Edinburgh Fringe 2022
VENUE 23 - Pleasance Dome - Jack Dome
Aug 3-15, 17-29, 20:20 / Tickets
July 15, 2022
Legendary magician Joz Norris has perfected the hardest magic trick of all time - making an entire audience think and blink in unison. He's got everything under control this time. Nothing can possibly go wrong.
Hi Joz, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current, how does it feel to be heading to Edinburgh Fringe and Pleasance Dome this year?
It feels exciting! I’ve never performed at the Pleasance before, as all my previous shows have been in Pay What You Want venues, which I think taught me really healthy, authentic, creativity-driven values for making Fringe work. This year, though, my show needs to convincingly pass, at least initially, as a slick showbiz magic show in order for any of the subsequent ridiculousness to have the impact it’s supposed to, so I had to approach venues with more capability to accommodate complicated tech and staging and so on. Pleasance have been so welcoming and accommodating, it’s been really lovely taking all my nonsense and figuring out how to make it pass muster on a better-lit and better-smelling stage.
Does being known as a legendary magician add any extra pressure on you?
Oh, it’s a blessing and a curse. “Will you cure my bad knee?” they shout as I try to get past the crowds that mass outside my flat every day. “Will you make my dad disappear?” “Chop my frog in two then put it back together!” The usual stuff. “Can’t a guy catch a break?” I weep. “I’m just trying to go and buy a Dr. Pepper here!” Then I let off some quick wizz-booms to create a distraction so I can sneak past them and get some peace and quiet (wizz-booms are what I call farts).
Having had a Fringe sell out run in 2019 do nerves still set in ahead of a festival run?
They do, yeah. Maybe even more so? Especially with a move into a paid venue from a Pay What You Want model. I have terrifying visions of those same sell-out crowds from 2019 turning up en masse to my show and then going “Oh, we have to pay IN ADVANCE now, do we? Thinks a lot of himself now, does he?? We preferred when he was free.” But I suppose the reaction to that show completely took me by surprise, so I’m well aware that the Fringe has a habit of surprising you no matter what you expect from it, so it’s best to just put all those nerves to one side, invest in putting on the best show you can every day, and say “What will be will be.”
Blink also co-stars Edinburgh Comedy Award Nominee Ben Target, what has this type of collaboration been like for you?
Could do a comedy answer, but no, I won’t – Ben is one of the best collaborators in comedy. He has an incredible habit of listening to what it is you want to do, and repeating it back to you in very simple words, but isolating something very simple that was at the heart of what you said that you perhaps hadn’t quite noticed yet. I love working with him. He’s one part of a whole team I assembled around the show this year, along with Miranda Holms, Alex Hardy, Robert Wells and Grace Gibson, and every one of them helped me find things I didn’t know were there, and elevate what I was doing. If I can possibly avoid it, I’ll try never to work alone again. If you work with other people, it makes your work better.
What has been the best comment you’ve gotten from one of your shows?
I hope this doesn’t come across as a namedrop now she’s doing so amazingly on Ms Marvel, but Bisha K. Ali said something to me after my show in 2016 that genuinely stuck with me ever since, and I often think of it. That show was a bit of a confused tangle of stuff, but it was a genuine, sincere attempt to express how I felt through nonsense. She came up to me afterwards and said “Thank you so much for expressing that feeling, because I feel it too and we need more people to keep trying to communicate how that feels.” It meant the absolute world to me. Sometimes you just need one person to understand what you meant.
"And if you want to get into comedy, try to internalise the lesson that the times when it’s going wrong and you’re feeling like you’re failing are the times that are going to teach you the most."
If you could use one word that best describe your show what would it be and why?
I would love it if that word was “Memorable?” Me and my team have really put everything into this show this year. We’ve tried hard to make it as unusual and strange and imaginative as my old shows, but hopefully to also make it a little bit more audience-friendly, so it’s better at welcoming audiences in and giving them the tools they need to be able to understand and enjoy it. But I really hope that, even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, we’ve done enough unusual stuff with it to make those same people go “Well it was different, I’ll give it that.”
Any show/performer you’re looking forward to seeing at the Fringe?
So many, but I guess I’m particularly excited about seeing Mat Ewins, because I think I’ve not seen him since before the pandemic, and he was always an easy highlight of every Fringe. It’ll be lovely to see his nonsense again.
Can you tell me how Blink came about, what was the inspiration behind your new show?
I read a book by film editor Walter Murch that suggested that we blink every time we have a new thought, so if a group of people blinked in unison it would mean they were thinking in unison. Then, on the recommendation of my friend Elise Bramich, I read a book by magician Darwin Ortiz about the psychology of magic, and realised a lot of the technicalities of how magic functions could also be applied to comedy. And those two ideas sort of combined, really, and it’s become the story of this egomaniac magician who thinks he can control the thoughts of his audience by controlling their blinking.
Have you always had a passion for magic / comedy and what are the biggest challenges you face combining the two genres?
I always loved magic in the abstract – The Prestige is one of my favourite films – and then I worked as a children’s magician for four years, so I know enough magic to impress a room full of toddlers, but not much that would pass muster in front of adults. So I have a keen understanding of the theory of magic, but not much practical mastery of it, which struck me as a funny place from which to explore it in a comedic way. The funny thing about magic is that combining it with comedy isn’t much of a challenge, because they are almost identical forms. Both are the art of creating a reaction from your audience dictated largely by where you directed their attention and what pieces of information you chose to give to them and which you chose to conceal, and when. Comedy is a form of magic.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone wanting to get into comedy or magic?
If you want to get into magic, you can’t be doing it because you want to find out how illusions are achieved, because the reaction to discovering those secrets tends to be “Oh, right, that’s boring.” Magical methods are fairly technical and dull. The psychology you employ to convince the audience of them are fascinating. You should be more interested in the psychology than the mechanics. And if you want to get into comedy, try to internalise the lesson that the times when it’s going wrong and you’re feeling like you’re failing are the times that are going to teach you the most. If you can start to find the joy in things not working out like you planned, then you’ll be a good comic.
And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from Blink?
I mostly want them all to have a great time. People who watch the show might be surprised to hear this, but the show is genuinely another sincere attempt to communicate in the abstract how I’ve felt over the last two years. A handful of people have understood that and come up to me afterwards and said “That was really powerful, thank you for making it.” Most people come up and say “What a stupid show.” If the vast majority of people see that surface level and are happy with it and have a great night out, I’m delighted with it. If a handful of them understand what it was I was trying to express, then that would be a dream come true.