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Cody Clark: Magic On The Spectrum


by Taylor Martin

There’s a story to be favorite goof.

Robert Sode said to me, “You should have this guy on your show. He’s a bit quirky, fifteen, and has a lot of heart.” So I told him to give me his email and I’ll write him. We communicated, and he told me he’d see me at a charity show in Louisville. He was performing magic in the audience for a show featuring Kevin James, David Williamson, and benefiting the Kosair Children’s Charities. He seemed very excited to be on Indy Magic Monthly’s show and I said I’d meet him there.

In May of 2010, I made my way down to Louisville. And as I went to my seat, a very excited and well-dressed young man came up to me and introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Cody Comet. I can’t wait to perform in Indianapolis at your show. I have to go and do some more magic.” And off he went. He seemed a little silly, a bit immature, yet, he had a charm to him you could not write off. This was the first time I met Cody Clark in the flesh.

When he performed at IMM for the first time, he came up with his parents. They were very happy he was performing at a well-known magic show and as all parents of “magic kids” they were a bit apprehensive of him thinking about a career in magic. I was completely sympathetic, but there was something about this kid. His performance was a bit silly and for the first year that I knew him, I just called him “my favorite goof.” I put off his behavior to the fact of his age and his wonderful enthusiasm. And, I liked his take on magic. It was innocent and lovely.

In June of 2011 I was lucky to bring Jeff McBride to Indianapolis for a weekend of shows, lectures, and seminars. I put him up at the Nestle Inn. The great Eugene Burger came down to be with his co-worker from Mystery School. Cody and his uncle stayed there, too. They thought it would be great to get to know Jeff and Eugene and staying at the same place really helped them get to know each other. And at a meal I shared with all of them, his uncle confided in me. “It’s wonderful what you are doing for him. You do know he’s on the autistic spectrum, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do,” I said. And folks, I had no idea what that meant. I really didn’t, but I never called him “my favorite goof” in the same way again. I’d reference the term, but I learned that it’s probably not the best thing to call someone on the spectrum.

So, I read up on the “autistic spectrum.” I learned that a man named Hans Asperger had written papers about autism, that he saved a lot of folks from the Nazis during WW II, and his early works have led to the understanding and misunderstanding of the condition. He felt they had a place in society, needed to be understood, and helped with understanding of their different ways of thinking. Textural issues with food, disassociation with what have become known at “neurotypicals,” and other things that indicate a diagnosis of autism were defined by some of his early work. A new chapter in my adult life had opened. As I’ve stated many times, magic has led me to find things in my life I otherwise would have never known. “Life in all of its forms” is a mantra I repeat a lot and this was a new understanding of a “form.”

Cody was gaining a lot of confidence and was writing a show about how magic helps him cope with his autism. And all this time, beginning about 5 years ago now, he started to work on a college degree at the University of Louisville. He was going to major in marketing and minor in theatre. And by golly, he did all of this. He graduated last year and during those 4 years he wrote a piece called “A Different Way Of Thinking.” He premiered the piece at the “Louisville Slant Festival” which was a sort of Fringe Festival. It was pretty well attended, got some great reviews, and showed to the local magic community in Louisville that there was something different from “trick based” magic shows. Magic could be used to tell a story with meaning beyond just magic and mystery.

Lots of other conjurers are doing the same thing. Neil Tobin, Mark Toland, both come to mind. Cody believed that a biographical magic show that showed how he saw things as a person with autism could be a great work of art as well as sell tickets. He started to make it plain that he wanted to be a professional magician and performer. He started to call me a mentor.

I am a someone who believes that I’m the last person who should be considered their mentor. Cody changed my mind about that. He’d call me up, ask me this and that, and then said he wanted to do Fringe Festivals. So, I said I’d help. Sometimes, the mentee teaches the mentor a lot about themselves, too.

He got into the Indy Fringe Festival and I produced the show, providing money and advice to help promote and sell tickets. And he did. He learned about deadlines, about being on time, and how to get, as the carnies say it, “the stiffs in the seats.” We both made some money off of it. He then went to the Elgin, IL Fringe, which I helped with, got a lot of folks to come, got some great press, and even got an award. He’s since done more than just these 2, learning not all Fringe Festivals are as good as Indy and Elgin. He’s paid his dues.

“So, what about the Orlando Fringe? Should I apply?” He was asking the wrong guy about this. At least I thought that at the time. I had been in 2 of the Orlando Fringe Festivals and had lost a lot of money. Traveling that far, feeding myself, and paying for a PR firm to help, made me lose at least $3000 over the 2 years there. The good thing was I met a lot of great people and stayed with The Pergandes.

Gale Pergande and Al Pergande were the folks who hosted me. They are fixtures at the Orlando Fringe. Gale writes and blogs about the shows and Al has a great blog, plus he has written a few plays that have been produced there. Al’s literally a rocket scientist, having worked for Lockheed for 35 years. They have hosted dozens of out of town performers over the years and are big cheerleaders for Fringe. “If you’re going to enter the lottery and get accepted, ask to be billeted with the Pergandes.” I agreed to help finance his show if he got accepted and by golly, he got picked in the lottery.

The Orlando Fringe Festival is the largest of its kind in the United States as well as the oldest. Over the nearly 2 weeks of the festival there are over 800 performances in 15 different venues. Not all are “real” theatres. One venue is the back of a van, another is in a living room at the Pergande home. And I am so glad I got Cody to ask for them to stay with.

Two weeks before the writing of this article, Cody drives from Louisville to Orlando and as soon as he got there his transmission decides to die. Between Ed Couture, an FB friend of mine in Orlando, Al and Gale, and the AAA, we got a diagnosis that the transmission was trash. A new one was going to cost $3500. As a producer, I had to take care of my investment, so we got it repaired. Cody’s had a “GoFundMe” fundraiser going to make the payments on it and he started to stop worrying about it. Autistics can obsess on things, so this was a great test to see if he could handle his first major crisis on the road. He did.

So, he opened his show “Cody Clark: A Different Way Of Thinking” at the Orlando Fringe at a brand new venue, the White Venue. The stage is not even attached to any of the main buildings of the Orlando Fringe and his audience had to really work to find it. HIs first show had 7 attend. However, but the time of his 6th show, he was averaging around 40. He got 3 extra pre-paid shows for a group called “Quest.” This is an adult day care for autistic adults. I’d never heard of such a group before. Again, the mentee teaches the mentor. And I got to witness some of this.

I decided to fly down for a few days to see Cody’s shows, as well as see some friends I’d made during the 2006 and 2007 Fringes. I got to stay with Cody at the Pergandes. That was a treat to see these 2 fine folks again. And it was a glorious experience. I got to see Cody perform for audiences that fell in love with him  and I got to see him be interviewed on the local PBS TV station.

Cody got us a couple of comps for Magic Kingdom on one of his days off. That was one great day. Watching Cody, who’d never been to a Disney park before, seeing the joy in that young man’s face at each and every moment of discovery of something there made the flight down worthwhile. With Ed Couture along, who got us free parking, made it a low dough way of seeing one of the world’s greatest attractions. Cody even got me to ride a rollercoaster. The bruise on my right arm is healed nicely, thank you.

The next to last performance of his show was nearly sold out. It was recorded in its entirety by the PBS station that interviewed him. Tony Brent, the magician from Wonderworks Orlando came and loved the show. And it was a full house standing ovation. And here was I, a proud mentor, being introduced to the audience as “my best friend and mentor.” And I had a tear or 2 over that. Here was a 15-year-old magician who was now 23, showing everyone that being autistic is not a sentence to some sort of home or institution. And he was giving me some credit for becoming his dream of becoming a professional performer.

Cody Clark’s career continues to grow as more and more people recognize his  unique abilities. At the 2017 IBM-SAM Combined Convention, Cody recieved The Rising Star Award and on March 24, 2018, Cody will open for one of his heros, Lance Burton as Lance returns to his hometown and The Louisville Palace.

So I thank Cody for letting a rapidly aging magician Kay have a new lease on his performing life. It’s worth the time and money to help someone along his path to his dream. Thank you Cody. You’ve given me a different way of thinking.


Taylor Martin is a magician, producer, and writer in Indianpolis. He’s been performing magic for nearly 60 years. Born in Chicago, Taylor has been a resident of Indianapolis, IN for 47 years and has been producing Indy Magic Monthly for almost 10 years. He’s hosted the S.A.M. Contest of Magic, twice, performed for governors, mayors, and senators, and is known as a character magician. His creations include the Colonial Conjurer Rodney The Younger, The Queen of Magic Andrea Merlyn, and many others. He has been on the cover of M.U.M. and has been award Presidential Citations by both the S.A.M. and the IBM. He celebrates 40 years of marriage to Deborah in April of 2018.

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