REPOD S5E4 – You Are All Terrible: Advice from Magician & Comedian Harrison Greenbaum

In season 5, episode 4, we chat with magician and comedian Harrison Greenbaum. Buckle up, because we are in for a wild ride. Harrison is a hilarious but spicy treat, so be warned that the podcast episode and some of the images below will contain vulgarity and (parodied) demonic images. (No, really. Skip this episode and show notes if you think you’ll be offended.)

Harrison may be headlining Mad Apple by Cirque Du Soleil, a major Las Vegas show, and he may have appeared on many television shows like Conan, America’s Got Talent, Fool Us, and Last Comic Standing, but to us, his best gig was hosting the virtual RECONs. Besides these other gigs, Harrison also created SCAM, The Society of Conjurers and Magicians, a show blending magic, comedy, and puzzles.

Image promoting Season 5, episode 4 of Reality escape pod. Features the REPOD logo, which is a cartoon spaceship bursting out of a blue sphere. Underneath are logos for the sponsors, Morty, RECON, and Resova. There is an image of a man jumping with his arms spread wide open. He has a smiling excited expression. He is wearing a wine red suit with brown belt and white button down shirt. He has brown hair parted on the side and a short beard. To the side it says "cirque du soleil, Mad Apple". Underneath is the title "You Are All Terrible: Advice from magician and Comedian Harrison Greenbaum"

In between stories of the time he was almost sued by Criss Angel for creating a parody menu and his sold out show at Madison Square Garden, Harrison shares advice from his upcoming book, You Are All Terrible and talks about how it can be applied to escape room design. To sum it up: Take risks, be original, and always have a good lawyer on speed dial (or a vengeful David Spira). If all else fails, be funny and distract them with a magic trick. Thanks for the laughs, Harrison!

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We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season: Morty App, Resova, and RECON: The Reality Escape Convention. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.


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RECON: The Reality Escape Convention

Escape room conventions should be as fun, collaborative, and immersive as the games we celebrate.

RECON is our very own escape room and immersive gaming convention. Whether you’re an owner, creator, player, or you’re escape room curious, you are invited learn, connect, and play with our wonderful community.

RECON Remote 23 will take place August 19 – 20, 2023, online.

RECON 24 will be in person.

Get your ticket at now.

Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • [2:32] David introduces Harrison as a working comic and magician, and starts off with a content warning for explicit language.
  • [4:00] David explains that he met Harrison years ago when Harrison emailed them as an avid escape room player. Harrison explains that as a touring comedian, he ends up in a lot of towns looking for something to do. He jokes that drugs and bars get old after a while.
  • [5:19] Harrison talks about the early years of escape rooms and recalls his first escape room at Escape the Room in New York. 
  • [7:04] Harrison talks about how he flew to Las Vegas from New York to fill in temporarily at Mad Apple, and within a week, ended up getting a contract to stay on permanently. 
  • [9:05] Peih-Gee talks about start times for escape rooms on a calendar, and trying to figure out whether the calendar event is for the time the game starts or if it’s set for 15 mins early (the time you’re supposed to arrive.)
  • [9:38] Harrison and Peih-Gee joke about the difficulties of finding the locations of escape rooms.
  • [10:08] Peih-Gee talks about how she had seen Harrison perform at the Magic Castle before she knew he was into escape rooms or associated with Room Escape Artist.
  • [10:59] Harrison talks about how he got started in performing both magic and comedy. He went to magic camp as a child, and when he attended Harvard, he started doing stand-up comedy. He eventually got an internship at Mad Magazine, which he called “comedy bootcamp.” 
  • [12:49] Harrison talks about the time he did a show and another comedian stopped him and told him to drop magic from his act because it was too much of a crutch. He says that he kept the two separate for a long time.
  • [13:47] Harrison talks about some of the differences between comedy and magic, saying that with comedians, everyone is trying to come up with their own unique point of view, whereas with magicians, many times they just go buy a magic trick instead of creating something original.
  • [14:10] Harrison tells us about his magic lecture called You are all Terrible, which he is about to publish as a book. He mentions that much of the advice for magicians would also work for escape room and immersive creators. 
  • [14:50] He says that creators should start with the story and figure out where puzzles fit in, instead of working on the puzzles first and jamming it into a story.
  • [16:59] Harrison talks about the secret algorithm of comedy and how to become funnier. He says the secret sauce is beta testing… running the joke by an audience over and over and refining it until it’s bulletproof.
  • [17:21] Harrison compares comedy to escape rooms, saying the commonality is the audience. These acts are all dependent on the audience. He mentions that he evolves his act based on audience reactions.
  • [18:17] David mentions that escape room enthusiasts evolve quickly from being amazed at simple games to quickly becoming jaded and wanting more. He says that the beauty of escape rooms is the aha moment, and when the audience moves past being amazed, escape rooms need to be able to pivot to provide new aha moments.
  • [19:21] Harrison talks about magic, comedy, and escape rooms as art. He says the key is originality. 
  • [20:19] Peih-Gee mentions companies buying escape rooms, much like how magicians buy magic tricks. Harrison says that’s fine, but it is like being a cover band.
  • [21:20] Harrison talks about having the courage to create something exciting that not everyone will like. He compares what everyone likes to vanilla pudding, which is bland and generally inoffensive. He says that in order to be great, you need to take some risks.
  • [24:58] Harrison tells us a story about the time Criss Angel threatened to sue him after he created a parody website of Criss Angel’s restaurant website (Side note: the parody website is hilarious but very explicit, so proceed at your own risk.)
  • [26:37] Harrison tells us how David was actually the secret hero who put him in touch with a pro bono lawyer from Public Citizen, Paul Alan Levy, who specializes in First Amendment cases, especially with comedy, parody and the internet. The link to the very funny legal letter they sent in response to Criss Angel’s cease and desist is no longer available, unfortunately. Here’s the story on techdirt.
  • [28:08] Harrison tells us about his very real, definitely happened “sold out Madison Square Garden show,” which is available as an album on Spotify.
  • [29:54] Harrison talks about the Cirque Du Soleil show Mad Apple, which he hosts, in Las Vegas at the New York, New York Hotel & Casino.
  • [31:01] Harrison talks about the free rein they gave his comedy act because they genuinely wanted the feeling of being at an uncensored New York Comedy club.
  • [31:52] Harrison talks about his involvement with The Works, an entertainment company specializing in magic shows, that was recently acquired by Cirque Du Soleil.
Promo image for the magic show "The Unbelievables" featuring men and women in formal clothing reminiscent of the art deco era. Some are holding playing cards. In the front is a man in a purple red suit and white button down shirt with short brown hair and a short beard.
  • [34:00] Harrison says that he had to slightly change his comedy style after performing in Las Vegas because the crowd is so politically diverse. He says it’s important to make sure the jokes have an “unimpeachable logic” to them, so even if you disagree with the opinion, you can still laugh at the joke.
  • [38:06] David notes that Harrison looks different from the other performers at the Mad Apple show.
  • [39:41] Peih-Gee notes that Mad Apple has some immersive elements like a bar on the stage where guests can have drinks with the performers before the show starts.
  • [40:42] Harrison talks about a secret pre-show that guests can catch before Mad Apple starts. It’s in a secret room called the Forbidden Apple. It’s next to the gift shop, and it’s a magic show for a very small crowd.
  • [41:58] Harrison tells us about SCAM, The Society of Conjurers and Magicians. He proudly shows us the logo, and explains that it came from the idea that “In a lot of magic organizations, most magicians have their heads up each other’s asses.” 
A round logo, the outside has text that says "Society of Conjurers And Magicians". Inside is an image of nude bodies, some with demon tails. They are arranged in a circle with the head of one body going inside the butt of the body in front. 3 of the bodies are holding pitchforks arranged to create a triangle. Inside the triangle is an eye. Underneath is a scroll that says "nothing to see here" and under that is latin text that reads "hoc non significat aliquid"
  • [44:55] Harrison tells us about how SCAM started during the pandemic as an online magical “low-budget Dr. Who sci-fi extravaganza.”
  • [45:09] He says that SCAM was the first live magic show in New York after quarantine lifted. To keep it safe, they settled on a karaoke lounge as the venue. You could come with your group and stay in your own room. The magicians would rotate rooms and give you puzzles to work on between rotations.
  • [49:00] Harrison talks about how to create an experience like this and be financially viable.
  • [50:05] Harrison describes the setup for SCAM and explains the mechanics of the show.
  • [52:45] Harrison tells us about the elaborate, neighborhood-wide, escape room-style proposal he created when he proposed to his fiancée, Emily.
  • [57:12] Harrison shares tips with our listeners about creating your own escape room-style proposal.
  • [57:52] Harrison talks about being on reality competition shows like America’s Got Talent and Last Comic Standing. He and Peih-Gee compare the feeling of being judged on reality shows. 
  • [59:52] Harrison talks about the differences between being on a reality competition show and performing on a talk show like Conan.
  • [1:01:29] Harrison talks about the approvals process before performing on shows like Conan. He tells us about the time that Standards and Practices wanted him to strike his punchlines.
  • [1:03:37] David puts out an appeal to the television show Taskmaster to put Harrison on as a contestant. 
  • [1:05:10] Harrison shares some of his favorite escape rooms including:
  • [1:07:36] Harrison shares his upcoming projects including the release of his book You Are All Terrible, bringing back SCAM in a more permanent location, performing 10 times a week at Mad Apple in Las Vegas, and hopefully appearing on Taskmaster.
  • [1:10:54] Harrison shares a bonus story about how he deals with horror escape rooms by calling all the monsters “Stan.” He also shares another story about a group accidentally sacrificing one of their friends.
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Resources Mentioned in this Episode

About Harrison Greenbaum

Image of a man in a dark blue suit and white button down shirt. He has neat, short brown hair and a short beard. He's holding a microphone with a smiling, excited expression.

Harrison Greenbaum is one of the most in-demand comedic performers in the world. Currently the star of Cirque du Soleil’s Mad Apple at the NY-NY Hotel & Casino – the first-ever stand-up comedian to headline a Cirque du Soleil show – Harrison has performed more than 600 shows a year for the past 15 years. Harrison’s unique comedy and magic has delighted audience across the globe, leading the NY Times to describe him as “a favorite young star on the comedy scene” and the official magazine of the Society of American Magicians to proclaim him the “Funniest. Magician. Ever.”

On television, Harrison has been featured on many shows, including NBC’s America’s Got Talent, NBC’s Last Comic Standing, TBS’s Conan, Comedy Central’s This Week at the Comedy Cellar, National Geographic Channel’s Brain Games, and many more. Behind the scenes, Harrison was a senior producer for Primetime: Would You Fall for That? on ABC (which premiered in 2013 to over 3.5 million viewers) and story producer for VH1’s This is HOT 97. He was also the head writer for Tu Nite con Lorenzo Parro, the first-ever late night show on NBCU/Telemundo, and a staff writer for Tha God’s Honest Truth with Charlamagne Tha God on Comedy Central, as well as the warm-up comic for Katie, Katie Couric’s daytime talk show on ABC.

As a magician, Harrison has toured the world as one of the stars of The Illusionists: Direct from Broadway, the biggest selling magic show in history, as well as the host of The Unbelievables: World’s Greatest Entertainers, which toured Australia, including 22 performances at the Sydney Opera House.

Harrison’s solo comedy+magic show, Harrison Greenbaum: What Just Happened?, debuted at the legendary New York comedy hotspot, the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, where it was the venue’s first-ever magic show, before commencing an Off-Broadway run and international tour that has included performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C, the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California, and the legendary Comedy Cellar in New York, where it was also the Cellar’s first-ever magic show. A New York Times Critic’s Pick, the show was also the first-ever magic show to be featured at the National Comedy Center, in Jamestown, New York, the nation’s only museum and cultural institution dedicated to celebrating the art of comedy, and the first and only magic show to ever be presented by the National Lampoon.

Harrison is also the co-creator of Society of Conjurers And Magicians NY, the first post-pandemic magic show in New York. An immersive magic show incorporating escape room elements, the show was called “the perfect spell” by No Proscenium, the biggest online guide to immersive entertainment, and “one of the best magic shows in New York” by TimeOut NY.

Harrison has also received many awards and honors for his comedy and his magic, including the Andy Kaufman Award for creativity and originality in comedy and the Senator Crandall Award for originality and creativity in comedy magic, the only performer in history to win both awards. He’s also the winner of the Shorty Award in collaboration with Comedy Central and the New York Comedy Festival for “Best Emerging Comic” and the Magners Comic Stand-Off (2011), as well as the recipient of a Presidential Citation from the International Brotherhood of Magicians and an Associate Member of the Inner Circle of the Magic Circle (A.I.M.C) with Silver Star, an elite designation given by the President of the Magic Circle for exceptional performance.

For more information on Harrison, you can follow him @harrisoncomedy on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok and visit him at

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