By Chelsea Nichole
Days after interviewing Kostya Kimlat in Orlando I met with another Orlando-native magician, Ryan Schlutz. I had met Ryan a few years ago at the Daytona Magic Convention and I remember finding him both hilarious and somewhat intimidating. It wasn’t because he acted in an intimidating manner but because he was so quick witted. Since then I have become better friends with him and every time I get to hang out with him I always have a great time. This interview was no exception. I found myself laughing often while talking with him. He has a big personality and such great energy and is a lot of fun to be around!
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Florida though by the age of ten I had moved ten times. Some kids are army brats; I was a Wal-Mart brat, my dad worked for Wal-Mart so we moved around a lot at first. However in fourth grade we settled for good in Orlando and I have continued to live here since then.
How old where you when you first started getting into magic?
I learned my first magic trick when I was in third grade. My mom showed me my first magic trick for a show and tell in class. I would do a trick that involved pulling a shoe string through my neck. At that age I was actually very shy; I was so shy in fact I would sometimes hold my breath until I passed out. I started coming out of my shell in tenth grade which was when I started performing more often for people at school. Before sophomore year i wasn’t regularly performing magic or even showing many people. Most schools have cliques but I didn’t tend to fit any specific one, I was just that guy that did magic and could really hang out with any clique. Everyone wants to see magic regardless of if you’re a “jock” or a “nerd”.
We have talked before about college, especially since we went to rival schools (Ryan attended UF and I attended FSU), did magic play a part in your college years?
Yes, I had heard of this group called the Rights Union Board which would hire entertainers to come to our school. I had already shown up to events performing magic completely unsolicited therefore they knew I did magic so I asked to join the board in order to help book entertainers. It was cockiness that got me in to that board.
Was it cockiness or do you think it may be more of confidence due to ignorance?
That is a much better description; it was definitely ignorance that lead to my fearlessness. When I would book a show people would ask if I was nervous and I would always say no because I wouldn’t let myself think about it. I wouldn’t get nervous until right before the show when I was backstage waiting for the curtains to go up. Just recently I booked a show overseas and it didn’t really hit me that I am in another country about to perform magic until right before the show started. I remember standing back stage hearing the announcer say, “And our next performer is Ryan Schlutz.” And in that moment the panic sets in and I think, “Oh crap, what have I done? Why am I onstage right now?!” and for one second I have a small heart attack and forget everything I am about to do. And then I think, “Well I’m here so I guess let’s do this thing!”
I took a theater class and my teacher said that when you feel that anxiety before a performance it is actually a good thing and will fuel your energy for your performance, is that true for you? Do you think that moment of panic helps push you to be a better performer?
Definitely. It seems like in that moment of panic it makes everything slow down, it makes me quicker, and it sharpens my humor. It is almost as if I am in this trance like state and then when the shows ends I feel like I don’t even know what just happened. But it does give me a great energy which I think is very important and contagious for your audience.
How old were you when you got your first paid performance?
My first paid performance happened though the group I had mentioned earlier, the Rights Union Board … I hired myself! I’m just kidding, I convinced them to hire me. I performed for a student event that took place every Friday. It was essentially the alternative to going out partying and it would start at eight pm and go until two in the morning. They brought in all these amazing performers, at one point they had John Mayer. Everything would take place at the union, which during the day was an area many people would come to study, and then in the evening they had essentially one big party. At midnight they would serve a free breakfast buffet; it was a big event.
This happened every Friday? That’s insane!
I know! And I would help plan out these nights, but mostly I would show up and perform. And that’s really where I developed my walk around chops and gained a lot of experience. I would perform for everyone; students, teachers, sometimes cops. Which was great because I knew all the campus police and sometimes that comes in handy. There were a few times that really saved me.
Oh yeah, I would love to hear a story of a time you had a run in with a cop!
I mean it was nothing ever big. It was usually something like trespassing. It was never anything too bad, I think I was breaking into sorority row at one point. Basically being a stupid guy and a police officer finds me and then recognizes me and says, “Hey! You’re that magic guy!” “Yup! That’s me!” the police officer then says, “you’re awesome! Eh, … I never saw you.” And then lets me go! I’m thinking to myself, “Yes! The one time being a magician is awesome!”
That’s great! So what did you end up studying in college?
I studied finance. I do not work full time as a magician but work at Lockheed Martin doing corporate finance. I’m very lucky to have a flexible schedule that allows for me to get to continue to do magic and perform while also working full time at Lockheed Martin. I like the work that I am doing though during those ten hours at work I am not thinking creatively or about magic so by the time I get home I am ready to sit down and create magic. It motivates me and gets me excited about going home and creating something new or perfecting an idea.
How old were you when you started creating your own magic?
I don’t think I started creating my own magic until after college. During college I mainly performed other people’s magic. After I college I worked off and on at a restaurant for Kostya, do you know Kostya?
Funny you should ask, I met him for the first time a few days ago and interviewed him!
Nice! Well Kostya is someone who I look up to and someone who was an informal mentor to me. When I got out of college we spent a lot more time together. Kostya would give me any of his gigs that he couldn’t take which was great because I was working full time and didn’t have time to find extra work myself. I would often work at a restaurant down in New Smyrna called The Garlic and for anyone reading this I highly recommend it, the food is incredible. It is one of the coolest restaurants in the world. I learned really quickly that I had to make some changes for doing walk around magic in a restaurant as opposed to when I used to do walk around magic at UF. Those Friday nights at UF I could carry a case with me from group to group while at a restaurant you really couldn’t do that. I had heard the term “pocket management” before but it had never made any sense until I started working in a restaurant. I didn’t want to keep walking back to my case or somewhere else to reset and so those constraints lead me to start creating my own magic. Working at a restaurant really sparked my creativity and taught me a lot. You had to be very quick and to the point when you are performing for people at a restaurant. I ended up writing a book that covers all of the magic I was performing at restaurants.
What’s the title of the book?
It’s called, Making the Cut. It could serve as one of the sources magicians can use for restaurant magic. I think one of the hardest things about restaurant magic is how to approach the table. I had a couple different approaches and I never approached as a magician. I never approached as a magician because I would get shut down too fast so I used to approach as a palm reader. I would walk up to a table and say, “Hi, I am the house palm reader, can I read your fortune?” it was great because no one really has a bias towards palm readers since most people do not actively get their palm read so usually they would stick out their hand awkwardly in confusion and out of curiosity. I would take their hand and say a couple lines as if I was reading their palm and then say that they were dying. Then I would bring out my “cheat sheet” for reading palms and tell them I was actually reading the wrong hand. I would stumble through a reading and then admit that I wasn’t actually a palm reader but a magician; most people are so amused they are interested in what else I might show them. It is a great way to engage people and get the audience interested in whatever else you have in store for them.
It sounds hilarious! You rope your audience in and entertain them right away. I know I would want to see your card tricks after a bad palm reading.
That is the whole idea. You find a way to entertain your audience. Have you seen the guy on America’s Got Talent called Tape Face?
I have not.
It’s this guy who wears tape on his mouth and does nonsense but it is amazing! (It’s true, click the link!) He wears tape on his mouth and does sketch comedy and never says a word and it works. If he were to explain what he was planning to do you would think, “no way, that would never work”, but then you see it and it is genius. So I saw that and when I think of my opener and how I engage my audience I would say that I am “tape facing” them. At the time I didn’t know what it was called but he gave me a term.
I like it and I think we need to make this an actual term!
Yes, to use it in a sentence you would say, “You tape faced them.” I agree, we should start using it in every day conversation. Which ties back in to what I was saying before; palm reading was how I sucked them in and then I would go into a card trick. In the end the palm reading gets brought back in at the end as my closer; I use it to make a prediction so when I end my set it comes full circle and I reference what I did at the beginning with the palm reading act. I never got turned down with that opener, other than one lady, because people are so curious as to what I am about to do.
What happened with the one lady that did turn you down?
That’s actually a really funny story, I went up to a lady with the opener that I am the house palm reader and she stopped me right there and said, “Oh no, I do not like palm readers.” So I responded with, “Well it’s your lucky day, I am actually a magician.” And she says, “That’s even worse.” Needless to say I walked away from her quickly, you can’t win them all.
What was the first magic trick you created? Describe the illusion.
My first real routine I came up with is called Sense-sational. In this routine the basic effect is that three cards are selected and throughout the routine they are revealed. The cards are revealed by using your senses: sight, touch and hearing. It was the first routine I came up with and it fooled magicians which really is the best feeling. It’s like beating your dad at tennis, “Suck it pops!” (If you are reading this and haven’t listened to the podcast, I would highly recommend listening to it. As I transcribe it I am consistently laughing out loud at all the comments Ryan is making!)
For me it would be beating my dad at chess … which I still haven’t done.
Exactly, it’s whatever sport you finally best your dad at! When I fool magicians I’m just thinking, “Yes, I gotcha!” I mean I shouldn’t care but it really is a rewarding feeling. When you fool lay people that is all well and good however they do not live and breathe magic so it is a very different experience. And Sensational really cemented my love for a type of magic called self-working magic as well as opened up opportunities to travel overseas and work with Big Blind Media in the UK on other projects.
I noticed your collection of magic books you have and I was wondering what your thoughts are on the rise of YouTube magic as opposed to reading magic books?
There are obviously pros and cons and I do tend to read more books on magic however I have also watched many YouTube videos and purchased instant downloads. I think the main problem with watching magic tricks online or on a DVD is that you start replicating the trick the way it was performed rather than developing your own character or style. When I learn a trick through a book I am forced to create my own style of performance for it.
Do you have a magician that really inspires you?
I think the right answer is that they all inspire me, because to limit yourself to one magician is just silly. Everyone brings something different to the table. But if I had to be more specific, I am drawn to the magic that is more chaotic. There are specific magicians whose style I would personally want to emulate like Joe Barry, Dani Da Ortiz and Lennart Green.
I am actually trying to get an interview with Joe Barry at the Trics Convention next weekend, so fingers crossed. (Spoiler alert: I got it everyone!)
That’s all the time we have Ryan, thanks for the interview. Can I leave some links for people to find your work?
That would be great! Thanks!
Click here to buy two DVDs, called Cuts of Schlutz and
Click here to buy the book, Making the Cut and when you buy the book you get a copy of Sense-sational as well.
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