Justin Willman has one sweet job.
The host of the hit TV show Cupcake Wars on the Food Network, Willman is also known in some circles as master magician and illusionist. He’ll be bringing his “Tricked Out Tour” for one night only to the Prince Music Theater on Nov. 29 at 8 p.m.
From his monthly sell-out shows in the back of a trendy L.A. comic book shop to huge theaters and music venues across the country, Willman has become one of the busiest performers in America. And it all started when he was just 12 years old and out to impress a bunch of girls.
”When you’re young and don’t quite know how to impress them, you do many strange things,” Willman explains.” In my case, I decided to ride my bicycle while wearing roller blades. Instead of impressing them, I fell and broke both my arms.”
In a cast for six months, he was intrigued by a magician who would come to the hospital periodically to entertain. One day, Willman’s orthopedic surgeon suggested he try some card tricks as a way of gaining back dexterity in his hands.
From then on, he says he was hooked. But as he spent days in bed at home, he also got hooked on game shows, especially The Price is Right with TV host Bob Barker.
“I thought he had the greatest job in the world, and I dug the idea of being a host in whatever capacity. That was always in the back of my mind. So magic and hosting seemed to go together hand in hand. And here I am today.”
Besides Barker, Willman says he was influenced by the likes of Steve Martin, who used magic as a springboard to doing something else, and Johnny Carson, who started as a magician and then ended up as a very successful talk show host.
“Men like these were my main heroes since they were able to use their abilities in magic to go on to bigger and better things.”
His own comedy-flavored magic has earned Willman, 33, frequent appearances on many TV shows, such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and others. But he says it was his appearances on The Rachael Ray Show that caught the eye of those in charge of Cupcake Wars.
“I worked as a correspondent on Rachael’s show for a couple of years so I think the perception was that since she’s a celebrity chef I could probably host a cooking show,” the St. Louis native recalls. “Whether right or wrong, here I am. And so far it seems to work. I’ve hosted about 114 episodes so far.”
Other game shows for Willman include hosting Scrabble and a new, high-tech version of Win, Lose or Draw for the Disney Channel.
Ten years from now, Willman wouldn’t mind following in Carson’s footsteps as a man who could have many jobs but still be on stage and tour whenever he wanted to.
“Right now, I’m pretty close to doing what I want to do forever. I’d like to reach more people and have more people want to come see me in person.”
Today, Willman concludes, some people identify him as a magician and others as a game show host.
“But whatever people see me as, I just want to be seen as an old-fashioned showman, like Houdini or Carson or P.T. Barnum. These were men who could entertain people no matter what they were doing. And that’s how I’d like to see myself.”
For times and information, call 215-893-1999. ••