By Joe Hadsall
Magician Mike Super insists he wasn’t the best among 10 magician-contestants in NBC’s “Phenomenon,” even though he won the $250,000 top prize.
“It’s hard when someone’s art is put in competition with another’s art,” Super said. “I just look at it like I was performing well that day. It’s not like I’m better than anyone else on that show.”
Super — which is his real name, he said — will be on stage at 7 p.m. today at Memorial Auditorium in Pittsburg, Kan. The performance is part of Pittsburg State University’s Performing Arts and Lecture Series.
There were — among the millions watching “Phenomenon” when it aired last fall — likely some viewers who thought his effects were just prearranged camera tricks, done with the audience’s willing complicity. Super said he is ready to prove those viewers wrong by performing some of those winning illusions.
“We’ll solve a murder, do some voodoo magic and some of the other acts on ‘Phenomenon,’” he said. “People will know there were no stooges on that show.”
Super has been involved in magic since, as a 6-year-old, he watched a magician perform close-up magic at Walt Disney World. From there, he was hooked — he used to perform shows in his back yard, wearing a black Dracula cape from an old Halloween costume.
Since then, the Pennsylvania-born magician has performed for thousands, including Regis Philbin, Joan Rivers, Paul Reiser and Robin Leach.
Taking inspiration from David Copperfield and Doug Henning, he developed a performance style that brings the spontaneity and realism of street magic to the stage. Instead of using assistants and stagehands, many of his effects are performed with audience members.
During a typical show, a spectator might find himself on stage, levitating about four feet above the ground, or disappearing for almost three minutes.
“A lot of things that I do have a street-magic base,” Super said. “That’s what most people think is more credible.”
His style, which features comedy and a lot of audience interaction, has garnered plenty of fans. “Phenomenon” viewers selected Super over talented illusionists such as Angela Funovits, Jim Callahan and Gerry McCambridge.
He is also part of a trend that is taking magic away from rabbits in hats, wands, frilly shirts and ham-handed jokes. Ever since David Blaine’s brand of street magic hit TV in the ’90s, magic has become more visual and realistic, Super said.
But other than Blaine and Criss Angel’s show “Mindfreak,” magic isn’t taken very seriously these days. Reality TV talent shows tend to portray magicians as bumbling freaks, and other shows delight in exposing tricks.
“I see magic getting lampooned most of the time, and more than 50 percent of the time, it should be,” Super said. “Magicians can be locked in the past, repetitive and imitative. They don’t develop a stage persona or character.”
There is also a lack of big-time names performing magic these days, he said. The general public likely never heard of any of the competitors before “Phenomenon,” which featured Angel and famous spoon-bender Uri Geller as celebrity judges.
“There are so few magic celebrities anymore,” Super said. “I hear about Angel most of the time, then Blaine. It’s getting so that most don’t even know who David Copperfield is.”
That’s going to change soon, Super said.
Because NBC canceled a second season of “Phenomenon,” he is likely to be its only winner. Since his win, Super has been touring heavily and working on a few TV shows of his own.
One show in particular, he said, would introduce “a completely different concept that hasn’t been done before.” He can’t say much else about it, he said, because of network agreements and performance secrets, except that it should premiere sometime in 2009.
“When this comes out, it will be the next ripped-off magic trend, it’s that good,” Super said. “It will follow in the street-magic way, and everyone will be trying to do it.”
Want to go?
Mike Super will be performing at 7 p.m. today at Memorial Auditorium, located at 503 N. Pine St. in Pittsburg. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for PSU faculty, kids under 18 and senior citizens, and free for PSU students. Details: (620) 235-4796.
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