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“Vegas at 11am is one of the most depressing sights known to mankind,” says Piff the Magic Dragon as he surveys the paltry foot traffic outside of the Flamingo Hotel Casino in Las Vegas. 

Thus begins a hilarious episode of Vegas 24 in which host Roberto Raad tries in vain to summon a sliver of enthusiasm from the famously cantankerous supernatural lizard.

I’ve honestly ran out of things to write about Piff – who has mysteriously never been seen in the same room as professional magician, John van der Put. He’s been doing amazing things in the magic scene since 2008, but really hit his stride when he appeared on the first season of Penn & Teller: Fool Us in 2011. He’s since appeared on America’s Got Talent three times, reaching the top ten in two of his appearances. While it’s clear Mr. Piffles is the power behind the throne, Piff’s tricks are great, his wit is lightning fast, and his English is great for an ancient mythical beast. 

Masters of Illusion made the transition to a regular show at Bally’s Las Vegas in winter 2017. Last Wednesday, the cast and crew celebrated their 100th performance at the venue. They marked the milestone in the best, and tastiest, way known to humanity: cake.

For those of us who don’t have a Vegas trip on the books, Masters of Illusion is also in the midst of a national tour, with Chipper Lowell, Jarrett & Raja, Michael Turco, and Naathan Phan on the performer roster. Tickets and show dates are available on the tour website. Or you can enjoy the televised version, with old episodes from the CW’s take on the franchise always available in the United States at CWTV.com or on the CW app. 

Mac King has been doing shows at the same hotel and casino for 18 years. I honestly can’t explain how impressive that is to me. I don’t think I’ve held a job for 18 weeks, never mind literally the minimum length of time it takes a person to go from being born to legally buying cigarettes. For 18 years, King has been performing The Mac King Comedy Magic Show on afternoons, Tuesday to Saturday, at Harrah’s Las Vegas.

Not only is King a magic machine, as we noted when we ran a feature on him late last year, he’s apparently some kind of plaid-clad terminator when it comes to raw professionalism. During one show at The Comedy Club, North Carolina, King accidentally cut off the tip of his own thumb during his signature “Cut and Restored” rope trick. He tried to stop the bleeding with tape, as one does during a medical emergency, but quickly realized all the claret he was spraying everywhere was making card tricks difficult. King briefly stopped the show to ask for help with, you know, his severed freakin’ thumb tip, until a nurse in the audience managed to stop the bleeding and sanitize the wound with vodka. Satisfied that he was no longer bleeding quite as much, King went on to finish the show, perform another show, then go to the hospital.

King didn’t mention the thumb incident in his recent, lengthy Q&A with showtickets.com, but he did talk about his beginnings in the industry, the acts that inspired him, his ongoing friendship with Penn & Teller, how to work with Guinea Pigs and Goldfish, and the secret to his success, frugality.

“I’m cheap! Seriously, I do think a big factor is the price point. Because what I’m selling is really me and my personality, I’ve been able to keep the price low compared to other shows. Over the years I’ve been able to add a bit more production value – music, live animals and a couple of bigger-scale tricks – but it’s still basically a one-man show, so I’ve been able to keep my costs low and still fill the stage with magic.”

The interview is mammoth and I’m too lazy to transcribe it all here (18 weeks, remember), but it ends with some recommendations for dinner and shows if you ever find yourself in the City of lights.
Give it a read.


The Mac King Comedy Magic Show
runs from 1:00pm to 3:00pm every Tuesday to Saturday at Harrah’s Las Vegas.  It’s well-reviewed, kid-friendly and tickets start at $36.95 (plus tax & fees).

 

Mentalist Santiago Michel has a very important show debuting at Las Vegas’ Planet Hollywood this spring. He’s the first artist on the strip to have a residency that’s performed entirely in Spanish.

His show, Ilusión Mental, is a long time coming, both as a milestone in Michel’s career and for Hispanic magic. Born in Mexico City, Michel’s first exposure to magic was at his sixth birthday party and he’s been performing himself since age 13. He trained at the Moscow Art Theater School in Russia and has performed all over the world.

Jarret Keene, a writer for the website Vegas Seven, profiled Michel and saw a preview of Ilusión Mental. Even though Keene knows very little Spanish, he said he was able to follow the act. Michel focuses on mind reading-style mentalism that can reveal surprising personal information about guests, such as the name of the first person they kissed.

“Halfway through the show, I want the audience to remain a bit skeptical,” Michel told Keene. “I want them to wonder if there are ‘plants’ in the show.”

Bringing a Spanish-language-only show to Vegas seems like a great development. In a 2012 survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, Spanish was the primary language spoken at home for 38.3 million people in the United States. Given Las Vegas’ international reputation, having shows performed in languages other than English makes sense. And as Keene noted, speaking the language isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying the show. Magic is an international and intercultural art form, and creating wonder doesn’t necessarily need words. 

Criss Angel’s ten-year-long stint at the Luxor in Las Vegas appears to be coming to a close. As reported via press release by Broadway World Las Vegas, Criss Angel’s final performance of his show Mindfreak Live! will take place on October 28, 2018, after which Angel’s contract with Luxor will expire.

The news was first broken by Brock Radke of Las Vegas Weekly via Twitter:

It was later confirmed via press release, which included quotes from Criss Angel from his time working on the show:

“It has been an extraordinary experience working with Cirque du Soleil and Luxor these past nine years. They have been amazing partners and will always be part of my family,” said Criss Angel. “I am so proud of what we have created together and I am extremely excited about the new illusions we will be adding in our final year of MINDFREAK® LIVE!”

Mindfreak Live! originally launched as BeLIEve, which originally appeared to some rather scathing reviews. The show dropped many of its larger Cirque du Soleil elements, and eventually repurposed itself in current, vastly improved form back in 2016, with some even calling his showstopping levitation stunt “worth the price of admission.”

There’s no word on whether Criss Angel is going to return to the Vegas Strip in another venue, or if this will mark his last appearance there. He’s currently beginning a new tour in January called Criss Angel Raw, which promises “magic unplugged”. You can still get tickets for his Vegas show at Cirque du Soleil’s official website.

Whatever your opinion of Criss Angel’s magic or his persona, there’s no denying how impressive it is to keep a show running for a decade straight, especially in Vegas.

Penn & Teller have done so much for the world of magic. But never ones to rest on their laurels, the duo has also become some of the more active magicians when it comes to giving back, especially for their hometown of Las Vegas.

According to a few recent tweets from Mr. Jillette himself, people who donate blood from now through January 1 will get two tickets to see the Penn & Teller at at the Rio. Their offer is for donations at any Southern Nevada locations of United Blood Services. Appointments can be scheduled at the UBS website. Not a bad price to pay for entry to one of Vegas’ top acts. Plus you get cookies!

Piff the Magic Dragon is a hoot on stage and off. But he played it surprisingly straight in a recent interview with Las Vegas Weekly about his holiday-themed Piffmas at Piffany’s show. He shared how the original concept of his Breakfast at Piffany’s bit emerged out of boredom during an early Vegas gig.

“I was supposed to be doing two sets of 10 minutes,” he said. “I was used to doing hour-long shows, so I was bored out of my mind.”

So he starting doing a secret midnight show at the bar in Rose.Robbit.Lie., a supper club at the Cosmopolitan. It’s an interactive magic game show, where his audience gets split into teams and the teams compete against each other helping Piff out with tricks. He even turned the act into a fundraiser, auctioning off stale croissants to the highest bidder.

“We raised $15,000 in three months for Communities in Schools by auctioning off stale pastries, and the winning bidder would go into a secret-secret room and have this whole crazy croissant-dance thing that no one would ever speak of.”

Not too shabby! Check out the whole interview, including Piff’s Christmas plans, here.

Comedian and writer Matt Donnelly has spent a lot of time around magicians as a writer for Penn & Teller: Fool Us and co-host of the Penn’s Sunday School podcast. Despite rubbing elbows with so many of the best in the business, Donnelly didn’t think to learn any of his own magic tricks until Penn Jillette dared him to.

From that challenge, Donnelly has gone on to create his own kooky stage character to perform magic. Hill Bill, The Psychic Hillbilly, is performing at The Space in Las Vegas this weekend thanks to a successfully funded Indiegogo campaign. Yes, he’ll do some tricks, but audiences should also expect a very different atmosphere than most magic shows. When he dons the overalls of Hill Bill, Donnelly speaks with an exaggerated Appalachian accent and tells jokes about roadkill.

“I am embarrassed by how many connections I have to the titans of the magic world,” Donnelly said in his Indiegogo campaign. “Respectfully, I approached Penn, Teller, Johnny Thompson, Piff and more, and asked them, ‘Will you teach me one trick?’ They all said yes.”

According to Donnelly’s crowdfunding page, the show will be filmed and recorded, so you can experience his particular flavor of “mind noodling” for yourself even if you can’t make it to Vegas.

Masters of Illusion has been delighting audiences from all over the world with its hit CW television show and live tours, and now it’s getting a regular spot in the Jubilee Theater at Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino starting December 6.

From the official event page:

Starring the world’s greatest award-winning magicians, this 21st century magic show is unlike anything audiences will have seen before. Masters of Illusion’s limited engagement is a brand-new production for the whole family, featuring modern illusions and unbelievable arts of deception. The audience will have to watch closely as they experience tricks that can’t possibly be done…or can they?

Tickets range in price from $53.41 to $140.61 (plus applicable fees), and can be purchased online through Ticketmaster. The current schedule lists performances up through June 4, 2018, and the event page describes the show as a “limited engagement”, so if you want to see the Masters of Illusion Vegas show before it disappears, you might need to act fast.

If you’re unable to make it to Vegas, you can still catch Masters of Illusion’s live North American tour, beginning January 26, 2018. More information on the live tour can be found at Masters of Illusion’s official site.

The Las Vegas that tourists see, the land of dazzle and debauchery, doesn’t seem like a natural fit for the sweet and wholesome Thanksgiving holiday. But there are real people who live and work in Sin City, and they do have lots to be thankful for. Las Vegas Magazine asked a few of the city’s top talents what they’re thankful for this year.

Mat Franco and Criss Angel both weighed in with heartfelt responses. Piff unquestionably has the best answer from among the magicians:

“Mr. Piffles and I just extended our contract until the end of 2018 at the Flamingo, with almost 300 shows scheduled. So I’m thankful that Chihuahuas don’t understand the concept of pay raises. Or even pay.”

Several other Vegas greats also have fun and funny thoughts to share for this turkey day:

“Thankful for being in this crazy, unique, brilliant city that is the entertainment mecca of the world and a playground for clowns like us. Thankful for getting to bring a new strain of idiocy and fun to this wonderful place. Also, thankful for tequila. Always. Happy Thanksgiving XX.” –Tom Green, comedian

“I am thankful for family and friends and everyone in America who has maintained their sense of humor and loving kindness in these difficult times. –Cindy Williams, guest star in Menopause The Musical

Read all of the responses here in Las Vegas Magazine. And have a happy Thanksgiving!