How do you answer that question? I mean, if you're a full-time or semi-professional magician, how do you answer it?
I'm fortunate enough to be involved in a lot of different types of things, but most can be boiled down to "writer" or "consultant" so I'll usually give one of those answers. Sometimes I want to talk about the work I do that's related to magic, but I would never say, "I'm a magician." Do you say that? I have a hard time saying that. It's not that you're all a bunch of losers and I don't want to be associated with you. I mean, you are all a bunch of losers and I don't want to be associated with you, but that's not the reason. To me it sounds so awkward to define yourself as the thing that you pretend to be. It just brings to mind the image of a mentally retarded person with a traffic cone on his head bellowing, "I'M A WIZARD!!!!!"
I think that's why some people were more comfortable calling themselves "Illusionists." It seems more honest. But then, of course, the differentiation between "magic" and "illusion" became a joke itself.
You might think that when you say, "I'm a magician," that it goes without saying that what you mean is that you're an entertainer who performs magic effects, but I don't know if that's true. I've watched too many friends in a bar talking to a woman and when the woman asks, "So what do you do?" and my friend says, "I'm a magician," the woman will turn to her friend and grab her shoulder and say, "Ooohh he's a magician," as if it's the most hilarious thing in the world. It's always met with a comment like, "Are you going to make me disappear, Mr. Magician?" It's never met with a question like, "Ah, interesting, close-up or stage? What's the busy season for a magician?" It's always treated as a goof. Other occupations don't get this. If you say, "I'm a pilot," people don't say, "Ooohhh... you're a pilot. Zoom, zoom, up in the air! Are you like, Wilbur Wright, or something? Are you going to crash me into a mountain so I have to eat my soccer team, Mr. Pilot?" No. They just say, "Oh, interesting. Airline or commercial?"
One tip I might offer is taken from the world of wrestling. If someone asks "What do you do." Don't say, "Magician." Say, "I'm a professional magician." If you say you're a wrestler, people are a little confused. They wonder if you were in the olympics or something. If you say, "I'm a professional wrestler," then it's clear that you put on the leotard and jump around; that you're faking it. I think if you say, "I'm a professional magician," you are inherently saying, "I do this fake thing for entertainment purposes," which I think people have an easier time accepting. I'm not 100% sure if that will be better, but I think it would be. I'd be interested in your thoughts on what you call yourself -- if you've put any particular thought into it.
Magic plays a big part in the work I do, but I'm not a professional performer so I can get away without mentioning it up front. My business cards are so general that they look like something a hitman would use in some old noir film.
I tend to bring up magic with people the same way I would... oh... say, a fetish for having women shit on a glass coffee table while I lay underneath. I'm all like, "So... are you into anything weird? Oh... come on... you must have done some strange stuff in your life. Not even in college? Huh... Me? Oh, no, I'm not into anything weird. Nope. Well... sometimes... and this is only when I've been drinking.... no, never mind. You know, it's so fucked up the way society will judge people for what they're interested in. Am I right? I mean, what people do behind closed doors is nobody's business. Okay... I have a confession to make... when I was a kid I did something a little bit, hmmm, a little bit 'silly,' I guess you'd say, and I bought The Amateur Magician's Handbook...."