As a professional magician for the past 12 years, Urbana native Michael Kent has traveled throughout the United States and the world performing at over 500 college campuses, on numerous cruise ships, and in front of U.S. troops in 16 countries. On Wednesday, July 13, he will add a first to his lengthy resume – an appearance on national television.
Kent, a 1997 graduate of Urbana High School, will appear on the season premiere of “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” on The CW. The episode will air at 8 p.m.
The premise of the show has aspiring magicians performing their best trick to try to fool the world-famous team of Penn & Teller, who will get to see the trick only once and must immediately try to work it out. Anyone who succeeds wins the right to perform with Penn & Teller in their celebrated show at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
“Penn & Teller: Fool Us” is hosted by actress Alyson Hannigan, best known for her role as Lily Aldrin on the former long-running sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”
While Kent, who currently lives in Hilliard, wasn’t able to share any details about Wednesday’s episode, which features himself and three other musicians, he did say the experience was first-rate.
“The production team was extremely nice to the magicians on the show,” he said. “We were treated very well, and the entire production ran like a well-oiled machine.
“It was great getting to talk with the celebrities on the show, Penn & Teller and Alyson Hannigan. I spent four days in Las Vegas shooting the show and really enjoyed the experience,” Kent added.
As for the impact his appearance on national television will have on his career from here on out, Kent said it’s tough to say.
“In his book, ‘Born Standing Up,’ Steve Martin talks about how the first 10 times he was on the ‘The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson’ hardly had an impact on his career,” Kent said. “I don’t anticipate that one small television appearance will be earth-shaking in terms of my success. At the same time, more people will see me perform in three minutes of television than have seen me onstage my entire life.”
Birth of a magician
Kent, who received a B.A. in communication from The Ohio State University in 2001, didn’t enter college thinking he would become a professional magician, but the desire was always there to give it a shot.
“Sometime around my senior year of college, I decided I would kick myself forever if I didn’t try,” he said. “I put together a plan to make it work, and every year has been better than the last.”
When asked what he enjoys most about the profession, Kent said the creative process and bringing enjoyment to those who attend his shows.
“It’s extremely fulfilling to see something that began with my imagination take life onstage,” he said. “Ultimately, making people happy is the goal, and when you’re the one whose job it is to make people happy, it’s hard to have a bad day.”
For youngsters who aspire to one day make a living as a magician, Kent gave the following advice: “Study the classics. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Then find your own artistic voice. The more you perform, the more you’ll become comfortable.”
Kent is preparing for his upcoming fall college tour, which will take him to 30 to 40 cities between August and November.
Kent has developed quite a following on college campuses nationwide. In 2014, he was named Entertainer of the Year by Campus Activities Magazine, and in the same year, the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities named him Magician of the Year.
After his campus tour wraps up this fall, Kent will be headed overseas for three weeks in November to perform for U.S. troops serving abroad.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.