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Mac King is on vacation Feb. 19 - 23. His show will be performed by Steven Bagatze during his absence.
Comedy of errors, magic of excellence
By Renée LiButti
Without a doubt, Mac King is the funniest and finest magician in Las Vegas. He'll hold you spellbound in his Old Vegas-style showroom at Harrah's, while you hold your gut from laughing. King's self-effacing humor blended with his flawless sleight-of-hand and corny imagination elevate him to the top of his craft. Plus, his unique combination of endearing Southern charm and offbeat showmanship produces mesmerizing tricks and a giggling audience every time.
"I'm not sure how this will go," he said anxiously to a female volunteer at a recent performance of The Mac King Comedy Magic Show. King had given her 10 cards and told her to put them somewhere safe -- only to watch in horror as she placed them in her firmly clasped handbag. "Oh dear, now I might have to knock you down and steel your purse."
He didn't do that. Instead King went offstage to get a secret device -- his "Cloak of Invisibility," which looked an awful lot like an ordinary yellow rain poncho. Then he began the task of moving three of those stowed-away cards into the pants pocket of a male volunteer, tiptoeing back and forth between the two amused helpers in a completely conspicuous manner. He paused once to ask the man if he "felt No. 2 land in his pants." Finally, after declaring the three cards had flown before the audience's eyes, he asked the woman to open her purse and she counted out only seven cards.
King's repertoire also includes rope tricks, hand shadow puppets, mysterious appearances of Fig Newtons, live animals (i.e., a worm and a goldfish) and a gold lamé cape modeled after Elvis and Liberace. Not for a moment is his magic routine. King constantly stuns spectators with unconventional tricks that defy the laws of physics -- and sometimes even good taste. For example, during one of his signature capers he swallows a carrot and spits out a live goldfish, which adds an "ew" factor to his show.
Although appearing to be incompetent, King is truly adept in both his magic and people skills. That's what makes it possible for him to feature so much audience participation. A veritable parade of volunteers steps onstage each afternoon, providing immediate, awestruck reactions to his tricks.
"This makes my show more of an experience for the audience. The idea is that what they are seeing today is different from what happened yesterday, and it will be different from what happens tomorrow," explained King in a rare serious moment during an interview after his show. "It isn't like a play that's the same every time. This is live and genuine interaction. I think people appreciate that -- and that's what keeps it fun for me."
Kids always receive a warm welcome from him as well. Through them, King has a chance to pay homage to his grandfathers, both of whom he credits for introducing him to this world of enchantment when he was "a young girl." Born and raised in Kentucky, King said that he never wanted to be anything else but a magician. Performing first at neighborhood birthday parties and then in comedy clubs after college, he eventually made his way to Los Angeles before settling in Las Vegas in 1997 -- thanks to some coaxing from another legendary magician, Lance Burton. King has starred in his own self-titled show at Harrah's since 2000, and a recent contract extension ensures he will stay through 2015.
Finding his own style in magic has been King's mantra throughout his career. Over the years he's honed his somewhat silly stage persona -- which includes donning an unfashionable plaid suit and tapping in on his down home roots. His charisma is every bit as important as the tricks because it makes you genuinely like this goofy guy as he guides you laughingly from one illusion to the next.
His showroom has traditional chair seating in the front and a few rows of spacious booths in the back -- all of which offer clear views of the stage. Except for lighting and music, King makes little use of technology and has no ingeniously engineered props. Everything in his show seems ordinary...but then remarkably exceeds your expectations under impossible circumstances.
If you need evidence that you are in the presence of a magical virtuoso, albeit one with a bowl-like haircut, just watch closely at what appears after he assembles a simple camping tent. It's jaw-dropping!
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