The virtual induction ceremony for David Copperfield and Harry Houdini into the NMAJH Hall of Fame would have been magic If it weren’t for the emcee.
When I found out that, on Saturday, December 12th, two of the most famous magicians of all time, Harry Houdini and David Copperfield, were being inducted into the National Museum of American Jewish History’s Only in America Gallery Hall of Fame, I was so excited. In the middle of the pandemic, surrounded by constant bombardment about life’s grim reality, it would be a welcome relief to engage with the almost otherworldly excitement of uplifting illusions.
At a few minutes before 8 p.m. on Saturday, I clicked the live stream link, ready to be mesmerized.
The evening began with a Hanukka blessing, a beautiful anchor into the significance of honoring two incredible Jewish illusionists. Being inducted into the National Museum of American Jewish History’s Only in America Gallery Hall of Fame is an honor that has only been bestowed on a very small number of individuals, all of whom are American Jews who have significantly impacted American society and culture through resilience, courage, imagination and culture.
The emcee for the night was Emmy and SAG-Award winning actor, comedian, and writer Brad Garrett. If you’re a fan of the iconic television series, “Everybody Loves Raymond”, you’ll recognize Garrett for his role as Robert Barone. Sadly, within seconds of beginning his performance, Garrett made it clear that he was not the right person for the job. His irreverent and offensive humor detracted from what would have otherwise been a magical evening. Pun intended. I found Garrett’s off-color comments inappropriate. He detracted from an evening that, without him, would have been enchanting.
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David Copperfield is an outstanding magician and, throughout the night, live footage from his prior performances regaled us, the virtual viewing audience. Copperfield zoomed in from his International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts in Las Vegas, Nevada, which happens to be home to the largest collection of Houdini artifacts, to receive his accolades and pay homage to the great Houdini and receive his own award.
Lucy Darling and Asi Wind, each of whom were 2019 Academy of Magical Arts Winners, did phenomenal jobs performing and presenting. Asi Wind seemed able to read the minds of audience participants, sharing their unspoken words, and performing card tricks that were so much more than card tricks. I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out “how did he do that?”
Lucy Darling’s magic included making earrings disappear and reappear, levitating objects without touching them, and changing the color of her cocktail in front of our eyes. It was spellbinding and inexplicable.
All in all, there was so much about the night to appreciate. If only it had been possible to make Brad Garrett’s emcee antics disappear.