Magicians perform the type of art that, like the circus, brings us back to our childhood. Even though, as adults we know that magic tricks are just a slip of the hand or, as they say, smoke and mirrors. Ironically, the show Smoke and Mirrors, brought the art form into mainstream again with a comedy-drama play.
It seems like magicians are everywhere so we would like to take some time to introduce, or reintroduce you to some modern magicians pulling rabbits out of their hats and so much more.
1. Penn & Teller
These two have succeeded in crossing over to main stream celebrity. There are very few people in the United States who don’t know who Penn & Teller are. Having been a team for more than four decades, these two have blown up the stereotypes of what audiences expect magicians to be. By blending comedy and sometimes defying the laws of physics Penn & Teller have carved out a path to stardom that was all their own.
Currently, Penn & Teller have held the longest running headline shows in Las Vegas history, which has been at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino for fifteen years. In 2015 Penn & Teller won the prestigious “Las Vegas Magicians of the Year.” They continue to perform to sold out theaters.
They were nominated for thirteen Emmy Awards for their series Penn & Teller:BS!, which appeared on Showtime. Their latest television show, Penn & Teller: Fool Us!, which is a reality show where magicians, new and seasoned, attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the magical duo for a shot to perform in their award-winning Las Vegas show.
2. Kevin Spencer
Kevin Spencer is not only a world respected illusionist, he is also an educator, public speaker, film-producer, and a champion for education and health. He serves on the faculty of the Special Education program in Pennsylvania at Carlow University. In 2009, Spencer, along with his wife Cindy, were given the Merlin Award for International Magicians of the Year.
This power couple of magic are also named Performing Arts Entertainer of the Year and Illusionists of the Year from the Milbourne Christopher Foundation. What is unique about Spencer is his dedication to the belief that magic in education and health recovery, be it mental or physical, or both. Spencer has taken his theories around the world in hopes of spreading the benefits of magic and illusion has with interactive classroom activities and continuing education workshops.
Spencer is a fixed lecturer at conferences surrounding healthcare and/or education. A few of his more notable programs are Hocus Focus and Healing of Magic.
3. David Copperfield
David Copperfield is another illusionist who could become a household name. Some have called him the greatest magician on the globe and he is the first magician to have been awarded with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There are so many interesting ways Copperfield has been honored we thought we would name a few we enjoy.
Six counties have put his image on a postage stamp, which is a first for any illusionist. He has won more Emmy awards, totaling twenty-one, for specials than folks who have been on television for ten years. Copperfield has eleven Guinness World Records and he was made a knight by the French government.
His shows always sell out and Copperfield’s ticket sales have reached billions, which is a farther reach than most pop stars. This contemporary magician has been honored with the titles Magician of the Century and Magician of the Millennium.
This famous trickster was born in New Jersey and grew up in a middle-class family. Copperfield was a shy boy who found a way to deal with his problem through magic. His television specials, which showed him doing such things as walking out of a building that was just reduced to rubble and escaping from his shackles while hanging over Niagara Falls, were watched by millions.
4. Harry Anderson
Known by most as the wise-cracking judge on Night Court, Harry Anderson is another talent where comedy and magic intersected and melded together perfectly. Born in Newport, Rhode Island, this magician wears many hats, including actor, screenwriter, and director. Other sightings of this magician on television was as host on Saturday Night Live and as a frequent guest on Cheers as a swindler who uses magic to con folks out of their money.
When Anderson was a kid he would travel with his father to Chicago, and it was there he first learned card tricks and the art of the hustle. When he saw Harry Blackstone, Sr. live Anderson was hooked and spent all his spare time practicing magic. During his high school years, Anderson lived in California and graduated in 1970 as his classes valedictorian.
Once out of high school, Anderson focused on magic full time becoming a member of the Dante Magic Club and patronizing magic clubs where he became friends with Dai Vernon, a renowned magician in his own right. Before he was eighteen years old Anderson worked magic on the streets of San Francisco.
His television credits are too many to mention them all here. But he does frequently take on the role of himself, lovable charlatan with a few cards up his sleeve.
With the most magician sounding names to hit this list thus far, born as Steven Frayne in Bradford, England, this contemporary illusionist rose to fame with his television program Dynamo: Magician Impossible, which ran for nearly three years. He began his show business career on the radio on Richard & Judy.
But he quickly moved to television with his own special and has performed on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. Other television credits include Fatherhood and MTV’s EMA’s, where he shared the stage with Nelly Furtado and Foo Fighters. Brands that have used his image in ads include Nokia, Pepsi, and Adidas and when Naomi Campbell had her Fashion for Relief he appeared.
A memorable act was in May of 2009 at Emirates Stadium in London when Dynamo made his friend Matt Lucas levitate four feel above the ground. His autobiography Nothing is Impossible was released in 2013 and he has even shown Harry Styles and Liam Payne of the boy group One Direction card tricks.
Dynamo’s television series was given the Broadcast Award for Best Entertainment Programme two years in a row and was named by the Virgin Media Awards as TV show of the year.
6. Criss Angel
Star of his own show Criss Angel Mindfreak, this last illusionist on our list got his start in New York City but found his way to Las Vegas rather quickly. Criss Angel Believe was a show with this magician that also included Cirque du Soleil at the Luxor and ran there, generating millions of dollars in revenue, until May of 2016, when it was exchanged for Mindfreak LIVE.
Angel has had other magic themed television shows including BeLIEve and Phenomenon. He has had more time on television than any other magician before him. He is the recipient of the International Magician Society’s Magician of the Year award five times as well as being named their Magician of the Decade in 2009 and Magician of the Century in 2010.
His face has decorated genre magazines like Genii and Magic and was named and inaugural nominee for the Harry Houdini Award in 2008.
You can start watching a fantastic magic blended with comedy show here: Los Angeles Times’ “Critic’s Choice” Smoke & Mirrors!