Eric Buss is game for about anything.
The magician/comedian, who returns to his old hometown to perform in the Shenanigans Comedy and Magic Show on Saturday, has worked his sleight of hand while riding a pogo stick, made an oversized wheel of Bubble Wrap then attached it to his bicycle and rode on it as it unwound, and concocted a machine that will spit out springy tubes (think snake in a can) to the tune of “The Blue Danube.” That last trick got him on “America’s Got Talent” and brought some snarky words from judge Howard Stern.
The Sahuaro High School graduate (class of ’93) fell in love with magic when he was a teen, and studied theater with the intent of creating magic shows. Then he discovered he was funny. Combining the two just seem logical.
These days, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son, nearly 2. And his unique blend of comedy and magic provides his family with a living wage.
We caught up with Buss to ask some burning questions:
Are you a magician first, or a comedian?
Magician first and foremost. But it’s both magic and comedy. But it’s not as separate as it sounds. I’m not going back and forth. The jokes come from the magic and vice versa.”
How would you describe your act?
“I’m goofing around on stage and showing audiences what I have to show. It’s high energy, original, and a bit zany and silly. But it’s also good, strong, baffling magic. I enjoy building things and showing an audience what I’ve built. Show and tell was always my favorite in school. I want the audience to have fun.”
So, the act you performed on “America’s Got Talent” — the snakey things flying out of an instrument to the tune of the “The Blue Danube” — how did you come up with that?
“That goes back to 2007. I was in my garage when I found one of those snakes in a can. Playing with it, I realized the spring was launching it 10, 20, 30 feet. I started to think about it more as fireworks, and what would an indoor fireworks show look like. I created an instrument, kept ordering more and more snakes, and building different patterns. When I first performed it, it got a standing ovation, so I knew it was something special.”
And that bubble-wrap bicycle trick — what in the world made you think of that?
“I have no excuse for that one. That was born, literally, right after the baby was born. My wife was on maternity leave and I was doing all the chores. We were both up all night, but I would get an hour or two to play in the garage. I’ve seen others ride bikes on bubble wrap. So I started thinking about adding a large roll of it to the bike.
“The problem was, I didn’t know what I was going to do with this ‘trick.’ There’s not much to it, but I thought it was worth making a video for YouTube. It hit a million views in just a few weeks. I was interviewed on a TV show in England, a radio show in Germany, and newspapers from all over called. Comments on YouTube have ranged from people wanting me dead, and a few wanted to nominate me for a Nobel Peace Prize. It is what it is: It’s just silly.”
Tell the truth: What does your wife think of your nuttiness?
“She likes it, or she’s a great actress. She kept telling me to make the snake routine bigger.”
Your wife likes it, but Howard Stern on “America’s Got Talent” wasn’t so supportive. He called your act “a colossal waste of time” and “boring.” What was that like?
“I had a blast when performing, and the audience was a great crowd. If you don’t have fun, what’s the point? Once I realized they were going to make fun of me … no matter what the judges say, you cannot be a jerk; you will not win. It’s like in a club, the comedian has the mic, and the drunk always loses out.”