Kyle Marlett removes his black-framed glasses and dunks his face in a bowl of water onstage. He looks like he’s about to drown himself, gasping for air and biting at the water. Finally, he comes up with something clamped between his teeth. He removes it and waves it over the audience. “Was this your card?” He says triumphantly, his boyish locks dripping water onto his retro suit.
“No? OK. Just a sec.” He gleefully submerges his face again, splashing water all the way to the front row of the Onyx Theater, where the small audience laughs raucously. His is the first act in Karnival: A Collection of Oddities, a monthly variety show. We won’t give away the payoff, but Marlett reveals the audience member’s chosen card in a very funny way.
In the wings after his act, Marlett, who also directs and produces the show, is breathless. “I did all new tricks tonight,” he says, explaining a few mishaps that were incidentally hilarious. There was the duct-tape moustache trick, with tape that wouldn’t stick. And a forgotten can opener that left him stabbing a can of corn with a knife. And it works for the 20-year-old with the Charlie Chaplin tattoo, who says he’ll never be the type of guy who does highbrow “illusions.”
Marlett’s youthful exuberance and dorky awkwardness keep audiences entertained. He has an enthusiasm for magic that spills over into everything he does. He will think of an idea in the morning, develop it in the afternoon and put it onstage by night. It’s a speed that he says other magicians would categorize as “either ballsy or stupid.” (David Copperfield, for example, takes about two years to develop a new illusion).
But Marlett believes this anti-perfectionism, this willingness to constantly develop new ideas, is necessary to keep magic relevant. Like the time he developed a trick fusing magic and sideshow, uploaded it to YouTube and found himself with a turn on The Tonight Show as well as the host of PopMagic! on Criss Angel’s MagicPlace.com.
Marlett moved to Las Vegas when he was 17 to make it as a magician, and he’s already achieved his goal. He has performed in almost every casino on the Strip (including a two-year gig at O’Sheas) and has worked for the biggest names in magic. He performs in burlesque and variety shows locally, such as Freak Show Wrestling at the Bikini Bar. He will embark upon a multi-city magic lecture series in March, and in preparation, he’s putting out a DVD with some other magicians and self-publishing a book of magic. In his spare time, he’s making a guidebook of things to do if you’re under 21 in Las Vegas.
Above all, Marlett is working toward scoring a college tour or spot in a Strip variety show. The ultimate goal is a series of Comedy Central specials and his own live show on the Strip. No matter what happens, he’s guaranteed not to run out of material.