Entertainers place themselves in the limelight with the objective of captivating the minds of audiences and garnering their support. What may seem like a simple task for a seasoned veteran like Joseph Tran, is actually a difficult one that troubles him to this day.
Tran is a professional magician that currently tours internationally, showcasing either his illusionist show or his comedy act that incorporates magic into the mix.
Prior to making magic and stand-up a full-time career, Tran attended CSUN, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Multimedia production.
“When I’m traveling on my own I still get nervous when I hear my intro,” Tran said. “I’ll never get over that…my adrenaline always pumps. I always have to take a few deeps breaths and get into the mode.”
Tran was no stranger to work, as he often juggled classes and work-study on campus while performing magic during the weekends and devoting his time to the Magic Castle Junior Society located in Hollywood.
“While I was in college, when all my friends were out partying during the weekends, I’m traveling to a different town, different city, doing a magic show. I would literally be coming home Monday morning, drop off my props and go to class. Magic paid for the bills in college,” said Tran.
Performance runs in Tran’s bloodline, as he is the son of Vietnamese parents that work as ballroom dance instructors. Tran credits his parents’ career as a reason why he’s gained their full support throughout his entire learning process.
“My parents came from a war-torn country. So when they built a new life here they chose to give me the freedom to choose my own calling in life,” said Tran. “For that, I’m very fortunate because I know that not every parent out there supports what their kid does. I always try to tell other students there are people out there like me that believe in you, go out there and do it, I’m living proof.”
Tran’s parents were highly involved long before it was safe for Tran to call magic a career. By the age of 16, Tran was a regular at the Magic Castle Junior Society. The opportunity to be involved with magic and surround himself with professionals at an early age gave him the courage and motivation to continue working on his act and improve his skills.
“The purpose of the Junior Program at the Magic Castle is to take young people with magical talent and potential and turn them from ‘tricksters’ into ‘performers,’”said Robert Dorian, CEO of the Magic Castle’s Junior Academy. “Admission is by audition only, and once chosen, members attend monthly meeting where they work on their acts and we help them develop it to as professional a level as possible through the library and stages of the Magic Castle,” said Dorian.
Tran’s love for magic stems from the idea that it is a branch of theater. When he’s not on the road, he is working on his YouTube series called “Reasons Not to Date a Magician”. His self-directed show, in which he stars in, consists of comedy clips literally showing reasons why not to date a magician. The videos are flooded with comments ranging from “lol” to his signature war-cry “#aaasian.”
Tran credits his time at CSUN for helping him reach his goals. He developed friendships that have lasted well into the present that now form part of his crew. He also appreciates the mentorship he received from his professors at the time.
“I’ve been very lucky to have studied under the tutelage of Lillian Lehman. She just retired but she’s one of the most respected acting professors in the department of theatre [at CSUN],” said Tran. “She kicked my butt into shape and inspired me to work really hard.”
Lehman, a former CSUN professor in the CTVA department still maintains a close relationship with Tran. He was a student of hers from freshman year all the way through his senior year.
“One of the things about Joseph that has helped him in his career and throughout his education is his willingness to listen and his hunger and desire to learn,” said Lehman. “He’s a very talented individual in many aspects: acting, comedy, magic, editing and photography. He’s always taking on new challenges.”
As technology and the internet evolves so has Tran’s magic. A part of Tran’s arsenal consists of a trick that involves audience participation and Twitter.
The audience is given a new deck of cards and they look at a card. Once the audience is aware of their card, they go into Joseph Tran’s twitter (@JosephTran) and look at a tweet that Tran posted right before he got on stage. The audience then realizes that the card they saw was predicted by Tran prior to the beginning of the show.
Those skills are a reason as to why Tran’s mentor in magic, Dan Birch, describes him as a “genius, both with entertainment skills and technology.”
“I always encouraged him to develop his own style, way of thinking for his act, which he did very well,” said Birch. “I believe his success in magic was a result of his own efforts, which he had in him the entire time.”
Success didn’t come easy for Tran.
About five years ago, Tran’s career had hit a wall. Tran was at a loss for inspiration, which led him to make a drastic decision.
“I just dropped everything here in LA and Buenos Aires was always a place I wanted to go, I just flew over there, got an apartment and just lived there for a few months,” said Tran. “But out there, that’s where I really found myself.”
Temporarily relocating thousands of miles away from home without a safety net allowed Tran to assess his life and hit a reset button.
It was during his time in Buenos Aires where Tran realized that it was time to make some changes in his mental approach.
“I had a lot of time to think out there. When I came back home I realized that if I’m going to pursue what I’m truly passionate about, then I have to pursue it [with] full force, [at] full speed,” said Tran. “That’s why I dropped all my other side jobs. I learned to pursue everything with no fear. I cannot be afraid of failure or my own success.”
Tran’s mindset has allowed him to grow not only as an individual but as an entertainer. He’s performed for Fortune 500 companies and universities all across the United States, and taken part in month-long cruises as a guest entertainment. To this day, Tran still makes it a priority to respond to every single tweet he receives from his fans.
“I’m extremely humbled and fortunate to be doing this and the reason why I do all this traveling is for them,” said Tran.
Tran knew that repaying his mentors for all the help and support he’s received over the years would be impossible, so he figured it would be beneficial to pay it forward to other generations of magicians.
“I’ve had individuals approach me after my show asking about apprenticeships and I’ll hire some of them,” said Tran. “They get to see what happens on and off stage and they get to see how my crew works.”
There are currently no plans to slow down, as Tran hopes to continue touring as well as expanding and focusing more on his acting career within the next 10 years.
“This is what I set out to do and I’d love to keep doing it,” said Tran. “Being an Asian performer and being in an entertainment-based industry I’ve dealt with a lot of people that have told me: I can’t, I won’t, I shouldn’t and I couldn’t. A part of the reason why I do this is to prove to all those people that they’re all wrong,” said Tran.