Actor/magician Michael Carbonaro may be most recognized for his Tonight Show appearances as “The Magic Clerk.” During each sketch, he plays magic pranks on unsuspecting convenience store customers. Carbonaro’s Easter prank generated over 1 million YouTube views in a few short days.
Kids at my school watched these late night shows every night. Are major of your fans teens and preteens?
We get fans from across the board. I think there is really something in it for everyone. I have people who say their toddlers love some of the bits we do with live animals- and adults get into the more cerebral magic, like when a full sized wine bottle comes out of a flat envelope, or I convince them that their money is counterfeit -by ‘wiping’ the ink off of a bill they hand me, right in front of their eyes.
Why do you think some pranking “victims” don’t notice anything you’re doing? Like the obvious clothing change bit in one?
It’s amazing how we can be so involved in our own little worlds, that we don’t see things that happen right before our eyes. In one instance, I had someone so focused, by diverting their attention to what was on the table in front of them- that they didn’t notice that when I stood up from the table, that I wasn’t wearing any pants!
Have any people ever gotten scarily mad at you during a ‘Magic Clerk’ taping?
We’ve caused a lot of big screams and wild reactions, like when I made a Tarantula crawl out of a bag of chips someone was buying… but the whole idea is to have fun with people, we are never mean-spirited. Everyone always walks away with a good laugh.
Which of your tapings didn’t go as planned and came out better as a result?
One day, someone came into the store and bought chocolates that came in a flat rectangular box- and I didn’t plan to do it, but in seeing how perfect the size of the box was -right in the moment, I remembered a secret trick that my good friend and fellow magician, Helder Guimarães, had taught me. I told the customer that I had lost my iPhone, and asked if they could call it for me… Suddenly.. my phone was inside the box of chocolates that they were holding! It was one of those perfect magical moments that couldn’t have been planned any better!
How did you get involved with “The Tonight Show?”
I met with writer and director, Beth Einhorn of “The Tonight Show,” who wanted to do something with magic and hidden cameras in a convenience store. I came up with ideas that I could do posed as a store clerk, where the moments would be ‘magical, but somehow plausable’ -that is to say- I wanted people to react not like they had seen a ‘magic-trick’ but as if something really happened that was impossible. Beth and I hit it off extremely well. We both share the same vision of making things fun and playful, where everyone is amazed, and always has a good time.
We don’t see enough magic on TV anymore. If you could make it big in this time period, would you do an adult humor show or a family show? What would you do for sketches?
I’d like to continue doing both! Family-Friendly by day… and then a little darker by night!
How can kids practice magic at home?
I learned magic from reading lots of magic books, ‘Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic’ was a good start. I would practice in my room in front of a mirror or show endless tricks at first to my cat, then to my Mom and then when I was confident with what I was doing -I started gathering audiences together at family parties. There are some cool outlets for kids too like ‘Tannens Magic Camp.’ A whole week long Summer Camp- all about magic! Careful though… it’s easy to get hooked!
Watch his Easter video everyone is talking about!