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Cause and Carbonaro Effect: Michael Carbonaro on Street Magic in Chicago

Cause and Carbonaro Effect


The host of TruTV's hidden-camera magic series reveals what it was like introducing his parents to his first trick.

The Carbonaro Effect, TruTV's hit comedic series where Candid Camera meets abra cadabra, just debuted its third season premier. The show's success rests on its affable host (and namesake), Michael Carbonaro, whose combination of guile and charm flawlessly lures unsuspecting bystanders into brain-twisting scenarios.

Out Traveler: What can we expect to see this season on The Carbonaro Effect

Michael Carbonaro: This season is going to be wild. We’re thrilled because we were shooting in Chicago this season, which is really fun. I’ve only ever done hidden camera magic in L.A. and seasons one and two of The Carbonaro Effect were shot in Atlanta, Georgia.

I tried many times to have the magical experiences happen to the people. Where normally I’d be doing a trick and they’re witnessing a trick happening, but in this season, for example, I have done a bunch of stuff in seasons one and two where I teleport - I’m locked in a car and then suddenly I’m somewhere else - but I thought, ‘I wonder if I could make someone believe that they teleported.’

We did that in the premiere episode at the Chicago train station with this girl. She thought she was jumping from track to track and not knowing how she was getting where she was. It’s really wild just watching her brain melt.

Which city's residents did you find to be the most gullible?

You know, I don’t think it’s a matter of gullibility, but Chicago, let me tell you, is a little tougher. A little harder to crack in. People are a little busier and, maybe a little less polite. But, you know what, it worked great. I like when they give me a little fight. I think the audience does too, when they hear someone go, ‘Now wait a minute…how is that happening?’

Where do you come up with the ideas for these stunts? Some of these set-ups are incredibly creative.

I’ve got a team of five awesome magician friends, people that I’ve known since I was a kid, from magic camp that I used to go to when I was a kid, or friends that I’ve met at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. So, how do we come up with them? It’s like we have a writer’s room but, usually, in a writer’s room you try to come up with stuff you can do and then do it. Whereas we try to come up with stuff you can’t do and we do it.

I have to ask, then, were you responsible for the election? Because that was an amazing trick and all, but you can stop now…

No, no, I was not. (Laughs) But, yeah, that’s a pretty elaborate prank.

I do wish I could just peel my face off - like at the moment Trump was sworn in - he just peeled his face off and it would be me underneath.

I have no idea if this is true, but I imagine, in magic, you have fundamental illusions that you build on and combine in new ways.

It is. It’s like music in a way. You combine different elements together. And that’s what makes it really fun because you can be fooled - you might even know a secret and be fooled by the same secret - if it’s arranged cleverly with a bunch of other stuff.

What was your first trick?

When I was a kid I really wanted to be a make-up artist, like special effects Hollywood make-up, and I used to buy my supplies at a magic shop. And, that’s where I used to watch the dudes behind the counter perform tricks. And, that’s when I realized I really liked performing.

But, yeah, I remember watching Copperfield. And he was going to walk through the Great Wall of China. And, as a kid, I really believed he was going to walk through this wall.

Right after the show, in front of my parents, I just took a piece of paper, scribbled with crayons all over it, tore up the paper, squeezed it into a ball and it was back together again. I had never done magic before and kind of just figured it out on my own.

I’m on tour now doing live magic shows and I still do that trick, that first one.

What are some of your favorite places you’ve visited on tour?

The Chicago Theater was awesome. I really love seeing all these 1920s and 1930s theaters around the country like in Rockford has one, these gorgeous, ornate Art Deco venues.

At first I thought I’d have more of a connection with East Coast audiences - because I’m from the East Coast - but that’s sort of dissipated. But, Florida - I guess I thought Florida was going to be kind of chill but there’s some pretty great people there.

If you could do one actual magical thing, what would it be?

I would fly. I used to think I’d want to turn invisible but then I thought I’d get into trouble. You’d be listening in on conversations you shouldn’t be hearing; seeing things you shouldn’t be seeing.

But, if I could do something worthy, it would be to control people’s minds and get them to use their turn signal while driving.

New episodes of The Carbonaro Effect each Wednesday at 10/9 central on TruTV. Check out a clip below:


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Bryan Van Gorder