Something very important happened in America on Wednesday that should cause shockwaves through the entertainment industry. Did Miley Cyrus cover herself up? Did Kim Kardashian do something of note? No. Mat Franco, a close up magician, won America’s Got Talent.
This is of huge importance for a few reasons.
Magic usually doesn’t fare too well on TV talent shows. There have been some notable exceptions i.e. James More in the UK, but those who have done well have been illusionists. The large scale impact of illusions works well in the 90 seconds a performer has on stage. However, here was a magician performing close up magic to the judges. The tricks were not necessarily new either; magicians around the world have seen them plenty of times before.
They weren’t made for TV effects; they didn’t need stooges; there was no post production editing. Regulation close up magic tricks performed well and with style, personality and rapport. Mat Franco showed that close up magic, when done well, is not a mere distraction at a party. He also showed that a TV audience of millions can appreciate card tricks. While magic tricks need to amaze an audience and be performed well, they are not the most important ingredient. That job goes to the magician and how he made people feel. Mat Franco came across as likeable and charismatic. He won America’s Got Talent, not a deck of cards or his props. It echoes my favourite quote that comes from Maya Angelou:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
There is a trend at the moment for ‘street magic’ where the magician performs incredible effects on seemingly unsuspecting members of the public. These tricks are created and performed with everything that TV shows have at their disposal to make them work. Online, the trend seems to be for magic that shocks or causes controversy to simply create hype. Mat Franco did no such thing. He went out on the stage and entertained… with a few magic tricks that can be done anywhere, not just on TV.
This is what people want. In an age where there is so much sadness, worry and despair in the world, people reach out to be entertained and to have fun. Close up magic, when done well, can do that and more. The reactions from the judges are echoed around the world by thousands of people every day. Close up magicians are working in all manner of venues for all manner of events. Magicians know how powerful close up magic can be and how it can amaze and thrill people. What Mat Franco did was to showcase this to millions of people in one hit. It should be a massive boost for close up magic and every close up magician around the world should be thankful to him.