On an early Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, Joel Ward was reminiscing about his North County upbringing. “The North County was my stomping ground,” he said. “It was definitely what started everything.”
The “everything” Ward referred to is an in-demand career as a touring magician and comedian, a profession that has taken him to clubs and theaters across the country, as well as appearances on such shows as Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0” and the NBC late-night mainstay, “The Tonight Show.” Just in the past few days, Ward zigzagged from Utah to Las Vegas to his home of Los Angeles.
Through his current success, Ward keeps his North San Diego County roots firmly in mind, especially since that was where he developed his interest in magic.
“The first time I saw a magician, I was in first grade at Cardiff Elementary School,” he remembered. “It was at an assembly, and I thought it was all so corny. I had my arms crossed and I vividly remember not caring. Then he called me up on stage and performed a trick with me. After the entire school applauded, I got hooked.”
From there, Ward became obsessed with the craft, learning tricks from a book his father got him for Christmas and becoming a well-known kid magician.
“Once I learned my first trick, which was to make a coin disappear, I started doing it right away for everyone,” Ward said. “I then began working birthday parties in Cardiff. I was 10 years old.”
He practiced his skills wherever he could, whether it was stints at Sea World, or in Encinitas at the Red Robin or the former Big Jim’s Old South Bar-B-Q.
“I knew I wanted to pursue it as a career right away,” said Ward, who moved out of his house by the time he graduated from La Costa Canyon High School in 2001.
After attending MiraCosta College, it wasn’t until a 2001 stint with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus that he started incorporating comedy into his act. “Up until then, I was performing as a serious magician,” he explained. “After working with Ringling Brothers — where I had to wear costumes — I finally just broke out of that.”
Ward’s persistence paid off as he turned himself into a premier magician who continues to tour the country and has a packed schedule.
“I’m probably traveling more this year than I ever have,” said Ward, who’s already performed at 31 colleges in 2015 so far. “Recently I’ve been focusing on colleges and universities. Students are so much fun; they’re the best audience. They come wanting to have a good time.”
Ward concedes the travel can be “exhausting,” but he said he’s taking his busy schedule in stride. “Right now, everything’s going good,” he said. “You get into a rhythm.”
He still visits North County whenever he can — whether it’s to go surfing or visit his family. “Any chance I get to go down there, I take it.”
For more on Joel Ward, visit joelward.com. His next North County-area show will be at PowPAC, Poway’s Community Theatre, on June 12 and 13. Tickets go on sale soon.