Last season, Murray SawChuck produced a Ferrari from thin air, transformed a girl locked in a cage into a 450-pound tiger and made a 1918 steam locomotive vanish before an audience of 22 million on the NBC TV show “America’s Got Talent.”
You might also recognize his perky electric blond ‘do from the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars,” where Murray — as he’s known in showbiz — is the resident magic expert.
The magician appears this weekend in Showstoppers Live performances at Casino Arizona. He’ll jazz up the 21-and-older show with comedy and magic between performances by look-alikes of Elvis, Tina Turner, Celine Dion and The Four Tops.
Meanwhile, Murray reveals his favorite living magician, whether he’ll ever change his hair and which tricks are still up his sleeves in our Q&A with him, below.
Q: For people who aren’t familiar with you, how do you describe your magic and what you do?
A: In a sentence, I consider myself “The ‘Dennis the Menace’ of Magic.” It’s a blend of comical mishaps that happen throughout my show with the end result being an amazing illusion.
Q: What will Phoenix fans see at your “Showstoppers Live” appearances?
A: I am headlining the show, and I am exactly in the middle of the show to break up all the impersonators, so they will see a lot of my comical illusions mixed in with a few of my signature magical effects.
Q: Who’s got better hair, you or Justin Bieber?
A: I am not sure who has better hair, but I definitely have messier hair.
Q: Ever think about changing the famous yellow coif?
A: Did you ever see Lucille Ball blond? Or Carrot Top in black hair? Once you brand yourself, you are pretty much locked into a look that your fans look for and adore. So probably not — unless it’s for a television funny bit or something.
Q: When you think of someone named Murray, you tend to picture someone much older and grumpier. Did you ever want to change your name as a kid? Does your name fit you?
A: Yes, growing up, “Murray” on TV was either a dog’s name or a name of a nerd on TV. If you are in New York, people tend to look for an older Jewish man. It is actually Scottish and my mother’s maiden name, and that’s how I got it for mine. Growing up, I did wish I had a different name, as it was so different (from) all the Johns, Jennifers and Michaels. But now I am all about being different and couldn’t have picked a better name for me than Murray. As a kid, I always liked the name Zack for me, if I had to change it. Now my name fits me perfectly.
Q: Who’s your favorite living magician?
A: My favorite living magician, honestly, is Steven Spielberg. He creates magic every time you go to see one of his movies. He takes you out of the real world for 90 minutes and takes you to a land far, far away, just like what a magician does every time I walk on stage for my audience — but live.
Q: Who’s your favorite magician of all time?
A: My favorite magician of all time, honestly, would be Walt Disney. What a dreamer and a doer! But an actual magician doing physical magic tricks, I would have to say was a magician named Cardini. He goes way back to the early 1900s. He was so technically professional and yet had such an amazing character, complete with eyeglass monocle and top hat.
Q: Does it ever strike you as kind of strange that in 2011, with smart phones and QR codes and all the advanced technology we have at our fingertips, people still pay to see something as old as magic?
A: Yes, it does amaze me, but it’s the same reason millions of people every year go to California and Orlando to go see Universal Studios and how movies are made, how we make it rain on sets or (make) fire come out of a house. Yet when we get back home, we will still cry watching a character die or in trouble on the screen, yet we know it’s all storytelling and make-believe. So to see something live will always have a place, if not more so now as everything is Internet (and) TV-based. Live shows are now somewhat of a novelty and something different to do, when before it was the only thing to do. Imagine Broadway or Las Vegas without live shows. I think we love a live show because you feel a part of the action, and it’s happening exactly at the same moment you are seeing it.
Q: Of all the roles you play these days, what’s your favorite? Hosting? Doing magic? Serving as an expert on magic and illusion?
A: I love them all. My favorite role is being a “personality.” Two of the most famous people in the world who are no longer with us that I look up to are Johnny Carson from “The Tonight Show” fame and Dean Martin. They weren’t just actors, singers or magicians; they were personalities, and we loved who they were.
Q: Do magicians feel pressure to come up with new magic tricks?
A: Honestly, I don’t think many magicians feel much pressure at all to create new tricks. There are (a) few of us that always do. For me, I love creating a new comedy bit for my show, as it’s like a new drug and it is so exciting when it works and gets a laugh.
Q: Are there any magic tricks on your bucket list that you just haven’t figured out how to do yet?
A: None. If you can dream it, it can be done. I truly believe that. I never dreamed of vanishing a train, like my father’s 1918 Steam Train I did on “America’s Got Talent” last year. We had six days to figure out that idea when I first pitched (it) to the producers of “America’s Got Talent.” Six days, and we went live to 22 million viewers. Was I scared? One-hundred percent. But what a thrill when we pulled it off!
Q: What’s something viewers at home would be surprised to know about “America’s Got Talent”?
A: They might be surprised to know that only about 20 percent of all the people that audition for the show actually get on the show to be seen on TV. There are a lot more talented people that won’t even been seen. It’s such a huge show with only one hour of air time a week, they have to pick and choose what is best for TV.
Q: What do you wish a magician could do that he can’t?
A: I wish a magician could make all the war and destruction disappear in the world, so everyone could be happy in their own little world and life.
Q: What can fans next look forward to from you?
A: I am currently on tour until Christmas Eve this year. There are more “Pawn Star” episodes being shot, so be on the lookout for them. I have also shot five episodes of a new children’s series, “The JadaGrace Show,” a new type of “Hannah Montana”-type show hopefully airing this fall. I am also in talks to people in Los Angeles for my own reality show to start either this fall or early next year.
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