Magician Mac King: Consistently Outstanding

Inside Magic Image of Mac KingMagician and Comedian Mac King puts on a fantastic show at Harrah’s Casino every afternoon.  We hadn’t had the opportunity to see him in his theater in many years.  His environs have changed dramatically.  He now performs in a beautiful showroom with plenty of seats, drink service, a wonderful stage and adoring fans.  A far cry from his considerably smaller stage and audience area back when we saw him last.  It is nice to see talent rewarded – especially in a town that eats its stars to clear space for the next act hoping to hold a room against the considerable economic forces that must drive the rapacious need to purge and procure talent.

Mr. King was on his A-game when we saw him from our perfectly adequate general admission seats.  It doesn’t seem there could be a bad seat in the house.  The sightlines all looked great and sound and light work was perfect.  He moves effortlessly with what the crowd gives him.  Sure, at this point in his career, he has likely seen just about every audience response and has pat responses for the interaction – but it didn’t seem to be rehashed from prior shows but spontaneous and genuine.

For example, he invited a woman to participate in a card effect and asked her to take a card from the deck and sign it so it could be identified later.  She did exactly as instructed but wrote her name on the back of the card not the face.  Whether he has confronted this type of audience confusion before, he worked the comic opportunity to its fullest extent.  She ultimately selected a card and signed it on its face.  He performed his miracle and she returned to her seat.  She wasn’t embarrassed or shamed – he allowed her to be part of the fun.  He even pointed out that the situation was likely his fault as he did not tell her to sign the face of the card.  He then did two or three call backs to the situation throughout the remainder of his act.

We were with our family – and it is a perfect family show with nothing to embarrass fans of any age – and they were impressed by the magic performed as much as we were.  Magicians watching other magicians can be a cynical lot.  We have seen or maybe even performed most of the tricks before.  We watch for the twist or the performance decisions magicians make whilst performing standards.

Yet, with Mr. King we were impressed by his originality and the degree of difficulty of the tricks performed.  He could have made his job much easier with readily available gimmicks or short-cuts but for some reason – some very good reason for which we are indebted to him – he chose to do rather difficult sleights in do-or-die moments.  We have great pride in our Classic Force, but if it was absolutely essential to hit it perfectly with an audience volunteer, we would choose some alternative.   Even a two-way deck would be too risky for us in such a situation.

Mr. King performed without a net and the audience would never realize how difficult he was making it for himself.  From the opening Cut and Restored Rope through the very last effect, he showed his mastery of the knuckle-busting sleights that we would not dare to perform even for loved ones who would forgive our failures.  Likely, that is why he is the oft-voted best afternoon show of Las Vegas and receives such thunderous applause twice an afternoon in his wonderfully upgraded digs.

If you happen to be in Las Vegas and want to see one magic show, do not foolishly choose to miss Mac King’s afternoon performance in favor of the glitzy here-today-gone-tomorrow acts.  Mr. King’s dedication to magic and entertaining audiences has been rewarded by longevity and repeat fans of families of many generations.  As we said, it is nice to see talent rewarded and it is just nice to see real talent exhibited.

Inside Magic Review: Five out Five – Our Highest Recommendation.

Ben Young is Up and Coming

Ben YoungMagician Ben Young has a fancy website, a long list of appearances and likely does a fair amount of advertising for his services but for our money, nothing beats the kind of press he received from a friend in the recent edition of The Tullahoma News.

Yes, he has been on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us and befriended by some of the top performers in our craft.  But for some reason we are more moved by accolades bestowed by a former classmate.

Erin McCullough’s column in the Tennessee news source inspires us to track Mr. Young on our upcoming visit to Las Vegas. That beats a Yelp or Trip Advisor review in our estimation.

Ms. McCullough knew Mr. Young from their time together in school and expresses surprise and delight in learning of her friend’s success since leaving the area.

“Now, I had known Ben was talented, but I had no idea of the depth of his craft until I saw it in person. If you’ve never been able to see a magic show, please do yourself a favor and go seek one out, because they are incredible!”

Apparently they studied Italian together in college and, sure, he would perform a few effects for fellow students but Ms. McCullough never saw him in full stage magician mode. Now, Mr. Young is beginning (or part way into) a tour of Air Force bases and cannot be confused with the talented hobbiest. He is a full-blown magician.

We’ll be in Las Vegas when Hollywood shuts down for the holiday break and will seek out Mr. Young — assuming he isn’t on tour — solely because of the apparently unsolicited but heartfelt endorsement of Ms. McCullough.

You can check out Ms. McCullough’s article here: http://www.tullahomanews.com/around-the-water-cooler-81/

Visit Mr. Young’s website here: http://www.benyounglive.com/

Mac King Inspires Kids and Adults

Inside Magic Image of Mac KingInside Magic Favorite Mac King received well-deserved, positive press in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal for his tireless work to promote reading.  This is the fifth year Mac King’s Magical Literacy Tour has visited Las Vegas elementary schools to promote the magic of books.

Beverly Mathis, director of literacy for The Public Education Foundation, praised Mr. King effusively (see how we up our adverb choice when talking about literacy?).

“Mac King is fabulous, and we know how he motivates children to read,” Mathis said. “There’s a little book by Dr. Seuss, and the title is ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go!’, and just think about that. Children can go anywhere they want, even though they’re right here at Bunker Elementary School. Reading opens up the world.”

Mr. King acknowledges that young audiences can be tough audiences.

“It’s hard doing magic for kindergartners and first-graders, you know?” he said. “They kind of believe it; they believe it’s real.”

“I started doing a few school assemblies when I first started at Harrah’s,” said King, “and I started seeing libraries in Las Vegas and thought, ‘Maybe we can get some more books in there.’  When I was a kid, I checked out a book about magic —Tricks Any Boy Can Do — from my school library, and it literally changed my life.”

Mr. King’s multi-award winning show runs Tuesday through Saturday afternoons at 1pm and 3pm at Harrah’s in Las Vegas.

Each student got a free book, courtesy of a book drive sponsored by local companies and the YMCA of Southern Nevada.

“Some of these kids, it’s the only book they’ve ever owned,” King said. “And that’s just appalling. But, for them, it’s like Christmas.”

Be sure to stop by Mr. King’s website at mackingshow.com

Bill Maher Hates Magicians – So What?

Inside Magic Image of Innovative BunnyIn a Las Vegas Review-Journal column by Doug Elfman this morning, comedian Bill Maher looks to stir up some controversy in advance of his show this Saturday at The Palms Casino.

Mr. Maher is reputed to be a star on HBO and takes pride in attacking people and groups.  Religions are fair game and so are conservatives and liberals.  It works for him so why stop with ideology and spirituality.

Whenever I talk to him, we’ll be talking about President Barack Obama, or weed, or Woody Harrelson, and then he will slip in a side joke that pokes fun at illusionists.  Maher mocks magicians mercilessly.

“When we started back in the old days, before the iWatch, practically before answering machines, in New York, no matter how good you were, you could never do better in the small clubs than the magician guy or a guy with puppets,” Maher said.

Maher goes on to insult Cirque du Soleil, drop names of famous comedians with whom he recently worked and stroke The Palms as a wonderful place to work.

He likes Penn & Teller, though.  They are not typical magicians so they escape his wrath.

We have already given too much space to him but we thought you should know.

Penn Talks Logistics of the Magic Show

Inside Magic Image of Magician and Author Penn JillettePenn’s Sunday School podcast is not for everyone but if you are an adult, into magic and, most importantly, into logistics, it is for you.

To say we love logistics would be an understatement of unwieldy proportions.

If logistics were a woman, we would flirt with it and hold our eye contact for an uncomfortably long period of time.  If it were a child, we would adopt it, put it in special schools to be taught by singing nuns and far from all evil.  If it were a dog, we would also adopt it and send it to special obedience schools with singing nun trainers.  We really love logistics.

We have seen David Copperfield on tour in cities all over America (that makes us a fan not a stalker – the clump of his hair that we bought on eBay makes us a collector, not a stalker either.  We have no innocent explanation for our ownership of a salad fork he once used, however).

The Copperfield show is always great but our favorite part is watching the load-in and load-out from and into the huge semi-tractor trailer bearing Mr. Copperfield’s face.  We cannot see that much because his crew is very discreet in their moving of the big crates and rigging.  Still, it holds our attention for a good hour or so.

When we were very young, we got to work for a day as a roustabout for the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus during its performance in Vero Beach, Florida.  We spent the morning helping to set up the grandstands, moving chairs, lifting things, pulling things and watching the big tent appear like magic.  We admired how the bosses knew exactly what to do and in what order.  We imagine they learned from experience to put all the stands and chairs into the area before they erected the tent walls; or figured out in advance to get the tent poles up and positioned within the holes before hoisting the canvas up.  They were pros and they knew logistics.  We were in love.

When Penn Jillette describes the behind the scenes of the Las Vegas Penn & Teller show on his weekly podcast, Penn’s Sunday School, we smile involuntarily.

This week’s podcast made us smile like a goof – as our Irish grandmother would say.

We usually listen whilst walking great distances to get our cardiovascular workout and test the range of the court-ordered anklet we wear.  We used to think that people were intolerant and judgmental but now realize that the strange looks we received were likely because of our glowing goofy smile – and probably the anklet (autographed by Lindsay Lohan).

In his latest episode, Penn recounted an experience from a recent show at the Rio Resort and Casino’s Penn & Teller Theater.  We won’t ruin the story for you but it has to do with a specially gimmicked jacket that resulted in him being fooled twice unbeknownst to the audience.  He recounted his internal dialogue as he tried to figure out what was happening whilst he was on stage performing a different effect. An incredible story and if you love logistics, you too will smile with the best of the goofs as you listen.

As we mentioned, his podcast has adult language and themes (whatever an adult theme is) so we do not recommend it for our younger readers or those who are easily offended but for those of us with very thick skin – in our case, from the incessant rubbing of the anklet – it is a wonderful chance to hear about the preparations and logistics of a big time magic show.

You can subscribe to the podcast through Apple’s iTunes store or directly through Penn’s Sunday School here.