Harris Deutsch makes his living as a school counselor but he might be better known as Dr. Laugh for his magic shows, which combine humor with deeper messages.
And now he has the accolades of his fellow illusionists. Deutsch, who lives in Olathe, last month was named the Close-up/Sleight of Hand Magician of the Year by Ring 129 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians after performing with 11 others at a contest.
“I find it’s much easier to find laughter in regular things people can relate to,” he said. “I call myself a doctor of laughology and people say, ‘Tell us a joke,’ and I can never remember jokes.”
Instead, his humor focuses on experiences he says everyone can understand.
“I kind of create an everyman character,” he said.
In one of his routines, Deutsch discusses the changes that have occurred throughout his life as his audience watches him change coins in a sleight of hand trick. For example, he jokes that balding over the years has turned his mohawk into a “no-hawk.”
“The story kind of goes along with the magic,” he said.
Deutsch opened his act at the contest last month by playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on harmonica, which he thought might be a “nice surprise” for the audience. Deutsch also plays the ukulele, which he sometimes utilizes in his other passion: counseling teens at Lee’s Summit North High School and Campbell Middle School.
“It seems like ukulele has really taken off as far as interest, and as a counselor I find that music and magic is a great connection with kids that I work with,” he said.
Music plays an important role in Deutsch’s life and comedy. After a recent trip to the DMV he wrote a parody to the tune of the theme from “Gilligan’s Island:” “The citizens set ground for a long, long time, in the waiting room, with babies crying, cell phone games and pacing grandma, too.”
During Red Ribbon Week, when schools focus on drug and alcohol prevention, Deutsch performs, explaining to the audience how the choices they make can “trap” them, as he puts on a straitjacket.
“I connect choices with consequences; with either being in jail, or having things disappear from your life. And you’re not a magician; you’re not going to be able to get them back,” he said.
Deutsch’s wife of 11 years, Annette Deutsch, said she admires her husband’s efforts to reach out to the community through free shows for nursing homes, an Alzheimer’s unit and various charities.
“I think it’s just wonderful that he does that,” she said. “A lot of entertainers don’t do that, either.”
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