Brian Brushwood is an unapologetic master of corruption, illusion, and deception—and he has turned teaching those skills online into a brisk business. A few weeks ago, Brushwood bought a seven-acre property in Austin that’ll serve as the headquarters for his multimedia empire: Scam School, a web show that specializes in bar tricks, street cons, and scams, boasting more than 1.8 million YouTube subscribers. His other channel, The Modern Rogue, with over 680,000 YouTube followers, finds Brushwood and his friend Jason Murphy exploring the three pillars of a Modern Rogue—the warrior, the gentleman, and the scoundrel. They tend to light a lot of fires and explode a lot of stuff, and they sell the whole affair with this tagline: “If Han Solo, James Bond, and Houdini had a two-headed baby, it’d be The Modern Rogue.”
Both video projects and a handful of long-running podcasts tend to fuse the traditional variety arts—magic, illusion, and the sideshow—with more modern concepts like life-hacking and social engineering. Our conversation for the National Podcast of Texas explores the intersection of deception and entertainment, the psychological back doors that leave us vulnerable, and what happened when Macaulay Culkin christened Brushwood’s new compound by conducting blood splatter tests.