For a man who's supposed to be sullen with darkness and brooding with drama, magician Mike Super has a killer smile. He employs it often, like a Jedi using the force. "I'm so excited to be back in Pittsburgh!" he says by phone from Los Angeles. "There's nothing like performing in your hometown!"
It's been three years since he's been back. A lot has happened since, most notably Criss Angel's Phenomenon, on NBC -- which Super won, in 2007. "Pittsburgh was so supportive voting for me, and I finally get to thank them in person," Super says. "I am the only magician in history to win a magic competition on live, prime-time network television."
It's easy to understand why Super, who performs at Greensburg's Palace Theater on July 17, is a history-making magician. His performances aren't what you'd expect from a magic show. No wind blowing through his hair, no scantily clad women at his feet. No crazy-ass techno music, accentuating every step he takes.
Rather, Super's shows are sly contraptions of illusion and truth, wit and humor. In fact, a reviewer recently dubbed him the Dane Cook of magic.
Yet it still all comes down to the tricks.
In Greensburg, Super says, "I'm debuting a new, never-before-seen illusion, where we actually trap a ghost. You read that right. This will be the first performance of it; nothing like this has ever been done and I'm excited to debut it in my hometown."
The road to success has been filled with landmines, barbed wire and bad food. Super, 33, grew up in Clairton; his dad worked in the steel mills. When he began as a magician, it was such a costly endeavor that Mike could barely afford rent; he ate Taco Bell every night to survive. Talk about suffering for your art.
But now he's conquered stage and TV, with his own series in the works. He went from a guy with a funny name to a guy who's practically a household name.
"Recently I was brought to Paris to do a TV show that is basically the highest-rated show in France," he says. "I've done the show twice and was paid a ton of money to perform one trick. The challenging thing was that they all only spoke French! Everything I said had to be translated, which made performing weird."
The translation must have worked: "I went to Disneyland Paris the day after and was mobbed by people for pics and autographs."
International success notwithstanding, Super's heart belongs to Pittsburgh.
"I've been everywhere performing -- Rome, Italy; Paris, France; Spain; London; New York City; Los Angeles; and Las Vegas -- but Pittsburgh is and always will be my favorite audience. They're my people and an extension of who I am.
"I guess you could say that I can be my real self ... that's a freeing feeling," he says. "For example, I couldn't say ‘yinz'or ‘jag-off' in any other show and have it understood. I get to truly be myself. I can reference Joe DiNardo or Sally Wiggin. I love it!"
Mike Super: Magic and Illusion 7:30 Sat., July 17. Palace Theatre, 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. $12-26. 724-836-3000 or www.thepalacetheatre.org