Sean Carbone is a man who plies many trades: magic, comedy, and mentalism. Before a show of the Translucent Ham Sandwich Band at Steamers in Fullerton, Sean discussed the benefit of performing in such areas, as well as what happens when he has a real job.
You are a man of many talents.
There’s another way to look at it. My grandfather, when I was a boy, told me two things. He told me I would grow up to be a jack-of-no-trades. And he was kind of right. I can do everything kind of OK, but nothing really well. The second thing he told me was that when he died, he wanted to be buried with his butt sticking out of the ground, so that when we went to visit his grave, we’d have some place to park the bike. When I was like eight years old, he told me that thing about the jack-of-no-trades. And he was right.
When people find out you are entertainer in various fields, what’s the bumper sticker version of what you tell them you do?
I go with entertainer. I’ve never had a title. As a magician, there are plenty of magicians better than I am. I don’t have the patience or the dexterity or any of that. I do like entertaining. I can’t just do straight magic. I don’t get into that whole theatrical stuff. I like getting a reaction of people, whether it’s amazement or laughter. I haven’t decided whether to do magic or comedy, so it just kind of melded into one. I get into mentalism too because I can carry less stuff around. I can carry a pen, and a notepad.
Now I just remembered your question. That’s a long bumper sticker.
What drew you to all the things you do?
I never wanted to have a real job. I like making people laugh. I’m still amazed by a lot of the magic stuff.
I can’t say I blame you for not wanting a real job.
I have had a couple real jobs. I worked in a screw factory. I didn’t know what I was doing at all. I’d get these contractors calling me at six in the morning asking me about the latest magnesium screws. I did that for two days before I got fired. I worked at a plumbing supply. I went through college with a music degree. Then I got involved in all of this.
When did you realize you had a skill for all of this?
I haven’t yet realized it. I always feel like one of these days that someone’s going to realize I don’t have any ability at all. Everyone’s still in the dark, which is great. As long as people keep buying it I’m OK. I talk to other magicians about what I’m doing and they’re like, “Really? That’s what you’re doing? You’re stretching that out for fifteen minutes?” I was talking to one of the other magicians and he said he’s doing sixty tricks tonight. Sixty. I’m doing two. (laughs) He brings a trunk. I brink a pen, a sheet of paper and a deck of cards. Amateur magicians do sixty tricks mediocre. Professional magicians do six tricks well. I do two tricks mediocre. We’ll see how it goes tonight.
What level does that put you at?
I’m kind of like when I buy tires. I go and say “Show me your cheapest tire. I’ll go one up from that.” That’s where I am, the one right above the cheapest.
It’s important that you find a place.
I’m comfortable there too.
What more can you ask?
Maybe a little more money. (laughs)
Which is more difficult, magic or comedy?
For me, magic. A lot of people will write. I love writing material down, but I never bring it with me on stage. If I do, I end up reading it and I can’t get into the crowd. I have a bunch of ideas. You’ve seen a couple different shows. They’ve all been slightly different. Maybe some of the same bits, but they’re told differently, or in a different spot. I have a barrel of material, and I just sort of wing it. A lot of people are uncomfortable doing it, and sometimes I don’t think I am. But a script doesn’t work for me. The comedy comes more naturally to me than the magic. I do two tricks and you’ve probably seen both of them, but they’re good. When they work. Hopefully tonight is that night. They don’t always work. When a magic trick doesn’t work, it becomes a joke. When you’re working with a crowd and you don’t have all the stuff ready, sometimes something happens, and that’s funny. That little event that happens is kept and put in the next show. I started out with forty seconds. I’m doing fifteen minutes tonight.
That’s good, to extemporize fifteen minutes.
I’m really disorganized, that’s another reason I don’t write it all down. I have a deck of cards. I don’t use trick cards or any of that stuff. I had trick coins once and I put them in a stamp machine. I had these great trick quarters and I put them in a stamp machine. “Oh my God! My six-dollar book of stamps just cost me thirty-five dollars because I put a trick coin in there.” I don’t use any trick decks.
I only have one more question. Where did I leave my keys?
You know what my wife would say to that? I say that all the time. “Where did I leave my keys.” She’ll say, “I don’t know. Have you checked your backside?”
The real last question is what are some of the odd sort of questions you get when you do your mentalist tricks?
I can’t think of any odd questions. I’ve gotten more odd answers. I did a show a few months ago. You never know what kind of crowd you’re gonna get. Sometimes they’re angry. I went on after this band. As I was walking down the hallway, they said, “The crowd is awful!” just as my foot hit the stage. I got up on the stage. I was going to do a mind-reading trick immediately. I said “Pick any number between one and ten." She said yellow. Her friends are trying to explain. “She’s Russian.” When people think you can read their mind, they get scared. But I keep doing it. I like it. It’s better than working at a screw factory.