What's the difference between magicians?
When you think of a magician, what image comes to your mind? Do you think of Criss Angel floating around shirtless? Or do you think of a birthday clown in your living room?
Here are the general categories of magician. I'm sure there are some that I've left out, but this will give you a good idea.
Even though it is possible to create illusions with just your bare hands, an illusionist (in general) uses large props to change ladies into tigers, or make helicopters appear on stage. Illusionists usually need special lights and audio, large stages with a back stage, and a crew of stage hands. David Copperfield is a good example of an illusionist, and probably one of the most famous magicians alive today.
Close up and Strolling:
Close up magic is just what it sounds like, it's close to the audience. A strolling magician will walk around at a party or restaurant and entertain 2 to 10 guests at a time before strolling to the next small group. They usually use common props such as cards and coins, or even borrowed items from spectators. David Blaine is probably the most famous close-up magician.* I (Elias Caress) perform close-up and on stage.
This last category encompasses many sub-categories of performs, but basically a stand up performer entertains crowds of people with less props than an illusionist. Penn and Teller are probably the most famous stand-up magicians. I also include myself in this category.
There are many types of stand-up magicians including:
Sleight of hand or manipulation artists
Escapologists (like Houdini)
And many more!
I recently had a potential client call me and told me that he wanted some kind of variety act. The problem was that his company had hired a magician before and they hated his show, and now they never wanted to hire a magician again! This person understood that I was nothing like the previous magician and really wanted to hire me, but just couldn't convince the rest of his co-workers to give magic another chance.
Magicians are about as diverse as musicians. If you've seen a church choir before, you wouldn't assume it's the same as Metallica? Would you sell your tickets to see Adele because you didn't like the guy at the karaoke bar?
Also, magicians can be even more diverse than comedians! Some comedians say the most shocking things they can think of, while some specialize in church shows, some appeal to certain ethnic groups. Richard Pryor couldn't go 2 minutes without dropping the F-Bomb, but Bill Cosby was Disney clean!
*Many people refer to Blaine as a street magician, but that does cause some confusion. Blaine's style is quite different from the Busker, who performs in public for tips. A busker earns his/her living on tips, while the Blaine-style street magician performs for his/her own amusement (or because TV camera's are watching.