Michael Carbonaro brings magic show to Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Michael Carbonaro at Hollywood Casino (Part 1)

You’ve seen him perform astonishing magic tricks on “The Carbonaro Effect” on truTV.

On Saturday, Michael Carbonaro performs at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.

“There will be magic, pranking, surprises,” Carbonaro told WTOP. “It’s a brand new show, I had some time, I don’t know if you heard, but there was a pandemic. I was able to work on an all-new show, all-new tricks, all-new stuff. … It’s finally clicking, the laughs are landing, we’re switching tricks out, finding the best tour and it’s really in hot shape right now.”

He calls the live stage show “Carbonaro: Lies on Stage.”

“It’s a play on ‘Live on Stage,'” Carbonaro said. “Anyone who knows me from ‘The Carbonaro Effect’ hidden camera TV show, they really like when I lie to people. They like the funny scientific mumbo jumbo I make up for the magic and the pranks, they can’t get enough of it, so I’m like, ‘I’m gonna come to your town and lie right to you.'”

Just know that the show is for ages 21 and up.

“I usually do family shows, all my shows are family-friendly, but because it’s a casino, it’s 21+, so I might be able to let loose,” Carbonaro said. “Even the family shows, the parents tend to have a little. Even the kids drink at my show. We hand out shots to the children!”

Born on Long Island, New York in 1976, he loved watching hidden-camera shows.

“I was such a big fan as a kid watching syndicated episodes of ‘Candid Camera,’ watching people’s reactions,” Carbonaro said. “It’s the most gripping thing. … They would have a car drive into a gas station, a lady’s like, ‘It’s making a weird noise,’ they’d open the hood and the car had no motor! The guys at the gas station are like, ‘Lady, how did you get here?'”

Initially, he didn’t want to be a magician. He wanted to be a Hollywood makeup artist.

“I loved horror movies, still do,” Carbonaro said. “Freddy Kreuger, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ was my jam. My favorite horror movie of all time: ‘An American Werewolf in London.’ I love it because it’s kind of funny and also scary at the same time. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to make those creatures, make people up and make zombies.”

It just so happened the makeup supplies sat on shelves near magic tricks.

“I would buy makeup supplies at a local magic shop,” Carbonaro said. “A magic shop is the hub of all things I love: pranks, jokes, gags, masks, costumes, scary things and illusions, all that stuff, my heart, I’m like a magnet to it! So, I started performing magic tricks, the guys would demo stuff at the counter, I’d buy magic tricks, I loved doing it for my friends.”

Along the way, he learned the importance of being well-rounded.

“When parents come up to me like, ‘What would you recommend? My son or my daughter wants to be a magician,’ I’m always like, ‘There’s millions of places to learn tricks, but have them learn theater, have them be in school plays and learn about voice, dance, speech, because if they want to be a magician, you’ve got to be an entertainer,” Carbonaro said.

He got his B.A. in Drama at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

“I went to NYU with the aspirations of becoming the next David Copperfield,” Carbonaro said. “I want to learn everything about theater, television production, how to be an actor, how to move, dance, good voice, speech, articulate on stage, I want to be the consummate entertainer and I really got into the acting and standup comedy when I was in New York.”

He began acting in “All My Children,” “Guiding Light,” “30 Rock” and “Chappelle’s Show,”

“In this tour, I actually show the clip when I was on ‘Chappelle’s Show,'” Carbonaro said. “I had like one line and I show that clip later in the night and a lot of people are like, ‘Is that real?’ They think it’s like maybe a digital trick and I’m like, ‘No, I was really on ‘Chappelle’s Show.” I was so excited to be on. Even to just get one line on that TV show, oh my gosh.”

He also began performing his act on late-night talk shows.

“My first late night show was ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live,'” Carbonaro said. “I got over to ‘The Tonight Show’ with Jay Leno, doing hidden-camera magic segments at this convenience store and dreaming up my big show. I’d always wanted to have a TV show like ‘Candid Camera,’ I loved ‘Scare Tactics,’ I’m like there’s a magic hidden-camera show to be had.”

Thus,” The Carbonaro Effect” was born on truTV.

“Why not hide all kinds of techniques as a magician, things disappearing and things falling through something else and make all kinds of fun little pranks and pose magic in a way that people can see it without having to wonder, ‘How did the magician do it?’ They wonder, ‘How is this happening in my real world in front of me right now?'” Carbonaro said.

The show ran for five seasons 2014-2019.

“We did five seasons, 120-some episodes total, which blows my mind,” Carbonaro said. “I had no idea we’d ever be able to do that many shows. … We talked about maybe doing some more, then the pandemic hit and we were still talking, it’s still open-ended, we weren’t canceled or anything, but I’ve got another TV project I’m trying to push forward.”

What’s his vision for his next TV series?

“It’s a variety show with magic, hidden camera, some pranks in front of a live audience and throwing off to segments,” Carbonaro said. “I literally have people write in, ‘Oh my gosh, I love your show, I really wish I could be on it, but now I know who you are.’ … That sounds like a dead-end career! … I’m like, ‘What can I do where my fans can play with me?'”

Until then, you can see him at the Hollywood Casino on Saturday.

“Come on down,” Carbonaro said. “You will be delighted, you will be fooled, I will get you, I will prank you, two people a night I make disappear right from the stage, so anyone you’re looking to get rid of, bring them on down and … I’ll see what I can do for you.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Michael Carbonaro at Hollywood Casino (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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