Comics wizard Justin Willman has spent the pandemic doing magic for nearly a million people from around the world.
So many people watched his Zoom shows – Magic for Humans at Home, a takeoff of his 2018 Netflix series Magic for Humans.
Now, many of those people who only know Willman from his television appearances on celebrity chef Rachel Ray’s talk show and hosting “Cupcake Wars” on the Food Network and “Baking Impossible” on Netflix are seeing him live now.
“A lot of people who come to my shows have now discovered me by seeing me on TV … and on Zoom, but they’ve never seen me live,” said 41-year-old Willman, who writes Magic for Humans. brings Fox Tucson Theater on Saturday, May 21st. “The great thing about The Art of Magic and the show I’ve put together is that it’s even more amazing in person. When you are there you are in the audience and this show is happening in real time and you are a part of it. … It’s a lot easier to get carried away by the magic and the experience once you’re there.”
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The Zoom version of “Magic for Humans” came about, he said, out of a need to “let out the kink in my creative hose.” It also helped him cope with the loss of his mother, who died early from the pandemic.
“I think I took for granted how important[performance]is to me as a person and to my emotional and human well-being, to have an outlet,” Willman said.
His Saturday show is his first show in Tucson in a decade and will be the first time he has performed outside of the Gaslight Theater, where he has been a regular since 2002.
At that time he wore the stage name “Justin Kredible”.
“I used to visit my grandparents in SaddleBrooke and do shows at the Gaslight,” he said. “And that started this relationship, which kind of ticked a personal and professional box. It was a great time with my grandparents where they could see me perform and I was going to be spending time in Tucson anyway. And also to be able to build this incredible venue and an audience and fanbase. The Gaslight was something special.”
Willman was in the middle of telling a story about the magical friends he met in Tucson, including Eric Buss from Tucson, when we got a Facebook Messenger notification. Ironically, it was Buss.
“Wow, that’s so weird,” Willman said, remembering how he and Buss had known each other since competing in the same magic pageant in 1996. Buss won the adult award and Willman won the teen category.
Willman, the father of a 4-year-old son named Jackson, said he hopes people in Tucson remember him.
“For me, there was no other city like this,” he said. “Tucson has always been something of a home away from home.”
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at [email protected]. On Twitter @Starburch