"Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it... because you're not really looking... You don't really want to know... You want to be fooled."You know them: they wear tuxedoes, top hats, swishing satin capes, and fine white gloves. They flourish black batons with white tips, and brandish decks of cards, metal rings, rubber balls, paper cups and silk handkerchiefs. Their favorite words are "Abracadabra", "Hocus Pocus", "Presto (change-o)", "Voila", "Now you see it—now you don't" and "Alakazam!" Using their nimble fingers, hidden devices and deliberate misdirection, they can Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat, pull a dove from their sleeve, Saw a Woman in Half, and hypnotize hapless audience members or even make them disappear! Sometimes they're also escape artists, able to get out of handcuffs and straitjackets and still find out what your card was. Some of them solve crimes in their spare time. And maybe, just maybe, some of them can do real magic. Or, conversely, they simply use their stage tricks to fake it. Almost Always Male - at least, the person whose name is on the marquee. However, the assistants (almost Always Female) are also trained professionals. For one of their most common tricks, see What Have We Ear? and Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat. Woe betide anyone who tries to Rummage Fail through their possessions. A skilled one will usually perform tricks that are impossible in real life, which is handwaved by simply saying a magician never reveals his secret. Of course, real illusionists usually don't fit any of the stereotypes listed above, but since the magic community is, by nature, sorta close-knit, this is far from being a Discredited Trope. See the Hocus Tropus index for the many tropes surrounding Stage Magic.
— Cutter, The Prestige
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- August 7 from Darker Than Black was a former professional stage magician before becoming a straight-up reality warping Contractor and MI6 operative. Humorously, and cruelly given his past profession, the price for using his power is to give away the secrets of every magic trick he knows.
- Kaitou Kid from Detective Conan (as well as suspects or victims in various episodes).
- The main character in Kaitou Saint Tail as well as her father.
- Magical Star Magical Emi is about a young elementary school girl named Mai who is a Circus Brat but not a very good magician, who can transform into an Older Alter Ego named Magical Emi who is a cool stage magician with a fanservice-providing version outfit of the standard Stage Magician outfit.
- One of the Characters of the Week of the Pokémon anime was a (rather pathetic) stage magician named Melvin. One of the movies had another, more competent one named Butler.
- Yamada Naoko in Trick.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Arkana was a famous magician in the past, but lost his career after a botched trick ruined his face. His Dark Magician deck also features a lot of cards that resemble standard magician tricks.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V has this as a running theme. Yuya's dad was a professional entertainment duelist with a magician theme. We once see him use a Spell Card to misdirect a man who had captured a woman, and was able to rescue her. Also, his ace is a stage magician stylized to reflect playing cards and linking rings. Dennis Macfield also uses a stage magician as his ace.
- The main character from Jar Of Fools, Ernie Weiss (based on Harry Houdini, whose real name was Ehric Weiss), and his mentor Al Floss (based on the actual magician named Al Floss).
- Mandrake the Magician was the very first comic book superhero - he could do "real" magic as opposed to illusions - making this Older Than Superman (if there is such a category, and if not there should be).
- There were a bloody lot of these back in The Golden Age of Comic Books. The ones that survived complete to today are Mandrake, Zatara (see below), Ibis the Invincible, and Sargon the Sorcerer. A few others get mentions in Public Domain Character comics like Terra Obscura and Project Superpowers.
- DC also had Mysto, a nonmagical crimesolving Stage Magician, very likely based on Mandrake.
- Alchemist or Magician Smurf fills this role in The Smurfs comic book stories.
- One arc in Spawn had the title character encounter and work alongside Houdini, who is revealed to be an actual dimension-travelling mage using his show as a cover. Houdini teaches Spawn a few tricks about what his suit can do.
- Wim Magwit in the Star Wars Expanded Universe comics. He's actually a genius inventor, whose signature trick involves a "magic hoop" that's actually a teleportation device (very short-range, but teleportation mostly doesn't exist at all in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, so it's still impressive).
- Moloch the Mystic from Watchmen.
- Zatanna from The DCU and her deceased father, Zatara. Both are real sorcerers pretending to be stage magicians. Zatanna in particular has considerable skill in standard sleight of hand and escape artistry in addition to her authentic mystical abilities, and she has quite a bit of fame and fortune stemming from her traditional performances in theaters and stadiums around the world.
- In Athena Voltaire, Athena's father was a notable stage magician, and she picked up a wide range of odd skills from him and the other performers he worked with. One which comes in handy is the Escape Artist experience she got from none other than Harry Houdini, a good family friend.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Celine, in Celine and Julie Go Boating, and Julie tries her hand at it, too.
- The main character in The Illusionist, with a powerful touch of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane.
- Most of the main characters in Magicians.
- Nicolas Cage's character from Next.
- Now You See Me stars a team of four stage magicians dubbed The Four Horsemen, who use their acts to rob banks. At least two seem to have an area of expertise, with Merrit being a talented hypnotist/mentalist and Jack being more of a conman in his skillset (primarily sleight-of-hand).
- Both main characters in The Prestige.
- One of main characters in Terror Train, played by David Copperfield.
- The Wizard of Oz himself, see below in Literature. His backstory is developed in the 2013 prequel Oz: The Great and Powerful.
- Willow is a magician who wants to learn actual magic. The fact he knows fake magic is actually very important to the climax as he manages to fool the Big Bad into thinking he did something impossible.
- The main character of Carter Beats the Devil.
- Note: The character of Charles Carter is based on a real life magician of the same name.
- Reg Chronotis from Douglas Adams's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is one of these. But he tries taking one trick too far...
- The Guild of Conjurers in the Discworld novels. They are generally amateurs and are quite popular with the populace of Ankh-Morpork; magic's magic, but the idea that someone's making billiard balls appear without doing magic is something else. Wizards, of course, hate them.
- Harry Dresden's father.
- Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters novel Reserved for the Cat featured a Fire Master (i.e., a mage) who spent his career being a very good stage magician. He did occasionally use 'real magic' in his performances. Also in the series, the book Steadfast had an Air Magician who was also a stage magician and used Air Elementals to help him in his act.
- The mystery of Mr. Todhunter, in the Father Brown story "The Absence of Mr Glass", is explained by his being a stage magician.
- Aziraphale in Good Omens. He certainly could do "real magic" if he wanted, but he much prefers prestidigitation, despite how awful he is at it.
- The Weasley Twins in Harry Potter have shades of this, using their magical ability to develop tricks for pranksters, being grade-A pranksters themselves. In one book, they use this trope as a cover to impress a local village girl, who thinks that their tricks are "almost like real magic". They actually open their own joke shop later on in the series. The Marauders, their inspiration, may have also been like this.
- Funnily, their joke shop also does steady, if not exactly booming, business in selling Muggle stage magic props to wizards.
- The conjuror in G. K. Chesterton's Magic
- Many of the characters in The Night Circus, particularly Prospero and his protege Celia.
- Alistair MacKinnon in The Shadow in the North.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe has Xaverri, an ex-girlfriend of Han Solo who plays a major role in a few novels as a stage illusionist. While one would think that in a universe where holograms have been well-established for thousands of years, such illusions would have a hard time impressing people, Xaverri is so good with her holographic artistry that she can fool capital ship grade sensors, let alone the human eye. This plays a pivotal role in a battle where a rag-tag group of smugglers and pirates defeat a much larger Imperial task force.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz himself, as everyone knows by now, was not a wizard at all, but a stage magician flung by a tornado into a Magical Land, where through clever use of stage magic he was able to convince the denizens he was a powerful wizard.
Live Action TV
- The 1970s ITV kids' show Ace Of Wands featured a stage magician called Tarot who solved mysteries in his spare time. The show had a magic advisor, but most of the tricks depicted in the show were cheats using video effects.
- GOB Bluth on Arrested Development. However he's terrible at it (his solution to making a yacht disappear was to just sink it) and got himself kicked out of the very federation he helped found in order to blacklist magicians whose secrets are revealed.
- Banacek: In "Now You See Me, Now You Don't", Banacek investigates when an amateur stage magician literally disappears during the middle of his vanishing act.
- Columbo has featured magicians twice, as the murderer in "Now You See Him..." and as the victim in "Columbo Goes to the Guillotine."
- CSI and CSI: NY both had episodes with magician suspects. 'Abra Cadaver' on the original and 'Sleight Out Of Hand' with Criss Angel on CSI: NY.
- "The Great Montarro" from Friday the 13th: The Series.
- The patient in the House episode "You Don't Want to Know" is a stage magician. The same actor was the murderer of the week in Monk also as a magician
- On How I Met Your Mother Barney frequently uses magic to try to impress girls, and has vintage magic posters in his apartment. In real life Neil Patrick Harris is president of the Magic Circle, and an accomplished magician.
- Jonathan Creek is The Man Behind the Man to one of these in his day-job, and quite a skilled illusionist himself when he feels like it.
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent had an episode that featured stage magic.
- An episode of Leverage features Nathan masquerading as a stage magician at a corporate event whilst the team pull off a heist.
- The Magician, a TV series staring Bill Bixby as stage illusionist Anthony "Tony" Blake, who used his skills to solve crimes.
- On Pushing Daisies, Ned's half-brothers and their mentor, the Great Hermann.
- Occasionally Sesame Street would feature The Amazing Mumford, for whom Grover was always eager to be the audience volunteer. Sometimes Mumford's tricks would have an educational bent (for example, when he subtracted pineapples), sometimes they were just gags. On one occasion Grover came to watch, but there was no show—Mumford was just practicing. Mumford didn't get the trick right, but Grover did get a hop and a skip for his exit.
- The Supernatural episode "Criss Angel is a Douchebag" features several.
- "Blackstone the Magic Detective", a radio series telling the (fictional) adventures of Harry Blackstone, famous stage magician of the day, solving mysteries.
- Chandu The Magician, a 1930s radio series that also got made into a movie serial.
- In both Mage: The Ascension and Mage: The Awakening, certain magic-users are presented as using stage magic as a cover story. Magic in this setting is made more dangerous by mortals perceiving it, an effect called Disbelief, but it is possible to suspend Disbelief by masking it. (This won't work with the really flashy stuff like lightning bolts.)
- Several characters in Mutants & Masterminds' Freedom City setting sport this as their profession, including yet another example of an "Abra-cadaver". All have real magic in addition to their stage magic.
- Space 1889 in Magical Mystery Tour from Challenge 63 the player characters are supposed to escort and help a stage magician out-magic a warmongering shaman.
- A Dragon article about adding magic to Alternity included sleight of hand as one option, with the note that in high-tech settings like Star*Drive, misdirection and illusion could be really convincing. A sample adventure involves a stage magician on an interstellar cruise ship, who is killed by one of his own illusions.
- The Magician (Nika Magadoff) in The Consul.
- The Wizard in Once Upon a Mattress, who used to perform under the stage name Candamon (but doesn't want anyone to call him that any more).
- Zark, the protagonist in Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana, is this and falls under Magicians Are Wizards, but the backstory establishes that he lost his powers when he lost his sweetheart. The show follows his journey into a Magical Land to regain both.
- The opening scene of Love Life has the central couple being performed upon by a magician, with Sam being levitated and Susan being sawed in two.
- Troupe Gramarye, a troupe of stage magicians play an important part in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. Apollo's boss/sidekick Trucy is the youngest member and successor to the troupe's magic..
- Max Galactica from earlier in the same series is also one.
- Spirit of Justice introduces Bonny de Famme, a rookie magician who is working with Trucy. There's actually two of her; Bonny and her twin sister Betty. In addition, Trucy found an older member of Troupe Gramarye, Mr. Reus, to work with her as well. Once again, there is actually two of him, though it's much darker - Trucy knew the second Mr. Reus, Manov Mistree, while the first, Roger Retinz, manipulated Trucy's show and killed his successor to ruin Trucy's life.
- Carl Clover from BlazBlue dresses like this, and has several moves that involve pulling things out of thin air.
- Sam, the main character in Gray Matter is a Stage Magician in training and she really wants to become full fledged by joining the mysterious Daedalus Club. Her ability also plays a part in solving puzzles.
- One of Kirby's powers in Kirby & the Amazing Mirror. His moves include releasing doves, card-throwing and releasing a jack-in-the-box.
- This is how Magic Man of Mega Man & Bass is designed; he's set in a carnival, he looks like a stage magician crossed with a deck of cards, and he uses attacks that involve throwing cards or releasing birds (naturally, given the series, the protagonists can copy the card throw.)
- The Rank 4 boss in No More Heroes, Harvey Moisewich Volodarskii, is a professional magician who has a Siegfried/Roy accent and dresses like David Copperfield. He fights Travis at his show, and has a One-Hit Kill attack where he has his assistants lock Travis into an exploding box.
- One of the two Original Generation protagonists of Super Heroine Chronicle, Noel Kazamatsuri, calls herself a "magical magician".
- The Magic Show is all about a magic show performed by the main character, who can be male or female.
- Lemmy Koopa in Paper Mario: Color Splash. His magic wand can produce genuine magic, but for the stuff his wand cannot do, he's crafted sleight-of-hand tricks to compensate. As he is an illusionist and Mario fights using a deck of cards in this game, Lemmy is the only major boss able to directly influence and manipulate Mario's cards.
- An arc of The Wotch featured a character who "cheated" by using real magic. He said he was actually helping true stage magicians by reinforcing the myth.
- One Family Guy cutaway had Peter performing magic on stage for the blind, in his usual outfit, but with a top hat and black cape.
Peter: Was it a red card?Blind man: I don't know what red is.Peter: Ta daaa!
- Real life magic shows for the blind have been performed; Peter was actually ahead of his time.
- One episode of Fillmore! involved a missing robot dog that a junior magician made vanish at the school talent show. The Chase Scene got a lot more interesting when the suspect was using magic tricks to escape.
- The villain of Frosty the Snowman.
- Futurama episode "Jurassic Bark" featured Bender practicing stage magic. He attempts to saw Zoidberg in half, but Zoidberg exposes the trick.
Zoidberg: I was all in this half. It's magic!Bender: You're not fit to wear Fry's leotard!
- Ace Cooper from The Magician is one. However, he's also fits Magicians Are Wizards
- Mickey Mouse played one in the Classic Disney Short "Magician Mickey". He gets heckled by Donald Duck and Hilarity Ensues when Mickey starts performing ever more implausible tricks at Don's expense.
- The Great and Powerful Trixie’s profession from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Her Cutie Mark is even a Magic Wand! Granted, genuine magic does exist in this world (and Trixie herself wields it), but few ponies make a magic act out of it. She backs it up with tools such as smoke bombs.
- Presto Digitagione of the Pixar short Presto is one of these, but with (presumably) much more talent at real magic since he's created two portals and hid them in his hats.
- Abra Cadaver, the magical zombie on The Powerpuff Girls.
- Rocky and Bullwinkle: "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!"
- Several real life magicians have appeared on The Simpsons, including Penn & Teller multiple times. Fictional magicians have also appeared, most notably Gunter and Ernst, expies for Seigfreid and Roy (who wound up getting mauled by a tiger on the show before it happened to the real-life duo). Both Bart and Lisa have also pursued magic as a hobby on the show.
- Malchior the Magnificent is this for The Smurfs, from whom Jokey wants to learn how to do stage magic.
- The Amazing Mumbo from Teen Titans. A mad magician with real magical powers.
- Princess Tenko is this, and her animated counterpart in Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic combines this with Magical Girl Warrior.
- Tex Avery's MGM short "Magical Maestro" has Mysto the Magician getting snubbed by opera singer Poochini, and gaining his revenge by casting a series of humiliating spells as the latter performs.
- Bugs Bunny tangles with magician Ala Bahma in the early Chuck Jones short "Case of the Missing Hare".
- The Amazing Johnathan is a subversion of this whole image, he's dirty, he's fat, he's hairy, and all of his tricks usually end up back firing spectacularly. He relies heavily on comedy magic. Sadly he's had to lighten his schedule owing to some cardiac problems.
- The Amazing Randi presents us with an interesting case: starting off as a stage magician, he eventually became a noted debunker of claimed Psychic Powers and other forms of charlatanry...frequently by performing the same feats as a stage magician, and explaining how it's done.
- Criss Angel (Christopher Nicholas Sarantakos). This magician with a rock and roll "bad boy" persona came to prominence at the Turn of the Millennium with his colorful stunts on the A&E show Criss Angel Mindfreak. He launched a Las Vegas show co-produced by Cirque du Soleil (Criss Angel BeLIEve) in 2008.
- Dai Vernon — one of the most legendary magicians to have been overshadowed by Houdini. In addition to inspiring many magicians and developing the most imitated cups and balls routine known to man, Dai Vernon is credited with helping perfect a lot of sleight-of-hand techniques used by today's magicians. He is also known to have been the only man to ever outfox Houdini himself, earning himself the laconic description — "The man who fooled Houdini."
- David Berglas was a british stage magician, escapologist and hypnotist during the 50's 60's 70's and 80's who featured in numerous european television shows and was an inspiration to Derren Brown.
- David Blaine formed his creative persona as a direct inversion of this kind of magic (hence his usual title, "street magician"). Increasingly, however, he has gained popularity for increasingly showy, increasingly public (and publicized) feats of magic, though the stunts are more endurance-based than typical illusions.
- David Copperfield became famous in The '80s with TV specials that included such stunts as making the Statue of Liberty appear to vanish and escaping from Alcatraz. Probably the best-known traditional magician working now.
- Derren Brown uses misdirection to exploit and explore facets of human psychology that make us vulnerable to deception. He often explains how he does his tricks as well to demonstrate that these flaws are natural and not as easy to overcome as we may think even if we consider ourselves Genre Savvy.
- Although much of what he does is classic magic tricks disguised as psychological tricks. One notable and easily proved example is when he convinced several bodybuilders that he could hypnotize them to convince them that they would be unable to lift a small woman that Derren was easily able to lift. In reality, she was simply shifting her center of gravity further back when the bodybuilders tried to lift her, it is much easier to pick someone up when they are standing right next to you as opposed to being further away.
- Dirk Arthur seems to have taken the animal act torch from Siegfried & Roy, but unlike them is very meticulous in making sure that the animals he works with on stage are properly trained (he's a very competent animal trainer and advocate for wildlife conservation). He's produced a documentary for the Discovery Channel in which he discusses the behind the scenes aspect of what it takes to keep the animals healthy, happy, and properly trained. Doesn't show how he does any tricks but he does show that each cat has their own personality.
- And while he doesn't explicitly say it, it's clear he has an emotional attachment to each cat, and while he says he thinks of them as colleagues, it's clear he thinks of them as family as well.
- Doug Henning was a famous stylistic subversion of this kind of performer. Most famously, he rejected the tuxedo, top hat and clean shaven look cliche and opted to have more of a hippie day-glo look along with an earnest enthusiasm which help revitalized the magic show as a popular entertainment in the 1970s.
- Harry Houdini was, within the trade, admired for his preparation and command. A lot of his contemporaries thought he was out of his depth doing basic stage magic (basically everything he did had to be made more awesome than it really was). Normal magicians pulled a dozen threaded needles out of their mouths to a small audience. Houdini would stretch the thread from one stage wing to the other. As one fellow magician said. "How did the audience see the needles? Houdini told them they were there."
- Howard Thurston was a stage magician during Houdini's time who was even more famous than Houdini. A recent biography of him is titled "The Last Greatest Magician in the world"
- Seinfeld star Jason Alexander is also an accomplished magician, among his many talents.
- Jasper Maskelyne claimed to have used stage magic as warfare during World War II. He disguised jeeps as tanks and tanks as trucks. He faked entire armies and navies. He faked an invasion. He could in fact be considered a key man behind Allied victory - As the war dragged on, the Allies realized that they would eventually lose Alexandria and the Suez Canal to German bombers, cutting off their oil supplies. Maskelyne created a fake (night-lit)Alexandria three miles off-target and masked the canal itself with a wheel of spinning light nine miles wide.
- ...That is, if you believe him and not the official record or independent research.
- Jean Robert-Houdin was the originator of the trope, creating the Top Hat and Tails look described above back in the 1850's when it was the height of fashion. Houdini took his stage name from Houdin.
- Lance Burton, a Las Vegas favorite, is another traditional example who specializes in close-up magic (producing doves, cards, etc.).
- He's also done several TV specials in the late '90s and early '00s in which he points out that often it's not so much magic as science (of misdirection) but he's still quite a competent illusionist, and well respected in the field.
- The "Masked Magician," of a series of specials aired on the Fox network from 1997-1998 called Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed. He was seen as a threat by many stage magicians at the time for breaking the long-standing taboo of never revealing how to do a trick. At the end of the fourth special, he revealed himself to be American stage magician Val Valentino, telling the audience that the reason he broke the taboo was that he wanted to reinvigorate children's interest in magic by showing that even the most complex of illusions often had simple tricks to pulling them off as well as allowing the audience to marvel at the magicians' showmanship and the performance as a whole rather than focusing on trying to figure out how the tricks were performed.
- The show had a one-episode revival in 2002 with a different Masked Magician whose identity was not revealed, and then got a proper revival from 2008-2009 which featured Valentino reprising the role with the original costume.
- Melinda Saxe, aka "Melinda First Lady of Magic" — she was in fact the first female magician to headline on the Las Vegas strip — took some flack because she looked like the Lovely Assistant, but still achieved a measure of national fame with her "Drill of Death" routine in the 1990s. She retired to raise a family, but has recently returned to performing.
- Neil Patrick Harris is not only a real magician, but also president of the Academy of Magical Arts, which has as its clubhouse the Magic Castle.
- You also have the Pendragons formerly a husband and wife team who called their work "physical grand illusion". There was an incident where Arthur Pendragon was severely injured during a rehearsal. An arrow that wasn't suppose to actually fire did and pierced him.
- Penn & Teller, who came to prominence in The '80s, are a huge subversion — they cheerfully admit to stage magic being fakery to the point that they don't hesitate to show how some conventional tricks are performed. They also incorporate tons of comedy and social commentary into their shows.
- They often follow up said explanation with an even more elaborate or surprising illusion (which they don't explain) to close off an act and leave audiences wondering. One of their main aims is to make people think critically about events and acts that seem supernatural.
- One of Teller's best-regarded (at least by other magicians) routine is the Red Ball Trick. Penn quite visibly doesn't care for it, announcing at the start "he's got a thread" and storming off stage. The audience then spends the next several minutes trying in vain to spot the thread they've just been told is there; most people conclude the statement is a misdirection and the ball is controlled some other way. The reality (and the reason it's so impressive to other sleight-of-hand artists) is that Teller is just that good.
- Ricky Jay has performed card magic on stage in an acclaimed show titled "Ricky Jay and his 52 assistants"
- Siegfried (Fischbacher) and Roy (Horn) got their start in Las Vegas as a supporting act in showgirl revues in The '70s, but eventually headlined their own shows, the biggest of which ran at the groundbreaking Mirage Hotel and Casino from 1989-2003. They were famous for using huge setpieces and exotic animals in their acts; infamously it was Roy being mauled by one of their white tigers during a performance that ended their stage careers. Their flamboyance made them by far the most frequently parodied modern magicians during their run, subsequently replaced by: