There was a certain tension in the air on the day former Cariboo magician Clinton W. Gray stepped onto a Las Vegas stage to perform part of his comedy magic show — and it wasn’t only because magic legends Penn and Teller were keeping a close eye on him.
Gray, who honed his craft in Williams Lake and the Cariboo and is now living in Kamloops, will appear on the The CW Network TV show Penn & Teller: Fool Us on Monday, Aug. 17 at 9 p.m.
But his episode of the show was filmed in March, just one day after the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic.
“I was the last act of the last show on the last day,” Gray told Kamloops This Week.
“And, at that point, you didn’t really know what was coming.”
Gray said the seventh season of the show was filmed over the course of about two weeks, and with everything wrapping up especially quickly due to increased concern about the novel coronavirus, he didn’t get much of a chance to meet the famous duo.
But he did get the opportunity to attempt to fool them.
Gray connected with the show’s producers through a friend and was ready with a pitch he thought would get some attention — he would chop off an arm.
“I knew this was something that would freak her out,” he said, referring to Fool Us host Alyson Hannigan, who often plays the role of magician’s assistant on stage.
The big-stage gig will likely be a boon to Gray, but not for some time.
When COVID-19 hit, the Kamloops magician said he lost close to $80,000 in bookings as everything shut down and gathering restrictions were implemented.
Gray called the corporate and trade show market his “bread and butter” and said locals might not recognize his name because of his limited appearances here, which have included the Children’s Art and Hydra festivals.
The TV appearance is “probably the biggest thing I’ve done,” Gray said.
Even though he has performed for larger physical audiences in the past, the reach of a television show like Fool Us could pay dividends, in terms of reputation, to Gray once bookings resume.
With in-person shows mostly off the table for now, Gray said he is fine financially, with rainy day money set aside and a spouse who is still working, but is considering returning to website development to keep himself occupied.
“The problem is that entertainers had these backup plans that are still involved in entertainment,” he said.
“You know, if there’s a recession and the corporate market dries up, maybe I would go to the fundraising side of things. But all of that went away … because there can’t be large groups.”
Gray will appear in the seventh episode of the seventh season of Penn & Teller: Fool Us, set to air on Monday, Aug. 17.