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Brian Jacobs performs as Mr. Funn the Magician for pint-size audiences
» “How many places can you walk into like Norm on Cheers? I come through the door and all the kids scream. It’s an explosion of happiness and laughs and love.”
» Jacobs performs for groups of children ages three and up—as many as 500 at a time—from Ventura to Orange counties.
» Born in Brooklyn, he studied acting at Hofstra University for two “shockingly unuseful” years. Seventeen years ago he tagged along to see a magician friend play to a room of kids, and he was hooked. He stocked up on books from Tannen’s Magic Store in New York and came up with a routine. Today much of his act is improvisation.
» Jacobs experimented with different characters, once playing three in a single show: a magician, a clown, and Sylvester Stallone from Rocky. “I can’t tell you how poorly that went. The kids didn’t get Rocky at all.” He pared down his act, and Mr. Funn—an absentminded magician who fumbles through his set—was born.
» Jacobs incorporates coins, handkerchiefs, streamers, magic wands, puppets, and balloon animals into his work (he learned to shape balloons—“I’ve popped a lot of them”—from books and watching friends). Face painting can be tricky, though. “Often a kid will ask me to draw a character, and I’ll have no idea who they’re talking about. Like Cuddles, from that show they saw when their family was in England—they can’t believe I don’t know who that is. When in doubt, I draw a Ninja Turtle.”
» In January, Washington, D.C., was the host city for the Kapital Kidvention, which brought together 160 children’s entertainers, including magicians, face painters, ventriloquists, clowns, and balloon artists. The convention comes to L.A. next February.
» During a typical show, about three or four guests will tell Jacobs “I love you.” Once a boy said, apropos of nothing, “If you ever go to jail, I’ll send you cigarettes.”
» Since moving to L.A. ten years ago, Jacobs has pursued acting. He landed spots on Will & Grace and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and a starring role on Fox’s now-defunct The Mr. Potato Head Show.
» Jacobs charges $150 to $300 per gig, which lasts 45 minutes to an hour. His rate is determined by the location and type of party.
» Pleasing children isn’t nearly as difficult as pleasing Mom and Dad. “The parents are concerned about a theme. They say things like ‘Can you do something Harry Potter did?’ But the kids really don’t care.” Sometimes the younger guests behave better than the adults. “One parent would not stop squirting me in the face with a water gun.”
» “A lot of times kids will run to get a toy to show me. Or they’ll blurt out something that makes sense in their mind like ‘I talked on the telephone today’ or ‘I saw a dog.’ I’m, like, ‘OK, thanks for the report!’?”
» The 45-year-old has no plans to stop performing for the underage set. “I have a friend who works with Criss Angel in Vegas, which is obviously a full-time adult commitment. I’m not that mature.”
» Jacobs doesn’t have any kids of his own—“I only have them for 45 minutes at a time.”
Photograph by Dustin Snipes