I had never listened to Scott Wells' Magic Word Podcast until recently. "A podcast for magicians, about magicians," does not sound appealing to me. In fact it sounds like it's intended to be some kind of punishment. You realize a lot of these people got into magic because they couldn't string together a sentence that their fellow middle schoolers found compelling, yes? We're interviewing these people now?
No, I'm sure the podcasts are fine and I give Scott a ton of credit for putting out over 270 of them. That's insane. I just hadn't ever gotten into them. I'm already behind on the podcasts I do listen to, so the Magic Word Podcast never cracked my Zune, baby. Until recently, that is, when the whole Gregory Wilson kerfuffle started. (And I'm man enough to call a kerfuffle a kerfuffle. Don't think I won't.)
Scott Wells has said on the Genii message board that he wants this podcast to play out like the podcast Serial did. And that would be a pretty apt comparison if Serial had not been about a tragic murder and had instead been about someone shoving food into their purse at a buffet. Like, that's how low-stakes the issues being talked about in regards to Gregory Wilson are.
It all started a few weeks ago when Greg was being interviewed on episode 268 of the podcast and he decided it would be a good time to come to his own defense because, apparently, many people think he steals material. Or, at the very least, that he appropriates ideas and then claims to have been working on them for years. I didn't know this was a reputation that Greg had. I had heard of a couple issues in the past, but I think even the most honest magician will have a couple of issues either due to independent invention or just because we don't always remember where every bit of inspiration comes from.
So Greg, feeling he had unfairly been given the reputation of being a thief, decided to clear the air in a fairly aggressive way. He called out a number of people for saying he stole tricks or failed to credit. The people did so "with no evidence," he claimed. And I'm sure at the time it felt great to call these people out, but all he ended up doing was shining a light on a controversy that wasn't really known to the vast majority of magicians. In future podcasts, Greg's "accusers" are all brought on to give their side of the story, and for the most part they don't even really want to go after him all that much (other than John Lovick, who does so gleefully). In general, his accusers seemed to be over the alleged transgression or at the very least weren't making much of a big deal about it. So the sad thing for Greg is, when he runs the license plate for the bus he got thrown under, he's going to find it's registered in his own name.
The podcasts -- and so far there are five episodes devoted to the subject: 268 - Greg Wilson, 270 - Apollo Robbins, 272 - Cosmo Solano, 273 - Alex Rangel and Bret Geris, 274 - John Lovick and Seth Kramer -- aren't particularly fascinating in an insider-magic way. The accusations just aren't that interesting. But as a psychological study of a person, I find it pretty intriguing.
I don't have a dog in this fight. I'm friendly with John Lovick and he's been supportive of my work for over 10 years. He's one of the few "comedy" magicians who I feel has genuine comic chops and he seems comfortable in his own skin (although god only knows why, if you've seen the guy). I don't know any of the other people on the "anti-Greg Wilson" side, but they all sound totally reasonable and seem completely convinced of their position.
And I like Greg too. I don't know the guy at all but I've enjoyed much of his material and his online lectures. The picture that is painted by listening to these podcasts is not that Greg is untalented, and maybe not even that he's a thief, really. But that his talent is in finding good effects and props and building on the work of others (Lovick makes a compelling point that most all of his releases are other people's effects). And perhaps that's not how he wants to think of himself. Maybe he want to see himself more as an originator. So when he sees an effect he likes, part of his brain is like, "I think I had that same idea a long time ago," and then he just goes forth as if that's reality when maybe it's not. I don't know. I do have a feeling his defense is going to be, "All these people are liars!" which isn't a great defense unless there's some rationale for why this group of people has aligned against you.
My favorite story to come from the podcasts is when Greg threatened to beat up John Lovick and Luke Jermay. Going so far as to invite them to his "dojo" for a fight. First off, if someone invites you to their dojo to fight, absolutely take them up on it. I was a bouncer at a notoriously rowdy bar in my early 20s. There is nobody who it is easier to kick the shit out of than someone who has trained in martial arts. Their training and their sparring follows a code of conduct that is so far removed from actual real-life fighting that I've found them much easier to knock on their ass than the average guy. Here's a video of how shitty your attacks would have to be to have them defended by martial arts.
But regardless of that, you're going to beat up John Lovick? This guy?
What pride can you take in that? "I just knocked the crap out of John Lovick." Well, great, now you and a stiff breeze have something in common. I've been kissed harder than John Lovick can punch. I can't imagine what kind of praise you would expect from beating up John. Here's what would happen. You'd beat him up and then be like, "Did you see what I just did there?" And the other person would be like, "What do you mean? I saw you knock over a pool cue someone had draped a suit on, but other than that, no. I certainly didn't see anything worth bragging about."