Chris Randall shuffles a deck of playing cards, absentmindedly making them disappear and rematerialize during conversation. Before Criss Angel and Steve Wyrick became headliners in town, “The Las Vegas Kid” was here. As a native, he was known for making watches and wallets disappear from unsuspecting owners, performing card tricks in the back of a Las Vegas Academy theatre class or appearing to stick nails up his nose. Learning the ropes on The Strip while still attending high school, Randall has now toured the world with his unique brand of Vegas-based classical magic that doesn’t involve sawing ladies in half or massive amounts of gaudy jewelry.
Starting from the beginning, how did you get into magic?
I was about seven and my dad went to the swap meet and bought a trick. He showed it to me and I picked up on it real fast. Then we saw David Copperfield live and I went, “That’s it. That’s what I want to do.” I started doing talent shows and hanging out at magic shops. I’d meet all the magicians and started getting known as “The Kid” around Vegas.
Did you family have any background in magic?
My grandparents were vaudeville performers. My grandmother was a dancer; my grandfather was a drummer. My other grandfather was a clown. My dad played the trumpet, but then went in the military instead. So I had some background, but not much. I had to learn just by getting up and being scared. Theatre school helped a lot. That helped me get used to talking. I did a silent act for years; the idea of speaking horrified me. Doing monologues and not being able to do a trick with it to hide behind was a big help for me.
How would you describe your act now? Have you considered doing big illusions, perhaps you could try making the Luxor and Believe disappear?
I’m not really a big fan of big illusions. It never was my style. I’d feel a little goofy jumping around the stage and pointing at boxes. Some people make it very theatrical with story lines and that’s an art form in itself. My act is slight of hand, comedy, and actually Vegas history mixed into it.
How are you able to work history into your act?
I predict what hotel people are staying at and through the effect, I give you the history of the Las Vegas Strip. I grew up on the Strip as a kid and got to see the Strip change drastically. That and entertainment history in Vegas—Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin—all gets worked into my show somehow. I do stuff with poker chips, casino cups and a whole routine based on slot machines.
When you’re not performing in Vegas, do you keep that angle your act?
For the most part, unless it’s, like, Japan where obviously I do more silent stuff, but still based on cards, poker chips.
You go by “The Las Vegas Kid,” which works because you’re still in your 20s, but what happens when you’re 60?
That’s a good question I’ve been wondering about for a long time. I would like later in my life to become a Vegas historian. I think the title would be THE Tour Guide of Las Vegas—that used to be my pick-up line for girls actually. I would throw my number on a [playing] card and I’d make them pick the card and I’d say, “If you ever need a tour guide in Las Vegas, now you know where to find one.”
How does magic work for picking up girls?
Very, very well.
Your goal is a show on the Strip. Until that day comes, what’s your biggest challenge?
It’s surviving in-between [gigs]. It’d be so easy to get a regular 9 to 5 job right now. … I have to look at certain things and go “I will sacrifice this to not go and get a real job.”
It’s feast or famine. The year of 2007 I had the best year of my life. I made more money than I could have ever imagined. I did Greece, Japan, Egypt, all that stuff. I was out of the country 10 months. Not much to show for it still. I did survive off of it. I bought a lot of suits. I bought a lot of dinners and a lot of drinks.
What did you learn?
Uh (laughing) I shouldn’t have bought the suits?
Since you wear snazzy suits instead of fishnet shirts and leather jackets, who’s the target audience for your magic right now, or the craft in general?
It depends on how you market it. Mine might be for people who are older, or people my age who like Michael Buble and Robbie Williams and stuff like that. Maybe for a general audience, more like how Lance [Burton] is geared to a general audience.
Do you invent your own tricks as well?
Dan [Sperry] did one of mine recently on television where I bring a dead fish back to life. I have, I think, 36 different effects in print right now and on video.
Do you think access to information has hurt magic? People can just go in the Internet and research how a trick was done.
I think if you want to know, you’re going to find out. My friend has a theory about how people become magicians: Some people look at a magic trick and go, “That was great,” and then they move on with their life. The guy who stays up all night obsessing over it? He might become a magician because it bothered him. He didn’t move on with his life. He’ll Google it, or go to the library.
You’re not going to be able to hide it. The secret doesn’t really matter anyway. It’s the art form and how you put your character into it and your style. All that is what really matters.
Chris Randall can frequently be seen performing in After the Show at the Harmon Theater on Mondays, doing street magic in front of the Flamingo and has been recently featured on the Masters of Illusion television show on MYNetwork, cable 12.