With sleeves up and pants down, Naked Magicians take the Wheeler Opera House stage
IF YOU GO …
Who: The Naked Magicians
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Sunday, Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $25 ($50 for VIP meet and greet)
Tickets: Wheeler box office; aspenshowtix.com
There’s an old saying about magicians that goes something like: “Magic becomes art when it has nothing to hide.”
By that criteria, the illusionists Christopher Wayne and Mike Tyler, who perform as the Naked Magicians — and, yes, perform in the nude — are master artists. They do their tricks with nowhere to hide anything.
The audacious Australian duo is on a 30-city North American tour that comes to the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen on Sunday, Oct. 28.
Before they joined forces as the Naked Magicians, both Wayne and Tyler had been professional clothed musicians with full-time performing careers based out of Brisbane, Australia. Like all magicians, they wanted to pull off something that nobody had done before, something big and new and fresh to make their mark in magic history. Five years ago, a brainstorming session led to the unlikely birth of an international phenomenon — a show combining magic, nudity, comedy and audience participation.
“We kept talking about designing a show that was different from what every other magician was doing around the world,” Tyler said from a recent tour stop in Providence, Rhode Island. “We wanted to take magic to an audience that wouldn’t normally attend a magic show.”
What if they could make the show double as a striptease, dropping clothes as their tricks grew more impressive over the length of an evening? And what if it would double as a comedy show? What if they dropped the dumb, old-fashioned tradition of using a scantily clad female assistant and instead offered themselves up as sexual objects? What kind of new magic audience might they find?
“We decided to try and do a girls-night-out kind of show that’s great for the gay guys, as well,” Tyler recalled. “We said, ‘Let’s do a naughty magic show and strip away those magic stereotypes, the top hats and capes — literally strip them away.’ And now it’s billed as the world’s funniest and naughtiest magic show.”
The show premiered in Brisbane in February 2014 and became an immediate hit.
“It was just a crazy idea,” Tyler said. “We didn’t ever think we’d be touring the world with it.”
The pair has since performed in some 250 cities in seven countries, making annual runs across the U.S. where they’ve found their biggest crowds.
“Audiences everywhere are amazing but especially in the U.S.,” Tyler said. “It seems we have a little bit of extra value because the accent is a bit exotic over here.”
The basic mechanics of magic often rely on clothes — on pockets and hats and sleeves in which to hide things. The pair had to get creative and invent some new maneuvers to pull off this show.
“Good magicians don’t need sleeves, great magicians don’t need pants,” Tyler said. “We literally prove that every night. It is more difficult, though.”
As they developed the show, Tyler and Wayne aimed to do all the impressive tricks they’d perfected over their careers, but to add new elements for the Naked Magicians: “We had to learn two things, how to make them naughty and sexualize them, and how to do them without pockets, sleeves or pants.”
When losing their clothes left them without the usual hiding places, all that exposed skin gave them an added element of misdirection.
“The audience is focused on the abs or the buttocks and that’s how we’re able to get away with some of the sleight of hand,” Tyler said.
Once they figured out how to do their tricks without the usual trappings, the magic of the act became the easy part. Keeping the presentation fresh and funny took some effort, too, although they’ve found it’s not all that, ahem, hard to pepper the show with puns. (Discussing their upcoming debut in Aspen, Tyler quipped: “It should be pretty cold out there, so I hope the show’s not shorter than normal.”)
“The comedy almost writes itself, because there is so much innuendo and so many dick jokes throughout the show,” he said.
The nudity itself — yes, full-frontal nudity, eventually — has been the biggest challenge, Tyler said.
“We weren’t the guys at parties who were streakers — ‘nudie runs’ is what we call them in Australia — and we’re not strippers,” Tyler said. “So we both had to work out really hard and make sure that we were in great shape, because we wanted to make sure there’s something good to look at for the audience when we do get naked. Nobody wants to see a couple tubby old magicians on the stage.”