This story is part of CBC Homerun's series on Montrealers making a name for themselves on social media. Have a suggestion for an up-and-coming social media star in Montreal? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Blaine is running into some serious competition as the most viewed street magician on YouTube with Saint-Sauveur's Chris Ramsay edging his way into top spots.
Ramsay said his love of magic started as a child and blossomed when he noticed he could make extra tips performing tricks while he worked as a bartender.
Now, he performs bigger and better tricks for millions of YouTube viewers.
It all started with a street magic video shot in 2014 with the help of a friend, much like Blaine's, but "in my own way, with my own flare, and obviously my own budget," Ramsay told CBC Montreal's Homerun.
The video took off, and what was at first a "mildly viral" YouTube channel turned into a go-to resource for wannabe magicians and up-and-comers alike.
"It's become everything from vlogs, to teaching, to a little of everything," he said.
The tricky thing about posting tricks
Ramsay's channel has become a treasure trove of card-trick tutorials, street magic, and even intimate videos about the challenges of being a magician and why he loves to be one.
Among the challenges of being a magician in the digital age includes the very act of posting magic videos online where viewers are more likely to figure out the trick.
"[Older magicians] don't like Youtube, they don't like the internet, they don't like exposure," he said.
He added that people want to learn how to do the tricks they see. But part of the teaching needs to incorporate ethics.
"That's the tricky part," he said.
Ramsay navigates that grey area by only showing magic tricks that you can find in any library book, his own tricks, or other people's tricks with their permission.
If Ramsey appears to be completely at home in his videos, it's no illusion.
"Authenticity goes a long way, especially on YouTube," he said.
"You're just putting yourself out there and creating content, and if people are receptive to that, well then they'll give you feedback and you start a conversation with people," he added.
"So it's not like you're talking to them, but you're creating a conversation."
From a YouTube video to YouTube influencer
His authenticity has taken him far — at nearly 130,000 subscribers and over 8.5 million views, Ramsay has managed to reach the level of YouTube "influencer," using his social media following to get advertising jobs.
"YouTube has brought me a countless amount of gigs, so I do private parties, corporate events, weddings and that type of thing," he said.
Ramsay is careful to stress that being an influencer shouldn't be about "accepting money for blatant advertising."
"It's up to a lot of YouTubers, or influencers, to make that fit to their brand and refuse the ones that just absolutely make no sense," he said.
YouTube itself has taken notice of Ramsay's success. He was among 15 Canadian YouTubers selected for its NextUp program where up-and-comers on the social media channel got invited to a 5-day intensive training in Toronto.
He'll be back in Toronto Saturday to pick up a silver plaque for reaching 100,000 subscribers.
Performing tricks for more than a decade can take the excitement out of magic, but Ramsay says he now lives vicariously through his spectators.
"To have that sense of wonderment for an adult — a grown adult who knows the boundaries of what exists and what's possible — is really, really interesting," he said.
"It changes people."