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August, 2014 Issue

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John Cassidy

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I never dreamed from looking at Cassidy's promo that I would enjoy a show so much, but when he performed for the buyers at the AEP conference in Wilmington, DE in June, I was astounded how great this guy really was.

This show was not only funny, it was captivating, intriguing and more. Best of all it is entirely clean and a show you could buy for any audience. But you don't have to take my word for it, Disney bought the show on the spot at the AEP Conference. John and Jen could not tell me that because of legal obligations with the Disney contract, but I got word directly from Troy Pederson, the buyer for all Disney operations.

Strangely enough John thought the show went okay but he felt he had done shows that were far better. Honestly, I am not sure how much better a show could be to top that one.

First off, one of the guys from the audience he picked out to come up on stage was the videographer for the conference from Mobius Media and a mixed martial arts master. John told me, "I didn't know until after the show that he probably could have done me in if he wanted to, but he was perfect and the audience loved his participation."

John Cassidy for Campus Activities Magazine from John Cassidy on Vimeo.

John Cassidy is not just a balloon man but a magician and comedian who embellished his show with balloons the same way Jeff Dunham uses his suitcase of wooden friends. Obviously balloons are an integral part of Cassidy's show but his off-the-cuff humor, audience interaction, and relationship with the volunteers he brings on stage, really make the show a winner.

Interestingly enough, John has only been involved with the campus market for about three years and while he does other venues, campuses comprise about 60% of all the shows he does now.

"Campuses are the greatest market in the world. I love doing those shows. Students are so fresh, interactive, and supportive. They are not jaded. Many times my show is a relief from intense studies, maybe even exams, and it is a time when they can sit back and have fun. They don't have to think about anything but the moment and it works for me and for them. Honestly, if I could afford to, I would do the shows for free. They are that good an audience.

While Sophie K Entertainment books the shows, John's wife Jen along with their young daughter, travel with John and Jen handles the business end of things while he is on the road.

"You know what," John relates, " I have had a million jobs and got fired from every one of them. This is the only thing that has ever stuck and I love every minute of it. I got a magic kit when I was six years old and started doing that. Then when I was nine, I got a bag of balloons and added that to the mix and started doing that. I supported myself through college doing this stuff.

"My father always told me to find something you enjoyed doing and to that for a career. I don't think this is what he had in mind."

It was after 0911 that things changed for John.

"I had been doing sleight of hand magic and all of a sudden the place where I had been performing ceased to exist, so I decided I had to do something different to survive. There are a million magicians out there who are satisfied with doing everyone else's material. But the more they do that the more they are like everyone else. Nothing makes them different."

Of course the balloons, as simple as they might seem, help make this an outstanding show.

"My show is set up by my wife and myself and it is really a simple load in. The only time we ever had any trouble was when one school had a rope bridge we had to use to get to the venue."

While the campus market is John's favorite place to perform, he does do fairs, festivals, corporate work and cruise lineshows. Obviously now he can add theme parks to that list of credentials.

"You know entertainment has changed so much in the last 10 years or so. Because of DVRs and Netflix, a lot of what the world sees happens at different times. Pretty much only sports still happen in the minute. But that is the benefit of live entertainment and what makes it so special. It is happening right then in front of you and everyone in the audience has a chance to experience it together and it will never ever happen again and that is what makes it so exciting."

I often like to throw artists a curve and try to get them to discuss the trials and tribulations of being on the road. So, I asked John what was the worst show he had ever done.

"I got hired to do this retirement home and there were maybe twelve people at a table and 250 people in the room.

They are all sitting around in the cafeteria slurping up broth. So I proceed to go to the first table and I said, 'My name is John Cassidy and I am here to make you laugh.'

"Eleven of those people never even looked up from their bowls but one old guy said to me, 'We've already laughed.' The point I am making here is if you invite an entertainer to play this kind of place, make sure they are having a good time. Invite their families to join them for the performance and they will be much more excited about being part of the show. And perhaps it would have been better not to plan the show while they were eating.

"The most important part of doing comedy is 'listening.' It is my job to listen to the audience. That is the only way I can make them happy. And it almost always works. You get a reading on the temperature of the room- are they tired?; are they excited?"

Often times when campuses fail to promote a show or they book an act against another major attraction, the artist ends up having to perform for a small crowd.

"I have seen this happen and you know what, many times the artist seems to be mad at the audience. If I end up having eight people in the room, I am going to do the best show I can and I want those students to leave that room feeling their time was not wasted and they were entertained."

Tell me about hecklers. Have you ever been heckled at a show?

Matter of fact, I had the 7 year-old kid heckle me last night. He threw rocks at me and just how do you handle that? I could not verbally respond to him because he probably only knows twelve words. In actuality he wanted to help me in the show so the best thing that came into his mind was 'I'll just throw rocks at him.' I looked at him and said, 'Are you throwing rocks at me.' And he immediately responded 'No, I am throwing stones.'

"Let me answer that in a different way, a heckler can be a wonderful thing for a show though. Most hecklers respond to certain aspects of the show that are easy to control because most times the heckle and the response can fit into the timing. But if you have someone screaming and even a little out of control, it can throw the timing of the entire show off. But if it is a wellplaced heckle, I love that because it is generally easy to come back at and work it into the show."

What makes John's show incredibly interesting is the work that goes into developing the format for the show.

A lot of magicians have a "cut and paste" format and many of them do exactly the same stuff as the guy the campus had last year.

"Unfortunately, it is too easy for magicians to buy tricks from a magic store or online. I spend a lot of time developing things I feel are unique and I test them until I feel they are worthy of being seen by my audiences. Obviously some will take longer than others to perfect and I have one or two that should be ready soon. When I go to a campus, I want the students to see something different and I will never ever give them the same exact show."

I have to admit that I went into John's showcase not expecting anything different than what I had seen the night before and I was pleasantly surprised not only by his display of tricks, but how he held the audience in the palm of his hand. It was a show that most people didn't want to end.

We here at Campus Activities Magazine really hope you will consider John if you really want something exciting and completely different. You won't be disappointed.

To book him, contact Kate at Sophie K Entertainment at (212) 268-9583 or on the web at sophiek.com

To see a video showcase of John Cassidy, please view this story online at campusactivitiesmagazine.com