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Magician plays to kids and their parents
Mike Norden is a customer service representative for Telus in Burnaby. He hears all the complaints about billing mistakes, email problems, cellphone issues.
But on weekends and in his spare time he swaps out his headset for a colourful top hat, short sleeve shirt and a trunk full of magic tricks, entertaining awestruck kids and bemusing their parents and care providers as Norden the Magician.
Norden was recently named Children’s Entertainer of the Year by the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians that represents more than 1,000 tricksters from the west coast of North America, Japan and even Australia.
For Norden, the two worlds aren’t that different; they’re both about making people happy. Although, he says, keeping a room of five-year-olds riveted for 30-45 minutes can be infinitely more challenging.
Norden didn’t discover the magic of magic until he was in his twenties while visiting Disneyland with friends. As they stood in line for rides or other attractions, he kept returning to the magic store, fascinated by the sleight of hand tricks being demonstrated.
After unleashing his credit card to purchase a number of tricks he found himself performing basic card and disappearing-coin stunts for friends and family. They started inviting him to perform at their kids’ birthday parties. Before long, says Norden, he became known as “the uncle who could do magic.”
Eventually that led to paid gigs, says Norden. “It just blossomed.”
To improve his act and his professionalism, he started reading books, watching instructional DVDs. He joined the Vancouver Magic Circle, an association of local magicians. He studied other performers.
As he staged more shows for kids, Norden realized it was just as important to keep them entertained rather than just bedazzle them with fancy tricks.
“Kids will always say they know how a trick is done,” says Norden. “It’s all in the presentation.”
As Norden performs for his pint-sized audience, wiping his sweaty brow with a diaper, popping a rabbit puppet out of his hat, he doesn’t forget the adults at the back of the room. After all, they’re paying his bill.
“I’ve got to write to keep adults entertained as well, make them pay attention,” says Norden. “If I don’t shine, I don’t get more work.”
That means crafting the odd joke that may go over the kids’ heads but hit their parents square in the funny bone.
“Kids are a tough audience,” says Norden. “But it’s the parents who might expect me to walk up the side of a building.”
But as long as everyone walks away smiling, whether he’s solved their cellphone crisis or engineered laughs while pulling coins from his ears, Norden says he knows he’s done a good job. At both his vocations.
• To learn more about Norden the Magician, go to www.magicshows.ca