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Mark Shortland Interview - "The Best Kept Secret In Magic"

Updated: Jul 16, 2023




Mark needs no introduction to readers of this site. A popular artist who has achieved TV fame and won many awards, appearing on Penn & Teller: Fool Us and Britain's Got Talent.

I have had the pleasure to watch Mark perform on Zoom on a couple of occasions and attend his excellent lecture. A brilliant performer who is most entertaining and is a comedy magician.

Also known for working on cruises, lecturing magicians and of course for creating his "Amazebox" effect.

Mark has previously worked as a graphic designer and still produces artworks, creating his own playing cards. After working in outdoor pursuits, Mark pursued a career as a comedy magician and his awards include various IBM titles and Magic Circle awards.

A member of the inner magic circle, he is an accomplished performer within theatre, close up/cabaret, Zoom and his Christian performances. Also, regularly performing at the Magic Castle in the US.

Magic Seats - Thanks for joining us today Mark for a chat.

I am aware that you have had previous careers in art/design and even an outdoor instructor. Faced with a career change (UK F&M outbreak), why did you decide to turn professional as a magician and focus on comedy magic?

Mark Shortland - I was already performing small shows at the outdoor centre so it was the thing I knew. F&M just gave me the push I needed. I was either going to be an out of work canoe instructor, or out of work magician; the second one sounded more appealing. The comedy side came as I have never really been able to do anything seriously. I have always tried to have fun whatever job I have done. For me I am just enjoying what I do, I would not say I am a hard hitting comedy act. I don’t advertise myself as a comedy act, that way if I am funny it’s a bonus rather than an expectation.

Magic Seats - I have always enjoyed your performances. Your first Penn & Teller: Fool Us performance with Jonathan Ross was particularly humorous.

How did you get booked onto Penn & Teller in the UK and US and what advice would you give to others who want to get onto and do well on TV?

Mark Shortland - I got an audition for the UK show and it all happened from there. The US version, they contacted me as I had been on the UK show and asked if I had anything else which might be good for the show. With regard to getting on TV, I am not the right person to ask for advice. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I have no idea how to recreate that, improve chances of being on TV again.

Magic Seats - I expect that one thing that helps is the fact that your performances are always so energetic. How do you prepare and hype yourself up prior to shows/sets/lectures? Any tricks of the trade that you can share.

Mark Shortland - I always have a piece of music played into the theatre before the show. This hopefully energises the audience as well as myself. I will always jump around just before I go on stage and do some quick breathing so I don’t feel so lethargic when I appear in front of the audience.

Magic Seats - That's interesting about the music recommendation, I know of several magicians who also swear by the right music to help their performances.

What top learning materials would you recommend to beginners/novices wishing to learn magic? Any particular books, DVDs or websites.

Mark Shortland - There is so much material out there it is very difficult to pin it down. It very much depends on what sort of thing you like. The advantage with learning now is that most effects are taught with a visual media, rather than reading. I never liked learning from a book as the description didn’t explain the effect properly and after spending hours trying to decipher what the author was trying to get across, I would find I didn’t like the trick.

I have always learnt by seeing something, finding out more about it and then trying to come up with my own way of doing/presenting it.

Try to be original from the beginning rather than copying a performer.

Magic Seats - I agree that originality is key and yes, audio visual learning through videos is very effective.

Of course, you have also created your own effects/props. What is the story behind “Amazebox”. How did you come up with the idea for this prop/effect and the design itself?

Mark Shortland - The Box came from a need to force a movie.

There was an effect I wanted to do, but didn’t like the way it was done. I wanted the audience to be able to write down what they wanted, and have a volunteer choose one of those thoughts, with me going nowhere near them at any point.

There was nothing that did that so I worked out a way of doing it, and after showing it to Andi Gladwin and Josh Jay I teamed up with Vanishing Inc. to create what you know today.

Magic Seats - It is certainly a popular product with many uses.

I love magic collectables/effects and props. Can you share any details about any prized magical collectables that you own?

Mark Shortland - I have two things on prominent display in my office.

The first is a framed deck of cards I designed and created called ’53 Magicians’ It shows 53 magicians who are instantly recognisable from their costume or their signature effect. I have the original deck framed with the individual cards signed by the person appearing on it. Obviously I don’t have them all signed as amongst others Houdini, Doug Henning and Tommy Cooper are included. But of the 36 that can be signed I have 9 left to be signed.

The second item is framed next to my ’53 Magicians’ deck. It’s a Cloak of Invisibility, signed by the God of Comedy Magic, Mac King. I don’t need to say much more about it, other that it is my favourite magic thing I own.

Magic Seats - Some great collectables and I love signed items as well.

You have already achieved so much (awards, inner Magic Circle, Magic Castle and TV appearances) - What is next on your magical bucket list that you would still like to achieve?

Mark Shortland - I think the only thing I would still like to happen would be to see my name up on an advertising hoarding in Las Vegas.

I have been lucky to perform in Vegas three times, each time part of show. To be able to perform my own show and have it advertised would be amazing. It wouldn’t need to be a long run, just long enough for the giant screens to show my face and name.

Magic Seats - I agree that would be amazing. I am sure that you will achieve that goal.

Thank you Mark for your time today. Very much appreciated.

For Mark's website and social details, please check out the links below.


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