Collins Key was four when he made his stage debut in a Shakespeare play. Post his stage debut, he decided to perform magic as the play and stage format was a bit too limited for a hyperactive kid of nine. “Shakespeare and theatre was only on stage, but magic I could do everywhere for almost everyone. And the way I could connect with the people through that — it was really personal. I could see their reactions and responses. And that’s when I shifted my focus to magic. I went to magic school,” says Los Angeles-based Key, who learnt magic, not through Hogwarts but went through a painstaking and rigorous process. He enrolled himself in a private exclusive club in LA — the Magic Castle. “It’s an audition only programme, and almost like a real-life Hogwarts. They have the world’s largest magic library. In the States, a lot of boys at the age of about nine turn to magic. For most, the interest doesn’t last for long. But it stayed with me and just clicked. It was natural but not easy as I was in my room all day, practicing. It was kind of lonely but super cool,” says Key.
Now at 21, he is a YouTube sensation after being one of the five finalists on of America’s Got Talent, Season 8, where he was judged by model and designer Heidi Klum and English singer and actor Mel B among others. His eponymous channel, which he started in 2011 has enlisted about 1,478,696,539 views and about 10 million subscribers. Key was recently in India to perform and attend the YouTube FanFest in Mumbai. He caught up with us between gigs, while being transported from one venue to the other. “You might hear honking. That’s not me,” he said with a chuckle over the phone from Mumbai. Key’s energy is palpable, even while talking over the phone. “I’m just hydrated. I drink a lot of water. But I have always had this crazy amount of energy. I was the kid who would be screamed at by parents, ‘sit down’ or ‘you will break something’. I thought it would burn down with age, but well it hasn’t,” he says.
Key’s repertoire of tricks on the show included teleporting a dollar into a popcorn bag, sealing himself in an envelope and making Klum sit on it, and to predict the clothing worn by the judges before he saw them and Twitter hashtags used by three unknown members of the audience before his performance.
But while his magical acts were all about control and hiding how the trick works, his channel has him unhinged. He does videos like Pancake Art Challenge, DIY pranks, cupcake art challenge, and how to make food out of slime. His younger brother, Devan Key is often seen in the videos with him. “The idea was actually thrown around by my fans. They started writing to me, that ‘oh it would be fun to see you do this’. And the craziness kept growing. It’s honest fun that the whole family can sit and enjoy together,” he says.
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