Anti-Conjuror Dan Sperry of The Illusionists Causes Pure Mayhem
Apr 13, 2017 04:00PM ● Published by Nicole Gould
“…it was good in the end because it introduced me to a wider demographic of people that ended up liking what I do. One time I was doing a tour of my own show and this guy came for his 70th birthday and his wife said all he wanted was to come see me, which probably never would have happened if I didn’t do AGT.” -Dan Sperry
Sperry, with his unique style, gives the audience a suspenseful, sitting at the edge of their seat, jaw dropping performance. It’s pure mayhem!
Don’t miss the astounding performances by the world’s best-selling magic show, The Illusionists, on Thursday, April 20th, 7:30 p.m. at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center. Tickets range from $52–72.
When did you start to develop an interest for magic and how did you eventually decide you wanted to turn illusion into a full-time career?My grandparents took me to see David Copperfield when I was about four or five. At the time, I didn’t really know that magic could be theatrical, I’d only seen birthday party magicians. The show scared me because he had this escape called the death saw, which is an illusion combo thing where he has to get out of being locked to a table before a big saw blade drops down and the theatricality is that it goes wrong and he doesn’t get out and you see the saw blade cut him in half.
I thought he died. I didn’t know who he was or what to expect because I was only a kid. It really scared me and freaked me out. That was my first real exposure that I can recall. From there I just got further into it.
I would read books and make tricks out of cardboard boxes and it sort of snowballed from there. I never really just one day decided that this was what I wanted to do, it just kind of happened. It’s something I kind of knew would happen and I had a comfortable confidence in it.
Can you elaborate a little on the term “Anti-Conjuror”? Where did this title develop from? Can you tell me a little about your performance and how it’s unique from other Illusionists?I got the idea for it after seeing an ad for the Hard Rock Café when I was in middle school. It was a play on anti-establishment. It was supposed to represent when the café was established. It had the words anti-established spray painted on the ad and I thought it looked cool the way it was spelt out.
It kind stuck in my head. As I got older, in my late teens, early 20’s, I would open for bands and DJ’s at goth clubs, rock bars, clubs in that genre, and I didn’t want them to introduce me as a magician because it would be a turn off. It’s not easy being the opening band, let alone the opening magician before the opening band. They would have hated me. It just kind of popped in my head, so it could describe me and my style.
I’ve always really been into sort of weird things. I can’t really think of a better way to describe it. I’ve always been in to super natural stuff and used to watch shows like The X-Files as a kid, go ghost hunting, and other stuff. I watched a lot of Disney and how they could take a good guy character and turn him into the bad guy or so on.
I felt all that was kind of cool and then when I got even older, watching Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, they just made the bad guys super likable and interesting, that way they can present situations bright and cheery, but make the super uncomfortable and dark moments entertaining. I’m not an actor, so those kinds of things I wanted to try to use magic and make it more of a mutual experience with the audience to try and expand on other experiences. The ride verse the trick.
In 2010, you made a very memorable appearance on Americas Got Talent, freaking out Howie Mandel. What was that experience like and do you believe it have any negative or positive effects on your career?It had a negative effect on my sleep schedule. They made you do stuff all the time. You were up super early and super late. They wouldn’t let you leave the set, and sort of put you on lock down. At the time, you couldn’t be on your phone because they didn’t want you leaking any information and they wanted to protect the possibility of spoilers.
Then it was good in the end because it introduced me to a wider demographic of people that ended up liking what I do. It got me introduced to all sorts of people. One time I was doing a tour of my own show and this guy came for his 70th birthday and his wife said all he wanted was to come see me, which probably never would have happened if I didn’t do AGT.
What drew you into being a part of The Illusionists team? What is your favorite part about performing for the show?I was in an ensemble magic show for three and a half years in Vegas and I worked with a couple of the guys in The Illusionists. I kind of knew what to expect. Once we all got together, we sat down and wrote out the show of what we could do. I really like to travel around, especially to little hole in the wall towns. I enjoy seeing real local people. I think it’s really interesting.
Let’s talk about the man behind the makeup. How did the inspiration for that develop?Pretty much someone I’ve always been. I used to steal my mom, grandma, and sister’s clothes and cut them to try and remake my own clothes out of duct tape and glue. When I was first starting out, I used to have to be a clown, it was a weird time. I was young, early to mid-teenager years doing some shows and nobody would necessary hire me, it took a lot of faith to hire a 13-year-old kid and pay him $50 to perform for 45-minutes at a kid’s birthday party. So, I would have to fill in for this guy who was a clown and I hated it.
I didn’t have a good clown outfit, so I just did some decent magic tricks. That’s kind of where it all started. I was really into horror movies and I liked Wizzo from The Bozo Show, Nosferatu, stuff like that. Inspirational things I liked that kind of helped get in my head.