The only thing Portland magician Ben Zabin says he loves more than performing magic is smoking weed. Zabin even sold cannabis early on in his career to supplement his income as a professional magician. When the pandemic shut down all live performances — and even his weed business — Zabin, then based in Boston, thought it was time to combine two of his life’s most enduring passions. As a result Smokus Pocus: A 420 Magic Show emerged from the haze.
Since May of last year, Smokus Pocus, the self-proclaimed world’s first cannabis-themed magic show, has sold out performances in Portland while touring as far afield as Alaska, Oklahoma and Michigan. The show comes to Eugene for the very first time March 11 at Sessions Music Hall Lounge.
What’s clear from the start is that Smokus Pocus is no traditional magic show.
Zabin has been practicing magic since he was young. Primarily self-taught, Zabin received a magic kit when he was young; practicing tricks, he says, helped him overcome shyness and a terrible stutter. Soon, Zabin sought mentorship from more experienced magicians, and by high school he performed at birthday parties and private events. After just one year, he dropped out of college to pursue magic full time.
He describes his style as a blend of stand-up comedy and magic tricks. He tends to dress down in hoodies and jeans, like an affable Gen Z college sophomore late for class — no top hats or capes to be seen. Zabin also calls his show highly interactive as he shares his experience selling and smoking cannabis, asking the audiences for their stories, too. One Zabin magic routine includes a package of mac ’n’ cheese, because what goes better with pot than some munchies?
But Zabin is also quick to point out that you don’t need to smoke pot in order to enjoy the show.
“Getting to play to both those kinds of people is really fun,” Zabin says. “There’s lots of laughs throughout. I don’t take myself seriously. We’re just there to have a good time and have our minds blown.”
Intermixed with Zabin’s laid-back storytelling style are sleight of hand tricks, mind reading and an audience member’s cell phone that just won’t stay put. With a background performing on cruise ships and touring with the Navy, Zabin loves seeing the look on people’s faces when they’re entertained.
“It’s an exhilarating experience making a room of people laugh and gasp. It’s really rewarding to see that, and be a part of that energy in the room,” Zabin says. ν
Smokus Pocus: a 420 Magic Show is 7 pm Friday, March 11, at Sessions Music Hall Lounge; $25, 21+, check with venue for COVID-19 safety protocols.