Professional magician and retired children’s minister David Garrard is famous for his ability to combine slight-of-hand, humor and faith in his performances.
“What I have always tried to do is to use my magic to communicate and motivate and to inspire,” said Garrard, who served 42 years at St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, before his retirement in 2018.
Garrard is up to his tricks again with a new YouTube video titled “At Home,” featuring world-class magicians performing tricks and promoting the message of safe practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a trick using blank license plates, Garrard makes the words “STAY HOME” appear on one of them.
“It’s one of the easiest ways that you and I can work together to make the COVID-19 virus completely disappear,” he tells viewers.
Garrard has also been posting a magic trick a day on his YouTube channel to give his viewers something to see during social isolation.
“I know you’re stuck at home, but I want you to know we’re all in this together,” says Burton, who lives and performs in Las Vegas. “We’re all in the same boat. I haven’t left my house in weeks.”
Garrard spoke with Baptist News Global about the challenges of performing magic in front of a camera at home instead of onstage before in-person audiences. His comments are included here, edited for clarity and brevity.
When and where was your last in-person gig?
Friday the 13th (of March). It was a great one at the Winter Carnival of Magic, which is one of the larger magic conventions in the nation. I performed on Friday night – that was my last show – and on Saturday night I lectured.
Are you getting paid gigs online?
I haven’t seen anything like that. Everything is just canceled. I had a kid’s camp finale scheduled for the last week in June and the guy called me and said they are going to do it virtually and they want me to do the family night virtually.
Why now on the PSA-style magic video?
The magic community has been trying to use social media much more and I put stuff out there all the time. I put up an Easter video. When all the venues shut down, folks started thinking, how can we entertain people if we can’t go to them? What I decided to do is combine my magic with encouraging people to stay home and wash their hands. Having fun and fooling people is a goal, but at the same time I am trying to get them to think.
Does performing magic for a virtual audience feel different?
It’s not the same as in-person. We’ve said for years watching magic on television is not as good as watching it in person. Mine was a public service idea combined with ‘let’s do this for fun.’ It’s definitely not as good as being in front of a live audience but it’s better than nothing. It’s helping a little bit. And I’m learning magic in the process.
Do you see a renewed interest in magic after all of this is over?
It’s possible. I was trading emails with a friend last week. He’s another one of the big names, a creative genius. He said he was working on another book. Lull times like this give you the opportunity to move projects like that to the front burner. I have a trick sitting here right now. I have it painted and refurbished and I’m working on a book about my dad – just knocking stuff out left and right. My guess is you will see a lot of creative stuff come out of this lull time.
Do you have to change the way you think of magic to perform it online?
The challenge is to make it believable. If I wanted to do a trick for you right now, I can’t say “here, choose a card.” So, I have to think about it differently. I would say mental magic carries the day a little bit more in times when you’re working over the video links. And it’s hard to do comedy because nobody reacts. It’s the same in worship. My pastor is preaching his sermons in an empty room in front of a camera, without the dynamic of being gathered together.
Yet you are plugging away at it. Is that for your own sanity?
(Baptist humorist) Grady Nutt had a saying that laughter is the hand of God on the shoulder of a troubled world. If I can make people smile or laugh for 30 minutes, then that’s a service.