A Brief History of Magazines for the Amateur Magician

This is brief, not because I'm being lazy. It's brief in the same way an article with the title, "A History of Joshua Jay's Heterosexual Sex-Conquests," would be brief. By necessity. (Yes, Josh is married, and yes his wife is a knockout. But let's be honest, no one has said, "Actually, I think I'm just in a cuddling mood tonight. Cuddle-Monster time!" more than our boy, JJ.)

In researching magazines geared towards the amateur magician, the first thing I came across was this magazine with outstanding cover art, but a dubious title. 

No, I kid. Of course, magic is fun. I mean... not the way you do it. It's a big chore the way you do it. But it can be fun.

Magic Is Fun was published by D. Robbins & Company. It was an "Independent Magazine for the Amateur Magician" that came out in 1946 and 1947. There were 7 issues all together. You can get a complete digital file on Lybrary.com

What made Magic Is Fun different from other magic journals is that it was released to the general public on newsstands. 100,000 copies of the first issue were printed! Holy Christ! I mean, I don't know how many were sold, but that's a pretty insane number regardless.

And because it was sold to the public, magicians of the time, predictably, threw a shit-fit because their precious secrets were being discussed. This, ultimately, led to the publisher removing the magazine from the shelves and it died soon after. Here is the publisher talking about the demise of the magazine in the final issue:

Magical organizations wrote us letters protesting the sale of a Magic magazine on newsstands, claiming it would ruin the professional magicians, that we were unethical in selling it at newsstands. Some of the old, established magazines even refused to accept our ads of magical effects. We could have paid no attention to the protests, but on second thought, decided that perhaps it would be better to retain the good will of magical societies and publishers, so earlier this year 1947, we discontinued the newsstand sales of Magic is Fun. By printing only a small quantity of magazines, we found that subscriptions did not cover our costs. There was only one thing left to do . . . stop publishing.

In all honesty, that may have been an excuse as to why the mag folded. I haven't read the magazine itself, but looking at the contents of it, it looks to be a real snooze. 

The next reference I found to a magazine for amateur magicians was in this book Harry Harrison, Harry Harrison by, unsurprisingly, Harry Harrison.

In writing about a guy named Alfie Bester he wrote:

While I can find more info about Alfie Bester, I can't find any other reference to this magazine for amateur magicians. Perhaps he "wrote the whole thing himself" and then "read the whole thing himself" and never actually published it. I don't know. I'd be curious if anyone has any other information on it. 

Now, the truth is, of course, that all magic magazines are for amateur magicians to a certain extent. It's not like Copperfield is flipping through the Linking Ring to find stuff to add to his show that weekend. 

When I say my new digital magazine, the JAMM, is geared towards the amateur magician, I specifically mean the amateur who connects with the style of performance I champion on this site, in JV1, and in TAATKT. Yes, it goes without saying that eventually my ideas will just be the standard for amateur magic, and everyone will walk around feeling like goofballs for the time they spent harping about patter and routining effects together and all that junk. But until that bright future comes, I'll continue to proffer these ideas here and in the new Jerx Amateur Magic Monthly.

That's not to say it will be of value only to amateurs. While its primary focus is casual performances, even professionals perform casually. And there will be ideas and effects that can be used in many settings. The first issue has something that could easily be transposed to the stage. A future issue has a friend's table-hopping routine. But yes, the POV will be the that of the amateur magician. And that's a lifestyle for me. This is a lifestyle magazine. Like Oprah's.

The premiere issue comes out this Saturday and new issues will come the first Saturday of every month. This is a Saturday type of magazine. Not a Sunday thing. This is going to be fun. Not filled with whatever sedative Sundays naturally possess. 

The layout and design of the JAMM will start pretty simple, but will grow as I become more proficient with the design software. Not that many of you give a shit as long as the content is good. I'm content with a relatively simple style starting out. And if anyone complains I'll say they've got it good. For much of my youth, the most popular magazine in magic looked like this shit-show:

And every month they would just swap out one cruddy black and white promo picture for another. The designer apparently asking, "What's a Pantone color that's good for a suicide note?"

The interior looked like it was composed on this:

As I mentioned when the JAMM was first announced, its design is inspired by an old exploitation rag called Secrets.

They had "color" printing on the inside as well. But just one color. Red.

Here was the first test at mimicking that style (before we got the color right) with a shot from The GLOMM membership kit photoshoot.

The entire JAMM isn't in that style, because A) it would be annoying to read, B) it would be wildy time intensive, and C) the pdf file would be huge. It's just the cover and one of the feature articles that are like that. Why did I choose that style? I don't know. I like it. Plus I like the double entendre of a magic magazine aping the style of a magazine called Secrets. See? I'm pretty clever.

This site can only exist via people supporting it through subscribing to The JAMM.  So, if you like this site, and you're not destitute, I hope you'll consider subscribing so we can keep this going for a while. My goal is to get to 100,000 subscribers to match Magic is Fun's publication numbers. As of now, I'm falling short of that goal by nearly 100,000 (if we round). 

And yes, I realize I could shutter the website, just release an 8-page ebook with one effect once a month, type it up in Word with no thought into presentation, and charge more for it than I am for this. I'd probably make more money or, at the very least, save 95% of the time I put into this site. Don't look to me for business savvy. This site isn't about creating a business, it's about creating a symbiotic good thing with all of you.


Here is the cover for the JAMM #1, hitting your email this Saturday. With Jessica, our lovely JAMM model for February on the cover. (Is there a good name for this? Like you have Playboy Bunnies. And Penthouse Pets. What would make a good JAMM model name? I thought of JAMM Mistresses (after Jam Master Jay) but that's a stretch. Perhaps JAMM Bunnies is good, to keep the magic connection. I don't know. If you have a good idea, send it to me. There will be a reward for you. (JAMM Tart, suggested by Jon Shaw, is frustratingly almost perfect. I'm trying to convince myself it wouldn't be seen as derogatory, but I don't know if I can manage it.)) She's doing everyone's favorite overused "Shush, I'm a magician who sucks at palming" pose. I considered having every JAMM cover model do that, to beat the joke into the ground. But it's just going to be this once. And don't get excited by the headline above the title, that's always going to be taken straight from an actual Secrets magazine cover.