Anytime there's a list of the "best magicians," it's always the stage and television performers who are recognized. But what about close up? With this in mind and after lots of thought, here's a list of the top 10 close-up magicians.
This list attempts to identify close-up magicians who entertain in the real world and not just performing for other magicians. This mostly rules out the finger flingers who mainly impress other magicians and don’t necessarily entertain the lay public. These top 10 magicians are commercial performers who regularly do the trade shows, corporate events, and restaurants—the bread and butter of the close-up world.
You can often find online videos of these performers so you can see them in action.
1. Johnny Ace Palmer
To watch Johnny Ace Palmer in action is to see the art in its highest form. Palmer's close-up performances are technically bewildering, perfectly polished, and immensely entertaining. His work has been honored by the Academy of Magical Arts (Magic Castle) with awards for Parlour Magician of the Year, Lecturer of the Year, and Close-up Magician of the Year. He was featured in Marc, 2009 in an episode of "Masters of Illusion."
2. Bill Malone
This performer is completely commercial and the consummate pro. He can entertain any crowd at any time and under any conditions. His sleight-of-hand is impeccable and his stage persona is hilarious and he is demand for corporate appearances. He has received the Merlin Award from the International Magicians Society and appeared on many network specials.
3. Michael Ammar
The warm and friendly performing style belies a close-up master. Just watch his cups and balls to know why Ammar has to be here. He is widely honored as a magic instructor in addition to his performances.
His "magicians' magician" title is no idle self-boast. Daryl was the real thing. He had a headline act at Caesars Magical Empire in Las Vegas. He passed away in February, 2017.
5. Paul Gertner
Paul Gertner resides at the apex, that elusive intersection between entertaining magic and sharp business acumen. He is one of the most successful trade show workers in the biz and a FISM winner. He appeared twice on "Penn and Teller's Fool Us," fooling the famed magicians both times.
6. Bob Sheets
Here's another guy that does it all. Bob Sheets is as hilarious as his magic is devastating.
7. Ricky Jay
Ricky Jay was a respected magic historian and author and highly skilled in magic as well as the methods of cheats. He also was skilled in card throwing. An actor as well, he appeared in movies such as "The Prestige" and the HBO series "Deadwood." He passed away on November 24, 2018.
8. Gregory Wilson
Another commercial performer with exceptional charisma and deadly magic chops. His "Off the Cuff" magic instructional video is a must-have in any magic library. Here's his three coin routine.
9. David Williamson
Just about every magician knows about "Rocky" and classic "Sleight of Dave." He's one of the most outrageous personas in magic.
10. Shoot Ogawa
His magic is simply jaw-dropping. His thimble routine is great, but his three coins across trick demonstrate his devastating arsenal.