Las Vegas Sun

May 20, 2019

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Review:

Breathing warmth, not fire, this magic show charms

Magic

Steve Marcus

Magician and comedian Mac King, an affable Kentuckian, performs Friday at Harrah’s.

Mac King

Magician and comedian Mac King performs Friday at Harrah's. Launch slideshow »

If You Go

  • What: The Mac King Comedy Magic Show
  • When: 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, dark Sunday and Monday
  • Where: Harrah’s Showroom
  • Admission: $24.94; 369-5222, harrahs.com
  • Running time: About 70 minutes
  • Audience advisory: Gentle audience participation, implied goldfish violence, money to burn

Most shows on the Las Vegas Strip are all shiny and neon-bright.

Mac King’s Comedy Magic is plaid.

Orange-and-brown plaid, like that wallpaper your mom put up in your kitchen in 1972.

Playing hooky from the office for one of King’s refreshingly nice, budget-priced afternoon shows is like escaping to day camp for an hour or so. Or time-traveling back to the daydream of “Mayberry R.F.D.” when America imagined itself a union of warmhearted small towns.

King’s show at Harrah’s Showroom begins with a recording of the kiddie song “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” and it gets the audience all giggly and cheerful, clapping their hands, stomping their feet and shouting, “Hurray!”

It’s an ideal warm-up for King, whose mingling of magic and comedy is folksy and friendly and gently, genuinely funny.

“Howdy, I’m Mac King,” says the soft-spoken Kentucky native, explaining that his truly unbelievable plaid three-piece suit once belonged to his grandfather. “My grandmother made this. It used to be her couch.”

King has been performing at Harrah’s for nearly 10 years, and his credentials as a magician are irrefutable — he was recently selected by the International Federation of Magic Societies to participate in the prestigious 24th Annual World FISM (Federation Internationale des Societes Magiques or International Federation of Magic Societies) Championships next month in Beijing.

But next to other prestidigitators and illusionists on the Strip, King’s magic is much quieter, more small-scale and easygoing. Most of it involves King’s unique twists on venerable close magic tricks with rope and cards and other simple props. And what he so simply and subtly achieves is often more involving than a flashy special-effects stunt.

The afternoon I sneaked out to catch the show, King coaxed a bespectacled 13-year-old named Luke onstage. Together they went fishing in the open air, and made hand shadows with flashlights on the walls of a pop-up tent. This bit had a payoff that made everyone jump out of their seats, laughing out loud.

Another funny extended bit, which involved a married woman from the audience, a deck of cards, a pair of twist-tie thumbcuffs and a Fig Newton, was more purely bewildering than another Vegas magician’s signature bit that climaxes with a vintage sports car materializing onstage.

Comedy gets first billing over magic in the show’s title, and King’s true genius is his magic touch with the audience. He would have made a heck of a con-man — with his genial, joshing patter, a hint of a chuckle in his voice, he can get people to do just about whatever he wants. King makes everyone look good, and his volunteers leave with a souvenir T-shirt at the very least.

The day I saw the show, King found out that young newlyweds Brandon and Courtney had been man and wife for less than 18 hours.

“Wow,” King said to them. “You must really like magic shows.”

I generally have no strong feelings about magic shows one way or another, but an hour or so in King’s amusing and amazing presence made me want to check out more of the magic acts on offer here.

And it opened my eyes to another perk of living in Vegas: Where else can you nip out of the office and have an air-conditioned laugh at a live act, then come back to work and grin the rest of the day?

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