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Justin Willman finds magic is a piece of cake

JustWillman host Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” brings his Tricked Out Magic Tour Abbey Pub Feb. 16.

Justin Willman, host of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” brings his Tricked Out Magic Tour to the Abbey Pub on Feb. 16.

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◆ 7 p.m. Feb. 16

◆ Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace

◆ Tickets, $20-$120 (21+over)

◆ (773) 478-4408;

Justin Willman, 32, is a professional magician and host of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” A magician for two decades, Willman started performing card tricks as a way to regain hand dexterity after breaking both arms while riding a bike wearing roller blades when he was 12 years old. Willman brings his “Tricked Out Magic Tour” on Feb. 16 to the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, Chicago. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $120 and the show is for 21 years old and over. For more information visit or call (773) 478-4408.

Willman talked to the Sun-Times about all things magical.

Question:How do you train to be a magician?

Justin Willman:Sadly, there was no Hogwarts when I was a kid. It’s all very self-motivated. In St. Louis, where I grew up, there was a Society of Young Magicians organization where you can kind of powwow and trade stuff. It’s quite a supportive little subculture.

Q.Does a magician ever reveal his secrets?

JW:It’s such a grey area because obviously if magicians never reveal their secrets no one would become a magician. You need a desire to learn for the sake of art as opposed to giving away secrets for the sake of exposure. If someone has the desire, as I did as a kid, to advance the art of magic because they want to perform it, then the secrets are unlocked for you.

Q.How did you go from magic shows to hosting “Cupcake Wars”?

JW: I was riding my bike one day with roller blades on and I crashed into cupcake store. No, when I moved to L.A. after college I would go out for acting auditions and hosting auditions and I fell into a side career as a TV host. Magic is my passion but if being recognized as a host puts more people in my seats then I’m all for it.

Q.Magic has a dark reputation. Has being a happy-go-lucky personality hurt you in a world with stars like Criss Angel and David Blaine?

JW: I feel like maybe it helps me. It disarms the audience. In 2013, people are a little jaded and cynical about magic. When I go out there and have fun and crack jokes and intentionally mess up tricks, it makes magic more approachable.

Q.Neil Patrick Harris is a magician. Has a mainstream star like Harris helped push magic out of the fringe?

JW: Neil Patrick Harris is the president of the Magic Castle [in Los Angeles]. I go there a couple of times a month. He’s not just a figurehead. He ishands-on, involved in the nitty gritty. He’s improved the menu and has gotten better bartenders in there. In terms of magic if people mention magic and think of Neil Patrick Harris, that’s a good thing. He’s super cool, super talented and people generally like him. He’s a better ambassador than someone who is dark and creepy.

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