Professional magicians like Magic Mike are heirs of a proud tradition that can be traced back as far as the Middle Ages. We are not talking about the wizard Merlin here, because professional magicians do not cast spells like the bearded wizards of legend. Professional magicians use their skill to perform amazing tricks, and there are paintings of this kind of illusionist using sleight of hand to amaze the public dating as far back as the thirteenth century.
However, professional magicians like Magic Mike usually do not take their inspiration from the wandering tricksters of the Middle Ages. Instead, they find inspiration in the magician gentlemen of the Victorian age.
Most professional magicians are, in a way, disciples of Hermann the Great, the first professional magician to wear the classical goatee and coat-tails. Truth is, he used the coat-tails for reasons of protocol, as he was a favorite of the Sultan of Turkey, and he also used to perform for Napoleon Bonaparte. He really needed to be an elegant fellow!
The craft of the professional magician owes much to the teachings of Jean Eugene Robert-Houdini, one of the great masters. Robert-Houdini wrote what would become the handbook of the professional magician: "Confessions of a Conjurer". Thus, he is seen as the founder of the crafts of the professional magician. Some of his tricks were too elaborate and required equipment that would not be practical for a children's party, like his trick of causing an orange tree to flower in seconds. He also was the first person to levitate a person on stage. However, he also crafted some tricks that were based on pure skill without requiring complicated apparatus, and those are the tricks where Magic Mike excels. The classification of magic that Robert-Houdini created is still in use today, and shapes the repertoire of professional magicians everywhere.
The basic categories of magic that must be learnt by professional magicians include:
a) Production: When a magician creates something out of nothing, he is using production. The most well-known variant of this trick is when the magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, but other variants are common too, like making coins or cards appear out of nowhere.
b) Vanishing: The opposite of production. Magicians can cause objects big and small to disappear into thin air. One very famous instance of this was performed by David Copperfield, who once caused the entire Statue of Liberty to disappear. However, unless you happen to have a spare Statue of Liberty around the house, Magic Mike will have to vanish something smaller than that.
c) Transformation: Anything can transform into anything else. For instance, when a magician transforms a random card into the card you had previously chosen, or when he transforms a tiger into a beautiful woman, or vice versa.
d) Restoration: The professional magician destroys something, either by smashing it to pieces or by burning it to cinders, and then he makes it whole again. The most famous variation of this involves sawing a woman in half, but rest assured that Magic Mike won't be sawing anyone in half at your party.
e) Teleportation: It can be seen as a combination of several of the magical disciplines described above. It involves making an object disappear from one place in order to materialize in another. For instance, when the magician throws a card into his hat, shows it has just disappeared, and then it is found later in the wallet of a very surprised member of the audience.
It is important to take note that Robert-Houdini is not related to Harry Houdini, since technically Houdini was not a professional magician, but an escapologist instead. Harry Houdini could always escape no matter how many locks and ropes were used to restrain him. But his kind of magic, amazing as it was, is not flashy enough to hold the attention of most children. Thus, professional magicians like Magic Mike are not really followers of Houdini, famous as he is, but they are instead heirs of the lesser known and more crafty Robert-Houdini.