The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Nov. 8, 2022

Criss Angel On His Most Terrifying Illusions & Why He Says Anyone Can Do Magic

Criss Angel On His Most Terrifying Illusions & Why He Says Anyone Can Do Magic

Criss Angel (@crissangel) is a magician and illusionist. His Las Vegas stage show MINDFREAK is live 5 nights a week at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino and his new television show "Magic With The Stars" airs on The CW Network on Saturdays at 8pm ET. He joins Chris Van Vliet to talk about his earliest memory of magic, how Vince McMahon helped him get his big break by allowing him to perform at WWF New York in Time Square, the illusion that put him on the map, what his biggest fear is, the difference between an illusion and a magic trick, why he says "life is death without change" and much more!


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On spelling his name Criss:

“Oh it’s just to be a little different. I always wanted to spell my name a little different, it is my signature. When I was a kid, I always wanted to be successful in the world of entertainment. All I ever did was magic and music since I was 6 years old.” 

On an introduction to magic:

“My aunt Stella taught me my first card trick when I was 6. I saw her do it and didn’t understand how it worked. I drove her crazy to find out how it was done until she showed me, then I drove everybody crazy in the house doing the same trick over and over again. Then when I was 10 I got a magic set under the Christmas tree, and I really got the bug. I started performing at birthday parties when I was 12 and at bars when I was 14. It was quick.” 

Criss Angel on working at WWF New York:

“That’s true, it was the McMahons [that hired me]. We are still good friends to this day. They gave me an opportunity to take their banquet room in the basement in what was WWF [New York], then they got the F out and it was WWE. Eventually I was supposed to do a few weeks there, but I did over 14 months there. I did 600 performances on Broadway and 43rd, it was the real start of all these other things that followed, such as my first television special. It all kind of evolved and escalated from the WWE.”

On the balance between skill and showmanship:

“Well for me, I have been doing it for so long. It’s all about creating experiences that are really unique and original. For me it is about reverse engineering. What do I want to see as a fan? What do I want to see that would be a visual feat? I then reverse engineer that and how to do it.”

On a celebrity getting involved in a trick:

“Well we break it down into 3 different categories. There is closeup magic, stage magic and grand escape. We take the 3 different categories, take the celebrities and teach them the same categories but different effects. Sometimes the grand illusion would be the same, but we want to see what effect they would bring to it so the audience can see the difference and who can do it better. But then we have different closeup effects where they bring their own style and character to it. It’s about breaking it down to what they are learning, and how do I teach it to them? I look at their discipline, if they are an actor, they are used to learning lines and hitting marks, interacting with props and people. So I do a layered approach with them. It’s fascinating when you get different celebrities, like UFC fighters, teach them their disciplines while taking them out of their wheelhouse.”

On Criss Angel’s favorite movie about magic:

“Oh man. I’m not that big of a movie buff, but there has been several. If you go classic then it is obviously the Houdini [starring] Tony Curtis movie. It’s not true, how Houdini died at the end, but it is an interesting movie. They are always presented to me in a little bit more of a bubble. Burt Wonderstone had the opportunity to be special, but it really missed the mark. The people who are creating it don’t do magic every day like I do, so they don’t really know how to translate it in a way that is believable or engaging in a funny or serious way. Movies by enlarge are magic by themselves, it’s movie magic. How do they create these special effects? Things that inspire me are movies like the terminator, that had movie magic at that time.”

On Criss Angel’s favorite celebrity on Magic With The Stars:

“I mean they all did a great job, but I think that Frank Mir and Randy Couture did a really really great job. Donnie Osmond and Debbie Gibson did a really good job. I think a lot of the celebrities stepped up and did what they had to do and I was really proud of them. Everybody that did season 1 should be really proud of themselves. We had to pick someone for the sake of the show, but everyone did a great job.”

Trick or illusion?

“To me there are illusions and illustrations. I don’t use the word trick, to me the trick is a bit cheaper. I guess levitating is a trick, but to me there is a bit more substance or meaning than a card trick.”

On what scares Criss Angel:

“The only thing that scares me is when I go before God. My faith in God is the most important thing, I don't want to push that on anybody. For me, that really is it. I try to be true to myself, look at myself in the mirror and look at my kids. We have all made mistakes, but life without change is death. As you get older, your priorities get in order.”

On what Criss Angel is grateful for:

“My better half, my 3 children and family and friends.”