The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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July 18, 2013

Cleveland area magician wins award

Jack Stouten experts the curiosity from schoolchildren.

It's the adults who surprise him.

"They'll come up to me after the show and want to go through my stuff," said Stouten, who resides on Middle Lake Jefferson near Cleveland and has performed as The Amazing Magic Jack for more than a decade. "Even they're curious."

And yet, Stouten will never tell.

As a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians-Ring 19 -- and the winner of this year's "America's Funniest Magician Award" winner as determined through a competition hosted by the Minnesota Magic Convention -- Stouten holds tight to the philosophy that exposing a trick deadens the mystery of the illusion not only for himself, but for all other magicians.

Even more, magic is a highly proprietary art form. Social norms within the industry dictate a strict obligation to credit the original source of a trick or illusion, and disputes over copyrights on tricks are sometimes settled in court. In 2012, for instance, Teller -- the silent half of the Penn and Teller performance duo -- sued a rival magician for stealing his famous "Shadows" illusion and trying to sell a DVD of its secrets online.

Though Stouten has been willing to mentor other magicians (as he, too, was mentored by others), he keeps the tradition despite his audiences' best efforts.

"I try not to spoil it for the next magician," he said. "But people always ask."

In that context, it's not surprising that Stouten would divulge nothing about the barbed wire linking ring act that earned him top honors during the state convention in May.

Stouten has been doing the barbed wire routine for years, once performing it before a crowd of magicians at a convention. When he was preparing for his most recent competition, Stouten sent a list of three candidates for his final routine to a magician friend. That friend scrapped all three ideas and suggested the barbed wire act instead.

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