Blog with Paul Gertner

The Magic of Bob Dylan

This morning I was reading Bob Dylan’s Acceptance Speech for winning the Nobel Prize for Literature and when

Paul Gertner performing at a trade show and a small performance in Paris

Left: Paul Gertner performing at a trade show. Right: Paul performing for an intimate group in Paris.

I got to this part and it felt as if he was speaking directly to me…a close-up magician.

“But there’s one thing I must say. As a performer I’ve played for 50,000 people and I’ve played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50. Each person has an individual, separate identity, a world unto themselves. They can perceive things more clearly. Your honesty and how it relates to the depth of your talent is tried.”

Bob Dylan-Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Personally I have never performed for 50,000 people at one time (unless you count a national TV appearance). However, as a close-up magician I often perform for only 50… 20… or even just 2 people at a time… and Dylan’s observation really hit home.

It IS harder to play for a smaller group, but we magicians have always suggested the reason for this is because it requires a higher degree of technical skill to fool an audience that is at close range and yes there is some truth to that idea. But as Dylan points out, there is another reason that a smaller audience is more difficult. It is because of the audience’s ability to perceive things more clearly including your honesty as a performer and how it relates to the depth of your talent.

Perhaps a Dylanesque way of saying: “You better be good!”

Now I know it may be tempting to think that my connecting Bob Dylan’s comments in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech to the world of magic and magicians might be a bit of a stretch. After all Bob Dylan has no connection to the world of magic right?

Not so fast.

A number of years ago, a very good friend of mine, one of the top sleight-of-hand artists in the world (every magician would know his name), shared a story with me. He was invited to give a magic lesson to a famous but very private person… who turned out to be none other than Bob Dylan. My friend spent about an hour performing magic and showing him some basic magic secrets and then rather abruptly Mr. Dylan stood up and said: “Thanks.” and disappeared… leaving my friend wondering if what just happened was a dream or a reality. Many have always felt that Bob Dylan’s music and lyrics have always had a mystical and magical quality… perhaps now we know why.

Paul Gertner is nationally recognized speaker and corporate magician, whose honors include multiple Tonight Show appearances, performing at a presidential inauguration, and winning three international competitions. He can be hired as a trade show magician or keynote presenter. For more information, visit


Posted in Magical Thinking on December 13, 2016 by Paul Gertner.

3 Responses to The Magic of Bob Dylan

  1. Dennis Gorman: December 13, 2016 at 10:45 am

    As you know Paul I am a huge Dylan fan. I’ve read several of his books and biography’s and he does have a quirky personality. His songs are full of nuggets of wisdom, my favorite. “Ya’ gotta just keep on, keeping on.” Good observation, it certainly is harder to do close up with just a few folks, seems like when there is just a few they really burn your hands.

  2. Paul Gertner: December 13, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    My friend said he actually pinned a cigarette pull inside his jacket and showed him how to vanish a cigarette. I guess Dylan liked that since he smokes. It would be interesting to see Dylan do a magic trick… I sure it would have a look all it’s own… sort of like when Ali used to do his vanishing silk trick with the TT.

  3. D. Angelo Ferri: December 14, 2016 at 3:00 am

    I’m old enough to say that I bought my first Bob Dylan album in 1962. I was drawn in by his words. I felt like he was talking to me. That’s what Close Up Magic is I think. If we work hard at our craft, the people we perform for will know it and they will appreciate us to the extent that we appreciate them.

Leave a Reply