Jay (né Jonathan) Sankey was born in 1963 in Montreal, Canada, and moved to Toronto with his family (mother, father, brother Christopher and sister Gretchen) soon after. He began exploring magic at the age of 14 and, during his "formative" years, was educated in the performing side of the art through children’s shows, restaurant magic, and walkaround corporate events.
At the age of 19, Sankey sent an introductory letter and videotape to Richard Kaufman featuring some of his original ideas (including his now seminal coin sleight, “HPC-CPH”), which resulted in a double one-man issue of Richard’s Almanac (Issue 5/6, January-February, 1983). The contents generated buzz among magic’s cognoscenti, and before long, Sankey was invited to perform and/or lecture at prestigious gatherings such as Fechter’s Finger Flicking Frolic, Close Encounters, and The New York Magic Symposium. In addition, he began writing a series of columns on magic theory for The Magic Manuscript.
In 1986, Sankey Panky was published, the first of two large collections of Sankey’s magic written by Richard Kaufman (the second, 100% Sankey, came out in 1990). Material for a third book had also been collected by Kaufman, but was eventually transferred to Gabe Fajuri, written up by Jon Racherbaumer, illustrated by Earle Oakes, and published by Squash Publishing in 2004 as Sankey Unleashed.
In 1990, Sankey began experimenting with stand-up comedy, a parallel career that quickly took root, forcing him to divert much of his creative energy from magic. The investment resulted in a one-man special for CBC as part of their Comics! series, a one-man special for Bravo based on his Fringe Festival show, Contents Under Pressure, and a CD on the Attic label called Odd Little Man. In addition, Sankey wrote a benchmark book called Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy, described on the back cover as, “an insider’s look that explains stand-up from the ground up.” The book, published by Routledge in New York, quickly sold out of its first printing, and two years later was joined by a sequel - Zen and the Art of the Monologue (Routledge, 2000).
At the start of the new millennium, Sankey turned his attention back to magic and released a handful of tricks through Hampton Ridge (e.g., Measle Deck), then Elmwood Magic (e.g., The Big Finish, One Car Garage, Chain Reaction) before forming a company, Sankey Magic, dedicated to manufacturing and distributing his own creations. More recently, he co-developed (with magician David Peck) and began co-hosting (with actress Bridget Hall) a television series called Spellz, devoted to teaching children about the art of magic. The series is going into its third season and airs exclusively on a regional Canadian network, TV Ontario. Seasons I and II are now available on DVD.
Books by and/or About Jay Sankey
- (1986) Sankey Panky by Richard Kaufman (Kaufman and Greenberg)
- (1987) When Creators Collide (with Richard Sanders) (Ben Harris Magic)
- (1990) 100% Sankey, by Richard Kaufman (Kaufman and Greenberg)
- (1998) Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy (Routledge/Theater Arts)
- (2000) Zen and the Art of The Monologue (Routledge/Theater Arts)
- (200?) Beyond Secrets (Sankey Magic)
- (2004) Sankey Unleashed, by Jon Racherbaumer (Squash Publishing)
Books to Which Jay Sankey Has Contributed
- (1983) The New York Magic Symposium Close-Up/Stage Collection Two by Richard Kaufman (The New York Magic Symposium). “Transfusion (Mono),” “Transfusion (Stereo)”
- (1984) Close-Up Seductions by Paul Harris (D. Robbins and Co.). “10”
- (1984) The New York Magic Symposium Collection Three by Adam Fleischer and Stephen Minch (The New York Magic Symposium). “Remarkerable”
- (1985) The New York Magic Symposium Collection Four by Stephen Minch (The New York Magic Symposium). “Bit By Bit,” “Descartes Meets the Popouts”
- (1986) The New York Magic Symposium Collection Five by Stephen Minch (Japanese section written by Phil Goldstein) (The New York Magic Symposium). “Once is Never Enough,” “Canned Applause”
- (1990) Spectacle, by Stephen Minch (L & L Publishing). “The Face-Up Rub-A-Dub Vanish,” “Lingering Illusion,” “Lasting Illusion.”
- (1999) Natural Selections, Volume II, by David Acer (Camirand Academy of Magic). “All But One,” “The Montreal Transpo,” and “The Pagemaster” (all collaborations with Acer)
- (2001) The Magic Menu: Years 6 Through 10, edited by Jim Sisti (L & L Publishing). “A Match By Any Other Name,” “Creamed,” “Sugar Rush,” “Free Choice?” (with David Acer)
- (2004) Random Acts of Magic, by David Acer (Camirand Academy of Magic). “Uppity,” “Count On It,” “Child’s Play,” “Misguided Angels,” “Cap in Hand,” “Under Foot,” and “The Flipwiches of Eastwick” (all collaborations with Acer)
- (2006) Switch, by Jon Lovick (Murphy’s Magic Supplies). “Crocodile Tear,” “Display Subtlety #2,” “Do Not Fold,” “Travelling Expenses,” “Unholy”
- Jay Performs In a Flash
- A Segment from Spellz
- Jay Sankey performs (and sells) his famous PaperClipped (originally published with an unpronounceable name in 100% Sankey)