Today is the birthday of Ricky Jay (b. 1948). I don’t know if he’s the coolest man alive (it’s tempting to call him that but he’s got competition) but I think I can say without qualification that he has the perfect life. In fact, he’s done so many amazing things that his Wikipedia entry downplays (scarcely mentions) the accomplishment I (and I’m certain many of my friends and colleagues) revere him most for, his 1986 book Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women. Note the timing of that book. Before it, a handful of ex-hippie “new vaudeville” performers. After it, an explosion of sideshow, circus, vaudeville and related variety forms. I’m just sayin’
Jay is not only a world class magician, mind reader and card thrower (and a scholar/ author/ lecturer thereof) he is also a movie and television star (Deadwood, Boogie Nights, Tomorrow Never Dies, etc) and a pal of David Mamet, who directed three of his one-man shows and has put him in several of his movies.
This clip gives a nice insight into two facets of this latter-day Renaissance man, as he gives a history lesson even as he performs virtuoso feats of misdirection:
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.