Monday, July 20, 2020

“Magic for Humans” Is Real, and Really Funny (Trailer)

The rise of the internet was intended to be a pipeline of facts available at everyone’s fingertips, but it’s proving just as useful if not more so at spreading unwarranted skepticism. With minimal searching, anyone can find someone who believes in anything. Or, more accurately, find people who don’t believe in something.

On Reddit, I came across plenty Rusers claiming the first season of Magic for Humans used CGI, green screens, camera tricks and actors to pull off his stunts instead of incorporating the same type of magic that has been practiced for centuries.

Willman came to his own defense online, even coming close to explaining the tricks to prove there was no camera trickery, but that’s the great paradox of being a magician. You can’t prove you’re legit without spilling the beans on age-old secrets or tricks you worked hard to create.

One of the illusions from the first season that really set doubters off involved Willman pulling his wife out of a bag before a group of onlookers. Many figured it was done using green screen, with users freezing frames to try and expose amateur scammery.

Magic for Humans, which is produced by Tim & Eric and the same production company that made Nathan for You and The Eric Andre Show, takes the idea of real vs. fake head on in the Season 2 episode “Fake” every episode of Magic for Humans is anchored by a theme with Willman pretending to be a hack and asking a group of onlookers to fake amazement at his tricks while promising the magic will be added in post-production (the entire scene is right below). It’s a prime example of what makes Magic for Humans special; it’s as much a comedy show as it is a street magic show, and in this instance, a meta comedy show.

As he runs the onlookers through scripted lines in a direct wink to the doubters he engaged with online, he climbs on the back of a man kneeling on all fours and dressed in a full green screen outfit (think It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Green Man) to pretend that he’s levitating, and then he pulls a green screen slowly up over his body to pretend it’s disappearing in stages (again, in supposed post-production). Once the screen is above his head, it quickly drops, revealing only the man in the full green bodysuit on all fours on the ground. Willman has disappeared. The man pulls the hood off, and it’s Willman. The onlookers no longer have to pretend to be amazed.

It’s such a spectacular stunt I have to take Willman’s word for it that there are no cuts that it’s sure to be this season’s version of the wife-in-the-bag trick for doubters. William explained it involved no camera tricks, no editing, and no CGI, just a lot of hard work and rehearsing to get it right.

But healthy or not, those spending all their time trying to “solve” Willman’s tricks are missing a lot of what makes Magic for Humans such an enjoyable watch. Willman’s brand of magic, which is peppered with humor and inviting rather than exclusionary and hoisting the magician up to the clouds like a god, is designed to bring people together. Season 2 is an improvement over the first season because it’s a more personal look at Willman, grounding him as just another one of us humans rather than a warlock to be burned at the stake. Willman became a father between seasons, and an episode is focused on him trying to be a good dad while also trying to continue his magic. And the season’s last bit involves an emotional trick for his mother, who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

100 percent it is real, he promised. They do shoot the show on the streets of Los Angeles, so a lot of people have a headshot. No one is hired or paid to act amazed or do or say a certain thing, everyone is just pulled off the street. Everyone’s real, and nothing is accomplished with fancy CGI or anything of that. Obviously ethically, but mostly because they can’t afford it.

Magic for Humans on Netflix.

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