If you’ve been amazed, amused, or just entertained by those silly videos on your social media site of choice over the last few years, there’s a good chance content creator Justin Flom is behind it. Flom, an entertainer who “cut his teeth” in Branson’s live entertainment scene, has racked up 20 billion views since the pandemic started and was named the “No. 1 influencer” across all social platforms for Jan. 2022 according to Tubular Leaderboard, which tracks views and interactions.
“The word influencer has been used for different things, but really I’m a content creator,” Flom said from his home in Las Vegas. “When people ask what I do for a living, I tell them I make silly videos for the internet. That’s it. That’s my job, my only job, to entertain people.”
The controversial social media star has been entertaining people since he was a small child in Minnesota alongside his father, who was also a magician. Flom spent his entire life learning magic, and when he was 18, headed to the “Live Show Capital of the World,” Branson, Missouri.
“I thought it was time to set out on my own, and I set out to be different and creative,” he said.
After a year performing inside the theater at the Branson Mall, Flom relocated to the Majestic Steakhouse building. Flom took the space inside and designed a total entertainment experience and theater, which he called the “Magic Parlor” and “Imaginary Theatre.”
“There were three rooms people could go through, there was a moving bookcase and a lounge, and the big theater. I upholstered some of those seats myself. There’s lots of blood, sweat and tears in that theater.” he said. “It was a unique experience because you’d have to navigate those rooms and it wasn’t like you walk in and the show just starts. That was pretty difficult to explain all this to the tourists, so we ended up simplifying it in the end and really concentrate on doing the best magic show possible.”
While Flom did find varying degrees of success in Ozark Mountain Country, he decided it was time to move on after five years.
“Branson was my Hamburg, Germany,” he said. “The Beatles went to Hamburg before they were ‘The Beatles,’ and that’s where they did their 10,000 hours. Every day they were on stage for hours on end, and that’s where they got good. Branson did that for me. I was able to be on stage every day and really get out all the bad. It really was the launching pad for everything I did after, and I am eternally grateful to that town. I love the town, my experiences there, all the people I met and everything I learned.”
Once his Branson run was done, Flom decided to take his act on the road, which he did for several successful years. In 2011, he started doing magic via the Internet, and everything changed.
“In 2013 I had a video reach 3 million views, and it’s a trick I wish I would have invented while I was in Branson, because it was perfect,” he said. “It was a way of telling the story of a soldier at war who uses his deck of cards as a Bible. At the end of the trick, the deck of cards turns into a painting of the flag raising at Iwo Kima and honors all those who have served. It really struck a chord.”
The video snagged 3 million views on YouTube, and many times more than that on Facebook, although the video was posted before the website kept track of the view stats.
“That video was seen by the producers of Ellen, which landed me on her show and opened the door to Florida Georgia Line,” he said. “Suddenly I was on stage in Madison Square Garden hosting the arena tour for Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett. It was insane. It was crazy, I mean, here I am doing card tricks and interactive magic on these stages, but what we did was really cool.”
Flom said he’d jump off the stage and head into the crowd, wireless camera crew in tow, and perform up close tricks which would be shown on the arena projectors.
“I’d grab someone’s crushed beer can and make it refill magically, and we made front row tickets appear inside someone’s mouth, which is a crazy trick,” he said with a laugh. “We’d also take the cameras backstage to meet Thomas Rhett, and we’d do a few tricks with whatever he had laying around.”
As Flom’s reputation as a live performer rose, he also got the chance to perform at several churches using magic to spread the gospel.
“I was very lucky to do some of the biggest churches in the country,” Flom said. “I would use magic to catch their eyes so they would listen to their ears, and maybe then we could change their heart. A very good thing.”
In 2017, Flom went viral again. This time, it was for sawing his own baby in half.
“I did the classic sawing in half illusion except without a box, and instead of a lady I used my baby,” he said. “That one was covered by the press because they were outraged I had put a baby in such a position, but 200 million views is crazy.”
In early 2020 the entire world changed. As soon as the pandemic began, Flom, like every other entertainer, began cancelling gigs. He used his time to focus on the online videos and presentation. Since early 2020, Flom has written, produced, or performed in more than 2,000 videos, at least one every day.
“An entertainer’s job is to show the audience cool things, and magic has some of the coolest things you can show,” Flom said. “From trap doors to optical illusions to breaking out of handcuffs, and for the last 500 years, most magicians have been hiding the coolest stuff in order to make those tricks work. What I discovered is by opening that curtain and inviting the audience to see behind the scenes, there’s a whole lot of new things you can showcase.”
Unlike the infamous “Masked Magician,” Flom doesn’t simply “show the audience” how a trick is done. He’s found a way to keep the audience entertained and engaged while letting them in on the secret.
“In listening to my audience as I created a new video every single day, I was able to see people are less interested in watching a trick because at the end they’re not going to know how it’s done, and their life is not going to be changed,” he said. “Even the greatest magic trick in the world hasn’t changed someone’s life, but if I show you a cool way you can levitate to entertain your friends, that’s something you might want to watch. So we did that and it got 50 million views. Showing the secrets is a controversial way of repurposing tricks, but it has also taken magic from theater stages to everywhere in the world. We can see it in all of entertainment. The move from Hollywood to TikTok, you know, people want to see their friends and regular individuals having fun with this and we’re happy to oblige.”
While he’s taken lots of heat from his magical counterparts, Flom insists there’s nothing malicious about his videos.
“I’ve been kicked out of several organizations and lost friends,” he said. “Nothing malicious about what I do. I love magic and the magic community. They raised me. My dad was a magician. I’ve exposed some of the classics of magic, and I’ve invented new things to expose, but I have a rule, and that is if the audience already knows the secret of the trick, and the secret is more entertaining, I’ll show it to them. The truth is, magicians are already bummed so many tricks and secrets are already in the public vernacular thanks to movies and TV. Knowing that, we figure out how to use those same classic principals in a brand-new way. This is the age of information, and people are no longer content to watch in ignorance, they want to know how things work. The secrets are already online anyway, readily available. What I discovered is, the secrets aren’t necessary to keep in order to entertain an audience. We’ve combined magic and sketch comedy in a way we haven’t seen since Penn & Teller on Saturday Night Live in the ‘80s.”
In one trick, which has over 111 million views, Flom transforms into an alligator to scare three girls, all while the viewers get a backstage view of how it all works.
“It is the silliest magic trick I ever created, but people enjoy the backstage performance and get to play the part of a magician,” he said. “They get to stand on stage, know the secret, and see how much fun it is to trick or prank an audience with a cool trick. Plus, we get the reaction of the audience. We want to see people get startled or fooled by an optical illusion or a hidden thing in a trap door. We all love to see that.
“Some of my favorite creations have come from the freedom to not hide the secret.”
While Flom became well-known for his magic videos, he’s been branching out to include much more variety.
“Just over the last two years I’ve done 2,000 videos, and they aren’t just videos of magic tricks,” he said. “We expanded it into art, cooking, pranks, sketch comedy, medical satire, and science experiments. The ideas are novel and silly, like cooking bacon by wrapping it on the tailpipe of his motorcycle (180 million views), or instruction on how to “snakeskin” crocs (141 million), but it’s what the audience wants.
“I have the utmost respect for our audience, and people on the internet want to learn new things. People know when watching a magic trick that at the end of it, they won’t have any new information. In fact, they may be frustrated to now not know how something was done. I only want to entertain people and I’ve learned that people are very entertained with the cool methods magicians use.”
With making daily content a full-time job, Flom gives lots of love to Network Media, a company created by his best friend and fellow magician Rick Lax.
“Ricky started this network with magicians like Adam Trent, who did a TV special that aired on ABC Thanking night, Ryan Stock and Amberlynn, the couple on America’s Got Talent, where she ‘accidentally’ shot him,” he said. “Plus, there’s Kyle and Mistie Knight, Tommy Wind, and several other Vegas entertainers, hypnotists, jugglers and dancers. These are the people we’re creating magic with, so our evolution expanded to sketches and skits.”
The company Lax runs has tallied more than 150 billion views, with Flom’s accounting for around 20 billion of those views. With so much exposure, it’s no wonder Flom and company are getting recognized more and more of the streets of Vegas.
“I do get recognized most times I go out, but not like Brad Pitt gets recognized,” he laughed. “I get, ‘Hey, you’re that guy from the Internet,’ so that’s a very fun thing. For me, I’m very lucky to have a company of creators who write with me and star in a lot of these videos, so we all go out together sometimes here in Vegas, and when you look at all of us combined, there are billions of views, and that’s when we really get stopped. ‘Oh my gosh, it’s you, and you. And you.’ It’s a total mind trip for people to see us all out together.”
Even though Flom was the most watched person in the world in January 2022, he said there isn’t so much pressure to keep things trending upward as there is an excitement for what’s next.
“It’s really fun and really crazy because the creative output has increased 1,000%,” he said. “I just want to create fun and interesting concepts. We’re doing one today that’s like a short film, a movie, so we’re looking to film and television and different ways of storytelling for inspiration for everything we do in the future. We’re just trying to come up with the most silly and fun ideas to share, and we want to do more and go bigger.
“We’ve got so many cool things on the horizon, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.”
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