Comedians / Magicians / Series: Prized Possesion

Jay Jay: Seeing is Believing

Don’t call Jay Jay a magician – he’d rather be known as an illusionist. (He considers the latter designation the “more classy” of the two.) Whatever you dub him, it doesn’t make what Jay Jay accomplishes any less clever – employing suggestion and misdirection, artifice and guile he convinces you to believe, however briefly, in an impossible thing.

Though this young illusionist has more than one trick, they’re seldom up his sleeve. His wardrobe leans toward jeans and t-shirts instead of tuxedos and top hats. He uses few props and has made an iphone app part of his act. But there’s one thing Jay Jay seldom leaves home without – a pack of cards.

After hours of handling them, he knows how to make a deck flow like water between his palms. “I had no girlfriend for five years,” he says, “It was either her or the cards and I had to wonder ‘who’s going to last longer?’ It was the cards.” The deck has rewarded his devotion and he often uses a card trick as an ice breaker, warming up the crowd with something they’re familiar with before he heads out into deeper waters.

Jay Jay believes that the uncanny qualities of cards aren’t wholly appreciated – he points out that there are 52 cards in a deck to match the 52 weeks in a year. The four suites correspond to the four seasons. “There are 13 cards in a set, and you might not know this, but there are 13 lunar cycles in a moon year,” he says. Yet another little oddity: “if you add up all the dots and the spots on the cards, you’ll end up with 365 – the number of days in a year.” He adds, “There’s a lot of relevance there to life that people don’t necessarily know.”

Though his routine might look effortless, Jay Jay emphasizes any success he’s had is the result of plenty of hard work. Speaking of mastering the cards, he says “Honestly, what you’ve got to do is spend hours and hours every day, dropping the cards, playing with the cards.” It’s probably been this way for years, ever since he got his first pack of magician’s cards when he was 15. “It was a very big moment for me.” Growing up in Australia, Jay Jay says there weren’t too many magic shops around. However, discovering David Copperfield at age five inspired him. Later, when he received a box of magic tricks as a present, he got serious about becoming an entertainer.

To his mind, this means more than being clever at sleights of hand. “At the end of the day, the tricks don’t matter too much.” He says anyone can learn to pull one off – he himself learned many of his tricks from a DVD – but much harder to master is the performance itself. Jay Jay sees himself as an all-round entertainer. He dabbles in comedy and likes to be a compere at events. “People are always asking me, ‘Are you going to be the next David Copperfield?’ I actually see myself more as a personality and as a fun guy,” he says.

Over the years he’s become “very, very good at reading people.” He remembers weeks in which he met 500 new people. “I got to really understand what people were like and how they thought…essentially you had to become good at being likable.”

He’s banking heavily on having succeeded in achieving that. Still only 23 years old, Jay Jay is hungry to make his mark on the world. It’s why he left Australia and came to Sri Lanka to work his magic. “I wasn’t getting the recognition I felt like I wanted,” he confesses bluntly, “I wanted a break.” Sri Lanka, where magicians are fewer, seemed a more rewarding market to break into. Determined to “push it hard,” Jay Jay made the move recently. “I believe there are chapters in your life and I wanted to start a new chapter.”

Today, if you presented him with a pack of cards and asked him to pick a favourite, his choice would be a revealing one. The Ace of Spades is the highest card in the deck, but the illusionist also considers it to be the craftiest. “Everyone recognizes it instantly,” he says, explaining that he’d be happy to have the same thing be true of him.

Jay Jay online:

Published in the Sunday Times, Sri Lanka on April 8, 2012 as part of our Prized Possesion series. Words by Smriti Daniel. Pix by M.A Pushpakumara

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