Mac King is a man of talent and skill
Mac King recently signed on to appear at Harrah’s for four more years after nearly two decades as its resident magician, making his run as a Strip entertainer one of the longest in history. Along with David Copperfield and Penn & Teller, he’s helped keep magic alive in Vegas with a show that’s designed for adults that kids like, too. He’s infused a penchant for prestidigitation in an inestimable number of youngsters who have seen his show.
What advice does the plaid-clad comedy magician have for people so inspired by his show that they want to learn the ways of illusion and sleight-of-hand? “There’s only a little bit of advice worth listening to, I think, and that is ‘Practice, practice, practice,’” says King. “But also, you’re not a magician unless you’re doing tricks in front of people. Do as many shows as you can. To me, everything counts as a show. Doing a trick for your mom is a show. Doing a trick for your friends at school counts as a show. Doing a trick for your grandfather’s Kiwanis show, I’ve done some of that. Every show you can get, you gotta do, no matter what the conditions and no matter how crappy it is.”
King’s grandfathers introduced him to magic as a boy in his home state of Kentucky. One of them, Elwood Huffman, would perform tricks for King and have him pore through his collection of books on magic rather than tell him how it was done. Soon he became educated enough to perform at kids’ parties for cake and small bills. He received his first check, for $35, from a show he performed at Huffman’s Kiwanis club. He went on to study magic (and anthropology) on a National Merit Scholarship at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn.
During the summers, King would perform at a Kentucky theme park with his friend Lance Burton, who would go on to become a headlining magician in Vegas himself until he retired in 2010. After college, King went on the road two-thirds of the year for 10 years, performing in comedy clubs where he honed his mix of laughs and illusions before appearing around the world and eventually in Las Vegas, where he would land a headlining gig at Harrah’s in 2000. A one-year engagement led to three more years, and he’s been renewing contracts with the resort ever since.
While it’s not his main prerogative to be an educator, King offers books and magic kits at his shows and at macking.com. He also creates a Magic in a Minute comic strip (gocomics.com/magicinaminute) with his brother Bill, but King advises that gaining experience performing in front of people is crucial for aspiring magicians.
“You can practice in your bedroom, but you can only get so good doing that,” he says. “The other skill is to be a good listener. A big part of doing magic is listening and genuinely responding to the audience, and if I get someone onstage, I want to make sure I’m listening to what they have to say, and not just treating them as a prop.”
Harrah's, 1 & 3 p.m. Tues.-Sat., $36.95-$46.95 plus tax and fee. 702.777.2782