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Unlocking the Mysteries of Collins Key

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

Collins Key performing at the Demi Lovato, Fifth Harmony and Little Mix show at the Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia PA, March 1, 2014. Photo by Shana Bergmann.

Unlocking the Mysteries of

Collins Key

by Shana Bergmann

Teenaged magician and heartthrob Collins Key, has become magic’s next big thing. The world first discovered him competing on the eighth season of NBC’s America‘s Got Talent. Now he is bringing magic back to audiences that forgot how much they loved it. For example, he is currently master of ceremonies on a pop music tour featuring Demi Lovato, Fifth Harmony and Little Mix. Incorporating mentalism and social media into his acts, Key has engaged a younger generation of viewers (called Keypers). His innovative take on magic feels like a breath of fresh air.

In the midst of having a little chat after interviewing him, I realized that fame really hasn’t gotten to him. This is no persona in which he puts on while performing. What you see is what you get. His sense of humor, sincerity and wholesome values have shaped a grounded and apparently genuinely good guy. Key made it a point to say that his family meant the world to him. He demonstrates this by adorning himself with a key tied to his neck. It’s not just any key, though. It turns out that this key has been in Collins’s family for over a hundred years and unlocks an heirloom treasure chest.

That’s just scratching the surface of the mystery of Collins Key. See for yourself, just how truly interesting Collins Key is.

How and when did you get involved with magic?

I started off doing magic when I was twelve years old. It just seemed fun. I loved it because it was just the perfect ice breaker. Those first few moments when you walk up to someone and want to start a conversation, there is always that really awkward, “Hi, I’m Collins.” Magic was always the perfect ice-breaker. The perfect way to start any conversation.

Did any particular magician inspire you?

Not really. I haven’t really seen that many magicians. Honestly, I’ve never even been to a magic show in my life… which is kind of weird. I’ve actually never even been to a concert before. The first concert I’ve ever been to was the first show I did in Vancouver with Demi. I’ve never really been introduced to any of that kind of stuff. So it gave me time to develop by myself. Come up with my own ideas and incorporate that into the environments that I’m in.

How do you come up with your illusions?

A lot of it is just figuring out what is fun and finding out what cool stuff I can do. A lot of stuff I do is social media integrated magic. I do a lot of stuff that involves Twitter. Like tonight, I’ll be doing something with Twitter. Everyone in the audience, they all use Twitter on their phone and they’re all involved in the trick. I basically just like making fun concepts. I’m constantly thinking of new stuff. What I love about magic is that it’s breaking all of the barriers. I think, “Well let me think of something that’s impossible and find out a way to make it work.” It’s an extremely challenging process, but at the same time, it’s very rewarding when it works out.

What is the usual process?

It’s kind of difficult. The hardest part is coming up with the initial idea for it. You basically have to come up with an idea that’s so impossible and is just so out there. Something people haven’t seen before. That’s one of the most difficult things, because in magic so many things have been done before. It’s hard. The Twitter trick was inspired because I’m always on Twitter anyway. I was like, “Well how can I integrate this into the magic?” So that’s that.  

What was your most embarrassing moment on stage?

Oh… Where do I begin? Well actually speaking of embarrassing, the first show of the Neon Lights tour, my headset mike turned off in the middle of my last set for some random reason. We still don’t know why. It just turned off. It’s my first show and its chaos. (sarcastically) Oh that was fun. I’ve had people throw up on stage before. That was lovely. I found out that it’s really hard to recover from that. What else? I used to work at renaissance festivals, actually. At a ren fair, its the perfect training ground because anything could happen. I’ve literally had people try and steal my props in the middle of the show. I’m up there doing a show. This dude came up, walked back and grabbed one of my props and started walking off. I’m like, “What are you doing?” The worst was when I was doing this one show and this guy ran up on stage. The dude was wearing nothing more than a man thong and he had baby oil all over his body. He comes up on stage like, “Do the moon dance with me.” And it was a kids area, too. Luckily though, nothing like that has happened on the Demi tour.

What do you think of Howard Stern?

I think Howard is the boss. I love Howard. He’s really cool. One of the things I love about Americas Got Talent is that they’re really honest. There are certain TV shows where they praise every single act. I feel like when they praise everything that you do, it puts everyone on the same level. It’s so much more powerful when one act gets criticized and another act gets praised. It really makes the distinction a lot clearer to everyone who is watching at home. But yeah, I love him. He’s just awesome. Very straight to the point. It’s good to have a judge who’s like that. 

What have you been doing since your successful showing on America's Got Talent?

Good. I'm on the Demi tour! So obviously good. [America's Got Talent] was an amazing opportunity. It was one of those things where I never even expected to get past the first round. It was a fluke. They found me on YouTube and called me in for an audition. I actually turned down the show three times because it's not my style. They're always looking for illusionists. How do you go bigger? How to do you cut this lady in half? In eight seasons so you've seen practically every magic trick in the book. Every professional magician pretty much has auditioned for that show. The stuff I was doing was more intimate. More personal. So it was just difficult. One thing I made sure I did was that every single show, every single act involved all four of the judges. That was something that I came up with in the beginning which really helped me out. It kept people interested. It kept the judges interested. It brought a nice element to it. The trick I did for my first audition was that I made a bill disappear and for it to reappear in a bag of Doritos. It was a ratchet first audition. They bring in this magician and they're expecting props and cutting this lady in half and I show up with a bag of Doritos. I was like, "Here are some Doritos for you guys. Do you have a bill?" Then I lit the bill on fire and it went in the bag. They ate the Doritos afterwards.

What kind of an impact is it having on your career?

It's everything. It took me from doing ren fairs with people trying to steal my props to now being on the Demi tour. So it's really an amazing opportunity.

What's your favorite illusion that you perform?

Oh my gosh, I don't know. There is one where I get to smash people's phones on stage. That one is one of my favorites. I literally get brought on tour to smash the crap out of phones. It's kind of a dream come true right there. I love breaking things. I love just smashing stuff. I had this idea where like: "Well what if I could go on stage and break stuff for everybody?" Then it worked. People said yes and I was like: awesome!

Does anybody get mad?

Oh yeah, sure. There's been a couple of close calls. Especially when you smash them. Sometimes there will be glass that flies out and I'm like, "Wait, was that the iPhone glass or the other phone glass?" One time this girl almost started crying because she thought I smashed her phone. I didn't. I gave it to her and she was happy. Just in general though, I love what I get to do up there. I love the fact that I get to go to the audience and do something. I really love the Twitter trick. That's probably one of my favorites, just because out of all the stuff that I do, it's probably the most unique.

Have you ever really screwed up a trick on stage?

Yes, so many... oh my gosh. It's like everything else. A dancer will mess up moves. A singer will mess up moves. But the thing about magic is that people don't know what it's supposed to be. If you're doing a play and no one has seen the play before, you could improv the entire play and people would be like, "Oh, that was a fantastic play." And you'd be like, "yeah... I improvised the whole thing" People don't know that. Same with a magic trick.

What kind of impact is it having on your dating life?

I have zero game. I'm single. I don't know, when I have a girlfriend I want to give her the proper time and attention. Touring is a busy life. I'll eventually get a girlfriend.

Does a magician ever reveal his secrets?

Nope. Never. Nope. Only the good ones keep their secrets.

Of all the people in the world, who would you like to make disappear?

Disappear? Oh snap. Uh oh. This is like some government type stuff. Um... I don't know. The whole [Joseph] Kony thing was a fluke right?

He's a real person.

He is?

He is. The video was a hoax, though.

Oh, okay. Um... Where am I? Um... Who don't we like right now?

Who don't you like?

I don't know. I'm on tour. I don't know. I don't even know what day it is right now. I would make disappear... uh... That's an impossible question. I really don't know. Santa Claus.

Santa Claus?! Are you trying to ruin children's lives?

No! That's terrible! Oh God! No! I retract that. Why Santa Claus? Oh God. Holy cow.

This interview has really taken a turn for the worse.

Absolutely. Santa! Don't put me on the naughty list! Oh my God. That was awful.

Do magicians ever "steal" tricks from other magicians?

I don't think so. The thing with magic is like anything else, you get inspiration. You get inspired by other people and all that. At the end of the day there are only five premises of tricks. What I love to do is just... well, I don't watch magicians. I watch a performance piece. If I want inspiration, I'll watch Michael Jackson or The Beatles. I watch legendary performers. I love to take inspiration from other art forms.

Is magic real?

It's your perception of it. It depends on your perception, like with anything else.

When you see an illusion performed by another magician, can you figure out how it's being done?

Unfortunately, yes. It's like anything else, once you're immersed enough in whatever subject it is, you get to follow along with where the person is going. It's frustrating, because I love to be fooled. It's one of those things where it's funny, because most people become magicians to figure out how it works. Me? I loved to be fooled. If you can fool me, thank you, so much. You're the coolest person ever.

Well, last question. Have you ever messed up and actually cut the girl in half?

I've never actually cut anyone in half. Personally, to me, and I'm not dissing out other magicians or anything, but that style of magic doesn't speak to me. What people traditionally think of magic, I try to stay away from. I feel like that era has come and now I think it's time for a new one. It's more of an organic feel now, not so much contrived. I mean, think about it, that's where we're at right now. People don't watch sitcoms anymore because it's so contrived. People like reality TV. Same thing with magic, people love the spontaneous feeling of, "Oh, this is just happening right here in the moment." Copyright ©2014  All rights reserved. Posted: April 9, 2014. 

Photo Credit:© 2014 Shana Bergmann.


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