Suburban magician goes to battle on 'Wizard Wars'
Prospect Heights man to compete for $10,000
When the Syfy network's reality show "Wizard Wars" returns for a second season Thursday night, suburban viewers might spot a familiar face among the magicians competing for a $10,000 prize.
Bill Cook of Prospect Heights will display his bag of tricks on this season's premiere episode, which airs at 9 p.m. on Syfy.
"I don't think I've ever been more nervous and excited," said Cook, 25, who at 18 became the youngest person to win the Chicago Magic Competition, He has performed on stages across the country ever since.
"Wizard Wars" challenges innovative young magicians to impress judges, including the duo Penn & Teller, with original magic, using an assortment of everyday objects they are given before going on stage.
"Just to be able to perform in front of my idols, Penn & Teller, was so cool," Cook said.
After one season, Wizard Wars ranked the No. 1 unscripted show among male viewers on Syfy, said Brenda Lowry of Syfy's parent company, NBC Universal.
Although Cook is accustomed to performing in competitive settings, he said "Wizard Wars" was different.
"It was a real challenge being given props and thrust into an environment where you have to create magic," he said. "I usually need flight time before I debut a new trick, where I practice it for weeks and run it by family and friends before I'm ready to add it to my show."
Each episode begins with two teams of magicians going head-to-head with a limited amount of time to create an original routine.
The winning team qualifies to enter the "Wizard War" and compete against the home team of world-renowned wizards, including two-time World Championship of Magic winner Gregory Wilson; Wynn Resort resident magician Shimshi; YouTube sensation Justin Flom; and the newest "Wizard," Billy Kidd.
"(Cook) is great at taking classics of magic, thousand-year-old tricks, and kicking them in the pants," said Flom, the series' co-creator and associate producer. "On 'Wizard Wars,' he literally set fire to the oldest trick in magic. It was amazing."
Locally, some may know Cook as the resident magician at Goebbert's Farm & Garden Center's fall festival in South Barrington. When he's not making pumpkins disappear he's performing across the country and has been featured on television shows on nearly every network.
Cook also is a guest faculty member at the McBride Magic and Mystery School, based in Las Vegas, and a cast member of Magic Chicago, which showcases young magicians the first Wednesday night of every month at Stage 773 in Chicago.
Cook's signature routine involves manipulating CDs and iPods, making them appear and disappear, literally jumping out of a boom box that he uses as a table.
He makes all his own props in his home studio in Prospect Heights and likens the precision and performance aspects of magic to music.
As a student at Wheeling High School, Cook played French horn and was drum major his senior year.
Cook, who was featured as a Daily Herald Standout in 2011, won a scholarship to pursue music in college, but the rush of performing magic pulled him away. He eventually earned a degree in sound design, but he has made magic his career.
"That's the number one question I'm asked -- what I do for a full-time job," Cook said.
"Magic is my full-time career. It pays off my college loans, and I just bought a new car. It's my life."