Portrait by Thea O’conor
Illustrations by Bobby N. Terence can hammer giant nails up his nose with the confidence that his insurance provider will pay to repair a deviated septum. If you can get past the ridiculous goatees and rabbits constantly shitting in your top hat, being a magician doesn’t seem like such a horrible gig. The hours are flexible, donning a velvety cape commands a certain amount of mystique, and it doesn’t take much convincing to make your penis disappear inside a failed-model-cum-assistant’s vagina (we don’t mean to be sexist, but when’s the last time you saw a lady magician?). But like most things in life, it’s just not that simple. There’s a myriad of specialized insurance policies that magicians must purchase in order to protect themselves against audience members’ medical bills and nasty lawsuits. Sydney-based magician and “bizarrist” Terence Brabazon knows all about the real-world dangers of lying to people while holding a wand. Here Terence reveals his greatest secrets for making lawyers and debt-collecting doctors vanish into thin air. PUBLIC LIABILITY During a magic show, I have general public liability for anyone onstage or in the room. The coverage is very particular, though. For instance, I’m covered if a card flicks out and stabs someone in the eye. I’ve never heard of that happening, but I know of one guy who got stuck with $1.2 billion worth of damage because some chick got a paper cut during a card trick and contracted tetanus. The magician told the judge, “She must have gone home and rubbed rust into the cut.” The judge replied, “You lie and cheat for a living. Why would I trust your testimony now?” BLOCKHEAD My insurance provider covers mishaps related to driving sharp objects into my face with a hammer, but it comes with strict stipulations. It took a good three months to work out an agreement that didn’t drive my premiums through the roof, and it did come in handy once when I messed up my blockhead trick. Now, if I want to shove something up my nose, like a nail or an ice pick, it can only be up to five inches long. I make a little etching at the five-inch mark of the object so I don’t accidentally stab my brain and kill myself. EATING INEDIBLE THINGS
I can’t do anything that messes with my circulatory system. If I feel like munching on some glass, it has to be clear. If it’s colored or frosted, that’s a big no-no because the chemicals they use to color it can enter my bloodstream. As for razor blades, bright steel is OK, but stainless isn’t. There are loads of weird restrictions on what sorts of things are OK to jam down one’s throat.
MAKING OBJECTS VANISH I won’t perform any trick that could potentially result in losing or damaging an audience member’s personal property. I know a magician who was hired for a gig on a boat. He attempted to make someone’s engagement ring disappear, but the trick malfunctioned. He was stuck on that boat in the middle of Sydney Harbor saying, “Holy shit! That just went over the side.” It was an $18,000 ring. He just handed over his business card and said, “Please contact my insurer.” If they didn’t cancel him after that, I’m sure his premium went through the roof. FIRE BREATHING I’ve got personal health coverage through a company that insures magicians and clowns. But like all types of insurance, there are loopholes and stipulations that can screw you. Take fire breathing, for instance. They won’t cover anyone with facial hair, and in my case I’m uninsurable due to a condition called “fire lung.” The affliction is unique to fire-eaters or fire-breathers because the trick requires holding oxidized kerosene in your mouth. When you inhale, some of the gas is too heavy to come out. So it collects, and you end up with a layer of flammable residue in your lungs. I have two millimeters of that junk inside my chest right now. I always say to people, “Have you ever seen a 70-year-old fire-breather?” There’s a reason. PICKPOCKETING I won’t pick pockets anymore either. I’ve had problems with people trying to scam me, saying I stole their wallets. There are also cases of magicians making an audience member’s fake Rolex disappear, just to have them bring it back and say, “Mine was a real one.” Things like that put you in court—it’s happened to three guys I know. One stole the judge’s watch while sitting in the witness box. The judge said, “Explain how you did it,” and he replied, “Very simple. I make the watch vanish and look—it’s here! Is this yours? I don’t have another watch. It’s that simple.” The judge dismissed the case and penalized the person who initiated the suit. HYPNOSIS I also have hypnosis insurance. If a volunteer has a severe overreaction that causes mental instability, I’m covered. It’s a fairly common skit: I tell a volunteer to regress to the age of six. On one occasion I neglected to set up a safety, which involves saying something like, “You’re going to a happy place.” As a result, the girl I hypnotized relived her sexual abuse onstage in front of a bunch of strangers. The entire fucking audience was in shock. Her family was sitting right in the front row. I actually think the person who abused her was there, because she was calling out her dad’s name. I was like, “Oh fuck! That better not be her dad right there!” I pulled her back out quickly and told her that she was going to forget everything that had occurred. Then I gave her the number of a good hypnotherapist.