Handyman magician will perform during family magic show

March 20, 2013|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Magician Eric Buss blends a bit of comedy and handyman skills into his magic show. He performs Saturday, March 23, during the Safe Place/Antietam Exchange Club Comedy and Magic Show.
Submitted photo

Eric Buss has something up his sleeve.

It’s part of his job as a magician.

But there’s more to Buss than meets the eye. He’s also an actor and comedian and admits to be pretty handy with power tools.

Put all these talents together and — abracadabra! — you have a high-energy show of illusion, music, comedy and zany inventions.

One minute, Buss will display an intriguing sleight of hand, and the next he will show off his Elvis impersonator skills or get laughs with a homemade stage prop.

Buss’ unique style of entertainment has landed him on such shows as “America’s Got Talent” in 2012 and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

He’s also performed around the world — from the Happy Valley Theme Park in Shenzhen City, China, to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

“I’ve been to countries that I would never get the chance to visit without magic,” he said. “And it’s been a blast.”

Buss will bring his innovative knack for fun to the seventh annual Safe Place/Antietam Exchange Club Comedy and Magic Show on Saturday, March 23.

A major fundraising event for Safe Place, Washington County’s Child Advocacy Center, the show will be held at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown, beginning at 7 p.m.

In addition to Buss, performers will include Kerrick “Ice” McDonald, a master magician, show producer and lecturer; The Crescent Circus, featuring Nathan Kepner and Morgan Tsu-Raun, who entertain with magic and acrobatics; and Michael Grasso, a magician who also was on “America’s Got Talent” and became a YouTube fan favorite.

The show is sponsored by Friends of Safe Place and Antietam Exchange Club, in addition to other community sponsors.

“We consider this our signature event,” said Janis Williamson, a Safe Place board member, “to not only raise funds to help support Safe Place, but to raise awareness about child abuse and the role Safe Place plays in child abuse prevention in our community.”

Williamson said organizers expect to raise about $10,000 this year from sponsorship and ticket sales.

“Funds are used to help with some of Safe Place’s expenses, such as specialized staff and equipment,” she said. “Safe Place has made every effort to ease the experience for the children and their nonoffending family members who they serve, and this includes using state-of-the-art technology in order to make interviews as unobtrusive as possible.”

According to Williamson, Safe Place assisted almost 3,000 victims and family members in 2012. That work hasn’t gone unnoticed by Buss.

“It’s always great to be part of a fundraiser show like this,” he said. “Everyone in the room is helping a great cause. Whether you buy a ticket or appear on stage, it feels good to raise money to help kids in need. There is no reason they shouldn’t be able to achieve their dreams, too.”

Buss knows about dreams. He can trace his desire to entertain an audience back to kindergarten.

“Our class was putting on a show for the parents at the school,” he recalled. “And my teacher asked me to take a program to one of the other teachers. She was standing across the auditorium near the front of the room. After I crossed over to hand deliver it, I noticed it became quiet in the room and everyone was watching me. And on my way back, I stopped at the center of the room, took a bow and kept walking. The whole room erupted into laughter. That was the first laugh I ever got in public. So, I guess I was a stand-up comedian at age 5.”

Buss didn’t become serious about magic, he said, until his high school years. 

“I enjoyed watching it as a kid and I even received a magic kit for Christmas one year,” he said. “But it didn’t get me too excited. When I was 16, however, I got a job as a bus boy at a local pizzeria in Tucson, Ariz. There was already another high school student working there who did magic. He taught me some tricks and told me about a local magic store, and I ended up hanging out there every weekend after that. I was hooked.”

At about the same time, Buss said, another friend had become interested in magic.

“We combined our talents — using the term loosely — as well as tricks and did the talent show at our church,” he said. “I’m pretty sure we were terrible, but everyone loved us anyway. I decided it was pretty cool and wanted to do it forever.”

Buss also enjoys acting. He majored in theater at Northern Arizona University and has had roles in several independent films — all of which have helped him polish his stage presence during his magic shows.

During the early stages of his magic career, Buss said he began to realize he wasn’t content doing the standard magic show that included pulling a dove out of a hat.

Known for his sense of humor, he was encouraged by a mentor to explore another avenue — combining his talents of both illusion and comedy. He tried it and liked it. And so did his audiences.

After three years of performing his show at the local level, he took it national when he participated in The International Brotherhood of Magicians annual competition, where he walked away a winner.

He slowly began getting offers to perform at magic conventions, colleges and clubs. He gained even more recognition when he appeared in season seven of “America’s Got Talent.”

“I was in the YouTube episode of ‘America’s Got Talent,’ which means that I submitted my video to them via YouTube, then got voted onto the show by people who watched it,” Buss said. “Then, I performed on the show but was not voted through to the next round. The audience loved my act. Howie (Mandel) thought it was novel and funny and Sharon Osbourne called it ‘clever.’ Who cares what Howard Stern said, right?”

Even though he didn’t advance, Buss said the opportunity “was a great experience. It was great exposure — over 10 million people — and a lot of people still talk about seeing me on the show. It looks good on the resume, as well.”

“I’ve also appeared on a number of TV shows that I watched growing up, like ‘The Late Show with David Letterman,’” he said.

While Buss enjoys performing, “it’s also fun for me to build my show props in my workshop,” he said. “I love inventing new magic or comedy ideas, building them and then showing them off for an audience. Each part of the process is equally fun for different reasons. My dad taught me how to use power tools when I was a kid and we’d spend all day in his workshop building things. He passed away in 2002 and I happily inherited all of his tools. Now, I spend all day in my workshop building things for the stage. I consider myself pretty lucky to build ‘toys’ and goof off for an audience.”

Buss said people attending the upcoming show in Hagerstown can expect to see some of those crazy inventions perfected in his workshop, “plus some insanity, a whole lot of magic and some fun sprinkled in.”

While Buss is having the time of his life performing for audiences around the world, don’t expect him to rest on his laurels.

“You can’t get too comfortable with your work or you’ll get stale,” he said. “You have to keep pushing the limits. So, has my career exceeded my dreams? Maybe. Am I finished? Absolutely not.”

If you go ...       

WHAT: Seventh annual Safe Place/Antietam Exchange Club Comedy and Magic Show

WHEN: 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 23

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: $20 for adults, $15 for those under the age of 18. Tickets for groups of 10 or more are $15 each.

CONTACT: Tickets are available at The Maryland Theatre box office, 301-790-2000 or online at; and from Friends of Safe Place, 301-671-3000.

Safe Place events in April

Mooch Mutchler, program manager of Safe Place, noted that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and several events are scheduled to mark the observance.

Mutchler said on Saturday, March 30, Safe Place will be at Elks Lodge No. 378 on Robinwood Drive, east of Hagerstown, to place 5,000 blue flags to raise awareness of the impact of child abuse on families in our community. On Monday, April 1, Safe Place volunteers will place blue ribbons on parking meters and trees throughout downtown to symbolize Hagerstown as a Blue Ribbon Community, which supports community activities to promote safe children and healthy families. And on Saturday, April 27, Safe House will participate in the Child Abuse Prevention Walk/5K Run in Hancock.

Information about the array of services provided by Safe Place can be found at its website:

— Marie Gilbert

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