Brian Brushwood

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Brian Brushwood
Brushwood in 2014
Birth nameBrian Allen Brushwood
Born (1975-01-17) January 17, 1975 (age 49)
Fountain Valley, California
MediumLive, television, IPTV, MP3
Alma materUniversity of Texas at Austin
GenresMagic (illusion) YouTube
Subject(s)Confidence tricks; Fire eating
SpouseBonnie Brushwood[1]
Notable works and rolesScam School
Weird Things
Night Attack
Hacking The System (with Jason Murphy)
Modern Rogue (with Jason Murphy)
WebsiteBrian Brushwood: Bizarre Magic

Brian Allen Brushwood (born January 17, 1975) is an American magician, podcaster, author, lecturer, YouTuber and comedian. Brushwood is known for the series Scam Nation (previously Scam School), a show where he teaches the audience entertaining tricks at bars so they can "scam" a free drink. The show also claims to be the only show dedicated to social engineering at the bar and on the street. In addition to Scam Nation, Brushwood co-hosts the podcasts Weird Things with Andrew Mayne and Justin Robert Young, Cordkillers with Tom Merritt, and Great Night with Young. Brushwood was also a regular guest on the This Week in Tech podcast. Brushwood performs his Bizarre Magic stage show across the United States and is the author of six books. Brushwood also co-hosts a YouTube show along with Jason Murphy called The Modern Rogue. Brushwood has appeared on national television numerous times including on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, CNN and Food Network.


Brushwood was born in Fountain Valley, California.[2] As a child, Brushwood received a magic kit on Christmas Day one year.[3] During his time as a student at the University of Texas at Austin, Brushwood rediscovered his interest in magic, performing his first paid shows by filling in for another magician whose schedule was too full.[1] This interest in magic led Brushwood to perform a 45-minute magic show as his senior thesis.[1]

As an undergraduate, Brushwood attended Rory Coker's pseudoscience class which introduced him to scientific skepticism.[4] Coker mentored Brushwood for his senior thesis and has invited Brushwood back as an alumnus to help demonstrate concepts in his class.[4]

Brushwood graduated from the Plan II honors program at the University of Texas at Austin in 1997.[1] After graduation, Brushwood married his wife, Bonnie, and began testing video games for Rockwell Semiconductors, followed by a career at Dell where he designed high-end computer systems.[1] During his time at Dell, Brushwood moonlighted as a magician on Wednesday nights at The Electric Lounge in Austin, Texas, while The Asylum Street Spankers took their break.[1] In 1999 Brushwood was offered a raise at Dell and realized he wasn't following his passion, so he made the decision to quit working at Dell and to start performing his Bizarre Magic show full-time.[1][5][6]

When a television deal fell through, Brushwood decided to look into Internet broadcasting where he would be able to have more control over the product and process. After filming several episodes of Brian Brushwood: On The Road, Brushwood got the idea for Scam School. He originally intended to produce it independently but eventually sold the idea to Revision 3 and the first episode aired on April 6, 2008.[1] Revision 3's location in San Francisco required Brushwood to travel to California to shoot episodes of Scam School, usually a dozen at a time due to travel expenses. In October 2008, one of Brushwood's childhood heroes, Richard Garriott, performed a magic trick he learned from Scam School while he was aboard the International Space Station.[4][7] When Discovery Digital Networks purchased Revision 3 Brushwood used it as an opportunity to move production of Scam School from the San Francisco Bay Area to Austin, Texas, where he currently lives with his wife and three children.[1][8]


Brian Brushwood eating fire at TWiT's Grand Opening party
Brian "Shwood" Brushwood and Evan Bernstein during a live recording of The Geologic Podcast at Dragon*Con 2011 in Atlanta, GA
Veronica Belmont and Brushwood preparing for the Game On! internet show November 13, 2011

Stage show[edit]

Brushwood started his professional stage show in 1999[9] and now performs 100–200 live shows each year on college campuses across the United States.[10] His Bizarre Magic show combines old sideshow stunts, mind reading, traditional magic and comedy.[11] Conversations with audience members after performances inspired Brushwood to develop his Scams, Sasquatch, and the Supernatural lecture in 2004.[10][12][13] Its content was derived from the pseudoscience course Brushwood took as an undergraduate[12] and covers paranormal topics and how to detect fakes. Brushwood's Social Engineering: Scam Your Way Into Anything Or From Anybody lecture[14] was initially developed for the 2009 South by Southwest Interactive panel with the same name.[4][15][16]

In the September 3, 2010, episode of the Point of Inquiry podcast, host Karen Stollznow asked Brushwood about myth debunking in his various shows. Brushwood responded,

Part of the reason I love educating the masses as how to deceive is from my experience, because I got into magic before I took this pseudoscience and paranormal course, so I had these tools on how to fool people and I just had this vague understanding that people are really easy to fool, and it's not that we are broken, or dumb, or bad, or whatever. It's that the brain is built a certain way and magicians take advantage of that. And, it was only after taking the pseudoscience class that it crystallized everything and I realized that that's exactly what scam artists do as well. So, if I can get more people familiar with the tools and familiar with how easy it is to deceive other people, maybe more people will begin to question their own experiences.[17]


Brushwood's signature hairstyle was modeled after Guile from Street Fighter II[18] and took nine minutes to set up. It was maintained with pomade and beeswax. Brushwood stated he could sleep on it without the style being disturbed, and that it was low maintenance.[10] Episode 23 of Brushwood's web series Brian Brushwood on the Road is a demonstration of how the style is created.[19] Brushwood retired the hairstyle in 2012, citing his age and television projects as reasons for its discontinuation.[18] As of March 7, 2018, Brushwood sports a short fringe parted to one side, complemented by a neatly trimmed beard of modest length.[20]

Mr. Happypants[edit]

Mr. Happypants is a voodoo puppet that makes appearances in Brushwood's stage show and podcasts. Brushwood thought it would be fun if the character had a cute name but turned out to be mean, intending to come up with a better name later. While Mr. Happypants started off as a mean character he eventually evolved into pure evil and speaks through Brushwood with the assistance of a voice distorter.[21] The first reported appearance of Mr. Happypants' evil incarnation during a stage show was in the comedy competition at a Texas Association of Magicians conference.[22] Mr. Happypants' podcast debut was in Episode 6 of Brushwood's web series Brian Brushwood on the Road.[22]


Brushwood's first national television appearance was on the April 18, 2000, episode of The Roseanne Show talk show where he performed the trick of shoving a nail in one eye and having it pop out the other.[6][23] Brushwood has appeared twice on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno where he performed the "human crazy straw"[24] and his "spinning cups" routine.[25] Brushwood appeared in a segment on Anderson Cooper 360° where he taught Sanjay Gupta "the human blockhead".[26] In CNN's Life Beyond Limits Brushwood taught Gupta how to eat fire.[27] Brushwood also discussed eating fire on Food Network's Unwrapped,[28] and appeared on Paula's Party where he ate fire and helped make a s'more brûlée.[29] Brushwood has also appeared on Debra Duncan,[30] The Jenny Jones Show,[31] Unscrewed with Martin Sargent,[32] Steve Harvey's Big Time Challenge,[33] and Ricki Lake.[34]

Brushwood starred, with co-host Jason Murphy, in Hacking the System that premiered on February 27, 2014, on the National Geographic Channel.[35]


  • Brushwood, Brian; Johnson, C.J. (2000), Pack the House! The Ultimate, Ever-Growing Guide to Increasing Attendance at YOUR Campus Events, Bizarre Magic, Inc., ISBN 978-0971364615
  • Brushwood, Brian (2000), Cheats, Cons, Swindles, and Tricks: 57 Ways to Scam a Free Drink, Bizarre Magic, Inc., ASIN B005D38QQO
  • Brushwood, Brian (2002), The Professional's Guide to Fire Eating, Bizarre Magic, Inc., ISBN 978-0971364608, OCLC 224122749
  • Brushwood, Brian; Tilton, Jon (2012), Scam School Book 1: Smoke, Bizarre Magic, Inc., ASIN B007FRUNK8
  • Brushwood, Brian; Tilton, Jon (2012), Scam School Book 2: Fire, Bizarre Magic, Inc., ASIN B008B8L6YM
  • Brushwood, Brian; Tilton, Jon; Hughes, Brandt (2013), Scam School: Your Guide to Scoring Free Drinks, Doing Magic & Becoming the Life of the Party, Skyhorse Publishing, ISBN 978-1620878545, OCLC 816030432

Internet broadcasting[edit]

Justin Robert Young and Brian Brushwood hosting a show at Dragon*Con 2013
Show Description Premiere
Scam Nation
(originally titled Scam School)
Brushwood explains magic, street cons, scams and entertaining tricks so watchers can "scam" a free drink off their friends. April 6, 2008
Weird Things Hosts Brushwood, Justin Robert Young and Andrew Mayne discuss supernatural and strange reports in the news. News reports are often introduced by Andrew Mayne presenting scenarios where his co-hosts must respond to the events of a report as Mayne reveals an increasing amount of detail. Weird Things airs live on DiamondClub.TV and Twitch on Monday afternoons. October 19, 2009
Cordkillers Hosts Brushwood and Tom Merritt, along with producer Bryce Castillo, discuss weekly news related to cord-cutting, including television, movies and streaming devices. It is a successor to Frame Rate, which was also hosted by Brushwood and Merritt, and aired on until 2013. Cordkillers airs live on DiamondClub.TV and Alpha Geek Radio on Monday nights. December 23, 2013
Great Night
(originally titled Night Attack)
A comedy podcast hosted by Brushwood and Justin Robert Young, featuring announcer Brett Weaver and producer Bryce Castillo. It is a successor to NSFW, which was also hosted by Brushwood and Young, and aired on until 2014. Great Night airs live on DiamondClub.TV and Twitch on Tuesday nights. March 4, 2014
The Modern Rogue Brushwood and Jason Murphy together teach what they describe as the three pillars of a Modern Rogue. Each episode focuses on one of the three pillars, teaching their audience the ways of the warrior, gentleman, and scoundrel. It is a spiritual successor to Hacking the System after the latter show's cancellation by National Geographic Channel. The Modern Rogue premieres on YouTube on Fridays. December 14, 2015
World's Greatest Con A narrative podcast in which Brushwood explains the hidden stories behind the most audacious con jobs, swindles and heists in history. Season 1 tells the story of Operation Mincemeat, also known as "the con that fooled Hitler." Season 2 tells five different stories of cons involving TV game shows. June 7, 2021


Night Attack

  • Released: September 28, 2011
  • Format: MP3
  • Label: Brian Brushwood and Justin Robert Young
  • Chart position: No. 4 – Billboard Comedy Albums (October 29, 2011)[36]

Night Attack 2: Enjoy the Garden

  • Released: April 20, 2013
  • Format: MP3
  • Label: Brian Brushwood and Justin Robert Young
  • Chart position: No. 1 – Billboard Comedy Albums (May 4, 2013,[37] May 11, 2013)[38]

Night Attack (Live)

  • Released: October 22, 2013
  • Format: MP3
  • Label: Brian Brushwood and Justin Robert Young
  • Chart position: No. 1 – Billboard Comedy Albums (November 16, 2013)[39]


  • 1995 – Winner – Best Comedy Magic – Texas Association of Magicians[citation needed]
  • 1998 – Winner – Best Club Magic – Texas Association of Magicians[citation needed]
  • 2002 – Winner – Best Stage Magic – Texas Association of Magicians[40]
  • 2003 – Voted – Variety Entertainer of the Year –[citation needed]
  • 2008 – iTunes Top Video Podcast – Scam School[14]
  • 2009 – iTunes Top Video Podcast – Scam School[14]
  • 2010 – iTunes Top Audio Podcast – NSFW[14]
  • 2011 – Billboard No. 4 Comedy Album – Night Attack[36]
  • 2013 – Billboard No. 1 Comedy Album – Night Attack 2: Enjoy The Garden[37][38]
  • 2013 – Billboard No. 1 Comedy Album – Night Attack (Live)[39]
  • 2015 – People's Choice Podcast Award for Mature – Night Attack[41]
  • 2015 – People's Choice Podcast Award for Best Video – Night Attack[41]
  • 2016 – People's Choice Podcast Award for Education – Scam School[42]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Fidelity of Presence (Brian Brushwood)". Capital. Dan Benjamin and 5by5 Productions LLC. September 27, 2013. Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  2. ^ Junior, Ed (2005). Variety Acts: Gaining Respect. Bloomington, Illinois: AuthorHouse. pp. 15–19. ISBN 1-4208-4598-5.
  3. ^ Brushwood, Brian (October 29, 2014). "Brian Brushwood Live Video Q&A with Full Circle Magic". Full Circle Magic. Retrieved October 2, 2015 – via YouTube.
  4. ^ a b c d "Scam School". June 30, 2009. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  5. ^ Stanton, Mike (August 29, 2012). "Brian Brushwood's bizarre magic wows audience". Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Becknell, Vanessa (April 12, 2012). "Between the Pages With Author and 'Bizarre Magician' Brian Brushwood". Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  7. ^ "Magic Tricks in Space". Scam School. Retrieved July 29, 2014 – via YouTube.
  8. ^ Walsh, Katie (October 20, 2015). "UT alumnus shares secrets behind magic tricks on YouTube channel". Archived from the original on December 5, 2018. Retrieved January 7, 2018.
  9. ^ Whitney, Daisy (June 22, 2009). "On the Horizon: Brian Brushwood". TVWeek. Crain Communications Inc. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  10. ^ a b c Saunders, Richard (September 17, 2010). "Episode #100". The Skeptic Zone. Retrieved July 27, 2014.
  11. ^ Tran, Quan. "Bizarre Magic: Brian Brushwood". YouTube. Retrieved July 27, 2014.
  12. ^ a b "Podcast #205 – June 16th, 2009". The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. June 16, 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  13. ^ "Scams, Sasquatch, and the Supernatural Full Lecture". YouTube. October 29, 2012. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  14. ^ a b c d "Brian Brushwood". Secular Student Alliance. Archived from the original on August 10, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  15. ^ "Scam your way into anything! (Brian's SXSW panel part 1)". TestTube. Discovery Communications, LLC. May 27, 2009. Archived from the original on October 14, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  16. ^ "Scam your way into anything panel (part 2), plus bonus Q&A!". TestTube. Discovery Communications, LLC. June 4, 2009. Archived from the original on October 14, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  17. ^ "Brian Brushwood – Scams, Swindles and Skepticism". Point of Inquiry. Center for Inquiry. September 3, 2010. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  18. ^ a b "Too Long; Didn't Listen Episode 68 – Character Genders and Death". MMO Reporter. October 3, 2013. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  19. ^ "Crazy Videogame Hair in 9 Minutes – Ep 23 BBOTR". YouTube. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  20. ^ "Magical Miracle Dice!". YouTube. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  21. ^ "Episode 1". BBLiveShow. January 1, 2009. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  22. ^ a b "Episode 6 – Brian Brushwood on the Road". YouTube. October 16, 2006. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  23. ^ The Roseanne Show. April 18, 2000. CBS.
  24. ^ The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. November 26, 2001. NBC.
  25. ^ The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. March 26, 2009. NBC.
  26. ^ Anderson Cooper 360°. May 5, 2004. CNN.
  27. ^ Life Beyond Limits. May 9, 2004. CNN.
  28. ^ "Atomic". Unwrapped. February 27, 2006. Food Network.
  29. ^ "Fire and Ice". Paula's Party. September 14, 2007. Food Network.
  30. ^ Debra Duncan. June 21, 2001. ABC.
  31. ^ Jenny Jones. October 15, 2002. NBC.
  32. ^ Unscrewed with Martin Sargent. August 18, 2003. Tech TV.
  33. ^ Steve Harvey's Big Time Challenge. October 12, 2003. WB.
  34. ^ Ricki Lake. November 19, 2003. Sony Pictures Television Distribution.
  35. ^ Neill, Johnny (February 26, 2014). "Interview with Brian Brushwood from 'Hacking the System'". The TV Dudes. Archived from the original on January 11, 2015. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  36. ^ a b "Comedy Albums". Billboard. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  37. ^ a b "Comedy Albums". Billboard. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  38. ^ a b "Comedy Albums". Billboard. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  39. ^ a b "Comedy Albums". Billboard. Archived from the original on August 26, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  40. ^ "2002 Convention Fort Worth". Texas Association of Magicians. Archived from the original on October 16, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  41. ^ a b "Podcast Award Winners 2005–2014". Archived from the original on December 10, 2013. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  42. ^ "11th Podcast Awards Winner Announcement". Archived from the original on May 27, 2014. Retrieved July 7, 2016.

External links[edit]