Magicians have been telling me stories about Abbott’s Magic Get-Together for a while, usually followed by “it’s impossible to really comprehend it unless you’ve been there,” followed by “you have to do it at least once in your life.”
When the offer came to perform at the 80th anniversary of the Get-Together, I jumped at it.
Abbott’s Magic Get-Together takes place in Colon, Michigan (slogan on a magnet I received: “If you ain’t been through Colon, you ain’t shit!”), population, 1,173. There’s one traffic light (although it only has one color – red – and just blinks on and off), one gas station, and three magic stores. Three. There’s also magic-themed everything: there’s a floating lady and a hidden magic room in the pizzeria, there’s a hair salon called “Illusions Hair Care,” and every street is named after a magician. There’s also a graveyard filled with magicians, which I had the honor of getting a tour of from expert Al the Only at 1:30 AM in the morning, lit only by moonlight (and a flashlight or two). (One of my favorite stories: there’s a husband-and-wife magic duo buried in each other’s plots, which means they’re performing one last Metamorphosis illusion.)
There are no hotels for miles around, so you stay in somebody’s house or camp on someone’s lawn. I was put up in a stately, lakeside house I was told was previously owned by a doctor who had since passed away. When I asked for the key, I was told that it wasn’t necessary: just leave the door unlocked, just like everybody else. The town was that kind of wonderful.
I performed on the Thursday night show in the high school gymnasium (home of the Colon Magi, the mascot of which is a bunny rabbit named “Hare E. Blackstone,” a pun on the name of the magician who helped open this town up to magic nearly a century ago, Harry Blackstone) to a sold-out crowd of over 1,000 (the population of the town doubles overnight when the Get-Together starts). I changed in my dressing room (a.k.a. the locker room) and made final preparations backstage (a.k.a. in the band room) while enjoying the pre-show organ music, being played live as it has been every year for decades.
It was a thrill to present excerpts from my special at Abbott’s, an honor to get a standing ovation at the end, and a joy to hang out for a couple of days afterwards and fully immerse myself in a magic convention whose home wasn’t a hotel but an entire Midwest town.
Fast-forward to Saturday night (I was actually supposed to leave Saturday morning, but was having so much fun I moved my ticket to Sunday morning, so I could stay an extra day!) and I was told to head over to the Elementary School (which is also the magic dealers’ room). I didn’t know this when I signed up for the Get-Together, but the performers of the week are all considered for one of four yearly awards.
It was an INCREDIBLE honor to receive the Senator Crandall Award for Comedy Excellence and to receive my award alongside fellow award winners, Tina Lenert, Gene Anderson, and Kalin & Jinger, all of whom are huge heroes of mine. It was surreal.
In my speech, I jokingly thanked them “for being so right” and that I “humbly accepted the huge cash prize that goes along with it.” (There is no cash prize.)
Let me sum up the experience with a random story: a friend invited me to swing by the house he was staying at on Friday around lunch time, told me he was on Blackstone Street. I got found the street, made a left, and walked up to the door. I knocked and could have sworn I heard someone say come in. The door was, of course, unlocked, so I entered, looked around a bit, was confused by the crossbow and taxidermied animals, and was met by an equally confused old lady. Turns out there are TWO Blackstone Streets (East and West) and I was at the wrong one. I was also A STRANGER IN HER HOUSE and her first reaction wasn’t, “Who the hell is this stranger?”, but “How can I help this magician?” And that’s Colon, Michigan.