Street magic really derived from traditional form of entertaining which was basking. Magicians in that day to draw drew passers-by and entertained them for minutes in return for a certain amount of money. In order to pay for their lifestyle, they would pass a hat around in order to obtain money at the end of the performance
The shows would often comprise of a range of different skills, for example sleight of hand, card magic, and sometimes mentalism. It is often said by true street performers that the skill is not in the trick, but in-fact in keeping the audience entertained and obtaining money.
It is an art that is over 3000 years old therefore one of the world’s oldest professions. Although not well documented throughout literature several artists and commentators have provided some valuable insights into street magic and magicians. Notably Hieronymous Bosch depicted magicians performing magic trick in some of his paintings.
The world’s most famous street magician in the 1960s and 70s was a magician called Jeff Sheridan who is based in New York. One of the most famous books on the subject was his 1977 book called Street Magic which was a bestseller. One of Sheridan’s most famous pupils was the young David Blaine who found Sheridan performing in Central Park and went on to be the most famous street magician today.
Other notable performers include Criss Angel who had a popular TV show Mindfreak which brought him fame and fortune. Tricks that Criss has performed include levitation above the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas and floating between two buildings. He also caused a Lamborghini to disappear which is more similar to David Copperfield style of magic than that of Street magic.
Criss Angel appeared in a reality show called phenomenal when he was on a panel. He had an interesting altercation with a paranormal Jim Callaghan where he challenged Jim to tell him what was in his envelope. Jim got incredibly angry and called him and ideological bigot. One further time during the show, Angel challenged Uri Geller to predict what was in his unlike and Geller failed.
Criss Angel and David Blaine have both been very successful street magic performers but ultimately have found that Street Magic skills are useful only really on the street, and to be a globally successful magician, one must develop bigger tricks. This is why we see over the top tricks by Angel and Blaine who have gone to great lengths to create stunts such as starving oneself or indeed freezing oneself.
Ultimately it is more interesting to see street magic revealed live than see it on television, however programs created by magicians such as David Blaine were groundbreaking at the time.