TV Cream

Bric-a-Brac: J is for...

Jay, Ricky

That's our starter!A loudmouth American card sharp, Ricky Jay was all over TV in the 1980s as a speciality act, or ‘bloke who can do one really stupid thing really well’ to use the layman’s term. Jay would turn up and, with much sweaty decibel-rich verbosity, set up a bisected watermelon  on one side of the stage, walk over to the other and flick playing cards into it with lethal speed and pinpoint accuracy. But wait! There’s more! He’d then turn the melon round, and do the same to what he termed ‘the outer, pachydermitous hide’ of the melon. But Jay’s turn was culturally significant for reasons independent of the high-speed laminated-paper/cantaloupe interface. Before you could say ‘yes, very good, but is that it?’ Jay pretty much admitted, in the same voluminously baroque West Coast showman’s verbiage, that yes, it is a bit of a daft way to make a living, what am I doing with my life, etc. Thus postmodernist self-deprecation was introduced to the variety stage, almost without anyone noticing. Within a decade or two, there’d be no other way to act…



  1. Richard Davies

    August 9, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    I remember him being on Paul Daniels’s show at least once.

  2. Applemask

    June 18, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Actually a really, really good magician and historian of magic and grifting. Also quite a handy actor, and delivered the opening narration to “Magnolia”.

  3. Jackson

    March 29, 2014 at 2:27 am

    He cropped up in Deadwood too. And an episode of the X-files, now I think of it.

  4. Rose 'Tinternet

    July 9, 2014 at 11:12 am

    …Not to mention Burt Reynolds cameraman in Boogie Nights (another Paul W Anderson movie) who tries to have a technical debate with William H Macy’s cuckolded character
    whilst his wife (porn veteran Nina Hartley) is getting very publicly banged by a stud in the parking lot).

  5. George White

    March 27, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    Also a Bond villain.
    If only the Morettis were…

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