Ricky Jay

Ricky Jay Biography

Ricky jay as Henry Gupta

Ricky Jay was a famous American magician and actor who was born on June 26, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York. Jay’s love for magic began at a young age, after his grandfather, Max Katz introduced it to him. He performed his first public magic act at the age of seven on the television program Time For Pets.

In the 1960s, Jay became the first magician to ever play comedy clubs and the first to open for a rock and roll band. At New York’s Electric Circus, he performed on a bill between Ike and Tina Turner and Timothy Leary, who lectured about LSD.

During the 1960s and 70s, Jay lived in Ithaca, New York, performing while also intermittently attending the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. He later moved to the Los Angeles area.


Ricky Jay’s one-man magic shows, including Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants, Ricky Jay: On the Stem, and Ricky Jay: A Rogue’s Gallery, were directed by David Mamet, who also cast Jay in a number of his films. Three of his performances were directed by Mamet, who also cast Jay in a number of his films.

Jay was listed in the Guinness World Records for throwing a playing card 190 ft at 90 miles per hour. He was also able to throw a card into the air like a boomerang and cut it cleanly in half with a pair of “giant scissors” upon its return.

Ricky Jay’s fame in the world of magic opened doors for him in Hollywood and he began to earn casting roles in movies. House of Games (1987) was his first movie role, and he went on to star in over twenty films including Boogie Nights (1997), Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Magnolia (1999), Heist (2001), and The Prestige in 2006.

Jay joined the cast of the HBO western drama Deadwood as a recurring character and writer for the first season in 2004, playing card shark Eddie Sawyer. He wrote the episode Jewel’s Boot Is Made for Walking and left the series at the end of the first season. He also appeared in a few episodes of the Mamet-produced TV series The Unit as a C.I.A. recruiter.

Ricky Jay died on November 24, 2018, at the age of 72. His attorney Stan Coleman confirmed his death, and later press coverage reported that Jay died of natural causes.