Fundamentally, though, all these three come down to ego. I believe that anyone who strives for success in any area is only doing it for themselves. This is especially so with performance art, in which applause and adulation are more readily and directly achieved than in other walks of life. Why do we do this? Well classically, the answer would be that we feel detatched, we see ourselves as different from those around us. We are perhaps lonely, and are therefore desperate to prove ourselves and be accepted by "normal" people. We are probably unsure of ourselves, and feel that our personality is not strong enough to stand up to scrutiny by the world, so we mask it behind performance so that people will focus on that instead of the real us.
This can go one of two ways. Indignant denial, or the complete death of the thread from this point on.
I question whether or not they'll attempt to argue it because it still puts them in a rather uncomfortable place.
It's very Jungian if you think about it.
I was thinking more Goffman, but to each their own.
Jung's writings of the shadow self had a profound effect on me. Hence my bias.
Performers occupy a niche in which they provide entertainment, which is good for the group because boredom is a threat to the mind of a sentient creature. But they also have to enjoy doing that, so to one extent or another they have to crave the approval of others. Provided it isn't taken to an extreme, this isn't a bad thing.
First I would like to say this was the best thread hijack in the history of thread hijacks and secondly I'd like to agree with a certain sentiment in this thread.
Good stuff, and not incompatible with Goffman's writings on the everyday self as performance/mask--which is pretty salient to this discussion as well as others.
"Entertainment" is not a unitary concept, and itself works toward different ends. Some entertainment is to distract: I would suggest that most sit-coms fall into this category. Some entertainment is to enlarge: this is why public television is still around. Some entertainment is about transporting the listener into another place and time: this is what makes movies, plays, and opera distinctive. Some directly aims to inspire: this is why artists have workshops for each other. So it isn't just about avoiding boredom.
Why choose magic as a method for entertaining, above all else? I don't think self-interest, ego, popularity, technical skill, or many of the other answers get to that question at all, really: take up the piccolo instead. "Because I think it's cool" only pushes it back one level--why do you think it is cool?
I believe alot have forgot why we learn magic or why we should be learning magic and that to take people to a different place and make sure they dont forget you or the experience they had with you. Not how many time you can cut the cards or how many knuckle busting sleights you can do.