If your idea of a magic show involves sawing a lady in half or making a lady disappear (why are they always doing weird stuff to ladies in magic shows?), then you haven’t seen Michael Kent’s comedy-centric magic show, which, among other things, prominently features a lady from the audience pulling an egg out of a rubber chicken’s ass and… okay, maybe doing weird stuff to ladies is part of all magic shows. The point is, Kent’s show is not the magic show you saw when you were seven.
Kent was recently awarded the Entertainer of the Year designation from Campus Activities Magazine as well as the Magician of the Year award The Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities. Coming off an issue of (614) celebrating the best of the capital city, two national honors equal one good reason to sit down with this self-proclaimed comedian, magician, smartass.
What is the process for developing your tricks?
They start in different ways. Many times it starts with an idea of how I want the audience to feel. I might have a spot in the middle of the show where I just want to be very real with the audience. I don’t want it to be about comedy, I don’t want it to be about something ridiculous, I don’t necessarily want to blow their minds right now; I just want them to get to know me. I’ll try to find something that matches in those parameters. I’ll seek out methods in the hundreds of years of magic history that accomplish what I want, and if those methods don’t exist then I’ll work on developing new methods.
Since your show is more focused on comedy than straight-up magic, how does that impact what tricks you perform?
It becomes a filter through which I have to run my material. I obviously can’t do a dramatic dance number with a girl in which she vanishes and it all has some implicated meaning of life that you’re supposed to get while watching. If I did that, the audience would laugh – in a bad way. There are times in my show when I can do something that’s a little bit serious, but if I do, it has to be really personal. There’s a bit I do in my show where I pop a balloon and I put it back together and blow it back up. It’s not funny at all, but it’s something I created, and before I perform it, I tell the audience how I love my job because it allows me to be creative.
I read about that trick on your Wikipedia page … which also means you’re pretty legit, because you have a Wikipedia page.
I think that trick is the only reason I have a Wikipedia page. You have to have an original creation in order to have a Wikipedia page.
I remember you posting online a few months ago that all of the equipment for your show was stolen, right?
Yeah, it was stolen out of my car. I was at a restaurant with some family and when I got out to my car, my windows were broken and all of my props were gone. And I had one day before I needed to be back on stage to perform.
But isn’t a lot of that stuff custom-made?
Much of it is, several of those things were made by guys who have since died. I went to Wal-Mart, and I went to Staples, and I spent an entire day building a show out of nothing. It was a nice lesson for me to know that sometimes the show is more about me than the props, and some of the material that I think I’m married to I can let go of and try new things, and since then I’ve been rotating in new things.
How’d you get started on the college campus circuit?
I stopped doing all the shows that I didn’t like to do, and that was everything except colleges and corporate events.
College students don’t strike me as the magic-going crowd…
You have to remember that college students want entertainment, a break from their workload and something to go and do. I’m usually hired by a college to be the alternative to going out and drinking.
I remember seven years ago drunkenly walking around my college campus, seeing a poster for your show and stumbling into the mezzanine to watch it.
I’m glad you remembered it even though you were drunk. And here you are now, writing about drinking and interviewing magicians. The circle is complete.
So what are your thoughts on the local comedy scene here in Columbus?
It’s nice that there is an opportunity just about every night of the week to go and see live comedy by local comedians. We have a lot of local comedians in Columbus, many of them are very funny, much funnier than me, and I wish that more of Columbus supported these local comedy nights.
What about the local magic scene? Is that even a thing?
Columbus actually has many magicians, but most of them are magicians that only magicians would know. But 99 percent of magicians are only magicians that magicians would know.
You can seen Michael Kent appear in Shadowbox Live’s “Out of Control” sketch comedy show on May 30 and 31. Fvor more, visit www.michaelkentlive.com.