Jenny Gorelick’s Sexy Variety Show Made Me Believe in Magic

Despite a weirdly quiet and less-than-ideal audience, Gorelick’s lineup was exceptional and even had me thinking that maybe magicians are sexy.

Jenny Gorelick’s Sexy Variety Show Made Me Believe in Magic
Mark Clearview performs at “Love, Sex, Magic” in January. Photo: Alex S. K. Brown

Hot Mic is a weekly column by Leah Abrams documenting, spotlighting, and reviewing live comedy in NYC. 

When I hear the word “magician,” my first thought is like, a brace-faced bar mitzvah boy who learns how to make a salt shaker disappear and performs for his grandparents at every Jewish holiday. My second thought is Gob from Arrested Development. Neither of whom I consider hot. 

But Jenny Gorelick is on a mission to make magicians sexy and last week, I went to see if she could pull off this spectacular feat. One of the culture’s foremost scholars of straight men on dating apps, Gorelick hosts a monthly variety show called Love, Sex, Magic (presumably inspired by the iconic Ciara song ft. talented slimeball Justin Timberlake) at the Arlo Hotel in Williamsburg. “My ex is a magician,” she often jokes. “I used to see him… now I don’t.”

It’s usually in the Hotel’s Mirror Bar but Julia Fox happened to be hosting a private dinner down there that night, so Gorelick got bumped to the Water Tower, a tiny glass dome with a glittering view of the Manhattan skyline. My friend Fiona and I were, true to form, running late. But in our elevator up we breathed a sigh of relief: we weren’t the only stragglers. A very fashionable, older Australian woman and her two younger companions got lost trying to find the right floor. 

“But look at us,” she said. “It’s all love now!” And it was—we walked into a completely packed room just before the show began. On one side, the skyline; on the other, a wall of what one of the performers, Francesca D’Uva, described as “gigantic refrigerator magnets.” They were huge posters printed with kitschy phrases like: “No one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they had plenty of sleep” and “The only lie I ever told is that I liked you when I already knew I loved you.” OK, Home Goods chic!

Jenny Gorelick hosts “Love, Sex, Magic.” Photo: Alex S. K. Brown

Gorelick was an incredible host, and her lineup was exceptional. But at any live show, the crowd is half the magic. And, despite the packed room, I wasn’t feeling the spark. The Arlo seems to attract a more buttoned-up, finance-y crowd than I’m used to. A little bit older, a little bit more shy. During Gorelick’s opening crowd work, one couple fessed up to having met on OkCupid—which is kind of the vibe the whole room was giving. Skinny jeans, sweater dresses, bomber jackets, side parts: these were the trappings of the Love, Sex, Magic crowd that night, and it seemed to prevent them from fully getting some of the jokes.

But I’ll get back to that. The show started with one of my favorite young comics in the city, Jared Goldstein. “I know, you weren’t expecting me to look like this based on my name. I’m what some would call,” he said, flipping his shoulder-length hair, “diverse.” He talked about his days as a child actor, shitting in the ocean, and rules for when straight men are allowed to say the f-slur (only while hooking up with other men). Then there was Amber Singletary, who told the best school shooter joke I’ve ever heard and used the term “underground kale-road” to describe how Karens might escape their imagined persecution. 10/10.

Up next was the magician…and I was nervous. Would he be awkward? Cringey? Unimpressive? I couldn’t remember the last time I saw a magic show in real life, or at least not one I particularly enjoyed. Plus, we were seated on a little couch toward the back of the Water Tower—would I even be able to see these tricks?

Well, call me a believer because the sleight-of-hand magician Blaise Serra blew me away with his card tricks and easy charm. A randomly picked card became exactly what the audience members predicted, even when they changed their minds at the last minute. Decks were shuffled and split then magically realigned themselves in perfect numerical order by suit. At one point, a card appeared in a random man’s back pocket. I have no idea how he did these things and I don’t really want to know. Even as a critic, part of the social contract of being in the audience for any live show is a suspension of disbelief—a commitment to engage the performance on its own terms and curtail the skeptic in your head. What better manifestation of this agreement than a series of mysterious card tricks?

“Magic is so fun!” I wrote in my notes. Maybe magicians are sexy? Serra, at least, seems to use his powers to his advantage: he confesses to the audience that he met his girlfriend at one of his shows.

It’s tough to follow that act, but Savannah DesOrmeaux and D’Uva closed the show with sets I’ll be thinking about for weeks. DesOrmeaux told a spine-tingling story of getting hit by a cab on her way to a date—and then proceeding to still go on the date. Then D’uva performed an epic ballad she wrote to imagine what it would be like to be straight…and fall in love with Colton from The Bachelor…and bear his handsome quintuplet sons.

It was perfect, but somehow, even then, most of the crowd faltered on its end of the social contract. Multiple people sat through the whole show with their arms crossed, as if they had paid to see comedy but were telling the performers: “Try to make me laugh. I dare you.” It was also so strangely quiet that in the bathroom, one very nice woman told me she loved my laugh. 

At one point, I overheard two guys next to me talking shit about one of their friends who “grunts too loud at the gym.” “It’s like, bro, you can breathe heavily but don’t make all those noises,” one said to the other. Fellas, is it gay to exercise?

I found myself wishing I could see the whole thing all over again in a different venue, maybe in a bigger venue, or maybe even at the same venue without those two specific gym bros sitting next to me. Maybe next time, Gorelick will book a magician who can make audience members disappear. 

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