The moment was…well, it was magic.
On a spring day in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in an auditorium packed with over 400 bodies, Joey Stepp pulled off one of those theatrical moments that amateur magicians only dream of.
Commissioned to perform a magic show for the athletes of Middle Tennessee State University, the Kentucky native selected one young lady from the crowd. She made her way onto the stage, and Stepp proceeded to do a trick he had done many times before; he told the young lady that he could guess the six-digit passcode on her iPhone and unlock it.
Unbeknownst to the volunteer, her passcode happened to mirror Stepp’s.
With all of the dramatic flair of a true performer, Stepp asked her to unlock his iPhone.
“Treat my phone as if it were yours,” he directed her.
Still confused but willing to comply, the young lady inputted her own code into Stepp’s cell phone. And it unlocked. Like magic.
The crowd quite literally went wild. So blown away were the attendees that Stepp ended the show right then, on that pinnacle of a moment.
As a performer, Stepp relishes the memories of many such moments as those. The moments that he can both mystify and entertain his audience. The moments that cause the crowd to wonder just how he does what he does.
The $1 bill signed by a volunteer which Stepp then pulls out of a lime. The card tricks, the mind-reading, the rope magic, the sleight-of-hand.
Shannon Cheetham, Barboursville resident and a repeat customer of Stepp’s shows, gushes, “Multiple times during Joey’s shows, I think: ‘No, seriously, how did he do that?’ He always leaves the crowd wanting more.’”
But for Winfield resident and single father Joey Stepp, he desires to do more than baffle an audience. He also aims to make people laugh.
“All of the shows I offer are jam-packed with comedy. Think Vegas-style comedy show infused with magic. But that show can be done in your living room,” he explains.
Cheetham chimes in, “Joey not only amazes with his tricks, but he also keeps the laughs rolling with his wit. I’ve seen many of his shows, and he’s always entertaining.”
She adds, “There aren’t many acts around that are good, clean, and family-friendly. I’ve seen little kids, teens, and adults all enjoy his shows. That’s very rare.”
Joey Stepp Comedy Magic has performed over the years for children’s birthday parties, school assemblies, and corporate events. But the venue in which Stepp most shines perhaps is one in which he not only gets to wow his audience and make them laugh, but one in which he motivates and inspires them.
“I am a school counselor at Hurricane Middle School, so I have a lot of experience working with kids. I’m very passionate about using my magic show to motivate middle and high school students,” Stepp explains.
Cheetham, a school counselor also, has hired Stepp multiple times to perform for students of hers.
“When I was a counselor at an alternative school,” she recalls, “Joey would come at the end of every school year to perform for grades 6-12. That is such a broad age range, but the students always raved about Joey’s act. When he performs for students, he incorporates great messages for them, from anti-bullying and anti-drug to positive decision-making, overcoming obstacles, and working hard. Lessons that teens typically roll their eyes at. When paired with magic and humor, though, the lessons stick.”
Certainly, Stepp has had many magical moments as a performer — but the most rewarding are those when he succeeds at motivating pre-teens and teens to make wise decisions.
But his life has had other magical moments as well, off-stage.
Moments like being chosen to play football as a walk-on at Marshall University and being awarded a full scholarship and co-captain status thereafter.
Moments that changed his life forever, like seeing a street magician in Columbus, Ohio, for the first time. And knowing he had to do that, too.
Transcendent moments like becoming a father not one, but two, times.
Despite the success Stepp has experienced both on- and off-stage, he, like most, has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. He has not been able to counsel middle school students in person since March. He has not performed magic since March, which certainly impacts his wallet as a single parent.
Nevertheless, he remains positive.
“I am a true believer that we can find blessings in all things,” he states. “Before COVID, I would sometimes leave work and drive a total of four hours to do shows. Weekends were always packed with three to five shows.”
If performing multiple shows per week in addition to a full-time career required hard work, so did Stepp’s formative years as a magician.
“At one period of my life, I was going to college, working as a bartender, playing football, and working two hours a night on my magic. Once I started being hired for gigs, I had to perfect my show and learn how to operate as a business owner overnight.”
Recently, he has had more time to reflect on his life and on what truly brings him joy as a magician.
“COVID-19 has forced me to slow down and appreciate other things in life, other than the hustle for making money.”
He continues, “My motivation to perform magic is simply the thrill. The thrill of being in front of hundreds of people like at Middle Tennessee State and having them listen to each word and watch every move. Having the ability to put a smile on someone’s face is an incredible feeling.”
And, according to Cheetham, Stepp is very good at just that.
“Joey Stepp Comedy Magic isn’t just a magic act; he creates a connection with his audience. He’s found his niche, and he does it well,” she attests.
Stepp is grateful for Cheetham and for all of his supporters.
“To anyone who has recommended me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
He marvels, “Something that started out as a small hobby for me has turned into one of my life’s greatest blessings.”