Review: Northeastern News

June 30, 2008

Originally Posted on 2/26/08

Source: Northeastern News
By Sean Leviashvili

Michael Kent worked his magic as he performed a stand-up routine at afterHOURS Wednesday.

As part of BananAwareness Week, Travis Weisberger, showcases chair for the Council for University Programs, arranged for Kent to perform at Northeastern. Kent is known for putting his own spin on a series of magic tricks by interacting with the audience and treating his act as a comedy routine, a task he admits can be a challenge.

“I started doing comedy in college,” Kent said. “It is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. A comic only has his personality to use [on stage], and I try to bring it to the magic tricks and give them personality.”

Performing in front a crowd of about 200 people, Kent brought forth a series of magic tricks that made audience members like Yuliya Sysevich, a sophomore marketing major, wonder what his secret was.

Syesevich was initially called to the stage when Kent asked for an audience member with “excellent intuition.” To assist Kent with a trick involving a broken glass bottle, four inflated paper bags and Kent’s left hand, Syesevich had to guide him through a step-by-step process in eliminating the bags. One contained the glass bottle with the sharp side up.

With each elimination, Kent crushed the bag with his hand.

“Remember, I’m using my hands here,” Kent said to Syesevich. “If you screw this up, it’s the end of my career and social life as well.”

The only bag Syesevich did not select concealed the jagged glass bottle.

“All of his tricks were really surprising,” Syesevich said. “With each one I was like ‘Wow, how did he do that?'”

Syesevich had an intuitive hunch that everything would turn out all right, but other students, including Grace Turnbull, a middler behavioral neuroscience major, were not as confident.

“I was terrified when he was smashing those glasses,” Turnbull said.

The tricks, along with the jokes and sarcasm, continued for about an hour as Kent brought Nani Stoick, a middler music industry major, to the stage, only to have her volunteer her $100 bill for a trick. After writing her name on the bill, Stoick placed it in an envelope and left the rest up to Kent and his magic. She watched as Kent pretended to shred the bill.

After five minutes of brewing curiosity, Kent returned Stoick’s money to her, retrieving it from a small metal box.

“For a split second I was worried,” Stoick said. “I had a feeling it would be in the box but I have no idea how it got there. I was impressed.”

As Kent’s routine continued, he left the audience pondering the question: what came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, it was the chicken – a rubber one. With a volunteer from the audience, Kent conducted a card trick in which he managed to transfer a card selected by the audience member to a plastic egg inside a rubber chicken.

When Weisberger first saw this trick performed at the National Association for Campus Activities conference in November, he knew Kent would draw attention at Northeastern and arranged for him to perform.

“It was the chicken trick that sold us,” Weisberger said, “and his smart-ass personality.”

Prior to his performance, Kent eased audience members into his techniques by speaking with them at afterHOURS and promoting the event at the dining halls during the day. Making the audience comfortable and entertaining them is the priority, Kent said.

Whether it involves a rubber chicken, the chance of a bleeding palm or the money to pay for it, Kent said the most important thing is giving people a chance to enjoy themselves, rather than get frustrated, which Kent said is often the result of magic tricks.

“As a kid,” Kent said, “I was interested in magic and used it to compensate for my lack of a social life. I did magic in college to meet girls, and now I do it to pay the bills.”

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