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Magician, martial arts master, dad: Park Rapids comedian Nick Bretz finds satisfaction in unique mix of jobs

Nick Bretz lives up to his credo: Magic has never been so funny.

Nick Bretz holds a one-of-a kind résumé.

Imaginick's role as magician and comic calls for quick wit, while manipulating reality.

Tae Kwon Do instructor Master Nick employs adept physical discipline to engage students in martial arts.

And, by day, he runs "Daddy Day Care," tending to his precocious son, Dominick. "He's a year old and has survived," Nick quips of Dominick's unorthodox habitat, a martial arts studio.

The Perham native took up magic and martial arts in the first grade, introducing "cheesy magic tricks for show and tell.

"Pulling a quarter from the nose is gross, but funny," the self-taught young performer quickly ascertained.

His father, Jim, who still owns a hardware store in Perham, would stop at magic shops when he headed off to market, bringing home new tricks. He would build props for his son's madcap ventures.

At the conclusion of his first grade year, Nick's teacher gave him a magic book. "Follow your dreams," she told him.

"And don't come back," Nick adds, grinning.

But he did, every year from sixth grade until graduation, entertaining the first graders in Marlene Johnson's class with his wizardry.

And when she retired a few years ago, Nick was there for a reprise performance.

During high school, he would perform in talent shows, at nursing homes and birthday parties.

Nick, who's now "30, but reads at a 34-year-old level," studied books and videos to hone his talents. "I'm always looking for new techniques - for magic and Tae Kwon Do."

In 2000, just out of high school, he was planning to join the Navy, determining his skills in martial arts - which he was refining concurrently with his magic proficiency - made him a "shoe in."

Then his sister, who'd heard of a dinner theater opening in Frazee, suggested he audition.

"We love you, but have no idea what to do with you," the show's producers told him of fitting him into the Heehaw mix of country, bluegrass, gospel and rock.

"I became the comedy relief between shows," he said of his "Laugh-In bit" that would entertain audiences for the next two-plus years, the venue moving to Perham.

"I'm the comedian your mother warned you about," he jokes.

Bretz began working with an agent via Headliner Talent Marketing, who is now responsible for 90 percent of his magic show bookings. He recently joined Direct to Artists, based in Nashville.

In 2003, he would open the Tae Kwon Do facility in Park Rapids.

The seemingly incongruent career paths are "a great balance," he said. "Tae Kwon Do is so serious. With magic, I let loose."

Nick mixes his seemingly supernatural skills with wry wit when he steps before audiences. This past year, he appeared in St. Louis, Las Vegas, Arizona, Florida, North and South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.

New Year's Eve, he entertained an audience of 2,000 in Grand Forks.

"I try new material out on Dominick," he said. "He's an easy crowd."

He dazzles audiences with straitjacket escapes, juggling, yoyos and animal balloons.

"Nothing is done without a laugh," he said of his slapstick humor.

"Some magicians are subdued," Nick observed. "I'm more highly caffeinated."

Nervous jitters disappeared after a couple of performances at the dinner theater, never to return.

When he drops a ball while juggling or snags the yo-yo, he simply makes a joke. "I put swords through the neck, and everyone survives," said the man wearing an IYQ pin on his shirt.

"I like you too," he answers to queries as to what's IYQ. "It's cheesy, but it makes people laugh.

"I'm all about cheese. You can tell by my haircut."

While his success on stage is measured by laughter and applause, his acumen on the mat is measured in belts - black ones.

He is a 4th Dan Master in Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido, which he received on a trip to Korea last fall, black belt students Jerry Snow, Jordan Rasmussen and Shane Kirlin accompanying him. He also holds a black belt rank in Kumdo, which is Asian fencing.

"Tae Kwon Do builds confidence, which is important nowadays," he said. "It's not about hurting, it's more about attitude and manners.

"Bullying stops when self-confidence is gained."

Nick consistently earned gold medals at the state level, but they have eluded him at nationals. His apprentices, however, have attained precious metal status at nationals. He offers students one tournament a month, the next to be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 10 at Century School.

The Tae Kwon Do students range in age from 4 and up with "seniors" welcome. Rank promotion tests are given every three months.

"Tae Kwon Do is all-body fitness training," he said of benefits to both muscles and mind. "It's for everyone. You can go at your own pace."

His classes meet Monday and Thursday evenings at the Tae Kwon Do studio on Henrietta Avenue north.