In this era of rampant misinformation, it’s hard to trust anyone … including entertainers.
This is just one of the many things on the mind of Michael Carbonaro, the entertainer and magician who hosts the TV show The Carbonaro Effect. He just returned to live performances, but he’s still worried about COVID-19—and because of that, he recently postponed the Sept. 25 show that had been scheduled for the The Show at Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage. It has been rescheduled for Saturday, March 12, 2022.
“I need magic in my life,” Carbonaro said during a recent phone interview, done before he decided to cancel the September show. “I always have, but I think the world, which also needs magic, needs it more than ever now. We need wonder and magic back in our lives, and I am so excited to just get out and play live. As a community, we need entertainment that isn’t just on our screens or phones that are glued to our eyeballs. The magic of theater is its own kind of magic—and then you add magic tricks, and you’ve got something really special for the down times.”
While Carbonaro is primarily known for The Carbonaro Effect, he said he prefers a live show over TV “100% of the time.”
“It’s so fun to have a TV show, and to even be on television—but the thing about television, though, is it’s really fun later, when you’re watching. It’s not as fun doing it,” he said. “It’s very difficult … and you don’t really get the payoff until later. In the moment, on The Carbonaro Effect, I see the people reacting, and we win the bits and everything, but it’s usually an extremely stressful day trying to pull this stuff off. With a live show—particularly with a whole audience who knows I’m a magician and who are ready to see me entertain—it’s great to share that energy in the room and just feel that presence live.”
Carbonaro said COVID-19 remains very much on his mind.
“Everything is in flux right now,” Carbonaro said. “I’m all about following, to the letter, the CDC recommendations, and so be it. I’m prepared to make these segments work in different ways. I’m developing routines sort of on a triad split, like if it’s just me up on the stage, or if I do have someone up on the stage with me, if I can have them near me—whatever is safest is going to be the best way to execute it. I approach the material differently now with that in mind. It’s definitely a different time.”
He looked back on some The Carbonaro Effect segments that would land differently in this pandemic-stricken world.
“There used to be a game we would play: ‘Can Michael get the person to eat the weird item?’” he said. “Because I made a lot of weird items on The Carbonaro Effect, like strange blue putty that turns into perfect ravioli, and people would always eat it, even though it was totally weird. I don’t know how that would go over now. There are no segments in the live show where anybody needs to eat anything.”
Carbonaro admitted he’s not sure what pandemic-era magic will look like, exactly.
“It’s very strange, particularly because we haven’t shot any of the TV show yet (since COVID-19 arrived),” Carbonaro said. “I’ve been shut down since the pandemic, and I didn’t know if I was going to do another season, anyway, even before the pandemic. It’s not the same. Even looking out at the crowd, if (faces) are all covered in masks, I’m not going to see those jaws dropping in astonishment. I think we’ve all learned over the last year and a half how to read people’s eyes, and that’s kind of neat. You really get a lot out of somebody’s eyebrows moving, or the way somebody’s eyes sparkle or flicker. We’ve all learned how to communicate with a lot less facial recognition, and that’s pretty cool.”
Carbonaro applauded rules requiring that audience members provide either proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.
“I don’t want to make it political or whatever, but I’m liking the trend I’m seeing where Live Nation just announced everything’s going to be vaxed or proof-of-negative, and that sounds pretty safe,” Carbonaro said. “I’m for that plan. It sounds good, and I don’t know if it’s going to funnel the audience in a political way, or even funnel people who aren’t going to be able to get the test. You’re going to reduce the amount of sales, but if that’s what we have to do, then that’s what we have to do.”
While Carbonaro is taking public health concerns seriously, he’s also intent on providing an escape.
“I’m just ready to have big fun. I think that’s what we need,” said Carbonaro. “I’m working on brand-new effects and routines for this tour. It’s an all-new tour, and these are things I’ve been dreaming of forever, but really had the chance to perfect over the last year and a half. It’s just big, fun moments of true wonder and astonishment where people can expect to laugh, be amazed and learn important life lessons—like avoiding evil garden gnomes, and how to lie for fun and profit.
“I’m going to teach the audience some Carbonaro Effect pranks, like how to scare their friends, and (there will be) some real pure moments of magic and really fantastical stuff, like causing someone in the audience to disappear. … (There are also) off the wall segments like how to milk the air and how to magically separate your laundry. I just want to have a lot of fun with everybody in the nutty way that I know they love to watch me lie.”
In fact, the title of Carbonaro’s new show is Lies on Stage, a title he admits is “bizarre in these times.” However, he said he believes he actually helps people think.
“I know that people know me for being a playful liar, and I think that’s an important distinction, because what we actually need right now is truth, in our society, in our world—concrete facts and information,” said Carbonaro. “… Teachers at colleges and stuff have called and said, ‘Your show really helps kids, and it makes even myself and my family think critically. … You present to us something that looks so real, and we watch people believe it, and then you tell them that it’s a prank. It teaches us to think critically when we see things in front of us.’ I do happy, positive lying.”
Michael Carbonaro will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 12, 2022, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage, 32250 Bob Hope Drive. Tickets are $25 to $175. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com. This story was updated on Sept. 2 with news of the show’s postponement.