Funny, how that trick didn’t work. … No, really: Funny—how that trick didn’t work.
Comedy-magic shows invest in the entertainment value of—how to phrase this?—fake fuck-ups. Say, perhaps, Murray SawChuck “wrongly” guessing playing cards audience volunteers select. Or yanking a cloth from under a tray of glasses without toppling them, then “inadvertently” revealing they were glued on by flipping it upside down. Or tossing and catching 20 DVDs at once before letting us see they’re as attached as accordion bellows.
Payoffs are threefold: Get the laugh; subvert the aura of a magician’s invulnerability, making you more relatable to the audience; then use that as a setup to impress us with genuine illusions. At this, SawChuck—who recently resurfaced at Planet Hollywood’s Sin City Theatre after a stint at the Tropicana’s Laugh Factory—is affably effective on his own modest terms. Awe and wow you, he won’t. Tickle and amuse you, he will.
First we get the now de rigueur ego-intro—a video chronicling his TV appearances, from Wipeout and Reno 911! to Wizard Wars and Pawn Stars. Up-close amusement begins the moment your eyes meet his peroxide jolt of mad-scientist hair—he resembles a llama that stuck its paw in a light socket—and his sartorial (non)sense, which on this night is an electric blue suit. “I’m not gay,” he says, “but the suit is.”
Slick and slim, with a highly cultivated geek persona, SawChuck is the embodiment of the high school nerd who staved off bullies with tricks and quicksilver wit that lands just short of smugness. “Your card is either red or black—hey, it’s a gift, comes with the suit,” he says to an audience volunteer. One-liners are followed up by, “Time to wake up, people. You’ll get these jokes on the way home.”
Aided by clownish “Lefty” (Douglas Leferovich) and SawChuck’s spouse, Fantasy dancer Chloe Crawford, who add touches of goofiness and sexiness, respectively, SawChuck delivers largely small-scale magic that plays better into his comedy by inviting audience participation. Card tricks go awry before they go all right. So does making a Champagne bottle disappear inside a paper bag and squeezing a cellphone into an inflated balloon. In another cute bit, he asks an audience member to think of a celebrity and he’ll guess it—while Lefty dances, spastically, as Michael Jackson. Another chooses Willie Nelson, prompting SawChuck to produce a baby photo he insists is the singer.
Breaking up stretches of this are legit illusions—he spears Chloe inside a giant box before she re-emerges, her voluptuous curves intact; disassembles and reassembles her in another; and pulls off a trunk escape. While they punctuate the laughs, they’re also less interesting moments, drawn from the stock magic repertoire found in showrooms across Vegas.
Rather, it’s the fun, the fakery, the very Murray-ness of his impish shtick—the introduction of his tricks often preceded by a childlike, “Hey, ya wanna see it?”—that separates SawChuck from the prestidigitator pack.
Not to mention looking like a blue-skinned llama.
Got an entertainment tip? Email Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.