossibilia , Smoke and Mirrors , and Dear Mr. Fantasy . After being out of the spotlight for a number of years, he recently teamed up with the UK’s Big Blind Media to produce two internationally bestselling DVDs, Bullets After Dark and Bullet Party. He has a range of “fractal” packet tricks and self-published a number of smaller, but nevertheless acclaimed paperback books. Rumor has it that a book of mentalism is waiting in the wings as well.
John would be the first to affirm his status as an “amateur” in its original sense, from the Latin amator or “lover.” He doesn’t believe that only professional magicians have something meaningful to say. To the contrary, he believes the amateur has an important and challenging role in the continued evolution of magic, especially in the wake of the current explosion of Internet-driven information.
“There is always room for a few more good card tricks; like any discipline, magic needs innovation and experimentation to evolve and improve. I’m just a tinkerer who has been lucky enough to strike some chords that resonate.”
Fortunately, his writing style captures some of what it’s like to session with John. He may not be aware of it, but his depth, enthusiasm, and talent are all there, as well as some of his idiosyncrasies. It tends to ring true. And the voice even sounds a little familiar.
For those who haven’t had the opportunity to spend some time with him, his books and video will let you get inside his head until you get that chance in person. But, as you’ll see, John doesn’t take himself too seriously. He says “Let’s play. If you’re not having fun, what’s the point?” I can’t disagree. Now back to the session.
Raj Madhok is a Minneapolis magician whose day job as a dermatologist keeps getting in the way.
from MAGIC Magazine, February 2012
The Very Best Of John Bannon (in French, 1988)
The Magic Of John Bannon (in Japanese, 1991)
Smoke & Mirrors (1992)
Dear Mr. Fantasy (2005)
Open And Notorious (2009)
Six. Impossible. Things. (2009)
Mega 'Wave (2010)
Bullet Party (2011)
Dear Mister Fantasy (in Spanish, 2013)
Dear Mister Fantasy (in Japanese, 2013)
High Caliber (2013)
Destination Zero (2015)
Return Of The Magnificent Seven (1989)
Call Of The Wild (1993)
Twisted Sisters (1993)
Detour De Force (1994)
Strangers Gallery (1994)
Spin Doctor (2008)
The Royal Scam (2008)
Twisted Sisters 2.0 (2011)
ESP By The Numbers (2017)
Paint It Blank (2018)
Impossibilia (video 1990)
Smoke & Mirrors (video 1993)
Live From London (PAL 1999)
Impossibilia (DVD 2004)
Smoke & Mirrors (DVD 2004)
Bullets After Dark (DVD 2009)
Bullet Party (DVD 2011)
Fractalicious (DVD 2014)
Move Zero vol. 1 (DVD 2016)
Move Zero vol. 2 (DVD 2016)
Move Zero vol. 3 (DVD 2017)
Move Zero vol. 4 (DVD 2017)
Dealing With It, Season 1 (2017)
Dealing With It, Season Two (2018)
Dealing With It, Season Three (2019)
Fire When Ready (2019)
Cosmic Debris (1987)
Avant Carde (1990)
Secret Weapons (1990)
Value Added Tricks (1994)
Cardzilla Is Coming (1998)
Light Fantastic (in Spanish, 2006)