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Between the Pages With Author and "Bizarre Magician" Brian Brushwood

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Brian Brushwood could very well be the embodiment of all things we at Donnybrook love -- he's everywhere, he does everything, and he'll probably get it all for free just for being so awesome. Vanessa sat down with Brushwood to discuss his numerous vlogs, podcasts, and books -- including his latest, an eBook version of his hit show Scam School, which features a collection of some of his best tricks for scoring free drinks, and generally getting to do awesome things for free. And hey, we'll even talk politics because we're brainy like that.

Let's start with how well your new book is doing. On launch day alone you made it to No. 3 on the U.S. iTunes iBookstore and No. 1 in the Canadian version -- not to mention it's still the No. 1 best-selling eBook on magic instruction. You have been working so hard at your craft for years -- how does it feel to have your latest book be so successful?

It's extremely rewarding, and I've got to give all the credit to the Scam School fans. I knew the Scam School audience was passionate about the show, but even I was really shocked to see the response on release day.

It was also a tremendous relief. While I was writing Scam School Book 1, I took a three-month break from touring with my stage magic show. This gave me enough time to make the book as good as I wanted it to be, but was a long time away from my usual source of income.

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You've made a name for yourself not just in podcasts, books, and YouTube, but you've also been on numerous talk shows. Can you help our readers with the same aspirations? Maybe not everyone wants to conquer the media world like you're doing, but your drive is incredible. Can you offer tips for other creative types trying to make a name for themselves in print, media, or business?

Be bold, take risks, and keep on trying. When I first started, nobody knew who I was or had seen my stage show, so I made a list of 30 TV talk shows that could possibly have a place for me. Next, I bought 30 tubs of Atomic Fireballs, stuffed my demo VHS tape in them, and slapped a sign on the side that read: "Think these are hot? Try eating FIRE! Brian Brushwood eats fire and does the following stunts..."

My goal was just to get noticed, then follow up with another crazy mailing in a couple of months. Instead, I got booked on Roseanne's daytime talk show (remember that? [VB: I totally do!]) and had my first national TV appearance.

Six months later, I repeated the exact same stunt and got booked on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Tell me the truth... is Ricki Lake a total jerk? She's so adorable on TV -- is she really Satan in real life? She looked totally grossed out by you on her show!

You don't really get to meet the people hosting those shows, except on stage. And even during the commercial breaks, they're very conscious of the studio audience all around them. So while Ricki was super-nice in person, she was almost certainly so on-guard that it's really hard to say I "met" her.

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Let's get political for just a second, as I've heard you identify yourself as a Libertarian. Are you happy with the candidates this year? Have you given any thought to publicly coming out in support of a particular one?

Voting third-party is the best, most liberating decision I've ever made. At some point I just realized that when you vote for the lesser of two evils, you're still voting for evil. Voting third-party means you get to have a clear conscience.

Also, think about this: when you vote for the Crips or the Bloods (the Democrats or Republicans), your vote is virtually meaningless. Your voice is lost in the cacophony of millions of other votes. But when you vote third-party (any third party), as a percentage your vote is a thousand, maybe ten thousand times more important. Your voice really matters.

Nice answer! Okay, I'll get away from the serious stuff and talk about what really matters -- can you give up some tricks for our readers on how to get free stuff? Because we are ALL about that.

First off, ask questions. The person asking questions is the one in charge of the conversation. Keep the focus on your mark, as people love to talk about themselves, and make sure you're listening with your whole body: eyes on them, body leaning forward, nodding to show your attention.

Next, give them something of value. In Scam School, we teach you to do some cool tricks to brighten up a bartender's otherwise dull day. The more you perform for them, the more they'll feel like they owe you something, so you...

Finally, ask. But be classy about it. After two or three fun tricks, set up an impossible puzzle or bar challenge for them. Once they give up, tell them you'd be happy to share the secret... but you're just so... darn... thirsty.

If you've done your job, by now the bartender or fellow patron likes you, feels like they got something from your tricks, and wants to repay you. And a cold beer is just the way to do it.

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With your work on Scam School, have you ever had to deal with criticism from those who may feel you're taking advantage of others? In this economy, it's understandable that you'd want to help people save money in any way they can -- how do you respond to any detractors?

We're pretty tongue-in-cheek about the criminal stuff. We don't actually want people ripping off local businesses or stealing bicycles, and I think we make it pretty clear in the show.

However, a number of lessons have set off a few viewers, especially when they've been the victims of a lockpicking or short con. We get accused of glamorizing crime and encouraging illegal activity. I point out that the bad guys already know how to pick the locks or break in to your house. I'm just here to make sure you know it as well.

I don't want to bog you down with too many questions because I know you're incredibly busy. Just one last thing: Let us know what you're going to be up to. I noticed that you're going on tour this summer, what are your plans for that? Can we expect more Bizarre Magic? Fire swallowing? Skewered tongues?

All of the above! If you get the chance to catch the show on tour, I highly recommend it. It's unlike any other magic show you've seen. This year, in addition to my usual college tours, I'm doing a number of conventions. These shows are a blast, and the energy is always electric.

Hit up my website or sign up for the email list to get notified of tour dates :-)

For all things Brian Brushwood visit his homepage to get your hands on booking info, demos, tour dates, show clips, and your own copy of Scam School Book 1 -- out now and selling like hot cakes!

All photos courtesy of Brian Brushwood