Murray SawChuck, also known as Murray the Magician, describes himself as the Dennis the Menace of magic and comedy. “When everything goes wrong or haphazard, that’s my style,” Murray tells us. Murray doesn’t look like your typical magician — he opts for a t-shirt and jeans over the stuffiness of a suit — and he isn’t afraid to lean into his unorthodox appearance to support his act. “With my messy hair and my big glasses and stuff like that, it kind of works for me,” he explains. But this apparent disorganization only enhances the illusion. “At the very end,” he assures us, “there’s a resolution, you know, whether it be a magic trick, a prank, whatever the case is.”
We recently had the chance to chat with Murray the Magician about how he got his start in magic, how he makes a living and what he’s got planned for the future. Here’s what he had to say.
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“You know, it was one of those things where, of course, I always wanted to do it. I saw David Copperfield on TV and, and other entertainers and I thought it was super cool,” he says, thinking back to the first magic kit — a gift from his parents. He was seven at the time. “I did it for a little while, put it away like any kid,” Murray recalls. A few years later, Murray received another magic kit as a birthday gift from his aunt and uncle: “I could understand things better and I dove back into it again.”
By then, Murray already knew he wanted to be an entertainer. “I was a professional dancer for like 16 years and I also played music,” he says, “I played the accordion and keyboard and stuff.” Murray remembers that he always loved being on stage — “I kind of like the attention of it, you know?” — and magic was one way to stay there. As he learned more about magic tricks and techniques, he started to wonder if this was something he could make a living at.
Murray started small. “I don’t know why I thought I could do it, you know?” he says, “But for some reason I did … I was a lifeguard when I was younger, and at the rec centers, I saw these ads on the wall … And I thought, ‘Well, why don’t I put an ad up on there for magic shows?’ You know, half an hour birthday parties for like 50 bucks.” Murray put up ads in recreation centers and newspapers and to his surprise, he actually got responses. Before long, he was booked and making money.
Still practicing magic, Murray went on to get a degree in radio, television and broadcasting with a minor in business. At the same time, he was promoting his act to agents. He ended up landing some cruise ship gigs. “I got booked for more money than I thought I could ever dream of at like 19 or 20,” he remembers.
By the early 1990s, Murray was getting opportunities that took him all over the world. “I was still doing ships and I toured to resorts in Europe — never Vegas though, you know, but Japan and Europe and all that.”
While cruise ships and resort tours allowed him to see the world, Murray, as a magician, had dreams of playing the glitzy stages of Las Vegas. “I always wanted to play Vegas and I wanted to be on TV in LA,” Murray says, “but I lived in Orlando.” Eventually, after going after Vegas gigs by mail, he found some producers willing to take on his act. “They took a risk on me,” Murray tells us, “It did all right, and then at the same time I thought I need to get on TV.”
Around this time, reality TV was starting to take off in popularity. Murray saw an opportunity: “I thought, ‘Well, I wonder how I can get on some reality shows,’ you know?” The strategy worked; Murray kicked off his TV career on a reality dating show called Blind Date. These days, he’s a regular guest on History Channel’s Pawn Stars and appears on CW’s Masters of Illusion. He also recently released his first comedy special, Itz Gone, Live from Las Vegas, on Tubi.
Taking magic online
As YouTube rose to prominence, Murray began posting clips from his TV appearances to his YouTube channel. Eventually, though, it became clear that his approach wasn’t ideal. A friend, Seth Leach, enjoyed Murray’s magic but lamented the YouTube channel’s poor performance. He suggested adding more original content. Not only that, Murray needed a hook.
Murray recalls Seth telling him, “You’re cool and hip. We need you in a t-shirt and jeans.” Murray, at the time, was not accustomed to the more casual getup, but he agreed to give it a shot. Then, Seth had another suggestion to help draw in viewers: “He said, ‘Let’s do magic tricks with cops and parking attendants,’ like, because you know, anyone who goes against a cop is a bit daring and avant-garde.”
Murray took the idea and ran with it: “We started doing pranks and magic tricks with police officers, and all of a sudden it got a huge buzz because it’s kind of taboo. And anyway, it ended up really, really being a thing,” Murray says.
The purpose of social media
Despite the initial success, Murray eventually let his channel go dormant: “Trends change all the time.”
That didn’t mean he was done with social media, however. Murray shifted gears and started doing shorter videos on Facebook, Snapchat and other platforms. He says he hasn’t given up on YouTube either. He plans to revitalize his YouTube channel with new content in 2023, though he knows success is not guaranteed: “You know, at the end of the day, whoever they are, you know, they can either suggest you or not suggest you.”
For Murray, social media is about getting his name out there and sharing the fun of magic tricks with people online. In this way, YouTube is a tool that helps him build an audience, but it’s not the centerpiece of his career. “I work in Vegas at my show at the Tropicana nightly, and I’m also in a show called Fantasy at the Luxor,” Murray explains.
Still, Murray recognizes the unique power of social media when it comes to reaching people: “When you have an audience, you have 300 or 500 or a thousand people every night. You can’t compare that to when you do social media, and you get one video that hits 20 million people … that would take a lifetime to do a live show for that many going theater to theater.”
That’s why Murray includes online media as part of his overall career strategy. “As an entertainer or somebody being the public eye, you really don’t wanna miss out on that,” he admits.
How Murray the Magician makes money
Throughout our conversation, Murray emphasized the importance of diversifying both your skill set and your income streams. “If you wanna become wealthy,” Murray tells us, “you kind of spread your money around … Same as in entertainment, if you wanna be successful — and when I mean successful, I mean like a Dolly Parton, you know — you have those different facets of entertainment, getting out there really makes you a really well-rounded performer.”
In fact, Murray puts being well-rounded as one of his top priorities as an entertainer: “I want people to go, ‘Oh, that’s Murray. Not just Murray the Magician.”
Murray approaches his income in a similar fashion: “I’ve always been a believer of various incomes … To keep in the business and keep making money, I always have all sorts of ads. I have my live shows, my touring — I wrote a book — I have my social media … Also, on a side note, I have investment properties as rental homes and real estate.”
Murray also recently released a children’s book titled “At Nighttime, We’re All the Same Size.” Murray tells us, “It’s a book based on rescue animals and basically a metaphor of not judging people and the way they look or sound, but seeing them eye to eye so you’ll understand them better. You know? ’Cause the way I look, I’ve been judged every day. I walk in a room with my crazy hair and my weird outfits and my glasses and all that.”
Murray recommends a diversified income strategy to anyone, but especially those in entertainment. He reminds us, “Every day, life changes, you know, money and life and the weather and everything.”
Final words of encouragement
Wrapping things up, Murray shares some advice for aspiring creators and entertainers:
“If you love it, money will come down the road,” Murray reassures us. “I could have done any job in the world, you know what I mean? And I chose magic, which is, you know, right down there by clown and juggler … and I’m making a living off it. So I’m very fortunate.”
“Just remember though,” he cautions, “when people always say, follow your dreams, that means you gotta work probably 24 hours, seven days a week … There’s gonna be a lot of sleeping on couches and in your car for auditions and just doing a lot of stuff that that isn’t that luxurious, trying to make it.”
In the end, Murray emphasizes that this risk is necessary for success. If you believe in your talent, it’s worth putting in the effort. “You got nothing to lose,” he reminds us, “You know, the great thing about trying something is you can always go back to whatever you’re doing.”
“Just go for it,” he concludes, “Yeah, of course. Why not? What the hell?”
To find out more about Murray the Magician and his various projects, including live shows at the Tropicana and Luxor in Las Vegas, as well as upcoming tour dates, TV appearances and book releases, head to murraymagic.com. You can also check out his TikTok channel here and his YouTube channel here.