It all started with a magic set, a young boy’s imagination, and a passion for the unknown. Growing up, Wayne Hoffman was not your typical boy next door. A natural born mentalist and illusionist, Wayne has been performing since he was seven, toured the US for the first time at eighteen, and attended college briefly before becoming known as one of the top ten mentalists in the world. Wayne would soon appear on NBC’s “Phenomenon” as well as many other television shows and perform for audiences around the world. Wayne takes a break from his tour to reflect on his childhood, talk about his career and what you can expect from one of his shows, and give us a peek into his new book, “Mind Candy,” his new television projects, and his goal to bring live theater to children from lower-income families. Wayne also shares a few behind-the-scenes stories that are quite interesting, including one of the strangest requests he’s ever received and had to thoughtfully decline.
What initially sparked your interest in magic? How old were you?
Wayne: My initial spark of interest was around 8 years old when I received a magic set as a gift from my mom. After I was bitten by the magic bug, I couldn’t stop. From there I was hooked and couldn’t resist the urge to dabble in the mysterious. After that, I frequented the Mingus Magic Shop in my hometown of Reading, Pa while I studied psychology in college. That’s when I got interested in mentalism. I later combined the two in order to create the performances I have today.
Did you use magic and mind-reading to your advantage in school as a young kid, perhaps reading the teacher’s mind?
Wayne: How do you think I graduated? Other than reading my teacher’s mind, I’ve used my skills to get out of speeding tickets, get free first-class upgrades on flights, getting girl’s phone numbers, amongst other things. Studying the workings of the human mind definitely has its advantages in life. If you were a mind reader, wouldn’t you do the same?
Tell us about what someone can expect from one of your shows?
Wayne: From the moment you walk into the theater you become part of the show. My performances are highly interactive from the beginning of the show and it doesn’t stop until you walk outside. Even after you leave, you’ll take something with you. It’s impossible for me to perform my show without an audience because I need minds to read. In the actual performance there are demonstrations of seemingly supernatural abilities, comedy, danger, and a few serious life-changing moments of reflection. I like to hit all the emotions I can during a show. You’ll see visual illusions and experience “fun-but-weird” displays of mentalism. The bottom line is: You will leave thoroughly entertained.
Give us a peek into your creative process. How do you come up with new ideas?
Wayne: Most of the best ideas come from my audience. I always like to do a meet-and-greet after every one of my shows because it gives me a chance to get real feedback from the people who are buying tickets to my shows. Most of the time I’ll get a comment from an audience member that goes something like “Hey, you know what would be cool? If you could….” Those suggestions often turn into some of my greatest routines. The hardest part is reverse-engineering their idea and figuring out a way to turn it into reality. Otherwise, I try to think of things that are absolutely impossible that I can surround with a good story. The real work begins when I have to implement what I affectionately call “the science of the mind” into the routine. Things such as biochemistry, neuro-linguistic programming, hypnosis, misdirection, etc. The creative process is much more organic. Most of the routines I create and perform stem from some type of primal human experience: fear, love, life & death, etc.
You’ve been on NBC’s hit TV show “Phenomenon,” “The Howard Stern Show” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” among many others. Do you have a behind-the-scenes story about being on any of these shows?
Wayne: Each one of the TV shows that I’ve appeared on had its interesting behind-the-scenes moments. When I was on “Phenomenon” I had the interesting experience of actually competing against a girl I dated prior the show airing. It made for an interesting few months. When I was in the green room waiting to go on air with Ellen DeGeneres I received a gift basket from her that had official Ellen boxer-briefs in it. I wasn’t sure if I should put them on before the show or not. However, I just noticed that I am wearing them right now! Next time I go back I’m going to have to give her a Wayne Hoffman thong. I also got a chance to fly the owner of my local magic shop, Wayne Shifflett, to the taping of the show. He is a fan of Ellen and it was a thrill for both of us to be there. Being on Howard Stern was an interesting experience for many reasons. It was really a lot of fun. The only thing I didn’t like was, prior to me coming on air, they said I claimed to be better than some of the great magicians of our time. I never said that at any time and when asked, I very clearly stated “No, I let my audience decide.” However, I give the crew credit for trying to stir up controversy and creating awesome theater of the mind. Howard was a great guy off the air and seemed like a genuine guy. When I was on “The Glenn Beck Show” I found out that he wanted to be a magician when he was a kid. That definitely surprised me. Over all, every time I’m on television I have a great time. I’m currently working on my own TV show and hope to have even more behind-the-scenes stories!
I could imagine the CEO of a Fortune 500 company offering you a lot of money to attend an important meeting to read the minds of his competitors so he could gain inside information. On that note, what is the strangest request you’ve ever received for money?
Wayne: I get requests from people all over the world asking to do wild stuff like, go to the casino with them and count cards for them, predict which stocks to buy, predict the lottery numbers, go to the race track and read the horse’s minds, etc. Those are usually from overzealous fans who want to make fast money. I have worked for many corporations who have had me work at their trade shows to lure potential clients to their booths or they have had me present my motivational speech “The Power and Potential of the Human Mind.” However, I’ve never been asked to do anything underhanded by any of them. The most interesting request I ever received was from a US anti-terrorist task force that asked me to work for them. I can’t say much about the request; however, you can note that I did respectfully decline the offer. I’m an entertainer, not a secret government agent.
If you could perform for anyone in history, who would you perform for and what trick would you do?
Wayne: Wow. I’ve never thought about that. I would have to say Michael Jackson. I was always a fan of his growing up and I know he was a huge fan of magic. I became friends with Uri Geller who was also friends with Michael. Just before Michael passed I was going to ask Uri if he could introduce me to him, but I waited too long. One life lesson I learned from that was to never procrastinate. You never know when your opportunity will slip through your fingers forever. I’m not sure what I would have performed for him, but I know I would have read his mind for sure. If I had to choose a living person, I would go for Snoop Dogg because I just found out I moved right next door to him and I’m now his neighbor. I would read his mind fo shizzle. After them I would choose the obvious choices, Houdini, Ghandi, the Dali Lama, JFK, etc.
For the young kids out there who have seen your shows and decided they want to be like you when they grow up, what advice do you have for them?
Wayne: I would tell them to follow their heart and do whatever they want to do in life. If you do a job that you enjoy, you will never work a day in your life. Many people will try to stop you from pursuing your dream. Although it’s sometimes difficult, you have to keep following your heart. If you can fight through the negativity of others, you will lead a very happy and fulfilling life. All you have to do is: Feel. Define. Plan. Do. Those four steps will take you very far. If anyone is considering becoming an entertainer who travels the world, I would warn them that you have to schedule time for family and friends. Work can sometimes take over your life, but you have to think of what’s truly important.
Do you have any new projects coming up?
Wayne: I’m currently writing a book entitled “Mind Candy” and producing a clothing line under the same name. The book is a motivational book that teaches people a method to achieve any goal they have. It is a step-by-step process to achieve anything. If you want to walk on the moon, I show you how you can do it. If you want to start your own business, I show you how you can do it. The system I teach in the book implements common sense business tactics, as well as positive thinking to supercharge anyone’s life. I’m also currently in pre-production of two television shows that are going to blow the minds of my fans and soon-to-be fans. One of my other projects is launching my entertainment company “Hoffman Entertainment” I’m giving entertainers a chance to book shows while giving my corporate clients a chance to hire top-notch entertainment. I’m also setting up a charity called “The Hoffman Foundation.” Our goal is to help children from lower-income families experience live theater. I was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay bills and I never had a chance to see a live play or musical growing up. I think kids need to have that experience, regardless of their ability to afford it. It can open their minds to true magic.
Check out Wayne Hoffman’s official website for a tour schedule and the latest news.