Peters magician to appear on “America’s Got Talent”

June 20, 2014
Mike Super on the stage of “America’s Got Talent” - Photo provided by NBC

Peters Township resident Mike Super will be among the hopefuls showcasing their skills on NBC-TV’s “America’s Got Talent” at 9 p.m. Sunday, but he won’t be tuning in.

Not because of jitters about seeing himself on the flat screen; right now, he’s floating through the Caribbean, plying his trade as a magician for passengers on a cruise ship.

“They pay you to be on vacation and do what you love,” Super remarked on the phone from the island of St. Martin Wednesday afternoon. “Thank goodness they invented DVRs.”

Depending on whether Super impresses judges Mel B, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Howard Stern sufficiently to advance on “America’s Got Talent” – Super couldn’t divulge that information – the Clairton native and University of Pittsburgh graduate is in the enviable position of being able to make a living off his youthful obsessions. He is on the road for a substantial part of the year, playing colleges and theaters, opening for rock bands and wherever else there is an audience eager to see rabbits pulled from hats – metaphorically speaking.

Super confessed to some nerves before his spot on “America’s Got Talent” was recorded, but he’s not a greenhorn when it comes to television or reality shows. In 2007, he was the winner on another NBC competition, “Phenomenon,” scooping up $250,000 after triumphing over nine other magicians.

He also once made Ellen DeGeneres materialize out of thin air on her weekday talk show.

“I’m not a stranger to the TV medium,” Super explained. However, on “Phenomenon,” he was facing off against fellow illusionists, while “America’s Got Talent” boasts the whole variety-show gamut of performers, from singers and dancers to comedians and trained dogs, “so it’s really out of the box what you’ll be up against.”

Another difference between the stage and television: the need to fit the feat into a 90-second slot, “and that’s really a challenge,” he said.

Super – yes, that’s his given last name – first became enamored with magic when he was a 6-year-old on a family visit to Walt Disney World. He counts the likes of veteran illusionists Doug Henning and David Copperfield among his influences, and Super has nabbed two Merlin awards from the International Society of Magicians, which is to magicians what the Oscars are to film actors.

He compares the whole process of doing magic to songwriting, inasmuch as he draws inspiration from day-to-day life and then translates it into magic tricks. And, like a musician, he practices. A lot. Sometimes up to three hours a day.

“You have to stay sharp and you have to create new stuff.”

Though it perhaps isn’t held in the same regard as acting, playing music or being a dancer, the same principles hold in the world of magic – making it look effortless and seamless requires a lot of hard work before the spotlight is switched on.

“I just tell (people) you have to study,” Super said.

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. Brad holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from George State University in Atlanta, Ga., and a master’s in popular culture studies from Bowling Green (Ohio) State University. He has covered the arts and entertainment for the O-R, and also worked as a municipal beat reporter. He now serves as editorial page editor.

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