Danny Orleans is an expert. He specializes in merging his client’s marketing message with his magic at tradeshows and corporate events. His specialty is delivering captivated traffic to their exhibit booth, enthralled customers at their special events, and delighted staff at their annual dinners.
In our conversation we chat about how it all got started, and how he approaches his work.
This one is required listening for anyone interested in corporate entertainment.
Malcom: [00:00:00] Welcome to Symbols And Secrets. the podcast dedicated to mind, magic, myth, and more with your host Jonathan Pritchard.
Jonathan: That’s me, Jonathan Pritchard. Thank you for that introduction, Malcolm, our producer of the show. I’m a lifelong mentalist who really got my start working with James Randy handling applications for his famous million dollar paranormal challenge. Since then I’ve performed internationally for fortune 500 clients on the Vegas strip TV and everything in between. I absolutely love magic and mentalism with everything I have.
And this podcast is my way of celebrating the incredible people I’ve met along the way. That brings me to this week’s guest, who is the real deal. I got to know him during my time, living in Chicago and he works, trade shows, high society, cocktail parties, and [00:01:00] every kind of corporate environment you could possibly imagine. And a bunch you can’t dream of unless he tells you about it.
Let’s dig in.
Danny: Hey, I’m Danny Orleans. And it’s great to be with you, Jonny
Jonathan: well, thank you. I I’m really excited to have you share your thoughts because you are one of the most rare of rare creatures. You’re, kind of like you’ve got the, he got a achievement with the Emmy, the Grammy, whatever the Tony and, uh, whatever the O is in that. I forget Oscar. There we go. So you’re kind of like a, uh, magicians, he got award winner in that you do a Fantastic.
children’s and family show.
You also are stellar at closeup. You also are literally world-class at a two person act with your amazing wife and you’ve [00:02:00] got a full roster for trade show work. So you’ve kind of maxed out all your points. In multiple arenas where Most mere mortals wish they could achieve one of those.
So I’m looking forward to seeing what you got
Danny: Well, it’s very kind of you to recognize all those facets of my career and I’ve, we’ve kind of moved from one to the next, to the next to the next. It’s been a very natural kind of organic growth in my career. Um, I never set like real specific goals. I found kind of followed my nose and found out what I was good at.
And I think that, uh, it’s really good advice for a magician not to necessarily choose what you want to do, but find out what you’re good at and then work towards that and become great at it.
Jonathan: So what, which one of those, uh, did you sniff out first? [00:03:00]
Danny: Well, the first one was, uh, where I think most magicians begin with. If they start doing magic as a young teenager, you know, I started doing kids’ birthday parties. So my, my work for children was, uh, really, you know, a very natural direction for me to take. My father was a pediatrician. My mother was a kindergarten teacher and I had an aunt that was a professional puppeteer that had done, that was done.
Puppet shows in the 1940s, fifties, and sixties at kids’ birthday parties. And so it was easy for me to follow in that direction. I started doing kids’ birthday parties when I was 13.
Jonathan: Wow. Was, was she around often give you hands-on pointers or is it kind of that family myth of, oh, your aunt so-and-so did this thing and it was just kind of part of the family [00:04:00] ethos.
Danny: it was part of the family ethos. She didn’t really, I never really, I never even really remember her coming to see my show when I was a teenager, but she knew I did it. We were almost competing. We were in the same market, you know, sometimes, sometimes she refer me, I think, you know. Um, but I do remember her very distinctly telling me to raise my prices
Jonathan: Oh, that’s
Danny: when I was there.
You got to understand I was charging $2 when I started out in the, in the, uh, in the late 1960s. Um, so, so she told me to raise him till five and I did, and it, nobody ever turned me down at $5 a party.
Jonathan: that’s great. It, it, you know, kid shows, I seem to see get a bad reputation. Uh, the ankle biters they’re unruly and the parents don’t right. There’s just a whole [00:05:00] laundry list of apparent reasons why somebody wouldn’t want to do children’s shows. So did you have a, uh, 99% positive experience with it? Why, why did you spend so much energy getting good at that?
Instead of trying to pull the rip cord as quick as you can.
Danny: well, I think there was a couple of reasons, you know, the first reason is that I, I really, I did enjoy it. I had four younger brothers and sisters. I was very comfortable with children. Um, yes, there were behavior issues, but back in the 1960s, not as many as today. Um, I think, I think kids were used to a more strict classroom environment and following the directions of adults, I was hardly an adult.
I was more like an older brother for them, but, um, you know, when, by the time I turned 17 and 18, [00:06:00] you know, doing a lot of shows in high school, um, they certainly saw me that way. And, um, it never occurred to me that I should be doing magic for adults. I never went to magic conventions as a kid. I didn’t go to my first magic convention till I was in my early twenties.
Um, the resource. For magicians, you know, for me living in the suburbs of New Jersey, I didn’t have that New York city resource. I didn’t, I went to tannins, but I wasn’t really aware that there was this circle of magicians that met for lunch, you know, the Frank or is, and, and, uh, Tony Slydini and these people that would gather together that really were at my fingertips if I had hung with them.
But I wasn’t that interested in close-up magic at the time. Uh, and didn’t even really know it was, uh, an option as a way to entertain people. [00:07:00] Um, you know, you certainly didn’t see close-up magic on television. Uh, you know, back then very, very often at all. Um,
Jonathan: it was kind of like the kid’s birthday party is almost booked themselves. This all makes sense. Okay. This is what you do.
Danny: I was more interested. I was more interested in forgetful Freddie than I was in double lifts. Let’s just put it like that.
Jonathan: Nice. Nice. Are you still, like, how, how did your children’s show develop? Are you still using some of the same material that was working back in the day? How much have you had to update it? Especially based on the, the kind of behavior of children nowadays, right? What how’s it changed?
Danny: My character hasn’t changed that much. You know, I basically, you know, what I did as a teenager seemed to work [00:08:00] very well, which was having my magic tricks, outsmart me and having things happen to me as a magician, the interaction between my magic tricks and me, you know, almost paralleled what children were familiar with when they misbehaved in front of a teacher, an adult, a parent, um, and kids would see that interaction where my silver, my silver ball, my zombie ball, you know, would, would disobeyed me and would float when I told it to be still in, would hold still when I told that to float.
Um, and, and that was something I developed. Myself. And only much later did I learn that this was a thing that this was a strategy that, that people like David Guinn had re wrote about and professional magic for children is his first major publication. Um, and only when I started going to magic conventions and seeing other [00:09:00] family performers and kids performers work and talk about magic.
And when I realized there were books written on it that I didn’t even realize till I was in my early twenties. And so I had all this, this whole thing that I developed completely independently of, uh, of other magicians.
Jonathan: Right, It kind of what works is, what works, and then you can find different ways in, and then you kind of stay where, where it works. That makes
Danny: right. So over the years, you know, as I said, my characters is stayed pretty, pretty consistent. Um, I, uh, The tricks have changed, but not all of them. I I’ve been doing the zombies since I was a teenager, but that’s very much, I’ve added new moves to it. As I learned, you know, when I saw people like norm Nielsen, do the zombie and Neil foster and Lance Burton and, you know, people who were really good at it, I said, oh, I could do that move.
I could do that move. You know, there were things I [00:10:00] was unaware that existed. Um, but the basic premise of it is the same as it’s the silver ball that misbehaves and kids find it hilarious.
Jonathan: okay. That, to me, that’s an interesting peak into
Danny: I did a zombie where I talked through the routine, which was very unusual. I later found out everybody performed it to music, you know, pretty much, but I never, I never performed it to music. I always talked to.
Jonathan: Was that just a function of bringing a boombox back then was a big hassle.
Danny: boxes didn’t know, boom boxes didn’t exist. So the 80 to the, the 1980s, the, the, the, what, what I could’ve done is what my aunt did. My aunt performed puppetry to music. Some of the things were, were puppetry that it was Mary. It was a marionette act. Um, she performed mostly to music and she had a reel to reel tape recorder that she [00:11:00] carried with her with.
I think there was a, you know, a built-in speaker system. Yeah. There was a built-in speaker system. So that would have been my only choice, but I never even considered it. I never ever considered performing
Jonathan: so it’s kind of one of those constraint breeds creativity situations.
Danny: Yeah, I guess so. Yeah.
Jonathan: Right. Okay. So, and I also liked the look into. You not presenting yourself as the rock star of the situation
Jonathan: money, Collin.
Danny: it off. Sorry.
Jonathan: it was one thing that I’ve really appreciated is how genuine you are with your audiences and that you’re there to help the experience happen, not be the center of attention and the sole focus and the cause of everything [00:12:00] because I am the magician capital M. So that kind of sacrificing your selfish ego on the alter of what makes for a good experience for your audience that goes all the way back to your kids shows.
Danny: it does. And I found very early on the children find it is hilarious for an adult. To, to struggle with something, especially when that action appears simple. Right. I can’t even wave a wand over, over a coloring book, the one falls apart, you know? Um, and I discovered that very early on and you know, of course later I found out, oh, that has a name that’s called magician in trouble, you know, but, you know, again, I discovered that very early on,
Jonathan: yeah. Th in that magician in trouble, dynamic is really interesting to me too, because there’s, there’s been a [00:13:00] lot of ink spilled on, it about you either pull it off and the audience cares about you. Then you show that that they’re a jerk for caring because you pulled it off or you undersell it. And then they don’t really think you’re in trouble.
And then it lacks the punch. So it’s kind of a double-edged bad sword, but in the context of a children’s show, that might be kind of one of the most useful situational ploys to engage the audience.
Danny: It is. And it creates hilarity, you know, especially if you have structured it in a way, especially if you have structured it in a way, create a bigger problem, or if you give up on it and try another solution, but that also fails, but in a bigger way. Um, so, you know, in my show, you know, I try to, you know, I have a coloring book that I show with normal line [00:14:00] drawings and that after the Crans disappear, it, the book is going to supposedly be colored in.
But in turn, instead, all the pages are filled with a scribble Scrabble pattern where the, everything is colored outside the lines. And it looks like a two-year-old took a cran to the book and just scribbled all over it. And this is very funny. It’s very unexpected for the children because I set it up as though everything’s going to be beautiful.
And, um, you know, and then. Then then we, we go from bad to worse where we tried to fix it with, with a breakaway fan, a breakaway cran and, and, uh, uh, a nesting wand and, and everything. The props just go completely haywire and in the hands of the children most of the time. But when I did shows virtually it was in my hands where the, the props would fall apart.
And it was just as funny. And I found great success doing virtual shows for kids. The kids had a great time.[00:15:00]
Jonathan: Yeah. And it can be difficult to sell that kind of material from a performance angle. Oh wow. I’m in trouble. Oh goodness. So how did You get across. Let’s get comfortable in that narrative that you’re in trouble, but it’s taking phenomenal skill to perfectly execute
Danny: know, for,
Danny: you know, it’s so interesting to hear you say that
Jonathan: me through that kind of dynamic.
Danny: I, because I never had that problem with it, you know, I never had the problem of being comfortable, being appearing foolish in front of children. You know, for me, the positive reinforcement was the children laughing, you know, and you have to remember, I performed for very young children.
You know, we have to be careful when we say, oh, I do magic for children because [00:16:00] for some performers, that means a 10, 11, and a 12 year old as a child, you know, but for me, when I hear of doing magic for children, I’m thinking children as young as four and a four year old sees the world very differently than the 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 year old.
So different whole different perception. And the biggest one for the magician to realize is that when a child turns. About eight, they suddenly realize, or they find out or discover that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus and the good tooth fairy is really your mom or dad. Right. And there’s no such thing as witches, goblins and ghosts.
There’s no dragons under the bed or in the closet anymore. No monsters. So that’s all the imagination. And they’re able to separate the imagination from reality and separate fantasy from reality. Um, and they know there’s no such thing as magic and magicians. It’s a trick as a matter of fact, [00:17:00] over I think because of the pandemic and this big emphasis on science.
Now I have had four children in the past month during a kid’s show that I’ve done come up to me either before or afterwards, or even during the show and say, this isn’t magic. This is science.
Isn’t that interesting, you know, it’s not, it’s not mad, nothing. They didn’t know how the ball was floating, but they go, that’s science, it’s science. It’s not magic.
Jonathan: it’s a, it’s something I can’t explain in. Think in what explains things as science. So this. Wow. So I could only imagine that that doesn’t happen on a regular basis, gone decades without, without kids. Like this is science now for four in a row. Yeah. And since you brought it up, I I’ve [00:18:00] really been interested in documenting how magicians performers adapted to 2020, because, you know, I think it’s kind of one of those huge social things that we all went through.
We have shared experience and then our grandkids are going to go, what was it like going through? And you’re just like, I don’t know. It was, we just, we just went through it. So I’ve Really valued hearing how you thought about it from the beginning
Danny: I, you know, I spent the first two weeks writing books and writing eBooks, you know, I, uh, you know, I thought that, you know, because when the pandemic first started, we really thought, oh, this is going to be over in two months, you know, and we’re going to be back to normal and what are going to people need, people are gonna need to know how to teach children about being germ-free and what they need to do to be germ-free.
So, uh, I, I collaborated with, uh, a magician named Chris, [00:19:00] Michael, who, who had this idea for doing a show for kids using magic, which taught them how to beat germ-free. And we were. We wrote a show with props that all magicians had at homes, again, designed for four or five and six year olds. Very simple humor magic was sponge balls in a di di tube and amaze cups and, you know, very simple props that you could do virtually or live.
Um, and, um, you know, then I, I tried to pull together a show myself, you know, I, it was really interesting to see the different ranges of success that magicians had. Um, do, you know, being able to, to reconfigure or pivot their, their show and be able to embrace the technology. And, uh, and it was interesting to me because some, some [00:20:00] of the best magician.
Didn’t embrace it at all. And didn’t even perform shows. Matt king did like hardly any shows. Uh, he hated it, you know, and, uh, uh, Steve Cohn did no shows at all, you know? Um, but you know, there was a performer, there were many performers who had their best years ever performing, you know, five shows a day, you know?
Um, and it was all about being able to embrace the technology and market, the technology market, the new virtual show and being ha having a mailing list for being able to really master social media and Facebook advertising and getting it out there. Um, so, and doing a fast, you know, and I, I was slow, you know, I really didn’t pull it together till the summer.
You know, and even then never [00:21:00] really caught up with the guys who were doing it, you know, but what I did do, I did something that was very different. I made a lot of videos for my corporate clients where I would create these one minute videos, which combined magic with their marketing message and they were highly edited.
And, uh, they used them at virtual trade shows and they used them on their websites and they use them as email blasts to their customers.
Jonathan: and they really were. Well-produced see, you had the time and space to be able to produce them at the quality that a corporate
Danny: Yeah. We were very fortunate. You know, a number of years ago we moved into a townhouse that had one room, had a 15 foot ceiling. So we were able, you know, I was able to set up a 20 foot back. There. And that backdrop was facing three giant windows. So I [00:22:00] had natural light coming in. So it was very even, and, um, you know, we could supplement that with a little background lighting or something, but, but we had really good, it was quiet, very, very quiet because I face a river as opposed to a highway or a road.
So you got real fortunate. We were able to produce some high quality videos for some training companies and pharmaceutical companies, you know, an it company. Um, and we did some good work here. So that’s how we got through it.
Jonathan: No, I think there’s a, there are a lot of really valuable lessons just sitting there on the ground that we could zoom in for folks that may not see it. It’s the value of having those email lists and the relationships of people that you’ve worked with previously, And then go, you know, you’ve worked with me for this.
I could also do [00:23:00] that for you And it would be useful. And then they go, oh, I’d never thought about that.
Danny: But you needed to be able to demonstrate that to your client in a one-minute period of time that you could deliver this. So it was about your PR your new zoom show, promotional video, you know, that’s really what you had to pull together.
And, uh, the performers who did that well, and did it quickly really. Had a great year in most cases, because they were able to find clients that had budgets and, um, and, and had a need, you know, they had a meeting or a party or an event.
Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah. And for, for me it was one of my best years. And it was because I was doing something that, that I wasn’t really doing a lot of before, and that was taro card readings. So I had clients booked me to do [00:24:00] virtual taro card reader. And I set up a whole process of people virtually standing in line and being able to ask their question in an anonymous way.
And I had an overhead camera, so they could see the cards as I’m shuffling and in that kind of a thing. So it was great. Yeah. So walk me through how you,
Danny: you know, when people ask us how we met, uh, I said I held auditions and, um, that’s my little joke, but, but it’s, but it’s absolutely the truth. Uh, I had, uh, my, my children’s magic show, which I had done a lot of schools and, and libraries and museums, uh, around the country. Um, I had an art, uh, performing opportunity here in Chicago at what was the first national bank of Chicago, which was, is now a chase bank, but it’s the huge building, uh, right at, uh, Monroe and [00:25:00] stay street, uh, with the Chicago.
Uh, w uh, sculpture wall in front of it, and it’s, it was fancy, but they had a fancy meeting room that held about 600 in theater seating with a beautiful stage, small stage. It wasn’t huge. Um, but, but they had wing space, little bit of wing space, a beautiful dressing room, a curtain that an electric curtain that opened and closed and great lighting and great sound.
And they used it for, for meetings for bank meetings, you know, um, I, I guess, but they also, during the holiday season hat brought in a holiday show and they had had many different things over the years, including a Avner, the eccentric, um, uh, show with clown at show with elves, I think. And, uh, and then.[00:26:00]
Going back in time to the, uh, the 1970s, the mid 1970s, they even had a magician whose name was David Copperfield. And that’s where he did the magic man that you sometimes hear about. If you, if you read the background or the history of David Copperfield success. And that show went very, very well and it was extended.
And you know, it was his first big opportunity. So fast forward now to, you know, from the mid seventies to 1983, and I had this opportunity to perform there and they wanted to bring magic back and, uh, they knew I had a kid show by. The producer upon seeing my show at a school said, this is fine, but it needs to be bigger.
We need an illusion in there. We need an assistant. Um, but it still has to be great for, for kids and, and that, and they bust in daycare centers. So [00:27:00] we would have, you have to picture a show that would be appropriate for children that are three and four years old, five years old. And you know, the kids that were so small that you’d have to put two of them on a seat because the seats had, those would pop up if there wasn’t enough weight on them.
Right. All right. It was theater, real, real theater seating, you know? So, um, so, you know, I had to show written and I held auditions for an assistant and I was looking for an actress at the time who was, um, the, the role was written for a woman that could, could play. Kind of, uh, a little imp you know, like an elf character, a very young character, because her character, she was, she didn’t really want to help with the show.
She really wanted to look for Christmas presents and she wanted to go shopping. And every time she came on stage, she had a long list and every time the list would [00:28:00] get longer and longer and longer, and that was the running gag and she did magic tricks with that list. Um, and so, you know, we held auditions and I wanted someone that was small, that was petite that could kind of play this childlike character.
Um, but also the could sing that could dance. That could move very well because I had to teach her metamorphosis. And, um, you know, I want someone with experience doing children’s theater really, and Jan, you know, sent in her resume. Uh, we, we, I don’t know. We, we probably auditioned. 12 to 20 women. And, uh, then we had callbacks for four or five of them, and then Jen was selected because she really, she really showed great, great, a great skillset.
So that’s how we met. And then we did this show and we did like, I don’t know. 40 performances during the holiday season. I mean, it was solidly [00:29:00] booked and these busloads of kids coming in and on the weekend, it was families. They sold tickets to families. We didn’t have to sell anything. We don’t have to worry about ticket sales.
It was great. We just to show up, we were paid a nice, a really good fee, as I remember at the time. And, uh, we had a great December and Jan was being, I paid her more than she had ever made in children’s theater before. So she was very happy. And then, you know, I was smart enough to have a videotape made of that.
And that was a big deal in 1983 to get video made, but we had video made of the show and we were able to edit. The hard way, you know, pre-computers um, and to at the time you, you was the seven minute video, which is very long by today’s standards, but that was pretty standard back then. And we sent it off and we sent off video cassettes to people and we got the show booked.
We had a different version of it. We [00:30:00] created a non holiday version. Uh, that show was called Mary cranberry during the holiday season. And, uh, we created another one called magic over the rainbow, which was basically exactly the same. It was built around a birth her birthday, as opposed to a Christmas celebration.
We different costumes different, but the prep tricks for pretty much the same.
Jonathan: , as we stick the landing, I want to
make sure that we send
people to the right place.
If they want to look at.
Danny: So if they want to look me up.
The the, you know, they can certainly check out the website, um, and, and learn about the corporate work. I do it at corporate magic limited. So that’s corporate magic, L T d.com. And there, you can watch some videos of mine and, uh, see the kind of work I do at trade shows and close-up magic that I do at parties.
Yup. Um, and if they want to [00:31:00] see my family magic show, um, then that’s corporate magic, ltd.com/family hyphen magic. And that brings you to a different page on my website that isn’t first visible. Uh, at first I keep that kind of separate so that the, uh, corporate marketing vice-president of a company doesn’t know I’m doing kids shows.
I think it’s important to separate those out.
Jonathan: And that’s your introduction to the amazing work of Danny Orleans. He runs a workshop on becoming a trade show magician that I can’t recommend highly enough. I personally went through it. I paid to go through it. Even though he was my friend, I paid full price and it was worth every penny and probably five times the pennies I put out for that. So everything he puts out is gold. So I highly suggest that you connect with them. Also, if you’re interested, there’s a second half of our conversation [00:32:00] where we dig more into the corporate side of magic and that is available to supporters of the show.
Not only will you get more of this conversation. You’ll also get access to the full uncut conversations with all our guests. You’ll become part of a tight-knit community of others who are on their own path to mystery and meaning you’ll also be invited to a secret weekly hang session with yours truly.
Where we talk about marketing business promotion and all the other thousand details around making a living by performing magic. All this for a couple bucks a month. Which is an absolute steal. Well, that’s it for this episode, catch you later.
Malcom (2): We appreciate you listening to Symbols and secrets. Don’t forget to subscribe on apple podcasts, google podcasts and anywhere fine podcasts are sold. We don’t care where you subscribe just so long as you do.
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Thank you and bye for now.