Interview with master illusionist Rob Lake

There is nothing quite like catching a live magic show.  Just watching the amazing tricks unfold make you wonder "how did he do that?" You leave the show happier and wanting more. And that's just what 34-year-old illusionist and master magician Rob Lake does.

Rob is a sight to behold on many levels.  Not only is he movie star-great looking, but his friendly, intelligent and playful show makes audiences all around the world smile.

The Magic of Rob Lake at Harrah's Lake Tahoe Dec 22 to Jan 7 2017 from Rob Lake on Vimeo.

Lake has been perfecting his magic since he was a child growing up in Norman, Oklahoma and has wowed millions with his shows on TV and in venues around the world.  In 2008, he was the youngest magician to receive magic’s highest honor the Merlin Award for International Stage Magician of the Year.  He was also dubbed the “Top Illusionist in the World” by Caesars Entertainment. If that wasn't enough, he has also been called upon to serve as a magic consultant for TV, films and theater productions including The Phantom of the Opera and Disney’s Beauty & the Beast.

Lake has performed for our troops for more than 10 years.  One of his most well-known tricks was making a 20-ton armored truck with $1 million in cash inside appear out of thin air for a promotion at Downtown Memphis’ FedEx Forum arena for Caesars, which was seen live by more than 15,000 people.

The Magic of Rob Lake highlight reel from Rob Lake on Vimeo.

The clever and kind magician, Rob Lake spoke with about his professional journey and rise to success, an epic fail as well as his world travels with his beloved dog Roger. Plus find out who his favorite illusionists are (hint:  it isn’t who you would think), the charities he supports and more.

TheCelebrityCafe:  Hi, Rob so let's begin from the beginning. Where are you from?

Rob Lake:  I am from Norman, Oklahoma.

TCC:  Please tell me about your childhood.

RL:  I grew up like a normal kid, just the difference was when I was about 10 years old, I saw a magic show and I knew immediately then and there that I will be a magician.

TCC:  Do you remember the first magic trick you ever did?

RL:  I do. Well you know actually there are a few. I saw a magic show and then I went to my school library and I got every book I could find on magic. So I started with card tricks and coin tricks and magic with household objects and everyday objects because as a 10-year-old kid, I, of course, couldn't afford expensive magic props. So I would do things like with a newspaper or with food from the kitchen. Just basically starting and then I would try with everybody. I knew I drove them crazy with card tricks too.

TCC:  So were your parents and siblings your guinea pigs?

RL:  They were and my teachers and my friends and the neighbors and anyone who I could come close to.

TCC:  How did you hone your talent to become the magician you are now?

RL:  Just persistence and lots and lots of passion and practice, practice, practice.

Rob Lake

TCC:  Now, what was your first paid gig as a magician?

RL:  I would do birthday parties and I would do charity shows and shows for civic groups and churches around my hometown. So if I had to think of the first one it will be probably one of those, probably a birthday party actually.

TCC:  And then as things got bigger, when did you start performing in clubs and for more adult audiences.

RL:  When I was a kid in high school I'd do civic shows and groups for tour predominantly for adults. And when I was 20 years old I left school to do magic full time. And that's when I started to do casino shows and corporate events and theater shows.

TCC:  Now tell me about a time when you experienced an epic fail during one of your shows.

RL:  That's a great question. Luckily with my cast and crew we try to rehearse every possible contingency that we could think of. The biggest fail I think I had one time in one theater they were doing construction down the road and the power got knocked out about three times in the show. [laughter] And all three times were the most inconvenient possible for an illusion. In the middle of an illusion where something was happening everyone we had a lot of volunteers on stage. Those were pretty epic. And then not too long ago in another country when we were performing-- normally we try to bring our own sound, lights, and the whole infrastructure, the whole crew. But this one particular venue because we had no choice but to use the house crew. We could only get so many international work visas. The lighting operator had left his post to go text his girlfriend during the middle of a show. Yes, yes and that created a few hassles and issues I could say.

Rob Lake ©In Color Studios

TCC:  Wow. Did the guy get a dressing down or get fired?

RL:  Neither, just part of the culture of that country. [laughter] It’s all good. But the next time we went back there we made sure we got enough of the record pieces to have the entire staff running with us.

TCC:  Do you think it's harder to be a magician now with all the spoilers out there than it would have been an era before social media?

RL:  Not really. There's so many more ways you can connect to somebody. Before, you could have gone to the library and found stuff. Now, it's a lot easier to Google something. But the cool thing is what amazed people in the vaudevillian era, the days of Houdini and the great magicians, still amazes people today. Even though if you still see something on video, it's still live, it still is amazing. We do modern versions of some of these classical illusions. But when you levitate somebody, we still know what gravity is, and we still, for the most part, haven't been able to defy it. So today, I think it's just the social media and the internet allows us to reach more and amaze more. And I think we really, more than ever, need that sense of wonder and excitement that magic can bring.

TCC:  Now, you're an international traveler, how do your international audiences differ from American ones?

RL:  Not very much. A few things, like in marketing, like when we do Japan. They're the country that has plastic food for everything on the menu in the window. So our posters almost have to say, "Here is the exact show you're going to see." But other than the show itself, it's very, very similar. We do make some changes, and we have to adapt the pace of the show for translators to repeat what I say. But again, the same laws of nature, disappearing is the same no matter what language you speak, and mind-reading is the same, and teleporting and cutting somebody in half is the same. So different cultures have different respects for magic. Asian cultures, I think, because it's so ingrained in their mythologies and their archetypes and their cultures, it's very, very popular there and gets a louder reaction than here. But, honestly, it's a universal art.

TCC:  Now, who are some of the magicians whom you admire?

Rob Lake ©In Color Studios

RL:  I had a couple mentors growing up. But believe it or not, my heroes and idols, and to this day, were not actually, well, considered magicians, even though I do. Walt Disney for example, I think of him as one of the greatest wizards of all time. He wasn't technically a magician with trickery, but he created magical experiences in magical worlds. And Steven Spielberg is the same. So, for me, I always look up to and study and learn from these other artists who have magical talents.

TCC:  So you like Masters of Illusion regardless of their medium?

RL:  Totally.

TCC:  Now, how would you describe your style of magic?

RL:  Very theatrical. Before I got into magic, and afterwards and growing up, I have always loved the theatre. And so, even though I started with small tricks, my goal was to produce a large stage show. And right now it takes four semi-trucks to travel the show around, and the majority of that is the scenery and the lighting and the theatrics of our show. So, everything we do is on a grand theatrical scale. And I've also tried to make the show very interactive. Kind of timed back to your questions about social media, people use, sometimes will say, "Oh, if I was up clear and close, I could figure out I could see it." So throughout the entire show I would bring members of the show on stage, and I'd take the magic into the house to make the whole audience really experience the magic first-hand.

TCC:  Now how to you choose which other media to incorporate into your shows?

RL:  I have a great, wonderful creative team that works with me. And we do things to make the show very interactive, like I said. So we have video screens to project the smaller moments up close. And we're very soon going to be making it more interactive with people's own smart phones and devices within the show. And like I said, I've always loved the theatricality of it, so I want to make it as exciting of an experience as you would see a concert or a theatre show, building the environment around the magic and the illusions that are happening.

TCC:  What are your long term professional goals?

Rob Lake ©In Color Studios

RL:  Ultimately, to keep loving doing this and keep doing this. I haven't ever wanted to do anything else and so I'm really lucky that the universe has been great for me to follow my dreams all around the world so far. And as long as I'm loving it, I still want to do it. We are hoping to break into TV and have some exciting things there.

And I've been really lucky and fortunate to do this with my career, my job. So now it's kind of my time to give back. We're really excited on some new partnerships we're doing with some charity groups to really make a magical experience. Not only for the audience but just to allow myself and the audience to really give back to some groups we need to.

TCC:  Now when you're not working what do you like to do for fun?

RL:  I'm always working but when I have downtime I love to cook. I love to spend time with my dog. I'm pretty laid back, so just a quiet off-stage life. And even though I travel a lot for work I absolutely love traveling, to sail and seeing the world.

TCC:  What's the dog's name?

RL:  His name is Roger. He is a little rescue dog. And the hardest thing about being on the road for me, I'm on the road about 90 to 95 percent of the year and for years the hardest thing was missing a dog. So chance encounter saw him. I had been looking for a dog and never found the right one. And right before I was leaving to go on tour I saw him. And he's turned out great. He travels all over with me. And I even give him a part in the show sometimes.

TCC:  My next question was going to be what's the best thing about being a magician? And then the worst? Though the worst might be leaving your dog.

RL:  The worst was leaving my dog. But luckily, he's a small little dog. And he loves to travel. He's very calm. And he's a rescue. He's an older dog so he's very mature and doesn't mind the traveling. So being on the road is probably one of the worst things. And the best thing is the wonder and the enchantment that I get to create for an audience. Just seeing the looks on their faces. Even the hardest of adults just for a moment has this feeling that anything, even magic could be real.

Rob Lake and Roger

TCC:  What advice do you have for people who aspire to be professional magicians?

RL:  The same advice that people gave me when I was growing u and that's make it fun. Ultimately, people want to have a good time. They want to be amazed. But if it's not entertaining, if it's not exciting and engaging, it's not worth anything. So, unfortunately, a lot of magic can be very dry. So I try to make it very entertaining.

TCC:  Now, how do you practice your routines?

RL:  It takes years and years to come up with them. We will engineer. We will build prototypes. Being on the road, this makes it challenging. But we have a great team that travels with us. So between shows or before shows, we will rehearse, and work on these prototypes for the technicalities of it. And then we just have to schedule rehearsal time. On our time off in my warehouse. Or we're on the road in a theater, we'll go in a day early. Or do what we can to get the stage time to get it ready.

TCC:  Where do you live now?

RL:  I live in Marriot, Hilton, Sheraton, Casinos [laughter]…  Literally, I'm on the road 95% of the year. My home is still in Oklahoma, but I'm very rarely there.

TCC:  How often do you get back to see family and friends?

RL:  Not often. It's a weird fluke. I had a few things unexpectedly cancel on me this spring, which allowed me some time to come home. Which is really great. I just lost two grandparents in the last month--

TCC:  Oh, I'm sorry for your losses.

Rob Lake and Roger on the road

RL:  It was bad for us, but it was a good time for them. They had really long, great lives. It was kind of a miracle situation where these random, fluke, bazaar cancellations allowed me to have some great quality time at home.

TCC:  I'm glad you got the time. I'm sorry for the reason, though.

RL:  Yeah. Obviously, things happen for a reason. And it worked out okay, but normally I'm not home that often much at all so I communicate with friends and family via Facebook or emails or phone calls or Skype.

TCC:  Now are you part of that kind of exclusive magician's club in Los Angeles?

RL:  I've actually never been there. There are several magic organizations, so I grew up a part of them and they were very supportive and wonderful. But I'm a big Disney nut, so I'm in LA with down time, I'm usually going to go to Disneyland.

TCC:  How do you like your fans to connect with you?

RL:  Social media -- you know the cool thing is that I get to meet most of them after a show because I do come out and sign and greet the audience after every single show. So these face-to-face meetings and connections are really cool because people have been coming to see me for years and they'll bring last year's picture and the year before's just to show me. And it's great to reconnect and they'll talk about how they've changed and the show's changed. But then we do keep in touch, I am pretty active on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, so it's fun to be able to keep in touch with people all over the world.

TCC:  Are there any charitable organizations that you support?

RL:  Yes, quite a few. Every year I do a tour for the US military to entertain the troops overseas. We take one or two months of our schedule and we go to remote areas overseas to bring some magic and some America to troops and their families overseas. So that's one of the groups we do regularly. And then the other one I do are animal rescue groups. I've always had dogs in my life and my best friend now is my new dog and he's also a rescue. So about once a year I will do a benefit show in my hometown for several of the animal rescue groups. And we just did this in January and raised almost $50,000 for them in one night.

TCC:  That's great work.

RL:  And then there are some others that we're going to announce on a bigger scale to be able to give back even more.

TCC:  Wonderful. Well is there anything you'd like to add?

RL:  No I really appreciate your time and I think you covered most of the basis. It's a fun career and I'm lucky every day I get to do what I love to do.

TCC:  And where can people find you?

RL:  Website:

Twitter: @RobLakeMagic


We're touring this spring and fall and this summer we're parked back at Harrah's Lake Tahoe.

TCC: Well thank you again Rob, I wish you luck--

RL:  Absolutely, oh thank you.

Rob Lake: A Day in the Life from Rob Lake on Vimeo.

You can find out more about Rob Lake and see when he is performing near you here.



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Michelle Tompkins

Michelle Tompkins is an award-winning media, PR and crisis communications professional with more than ten years experience with coverage in virtually every traditional and new media outlet. She is currently a communications and media strategist and writer, as well as the author of College Prowler: Guidebook for Columbia University. She served as the Media Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the USA where she managed all media and talking points, created social media strategy, trained executives and donors and served as the organization’s primary spokesperson, participating in daily interviews with local, regional, and national media outlets. She managed the media for the Let Me Know internet safety and Cyberbullying prevention campaign with Microsoft, as well as Girl Scouts’ centennial Year of the Girl To Get Her There celebration in 2012, which yielded more than 800 million earned media impressions. In addition to her extensive media experience, Michelle worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, California, as well contracting as a digital content developer and her writing has appeared in newspapers and online. She is passionate about television, theater, classic movies, all things food and in-home entertaining. While she has lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade, she is from suburban Sacramento and gets back there often to watch the San Francisco Giants on TV with her family.

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