Magicians are like palm trees.
They’re pretty much everywhere you turn in Las Vegas, but we tend to import them, not grow our own.
Then there’s Jason Andrews, the Las Vegas Academy graduate who’s one of more than a dozen magicians based in the valley who’ll be appearing in the upcoming sixth season of “Masters of Illusion” (8 p.m. Friday, The CW).
“Kind of the perfect place to grow up and be a magician, isn’t it?” Andrews says of Las Vegas, which the Merrillville, Indiana, native has called home since a few days before his third birthday.
The gift of a magic trick from his brother one Christmas sparked Andrews’ curiosity. Seeing David Copperfield for his 11th birthday set the hook. But it was attending Lance Burton’s show when he turned 12 that sealed the deal.
“I thought, ‘Man. He has the doves and the tuxedo, and he’s funny, and he has the big props and the beautiful theater. That’s what I wanna do.’ I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I just knew that I was interested in it.”
From backstage to center stage
Andrews, 32, figures he saw Burton perform 15 times at the Monte Carlo as part of his magic education. He was more interested in the technical aspects of performing, though, and tended to work backstage. That was the track he had pursued at LVA.
“I think probably by my junior or senior year, I think I finally got enough motivation to where I was, like, ‘I need to learn stuff that I’m going to use to be a magician.’ So that’s when I began taking dance and actual theater and performance classes.”
After six years on the technical side, he was working as a stagehand and general technician for Coast Casinos while performing magic on the side. Then he booked a week at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles but couldn’t get the time off from work. “So, three days’ notice, I quit my job and turned pro.”
Two years later in 2012, he signed on for the final three months of “Crazy Horse Paris” at the MGM Grand. It was his first and last regular job on the Strip. Charity gigs and “Mondays Dark” are his primary local performances.
From there it was off to Trump Towers Istanbul for six weeks. “They are super skeptical,” Andrews says of Turkish audiences. “They don’t believe anything. They don’t clap at anything. I’m not funny. They are a tough and honest crowd.”
Like many of the magicians who call Las Vegas home, Andrews focuses on the cruise ship market, with a few international detours — Qingdao, China; an amusement park in Nagasaki, Japan — along the way.
‘Kind of a mad rush’
Without the power of a show on the Strip, and the resulting advertising, it can be difficult for a magician to make a name for himself. That’s where the power of television comes in.
Andrews compares the attention from a TV appearance to the old Blue Light Specials at Kmart.
“When that blue light goes off, everyone runs over to it. And I feel like that’s what TV is. … My website gets hundreds of thousands of hits, and my videos peak in views. It’s kind of a mad rush.”
Even though he didn’t make it past the audition round for “America’s Got Talent” in 2010, that brief appearance has been beneficial.
“Using that credit, it definitely opens people’s eyes,” he says. “It makes them turn their head and say, ‘You were on that show? Holy crap!’ I’ve definitely booked some work off of it.”
He’s appeared on “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” as well. (He did not fool them.)
With appearances such as those, the benefit is threefold: There’s the initial exposure, the line on a resume and the YouTube clips that linger.
This season marks Andrews’ second appearance on “Masters of Illusion.” He’s also appeared in the touring version of the show. The fact that there’s no competition — and, accordingly, no losers — can’t hurt its appeal for participants.
“I think everyone benefits from ‘Masters of Illusion,’ ” Andrews says. “I think magic is hot right now, so I think audiences want to see magic. The magicians benefit from the airtime. It’s kind of a really nice package where everyone kind of walks away feeling good about themselves and feeling good about what they’ve done.”
Jason Andrews is just one of several Las Vegas-based magicians who will be appearing on the new season of The CW’s “Masters of Illusion.” He’ll be joined by:
Douglas “Lefty” Leferovich
Jarrett & Raja