Nate Staniforth
Gig Seeker Pro

Nate Staniforth

New York, New York, United States

New York, New York, United States
Band Comedy



The best kept secret in music


"Hocus Pocus: Alum Aims to Amaze Through Magic (not the rabbit-in-the-hat kind)"

At age 8, after reading a children’s book on Harry Houdini, University of Iowa alumnus Nate Staniforth decided to be a magician. In fact, he became obsessed with the idea, and he never gave it up.

“It’s one thing to have your 8-year-old say he wants to be a magician. It’s another thing to have your 18-year-old say it. It’s sort of like saying, ‘I’m going to be a pirate,’” Staniforth says. “But sometimes you just know something about yourself, and my family has been very supportive, even though I probably terrify them from time to time.”

While earning a bachelor’s degree in history from the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Staniforth tested card tricks and other illusions in the ped mall and performed around Iowa City at fraternity and sorority parties, Public Space One, and Old Brick. He even held the attendance record at the Englert Theatre for a short time. During his senior year in 2005, he took his show on the road to campuses across the country.

Today he’s a full-time magician, traveling seven months a year with two 50-pound suitcases and performing in a different city every night. He worked as a consultant on magic star David Blaine’s latest special and is making a documentary about magic around the world.

Staniforth spoke with Spectator@Iowa about his stripped-down style of magic, how his UI education helped prepare him for a unique career, and a downright reckless stunt he pulled off while attending the University.

When you read the children’s book on Houdini, why were you so captivated by him?

When Houdini was 10, he decided to be the greatest magician in the world. He accomplished that, becoming one of the first international superstars. He only stood about 5 feet 4 inches tall, but nothing could hold him down. New York City shut down for his escapes because everyone flooded the streets to watch. Houdini came from a poor family from Budapest, and he worked a few jobs to help out, in addition to practicing his magic. He once said something like, “The secret to my success is simple. I work from 7 a.m. until midnight, and I like it.” His monk-like devotion appealed to me, and I became obsessed with becoming a great magician.

How did you go about learning magic?

Growing up in Ames, Iowa, I did shows at Boy Scout dinners, banquets, and pancake breakfasts, and in high school I did magic at venues on the Iowa State University campus. I looked for every opportunity to get up in front of people and perform, and being the only act in town encouraged me to develop my own style rather than emulating other magicians.

Where do you perform these days?

I live in Iowa City, and I spend five months of the year inventing new magic and writing new pieces for the show. The rest of the year, I pack everything that I need to do my show into two gigantic suitcases and travel around the country to show it to people. Colleges, theaters, clubs, private events…right now I’m doing about 100 shows a year, and sometimes it’s 1,500 people in a gym, sometimes it’s 15 people in a coffee shop.

What are some of the highlights of your show?

One of the illusions I borrowed from Houdini is where you swallow a bunch of needles and thread, and when you regurgitate them, the needles are threaded on the string. It’s a way to shock people into paying attention, which is an important skill to have as a performer. As the show continues, it becomes less about fooling people’s eyes and more about trying to engage their minds.

The last illusion of the show revolves around coincidence. I put my wallet on a stool onstage so everyone can see it clearly. I take a Nerf ball and toss it over my shoulder; it is thrown around six times to random people in the audience, and each person calls out a number between 1 and 50. When I open the wallet, there’s a lottery ticket inside—and the numbers on the ticket match the numbers that the audience shouted out.

What kind of experience do you try to create for your audiences?

It’s stripped down—like street magic for 500 people at a time. I don’t tell a lot of jokes, and there’s no dancing or special effects. The goal is to create that sense of mystery and wonder and astonishment, using magic tricks as a way of sharing something with the audience rather than just fooling them. No one likes to be fooled. Politicians fool people. Advertisements fool people. These are not good experiences. But if you go about it carefully, a magic trick can feel really incredible. So the idea is to take magic tricks and breathe life into them so they create a unique experience for the audience that’s less about deception and more about astonishment.

Did your education at Iowa help prepare you to become a magician?

Actually, yes. I minored in religion, and (religious studies professor) Jay Holstein is the best performer I’ve ever met. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he could communicate his material in such an effective way. My notes from his class are - Spectator - University of Iowa

"Nate Staniforth - 2011 Best Small Venue Performer"

Performing Magic nearly all of his life, he actually began performing on campuses while attending a university. "I had some friends on a school activities board down the road from me when I was a senior and I started booking shows. I finished my senior year pretty much by e-mail because I was on the road performing at colleges."

The next logical step for Nate was to obviously head full throttle into the college market once earning his degree. "It was, to me at least, the next natural step in my career. And I love it because it's a great audience. There is a lot of energy and a lot of excitement."

On stage Nate Staniforth is not your typical college magician. There are very few special effects and no music at all. Nate's goal is to bring aesthetic street magic to the stage, while keeping it shocking. "Not that I am doing coin tricks for a crowded theatre but the idea for me is to strip away all of the superfluous details. It's all about simply amazing people over and over again."

In order to be a great magician it is important to be innovative. The mesmerizing feats magicians perform are the draw of the show, but to keep an audience coming back for more, the show itself must evolve. A trick loses it's shock if you know the ending, much like a joke loses it's humor if you know the punchline. "In my show it is very important to me to perform material that I invented. Because I want my audience to experience something that they haven't seen before."

Nate prides himself on his ability to create and design new material. In fact he has even given one such design to David Blain to use on his television show.

Students, like any audience, are drawn to new experiences. For that matter, we love experiences we can't fully explain. This may ac count for some of the success magicians have on campuses. But to Nate it is much more. "Most people have seen a singer/ song writer up close, or a comic up close, but most people have not seen a magician perform in a small venue. If they do see a magician it's on TV or it's in a grand theatre in Las Vegas. So just to be able to see magic being done in an intimate way catches a lot of people off guard because it's entirely new to them."

Another unique attribute to Nate's performance comes from his teasers. During lunch time and through the afternoon, while performing close-up magic for the students, he films the performance. Then before the stage performance, Nate edits together a highlight reel of that day's teaser at that school with all the students included in the footage and shows the video to open his performance. "It's a way of making each show unique and making each show personal to the school."

Performing magic nearly all his life, the innovative Nate Staniforth looks to continue creating and evolving in the market for years to come.

BOOK IT: For more info or to book contact Sophie K Entertainment (877) 664 8559 or go to for our online edition. - Campus Activities Magazine

"Staniforth mystifies with magic: CAB provides entertainment for Family Weekend"

CAB created a magical evening for students and their families Saturday on Family Weekend when they invited magician Nate Staniforth to the Meridian Ballroom.
Staniforth was voted “2011’s Best Small Venue Performer” by Campus Activities Magazine. According to CAB Assistant Director Michelle Welter, having a magician was perfect for Family Weekend.
“There are lots of young children that come on family weekend, so we needed something appropriate for all ages,” Welter said. “We decided to do a magic show.”
For some parents, like Celia Gehm of Deerfield, the magic show was a good opportunity to spend time with her son, junior mechanical engineering major Alex Gehm.
“[I came here] to see my son, see that he is happy here and spend time together. If you have too much free time you won’t know what to do and not enjoy your time together,” Celia Gehm said. “I’m not sure what to expect from [the show] tonight, but I’m glad to spend time with my sonny boy.”
Staniforth started the show casually. Dressed in a band logo tee and jeans, the magician warned the crowd what they were in for.
“I’m not going to tell jokes, no special effects. I’m just here to amaze you,” Staniforth said.
There was one particular trick created by Staniforth that caught the attention of David Blaine last year, which Blaine used on his national ABC special.
Staniforth performed the trick Saturday night. It started with Staniforth asking for two volunteers. He put one on stage and the other on the other side of the Meridian Ballroom. Then he had each volunteer autograph a card, and asked both volunteers to squeeze their card as tightly as possible. Staniforth stayed a good distance from both volunteers, reassuring the crowd he could not be switching the cards. When the volunteers finally released their cards they ended up with each other’s distinctly autographed cards.
Sophomore nursing major David Plankey of Mattoon was one of the volunteers for the trick and said he could feel when the cards changed.
“When I was squeezing, it hurt because the card was cutting into me,” Plankey said. “But then it changed. It didn’t hurt anymore. Then it slowly started to cut into me again.”
Staniforth reassured the audience nothing was preplanned or fake by having various audience members investigate each trick. Staniforth said he also builds trust with the audience by being straightforward.
“I think that people come to a magic show with a lot of baggage. They expect a sequined tuxedo and a Las Vegas showman and they have all of these things that get in the way of what I want them to experience,” Staniforth said. “So for me, I found one way of breaking through all of that is to just acknowledge it. The whole show is a very purposeful deconstruction, starting with what everyone thinks they are getting into by going to a magic show.”
Staniforth said the baggage audience members have is a part of human nature.
“What I love about magic is when it’s good and when the audience and the performer understand each other, [the mistrust] goes away. The great thing about these moments of impossibility is that it makes people forget to be cool for a second,” Staniforth said.
Those “moments of impossibility” had audience members buzzing after the show, including freshman pre-veterinary major Nyambi Beals and her mother, Monet James of Chicago.
“We came because we like magic but mostly to see my daughter. She misses us and we get to see what she’s been up to,” James said. “We liked the show. It didn’t have tigers like this one we saw in Vegas but it was good.”
Alex Gehm and her mother Celia also enjoyed the show.
“I’d like to know how he does it. The one where he switched the cards; that was my favorite,” Alex Ghem said.
Celia Gehm applauded CAB for the evening and all of the work they do year round.
“I think it’s terrific,” Celia Gehm said. “They [the students] are exposed to things they normally wouldn’t see.”
According to CAB Public Relations Director Demi Bryant, a juni - Alestle Live

"Staniforth creates mind-blowing magical experience"

By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia Group

CEDAR RAPIDS — I was lucky enough to score an invitation to a secret event last night (3/30/2011) in an unnamed location. I came away shaking my head in amazement at the prestidigitational talents of Iowa City’s own Nate Staniforth.

I’ve seen and reviewed a fair number of magic acts, but Staniforth, 28, totally blew my mind. With no smoke and mirrors, no fancy lasers, no leather pants, no rabbits and tophats, he astounded his sneak peek audience with 20 minutes of magic, pure and simple.

Card tricks have never seemed trickier and time stands still under his spell.

The University of Iowa grad crisscrosses the country performing at colleges, universities and theaters, and HE’S COMING TO THE ENGLERT IN IOWA CITY AT 8 P.M. APRIL 8, 2011.

Shout it out to all your friends. A film crew will be there to tape the show for a new DVD. Imagine how much better that would be with a full-house of 750 people whooping it up in stunned amazement!

He sold out the Englert in 2006. Don’t miss out this time around: Get your tickets before they disappear — $15 adults, $8 students. Go to for details. - Eastern Iowa Life

"Seasoned magician shares love for astonishment"

A magician stunned and dumbfounded eager audience members with his mystifying feats in a packed Ice Auditorium on Sept. 1.

Magician Nate Staniforth opened his show with footage of him performing magic tricks on students in Dillin Hall earlier in the day.

Sophomore Haydn Nason, one of the students featured in the clip, experienced a card trick firsthand.

“Dude, it was magic,” Nason said. “Even though my friend figured out how [Staniforth] did the trick, it was still magic.”

Staniforth confounded a much larger group that night when he performed a trick that involved every audience member callingsomeone from a cell phone. The first three audience members to get a person on the line were instructed to stand. Then, the rest of theaudience voted on which person to use for the trick.

The audience voted for sophomore Talia Cowan, who had called her mother, Barbara. Cowan asked her mom to think of a playingard. Barbara chose the eight of clubs. Before the show, Staniforth had chosen a card and returned it to the deck upside down. AfterCowan got off the phone with her mother, Staniforth brought her onstage and had her pull out the card that he had chosen earlier. Itwas the eight of clubs; her mother’s card.

“He was positively impressive and entertaining,” sophomore Claudia Ramirez said.

The next trick Staniforth performed required several volunteers. One volunteer sat onstage with a secret object, given to her byStaniforth, so no one would see it. Staniforth then asked each audience member to take out a dollar bill. He picked a student’s bill atrandom and had the audience memorize the serial number on the bill: 34296866. Two other audience members initialed the bill andtore off a corner of it. The magician put the rest of the bill in an envelope, sealed it and set it on fire. Once the flames died, he asked thefirst volunteer to open her hands and reveal the object that she had been holding the entire time. It was a dollar bill with the same serial number, initials and torn corner that fit perfectly together with the missing piece.

“During my tour I stopped in Georgia for a show, and a guy in the audience called me the devil,” Staniforth said.

Staniforth has been practicing magic tricks since he was 8 years old. At the age of 10, he read a book about Harry Houdini and one of his famous magical feats. Since then, he has practiced and performed the trick, which turned out to be his next act.

“If you are young and impressionable, do not try this yourself; if you are old and impressionable, there is nothing I can do for you,” Staniforth said about the trick.

He pulled out a spool of thread and swallowed a line of it. Next, he produced a packet of needles from his pocket. Once the audience was satisfied that they were sharp, he swallowed the needles to the sound of people’s horrified gasps.Audience members in the front row checked his mouth to prove that he swallowed the needles. Then he regurgitated the thread.Astonishingly, all of the needles he swallowed were threaded on the line of string.

“If astonishment could come in a pill form, I would be an astonishment junkie,” Staniforth said.

The next trick Staniforth performed was one he had been working on since high school. He had a volunteer stand on the right side of the stage and another on the left, so they were nowhere near each other. He gave one student the four of spades from a deck of cards.

To prove that there wasn’t a duplicate card, he had her sign it, fold it up and hold it tightly in her hands. Then, he gave the other studentthe king of diamonds and had him do the same thing. Staniforth asked the first volunteer to imagine her card changing into the othervolunteer’s card. When she opened her hands, the other volunteer’s card, signature and all emerged, and vice versa.

Staniforth ended the night with an act that required everyone in the audience to write down a color, a number between one and 100 and a moderately well-known city on a note card. To select an audience member’s card to use for the trick, he crumpled up a poster and tossed it into the audience. The student who caught it on the third toss was chosen. On his card, he had written “orange,” “43” and “Detroit.” Staniforth then had a different audience member come onstage and check a phone book he had taken from a California hotel to make sure it was not rigged. The volunteer closed her eyes, ran her finger down a residential page and stopped on a random phone number. Staniforth wrote the phone number down and instructed another volunteer, junior Andrew Carpenter, to prank call the number on speakerphone. He asked the volunteer to say that he was a psychology student from Linfield College doing an experiment for a class.

Carpenter called the number and a man answered, explaining that the people Carpenter asked for had recently moved. But he agreed to do the experiment himself. When asked a color, he said orange. When asked a number he said 16 — not the volu - The Linfield Review

"UI alum brings magic to RiverFest"

Nate Staniforth doesn’t get inspiration from fellow magicians. Instead, he gets it from filmmakers and such musicians as Bob Dylan.

“I don’t want to be the next David Copperfield or the next David Blaine,” the professional magician said. “I don’t want to do what’s been done before in magic. I want to do my own thing.”

Staniforth will perform his magic at 9 p.m. today in the IMU Main Lounge. The Campus Activities Board is sponsoring the free event for RiverFest 2010.

The University of Iowa alum graduated in 2005 after studying history and religion, but he says he knew he was going to be a magician even before beginning at the university.

“Once you love something, and you know that’s what you want to do for the rest of your life, you have a responsibility to do it,” he said. “And do it as well as you can.”

Staniforth’s interest in magic took off when he was 10 after he wrote a report on Harry Houdini. The assignment, he said, opened his imagination to the things magicians do, including their ability to astonish an audience.

“It was like I was struck by lightning or something,” he said. “I became obsessed with it.”

Growing up in Iowa, the magician didn’t have anyone to teach him the art. But he doesn’t see the lack of magicians as a hindrance — he enjoyed being able to create much of the magic on his own.

His first trick was a simple disappearing-quarter act. Even with an easy illusion, Staniforth was still able to get the reaction he wanted from his audience. That hasn’t changed.

“One of the incredible things about magic is that it can reach anybody,” he said. “Anywhere in the world, people react to magic in the same way.”

Staniforth compared his shows with performing street magic for 600 people. And when it comes to such a large audience, the UI alum feels his magic isn’t focused on fooling the audience but more on sharing an experience with them.

“It’s not about the magic trick. It’s about what you can communicate with the magic trick,” he said. “It’s a way of connecting with people.”

Jim Arns, the Campus Activities Board’s variety and entertainment director, believes Staniforth’s best quality is his ability to interact with the audience through a diverse range of tricks.

“What’s nice about him is he does a variety,” said Arns, a UI senior. “He likes to get people involved with his shows.”

Staniforth’s ultimate goal is to share the passion he has for the art.

“I’m not doing magic to save the world,” he said. “I’m doing it because I love it. And if I could honestly communicate how much I love this and how much it means to me to the audience members, I feel like they have to like it, too.” - The Daily Iowan

"Standing Room Only- Englert Show Sells Out"

By Adam Greenburg

Magician Nate Staniforth tilts his head toward the floor and pauses. “I have no interest in any of the crap that’s associated with magic - laser beams, or smoke, or tight leather pants, or rabbits and top hats,” he said in a recent UI classroom lecture. He must have spouted this anti-magic creed 1,000 times before, but his tone assured all that he meant what he said.

His theory is simple: Strip down magic to what it is - the illusion of persuading people they are viewing the impossible - and rid the act of all the side notes that, he says, give magicians too much to hide behind.

“So much of magic is ego - pretending you have special powers - and lots of smoke and lights, and that just gets in the way,” the 23-year old religion and history major said in an interview with The Daily Iowan. “I’m trying to get past all that, so I can communicate something honest to people. That puts the emphasis on the show [itself], rather than what I’m saying in the show.”

In performance, Staniforth is anything but hot air. His presence on stage is dry but irresistibly commanding. He owns the show. During one hypnotic scene, Staniforth went to great lengths to choose a random audience member - chosen in part by the audience. Staniforth instructed the woman, perched on a folding chair on stage, to close her eyes as he walked her through an imaginary tour of downtown Iowa City in her mind. His hand held an envelope containing a sheet of paper with a random number on it. The woman was told to picture a white poster, to walk closer toward it in her mind, and to find a number written on it. Asked what the number on the imaginary poster was, she replied: 68. Staniforth handed her the envelope. The number on the sheet of paper inside? 68. Shrieks and puffs of laughter reverberated through the crowd.

“Nate is probably the most talented performer I have ever seen close-up,” said Andy Stoll, an independent talent agent and Staniforth’s co-producer for the Englert event. “His stage show and personality set him apart from most entertainers I’ve seen.”

“The people who influence me most are not magicians but, rather, musicians and filmmakers,” Staniforth said in a voice of confident but meticulous clarity, aware how odd the connection he was trying to make might sound.

“In the current pop culture, it’s music and movies that are really affecting people,” he said. “When I think of what I’m trying to do, I think of the songwriters and filmmakers I like, because that’s what I’m trying to do, more than what Houdini or Copperfield did. They just had different goals.”

Staniforth’s personal goal is to connect with his audience in the unspoken realm of disbelief. His epiphany came last year at a concert in Chicago - a U2 and Kanye West concert, actually - where in the audience the magician was awed at the connection between the musicians and their fans - 20,000 minds attuned to what was happening on stage.

For Staniforth, it is the artist following her or his muse that holds his attention and drives his own efforts.

“I am attracted to any kind of artist who is doing what he wants, regardless of how other people take it,” he said. “People hated Bob Dylan when he went electric, but nothing was quite the same after he broke onto the scene, and I respect that.”

We see examples of people compromising their art for mass success nearly every day: in action- and CGI-overloaded blockbuster movies, on “American Idol,” and on records by musicians coasting on trends rather than forging to where the music takes them.

Staniforth assumes most people think magic is uncool, and, yet, there he is, performing his brand of adult magic, wowing crowds with sleight-of-hand card tricks and disappearances.

“At the core of it, the heart of the matter, there is something really, really cool, really amazing. It’s the whole idea of experiencing mystery,” he said, then waxed on modern society’s inability to acknowledge the unknown. “It’s so important for us to have an answer for everything. The Western mind is stuck in the belief that the forces that govern us are not only knowable but known.”

Then, in one quick statement, Staniforth reveals his credo: “[People] pretend like they know everything, and a great magician could remind people that we don’t know everything and do that in a way that’s really entertaining.”

Admittedly, however, Staniforth is not yet there. He is set on living his life as a magician and “never getting a real job.” If he fails, it will only be because he cannot quite connect with his audience in the way he would like to.

“If I’m to succeed, it will be because I can figure out how to get out of the way,” he said.

The Englert show is a homecoming for the Iowan, and though it is not the final stop on his tour, it represents a culmination of his year on the road. A film crew funded by Staniforth has been following him since the tour began in LA last June, shooting footage of him in concer - The Daily Iowan


Still working on that hot first release.



Nate Staniforth began touring while still a student in college, studying theater and history by day and driving for hours to perform on other campuses at night.

Nates 2007 web series The Magician Project caught the eye of superstar David Blaine who recruited Nate to design an original illusion for Blaine to use on his national ABC television special.

In 2009 Nate traveled extensively through India and Southeast Asia to explore the magic in these cultures as part of a documentary about magic around the world, meeting with psychics, snake charmers, street performers, shaman, and anyone who could show him something amazing.

Nate recently won the Campus Activities Magazine "Best Small Venue Performer" award and now tours the country full time, bringing his unique unplugged style of magic to over a hundred colleges, universities, and theaters every year.