Ben Zabin dropped out of college to pursue a career in magic. When that ended up being a bigger challenge than anticipated, he became a weed dealer instead. That didn’t work out much better.
“I never made too much money selling weed,” Zabin says. “I smoked a lot of it.”
Turns out, he didn’t need to choose between cannabis and magic—the trick was to combine them. Zabin, 22, now hosts Portland’s first stoner magic show, the aptly named Smokus Pocus (smokuspocus.com). Currently held at a small event space in Old Town, the production is filled with all the classic trickery you’d expect—mind reading, sleight of hand, teleportation—only with reefer as the primary theme.
Zabin cut his teeth working stage shows in Las Vegas at the age of 17, so his magic credentials largely outweigh his pothead street cred, but his affable-freshman vibe lines up well with the nod-wink inclusion of cannabis in his act.
He makes items “vanish” and reappear inside a fat sack of nugs. He performs acts of mentalism with stoner snack items like boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese. In a particularly R-rated finale, he plays a very NSFW game of camera-roll roulette, framed around the clumsy experience of dating online while stoned.
Don’t expect Zabin to appear from a trapdoor smoking a blunt, though—the admitted “hardcore cannabis lover” stays sober for his weekly performances. The same cannot be said of the audience, though. In case there was any doubt, the cartoonish chorus of oohs and ahhs are a dead giveaway that the crowd is stoned to the bone.
Smokus Pocus will remain in its Northwest Portland location until the end of August, after which Zabin hopes to either extend his engagement or relocate to a spot where guests can smoke inside.
“I think there’s a lot lacking in regards to entertainment and cannabis,” Zabin says, “and since cannabis is only becoming more and more popular on a national scale, I think there’s a lot of room where entertainment and cannabis collide.”