Mac King wasn’t sure he was playing with a full deck when he returned to the stage after the Strip’s pandemic pause. It had been awhile since he had a stage to fish for goldfish from or make Fig Newtons appear from various openings in his trademark plaid suits. King charted a new course for his career with a residency at Excalibur after social distancing put a damper on practicing his brand of comedy-magic before live audiences.
Prior to 2020, King says the longest he had stayed away from the stage since he was 10 years old was probably three weeks. His return to live magic on a stage more intimate than at his previous long-running residency at Harrah’s was accompanied by some apprehension, but he had reinforcements helping him out.
“The first few days, I had my family there with notepads helping me remember what I forgot,” says King on a Tuesday morning that coincides with his 36th wedding anniversary. “It was like a whole new show.”
The pressure was on. His daytime shows precede kidtastic spectacle Tournament of Kings, heightening his profile among audiences with an appetite for fantasy and illusion, and adding value to Excalibur as a family-friendly destination. Luckily, his sleight-of-hand muscle memory was quickly reinvigorated.
“It was a couple of weeks before I felt back in the saddle in that regard,” says King, who made use of pandemic time appearing on podcasts and filming YouTube series Don’t Everybody Leave with magician buddies such as Jeff McBride, Jacob Jax, Jason England, Nick Diffatte, Vinny Grosso and Michael Goudeau.
He also made how-to videos with daughter Eli that explain how to turn water into ice cubes with magic freezing breath, and how to pop popcorn with a cell phone’s flashlight. King isn’t afraid to give a few secrets away but attempting to figure out how he makes his head disappear during a hiccup cure or how cards chosen by participants emerge from his suit pockets is a recipe for frustration.
Ah, yes. The plaid suits. There is a history. King’s buddy Lance Burton introduced him to Los Angeles designer margaretrose, who created custom clothing for Elvis Presley during that King’s Vegas period and knew a thing or two about tailoring for magicians. The suits complement King’s folksy, approachable image, but his magic is no kids’ stuff.
If his grandfathers’ interest in magic was genetically destined to skip a generation, King may very well have inherited a chromosomal fate of using illusions to earn a living. His shows are like a live magic version of The Simpsons, with kid jokes alternating with adult innuendos as King expertly misdirects the attention of children of all ages. Guinea pigs and goldfish appear and disappear, and King has a Cloak of Invisibility that fools everyone and no one at the same time.
It’s good to be Mac King again.
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