The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Jason 'that funny magic guy' is playing his cards right

IMG 9217Sauntering over to a table near the back of a southwest Calgary restaurant, he scans the area to ensure services are needed, then he asks calmly, not too obviously, if the patrons would enjoy a magic trick.

Other than his bright clothing giving away his unique role, Jason Werhun would seem to resemble a store manager or host at the restaurants he works at. But once the coast is clear and an okay is given for said magic trick to begin, Werhun’s voice carries further and the entertainment begins. Out of his bag he grabs cards or a balloon and begins his private show for the table of four.

“He’s in red all the time. So he stands out in the crowd just by his attire. He’s very boisterous when he’s entertaining. Like when he’s at a table everybody can see him and they know he’s here,” says restaurant manager Chris Palinkas. “Everybody watches him and they want him to come to their table.”

A family of five sits at a table, nearing the end of their meal on a Wednesday evening. After her grandchildren receive balloon animals for dessert, Rhonda Metz says, “God bless you.” The expressions of excitement and surprise at how the magic tricks end is repeated at several more tables as more families fill up the restaurant.

IMG 9236Dinner and a show, minus the cover charge. Jason Werhun, also known as 'that funny magic guy,' has been entertaining others with magic tricks since he was in College. He often performs at Boston Pizza restaurants, entertaining guests on otherwise uneventful nights. Photo by Jaline Perfect

For restaurants like the Boston Pizza in the southwest, having a magician and entertainer like Jason Werhun is a beneficial financial move. In times of pinching pennies and tightening belts, people often cut extra expenses which means there are empty tables at restaurants and corporations spend less for entertainment at parties and events.

“It builds a loyalty on what would otherwise be a slow day,” says Palinkas. “We were looking for that catalyst to pull people in because Wednesday is traditionally one of your slowest days and so we brought him in as kind of a kids’ night to draw the families.”

Werhun says he began working at the restaurant when a friend suggested it would be a good fit.

“We ended up splitting four Boston Pizzas,” Werhun says.

Working at the restaurants allowed the two of them to gain good professional exposure. It also helped with their practice of magic tricks and it switched up the work routine for both themselves and the restaurants.

“What’s really popular is the strolling, walk around magic like I do at Montana’s or like Jason does at Boston Pizza,” says Brent Smith, another entertainer in Calgary who has had success as a magician working with restaurants.

Smith owns the Vanishing Rabbit off of Edmonton Trail and he has noticed a slight shift in the industry since the recession began.

“My large shows have gone down, but my kid shows have gone up. So I’m very busy doing kids’ birthday parties but the corporate shows have died off, pretty much.”

While both Smith and Werhun became interested in magic at a young age, Werhun accidentally began his career when he was 17 years old.

“I had been making balloon animals at the local market, a friend had shown me how and it was a great way to make money in the summer. You get to meet a lot of girls, see all the sights and they’re giving you money?” Werhun says someone showed him a magic trick during his balloon making routine and he began to incorporate it in the performance.

“I noticed that people would stick around,” says Werhun. “I started to study magic as a way to keep a crowd and ended up really enjoying it.”

IMG 9243While adults might be a tough crowd for a magician at times, kids are more than ready to be entertained by Jason Werhun's charisma and love of his craft. Photo by Jaline PerfectWerhun kept practicing magic tricks and making balloon animals as a way to put himself through college, beginning with small birthday parties and eventually expanding to larger events.

Both Werhun and Smith found niche markets for their skills. “If you’re good, you’re busy. That’s pretty much what I can say. I mean if you’re really good at what you do, there’s always a demand for you for sure,” Smith says.

To tap into that niche, Werhun explains, “one of the things they stress when I was in college was that everyone hears a message differently.” He says while it’s important to know your crowd to speak to it, it’s also important to recognize within a crowd, there are different people and you have to speak to each of them.

This is evident as Werhun walks around the dining room at the restaurant. At one table, there are two preteen girls who are enjoying the complex coin tricks more than the balloon animal a toddler at another table holds closely.

Sometimes patrons aren’t appreciative of magicians or of a trick that is performed. Werhun says it’s not his job to change their minds about magic. He works because he loves people and he loves the power of surprising people, catching them off guard and affecting them emotionally with an artful performance.

Even while he’s having an off day, Werhun says, “no matter what’s happening in my life, I’m still smiling.”

Despite uncertain times, this is one man who is playing the cards he’s been dealt.

Sauntering over to a table near the back of a southwest Calgary restaurant, he scans the area to ensure services are needed, then he asks calmly, not too obviously, if the patrons would enjoy a magic trick.

Other than his bright clothing giving away his unique role, Jason Werhun would seem to resemble a store manager or host at the restaurants he works at. But once the coast is clear and an okay is given for said magic trick to begin, Werhun’s voice carries further and the entertainment begins. Out of his bag he grabs cards or a balloon and begins his private show for the table of four.

“He’s in red all the time. So he stands out in the crowd just by his attire. He’s very boisterous when he’s entertaining. Like when he’s at a table everybody can see him and they know he’s here,” says restaurant manager Chris Palinkas. “Everybody watches him and they want him to come to their table.”

A family of five sits at a table, nearing the end of their meal on a Wednesday evening. After her grandchildren receive balloon animals for dessert, Rhonda Metz says, “God bless you.” The expressions of excitement and surprise at how the magic tricks end is repeated at several more tables as more families fill up the restaurant.

For restaurants like the Boston Pizza in the southwest, having a magician and entertainer like Jason Werhun is a beneficial financial move. In times of pinching pennies and tightening belts, people often cut extra expenses which means there are empty tables at restaurants and corporations spend less for entertainment at parties and events.

“It builds a loyalty on what would otherwise be a slow day,” says Palinkas. “We were looking for that catalyst to pull people in because Wednesday is traditionally one of your slowest days and so we brought him in as kind of a kids’ night to draw the families.”

Werhun says he began working at the restaurant when a friend suggested it would be a good fit.

“We ended up splitting four Boston Pizzas,” Werhun says.

Working at the restaurants allowed the two of them to gain good professional exposure. It also helped with their practice of magic tricks and it switched up the work routine for both themselves and the restaurants.

IMG 9217Though he started out making balloon animals at local festivals, Jason Werhun quickly realized that magic tricks were a great way to keep a crowd's attention... and earn some sweet tips! Photo by Jaline Perfect

“What’s really popular is the strolling, walk around magic like I do at Montana’s or like Jason does at Boston Pizza,” says Brent Smith, another entertainer in Calgary who has had success as a magician working with restaurants.

Smith owns the Vanishing Rabbit off of Edmonton Trail and he has noticed a slight shift in the industry since the recession began.

“My large shows have gone down, but my kid shows have gone up. So I’m very busy doing kids’ birthday parties but the corporate shows have died off, pretty much.”

While both Smith and Werhun became interested in magic at a young age, Werhun accidentally began his career when he was 17 years old.

“I had been making balloon animals at the local market, a friend had shown me how and it was a great way to make money in the summer. You get to meet a lot of girls, see all the sights and they’re giving you money?” Werhun says someone showed him a magic trick during his balloon making routine and he began to incorporate it in the performance.

“I noticed that people would stick around,” says Werhun. “I started to study magic as a way to keep a crowd and ended up really enjoying it.”

Werhun kept practicing magic tricks and making balloon animals as a way to put himself through college, beginning with small birthday parties and eventually expanding to larger events.

Both Werhun and Smith found niche markets for their skills. “If you’re good, you’re busy. That’s pretty much what I can say. I mean if you’re really good at what you do, there’s always a demand for you for sure,” Smith says.

To tap into that niche, Werhun explains, “one of the things they stress when I was in college was that everyone hears a message differently.” He says while it’s important to know your crowd to speak to it, it’s also important to recognize within a crowd, there are different people and you have to speak to each of them.

This is evident as Werhun walks around the dining room at the restaurant. At one table, there are two preteen girls who are enjoying the complex coin tricks more than the balloon animal a toddler at another table holds closely.

Sometimes patrons aren’t appreciative of magicians or of a trick that is performed. Werhun says it’s not his job to change their minds about magic. He works because he loves people and he loves the power of surprising people, catching them off guard and affecting them emotionally with an artful performance.

Even while he’s having an off day, Werhun says, “no matter what’s happening in my life, I’m still smiling.”

Despite uncertain times, this is one man who is playing the cards he’s been dealt.

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 The editor responsible for this story is Stefan Strangman, who can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.