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Q&A: Criss Angel

The Mindfreak brings his famous sleight of hand, street magic, mentalism, and even some of his most iconic illusions to life in an intimate, raw setting.

G.K. Hizer
December 29, 2017

When most people think of magicians, the first names that come to mind often include Houdini, David Copperfield, and even Penn & Teller. Quickly climbing to the top of that list, however, is Criss Angel. By marrying his rock music sensibilities and concert style production with a creative twist on classic tricks and illusions, as well as unveiling his own original ideas, Angel has brought a fresh energy and interest to the classic entertainment genre.

Angel has achieved worldwide exposure and notoriety with two separate TV series: Mindfreak and BeLIEve, reaching more than 100 million viewers in over 90 countries. Additional internet viewers have made Angel arguably the most viewed and widely recognized magician and illusionist in history, and two successful shows with extended runs have made him one of the most bankable names in Las Vegas.

Never one to rest on his accomplishments, Angel continues to push the boundaries of his craft, conceptualizing and creating The Supernaturalists, an ensemble act featuring nine different magicians, each with a different specialized talent. He has also authored a best-selling book, been involved in commercial endorsements, and launched his own brand of products, offering high-quality magic kits through his own website.

Reaching outside his own successes, however, Angel has also been incredibly active for charities, building a longstanding relationship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and creating the Johnny Crisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation (originally Believe Anything Is Possible, renamed for his son who was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 2 years old), with all donations going to children’s cancer research and treatment.

Currently touring behind his latest traveling production, RAW: Mindfreak Unplugged, Angel will be appearing at The Joint: Tulsa Jan. 20.

Q: What drew your interest to magic and illusions, and how did you get started following this path for a career?

A: I was always fascinated with magic as a kid, watching it on television and watching magic shows live. It was just something that really connected to me. With regards to my inspiration, my dad was my absolutely greatest inspiration and supported and encouraged me to live my dream. My parents were never in the entertainment business, so I had to create a path and not follow a path and figure out how to succeed in living my dream.

Q: It's estimated that you've been seen by more people than Houdini, Dave Copperfield, and Penn & Teller combined. Do you ever feel like that has put a target, of sorts, on your back?

A: Everyone’s out to dethrone you because the magic world, by and large, is very small. There are very few people who are on top, so when you’re the guy, everybody wants your spot. My competitive spirit and my desire to be the best that I can be as an artist pushes me to work harder than ever to create experiences that audiences have never had in the world of magic. That desire to go places magicians have never gone is my fuel and my power, so for me, I just focus on the future and never look over my shoulder.

Q: What do you think sets you apart from your peers and draws so much interest and attention to what you do?

A: For me, magic is not about how something works; it’s about how the audience feels when they watch it. The magic of emotion is stronger than any illusion that I can ever create onstage — or on the street, for that matter — so for me, it’s all about how people feel. It’s about leaving people with wonder and awe and making them feel empowered, so that when they leave my show they feel like they can conquer the world, because they just saw the impossible.

Q: What new challenges has RAW presented with it, both in logistics and in capturing your vision for what you want from the show?

A: RAW is a completely different breed from Mindfreak Live. Even though I’m going to be performing my most famous, signature sleight of hand effects from TV live, there’s many more challenges because I’m relying on myself as a performer and not all of the spectacular production tricks that I have in Vegas. I’m driving the show without a huge cast, but with a theatricality that is beyond anything that I’ve done before, so I’m so excited about this opportunity. The show will blow people’s minds. It’s a show for everyone: It’s creepy, it’s scary, it’s sexy, it’s mind-blowing, and it will touch your heart by the time you leave.

Q: Whether with your touring production or with the residency, how do you keep the show fresh and engaging?

A: It’s simple to keep fresh because I never have the same audience in the room ever again. So for me, I have to give 110 percent. So does my incredible cast and the crew.

Q: How does your focus and approach change when planning and designing a show for an ensemble like The Supernaturalists, as opposed to your individual show?

A: The Supernaturalists was something I really, really wanted to do for some time. It was my vision, creation, direction, and production, so I was really able to do something that was in my mind and scour the globe looking for the greatest magicians, each in their respected discipline, and take all of these different categories of magic and put them together like we’ve never seen before. Quite frankly, it destroys any other ensemble show out there, in my humble opinion, because there’s nothing like it. I mean, the production level, the spectacular nature of the show is beyond anything that is out there in an ensemble show.

Q: Your son was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015, but you were heavily involved with children's charities even before then. Can you share a little background on how you initially got started and involved with this clause?

A: I’ve been working with children forever. For me, one child every two minutes who is diagnosed with cancer is ridiculous. And considering that for every $100 that the American Cancer Institute raises, less than 70 cents goes to pediatric cancer, it’s unacceptable. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder. We need to fight, because cancer doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t care who you are, or how young you are. For me, it’s not a choice, it’s my calling and if people want to help, they can make a donation at crissangel.com.

Criss Angel
The Joint | Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa
777 W. Cherokee St. | Catoosa
Jan. 20: 8 p.m.
Must be 21 or older to attend