The signature bright blue suit and wildly crazy blonde hair are the first indications that normal really isn’t in Murray the Magician’s bag of tricks. Normal isn’t even a word that belongs in the same sentence with the guy.
Self-dubbed “Dennis the Menace of Magic,” his shows often consist of magical mishaps that combine clever illusions with comedy. But from the very beginning, the guy has had the tenacity and the fortitude to work hard, learn all he could and repeat the process. He’s not really good at waiting for things to happen, Murray makes them happen — just like magic.
Murray SawChuck has been surrounded by music and ingenuity all of his life. While his father and extended family members had a 150 year history with railways and trains, his father also was a musician.
Young Murray played accordion, keyboard and saxophone beginning at age 5, and he was active in sports and dancing. He also loved watching entertainers such as Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, Lucille Ball, Danny Kaye and Phyllis Diller.
At age 7 he was given a magic kit and that changed everything. He began working on ways to incorporate magic, music, dance and comedy into his routines. He worked until he created the right combination in his shows, satisfied only when he found the place “where comedy and magic collide.”
SawChuck soon met Marvyn, a.k.a. “Mr. Electric” and his wife, Carol Roy, who toured worldwide as magicians for over 50 years. The duo mentored him and he began performing in Europe, with his first show in Brussels. He said that one of his biggest breaks was performing in Paris on the “Le Plus Grand Cabaret du Monde,” a television show that aired across Europe.
Between touring he lived for some time in Orlando, Florida. After a tour of Canada he moved to Las Vegas, headlining on the Las Vegas Strip.
He was a semi-finalist in the fifth season of “America’s Got Talent,” and is the resident magic historian on “Pawn Stars.” SawChuck has also appeared as a magic coach on five episodes of the VH1 series “Celebracadabra,” and has been a guest star on shows such as “Reno 911!,” “Last Comic Standing,” “Celebrity Blind Date,” “War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave,” and “Ring of Darkness.”
He has won more than 32 awards both nationally and internationally including the title of World Champion at the Pacific Rim Professional Magic Challenge.
SawChuck’s first trip to Laughlin was at the then Flamingo (now the Aquarius), home to a long running tribute to “The Ed Sullivan Show,” called “The Really Big Shew,” complete with novelty acts like plate spinners and unusual magicians. Of course, Murray fit the bill and in the few weeks he performed here, he established a strong following.
These days he has become a YouTube sensation with his first viral video hitting over 37 million views. SawChuck also performs regularly in Vegas and tours worldwide, with one of his stops at the Avi Resort & Casino on Friday, Nov. 2.
We talked with SawChuck about his return to Laughlin, his career and the show he has planned. Here’s his take...
What have you been up to?
I’m always busy. You know me, I never stop. Things are good for me, I’m always working on something. I’ll always be that way, even when I’m 90, you know?
It looks like you’ve found a home in Vegas.
We’re in a residency at the Trop, which originally is where I was three years before. Then I was at Planet Hollywood for three and a half years. We just moved back and we had a big opening night on Wednesday.
You’ve become a hot commodity on YouTube. Talk about that.
Today, is a really exciting day for you to call me. My YouTube producing partner is out of L.A. He’s like half my age, he could be my son, and we’ve been doing YouTube videos once or twice a week now. Today, it should be happening in the next half an hour or hour we’re going to be hitting one million subscribers on YouTube. That’s a massive milestone. Nowadays, even though I’ve done over 21 reality shows — I’m still a regular on “Pawn Stars” and still a regular on “Masters of Illusion” on CW — now more people actually see me online than on TV. Isn’t that crazy? Three years on YouTube, and 10 years of doing TV and most people know me from YouTube.
What is the Vegas attitude toward magicians these days in addition to competing with shows of all kinds?
Back in the day, you could just be a magician in a show with a cool hook. For example, Siegfried & Roy with the tigers — and of course, they became legends because of their branding and their show and all of that stuff. Back then you could be a magician in a revue show. They always had magicians and jugglers, and they could make an amazing living. You didn’t have to have a name. Nowadays, I feel Vegas has changed in the sense that you have to have “brand-ability.” You have to have a name and you have to sell tickets on your own name and brand, not with what you do.
Back in the day, you could go see a good floor-show, a great band, great dancers, a great variety act, and you were going just because it was a good show. Now the town’s really changed to a name-brand town, meaning you’re selling tickets because people are fans of yours and they want to see you.
And thank God, when I first came to town in 2002, at the Frontier, I started doing reality TV because I thought that would be a great avenue to get exposure. All I’ve been doing the last 20 years is branding myself. So now people come and they buy a ticket not to just see a magic show, they come to see me.
What about your brand vs. brands like Criss Angel?
There’s Criss Angel and David Copperfield — he’s bigger than anyone. He’s a legend, and he’s unbelievable and people come to see him, and of course, it’s a totally different show. My show now is 80 percent comedy because there are no comedy magicians out there any more. It’s a great avenue to go down for me. I’ve chosen that one because it’s something different. In the ’80s there were a few comedy magicians around, but now there’s none. And so it’s a nice world for me to walk into.
Biggest recent accomplishment?
I’ve just become, as of today, the first “YouTuber” to have his own resident show on the Las Vegas Strip. So that’s kind of cool. It just kind of shows you how the world is changing a little bit. You know what I mean? Before it was about having the top record or 8-track or whatever, and now it’s funny how social media is pushing into this world of the Strip and all that stuff. So that’s kind of exciting for myself.
I don’t think about titles or anything, I’m just a blonde-haired guy that does tricks. That way you don’t have high expectations when they come see ya, they go, “Oh, my God, he’s better than I thought he was,” versus saying you’re the best and you’re not achieving that.
How often do you change up your show?
We probably change my show — I’d say about 30 percent of it every year. Even moving from Planet Hollywood to the Tropicana, we changed 50 percent of the show. I work on stuff all the time that people don’t see. Then I think, “here’s a good time to put it in.” Also the reason I put new stuff in my show is because of doing YouTube videos. We do two videos a week and by doing that, I have to come up with new ideas all the time. All of a sudden I’ll do one for a YouTube video and think, “that might work really well in my live show.” YouTube’s really given me a new light to create new stuff.
What’s in store for audiences this trip?
I’m going to have Lefty, my guest act, who’s been working with me for years now. He plays a stage tech in my show and then he actually changes into a world-champion magician within the course of the show. His real name is Douglas Leferovich and he goes by “Lefty” as his stage name.
It’s a 75-minute show with all comedy and magic that people have seen me do on TV, on “Masters of Illusion” and “Fool Us,” and different shows I’ve been on and some of my stuff on some of my YouTube videos. Of course there will be audience participation as usual. At the end of the show I always do meet and greets, so if anyone wants a picture or a signature I always come out at the end because I still like to meet everyone I’m performing for.
What is your signature illusion these days?
I think one of my signature illusions is probably where I vanish milk. I vanish it and it goes into a light bulb. Then it comes out of a light bulb. It’s an original illusion, but it’s not originally mine. It actually was a trick from my mentor, “Mr. Electric,” who’s name was Marvin Roy, and he did that trick for 50 years around the world. He did a whole act with a light bulb in his hands. He’s still alive, he’s 93. He’s like a second dad to me — and he gave me his milk and light bulb trick that he did in all of his shows to do in my show.
What are your thoughts about returning to Laughlin at a totally different venue?
I’m thrilled. You know I love Laughlin. I absolutely love it. I always go down there once a year, for two days and I bring my dogs, and my girlfriend and we come down there. I rent a boat and we go up and down the river and I just love it. I think it’s a great place and it’s only an hour and 10 minutes from Las Vegas, and the people are wonderful and the audiences have always been very welcoming.
We’re looking forward to it, I’ve never played the Avi. I know it’s further down the road, I know they’ve had some absolutely cool acts before, and so I’m looking forward to playing there and going back with my show, it’s been a long time. I go every year to enjoy myself, but to actually perform there it’s probably been a good ten years, I guess? I can’t wait.