15 September 2023

A peek behind the curtain with the bickering Delusionists Young & Strange [2023]

We've eagerly awaited a full Young and Strange show ever since the we saw them as part of Champions of Magic in 2018.   You may have seen them featured on the cover of VANISH (#89, Dec 2021).

Next month, Richard Young and Sam Strange (Young and Strange) are coming to Ontario to present their full stage show: Young and Strange Delusionists

Oct 12th - North Bay, Capitol Centre
Oct 13th - Barrie, Georgian Theatre
Oct 14th - London, Centennial Hall
Oct 15th - Windsor,  Chrysler Theatre


Young and Strange Delusionists poster


We're delighted to bring to you a brief interview with Young and Strange in which we learn, among other things, how they earned the sometimes used moniker, "the bickering illusionists."

A peek behind the curtain with Young and Strange

We’ve heard and read multiple versions of your double act origin story.  What really happened to bring you two together?

Young:  We realised early on that the real story wasn’t what people wanted to hear. They would ask and we could see them zoning out and being disappointed with the truth so we decided to tell them what they wanted to hear; that we are childhood friends. It is also shorter so that worked great for us too. We are not childhood friends (or even friends these days) and didn’t meet until 2008, we were both working as close-up magicians in the same town (we are both from Oxford, that is true) and we kept hearing each-others names, Sam reached out and suggested we meet, so we did. Initially we just discussed close-up magic and gigs, it was around 18 months later we did our first stage show together, however it wasn’t as a double act, we both performed individually. 

Strange:  In that first theatre show, we did perform a few routines onstage together (as well as our individual ‘acts’). Those were the most enjoyable aspects of the show and also the bits that the audience seemed to like best. We both loved the process of putting on a theatre show and that shared passion meant we did other local shows together. We used the income we could generate from close-up gigs to buy illusions and pursue the double act. It wasn’t until the first series of Penn and Teller: Fool Us came along (back in 2011), that we were forced to make a decision on the name of our double act. A call from a researcher on the show asking what we would like to be called was followed by a conversation about whether 'Rich and Sam’ was a good option. 'Young and Strange' are our real names so it was a simple enough decision in the end.

Young and Strange in silhouette

Young (left) and Strange in silhouette


What strengths do each of you bring to the partnership?

Young:  Occasionally Strange oils the wheels of the 360 illusion. I do everything else. 

Strange:  I am pretty good at the art of deception. Young thinks I oil the wheels on the 360, when in reality I delegate that job to our stage manager.



Only a handful of male illusion double acts come to mind.  What motivated you to pursue this path?

Young:   Illusions are so much fun to perform, we just loved it from the very beginning, well I did. Strange was very lost in life. It is a lot of hard work and they are so expensive and hard to move around. It’s a lot easier in both respects if there are 2 of you. We really are not very smart and it is entirely truthful to say there was no ‘master plan’ or consideration into the commercial opportunities that come from being an illusionist double act. I regularly get pretty upset and have to revisit my therapist when I realise he has taken half of the money. 

Strange:  Scott Penrose once said that being an illusionist is 20% magician and 80% furniture removal man. Having 2 of us to help move that furniture made life a lot easier. It’s also good to have a mate to debrief the show with and someone who wants to dissect each performance. Working on your own without a director or people in the audience to give feedback must be very lonely. The dynamic of 2 of us also allowed us to bring something to the performances other than just the box illusions.





Excerpt from show promo:  

Young & Strange - Delusionists is fun for the entire family. It’s a fully interactive and immersive experience, with extraordinary appearances, vanishes, mind reading and more. It’s all tied together with a mind blowing, sensational finale that’s filled with the biggest stage illusions, rivalling any Las Vegas show. Book tickets now to avoid disappointment.


We assume that you perform some pieces of the Delusionists show as part of the Champions of Magic ensemble.  What are the similarities and differences between Young & Strange Delusionists and your performances in Champions of Magic

Young:  Yes, some of what you will see in Delusionists you may have seen in Champions of Magic, however we think if you’ve seen us before in that show you’ll really enjoy coming and watching us sweat and no doubt screw up at least some of the plethora of new and unfamiliar material which we will attempt on this Ontario tour. What’s genuinely so exciting to us is that Delusionists gives us an opportunity to really connect with the audience on a deeper personal level as we simply have more time to do so. You’ll see a complete mix of magic at Delusionists. Not just the largest stage illusions but also close-up, mentalism effects (we promise done in a speedy fashion, you won’t be bored) parlour magic and Strange might even be presenting his full (not) FISM level card manipulation sequence. 

Strange:  Although we have been performing together for a long time now, Delusionists is a relatively new show. It comprises a lot of material that we have performed over the years. However, there is some new content too. That is one of the best combinations to watch live. You will get to see well worked and honed performances that will make you think 'these guys are such professionals.' That will butt up against new material which will make you think 'these guys are such amateurs.' You’ll get to experience complete competence and then shocking incompetence, which really makes for good viewing. I’m not sure if this is mentioned in the blurb or ticket small print, but the 360 illusion is likely to be cut from the show due to a lack of oil on the wheels.



Much of your act involves a great deal of physicality.  How do you stay show ready? (Do you train?  Do you have an active lifestyle?)

Young:  I mean look at me, clearly not. From time to time I will walk to Denny’s if less than 8 minutes away and the outdoor temperature is above 75 F. I did have a really bad back on the final leg of the last Champions tour which was a big wake up call to me. I have quite a lot of pride in the fact that I have never missed a Champions show in 10 years but I was really close to missing one because of this injury, I was in enormous pain during that first show after I did myself in (lifting my suitcase into the tour bus of all the stupid possible reasons). Potential injuries are another reason to attend Delusionists, there’s always the possibility Strange will fall off our beautiful Bill Smith Fire Spiker

Strange:  'I hurt my back carrying the show’ was Young’s stock response in the aftermath of the suitcase debacle. It was a dark time. It’s one of the great things about being in a double act though as there are times when we can help each other out. I’m not a doctor but his back would get particularly bad and inflamed during a load-in or load-out, whenever a prop needed maintenance, or if an email needed a long response.

Young and (mostly) Strange

Young (left) lets Strange take the spotlight


The soundtrack for your show definitely enhances the impact of your stage performance.  Longtime fans will notice that it evolves with time (eg. one of your signature pieces which you performed in 2017 on Penn and Teller: Fool Us has music with a very different feel than Live and Let Die (by Wings) which you use today.)  
From where (or from whom) do you get your inspiration for your music?

Young:  In the early days I found most of the music, it was Alex our Producer who suggested Live and Let Die for our cardboard box trick, I have hated it since the first performance but he does pay us well so I have said nothing. All of my own music suggestions have been vetoed by Alex and Strange since around 2019. I once suggested Guns N' Roses November Rain to Strange and he said we couldn’t use it as he had never heard of it. The song currently has nearly 3 billion views on YouTube. 

Strange:  Go onto YouTube and type 'November Rain.’ 28 views. Hang on that might be a B, not and 8, but whatever. Crazy Frog has 4B but I had to talk Young down from that track as he wanted to use it for a poetic, emotional and reflective Miser's Dream routine.



What is the biggest change to your act, or change in your approach to magic, since your producer Alex Jarrett first saw you at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?

Young:  The biggest change to the act was when Strange had a baby went home and Alex Jarrett stood in for him for a couple of weeks. Young & ‘Strange’ never had more positive feedback. The act was tight, professional, had improv skills and people loved us. For the first time ever, people actually wanted their photo with Young & Strange. I really tried to convince Alex to not allow Strange back and to continue on the inevitable golden path that lay ahead of us, sadly he said he couldn’t do it as arguing with venues about the cleaning costs for the end of show confetti takes up too much of his time. I still believe that had he said yes there is a good chance my house today would have more than 2 bedrooms. 

Strange:  Interestingly, whenever the biweekly conversation comes up about ‘The worst ever Champions of Magic gig,’ Corbin in Kentucky is top of the list. I can’t remember the exact date of that show but I know my daughter's birthday is on 14th September.
Our biggest change to our act since meeting Alex Jarrett is that we have been kept busy working. He has provided us with air time on stages around the world for many years and that has allowed us to evolve and develop as an act. Alex’s passion is firmly rooted in comedy and that has no doubt impacted us along the way.


(not) Strange and Young

(not) Strange (left)* and Young
post-show Meet and Greet, circa September 14th
* Alex Jarrett, producer


Young's  go-to Karaoke song:
Kayla Drescher and I used to sing Phantom of the Opera together when we were on tour. I haven’t been able to sing it since she left… it’s just too hard.
Young, are you tired of Strange riding on your coattails all these years?

Young:  He knows the right thing to do is change the agreement from 50/50 to 60/40 (at least). He knows this deep down, he also knows I can’t ask for it and he has to offer. It’s just plain selfish that he hasn’t already.  



Strange's  go-to Karaoke song:
I have always loved Guns N' Roses November Rain. It’s my go-to track and I love it.
Strange, are you tired of Young riding on your coattails all these years?

Strange:  I have heard many, many people over the years say that I do all the heavy lifting in the act. That accurate metaphor became literal after the suitcase saga of 2023.



Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Young:  We really do hope magicians will consider coming along to Delusionists we really think they will enjoy slagging us off both during intermission and after the show questioning and criticising our material choices, show structure, and inevitable screw ups. They will feel great after knowing they would have done a better job. We think they will have a great time. Hope to see you all there. 

Strange:   If you are coming to the show then can you please visit the merchandise stand and buy a shot glass? We ordered 1,000 shot glasses (the minimum order available) and in the past year we have sold 18. They can double as candle holders or if you hold one close to your ear you can hear the sea.

Get your very own Young and Strange shot glasses at their merch table

Young and Strange "One More!" shot glasses
📸 : Kidlet, Kitchener, 2022


Thank you Richard and Sam, for making the time to answer our questions!

Read our 2022 interviews with Richard Young and Sam Strange where we learn about their favourite:
- thing about touring with Champions of Magic
- piece to perform in Champions of Magic
- Canadian thing
- part of the show to watch, and
- biggest change in the past 10 years

Catch the Delusinists in Ontario:
Oct 12th - North Bay, Capitol Centre
Oct 13th - Barrie, Georgian Theatre
Oct 14th - London, Centennial Hall
Oct 15th - Windsor,  Chrysler Theatre


Learn more about Young and Strange at YoungAndStrange.co.uk and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter


  One more!   For more of the Young and Strange dynamic, have a listen to episode 49 of The Magician's Podcast in which Young attempts to interview Strange
(recorded January 21, 2016)

Updated to add:  access to this podcast now requires a paid subscription.





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