When two grown men fight over the title of world’s greatest magician, everybody wins. Predominately the purview of children’s parties and particularly depressing midlife crises, magic is also the chosen career of a handful of professional illusionists. This 2016 alliance of magicians is helmed by two powerhouses: Criss Angel and David Copperfield. For years, Angel and Copperfield have maintained a seemingly tranquil relationship as the two most popular magicians on the Las Vegas strip. But according to recent events, it appears that this harmonious relationship was nothing but a perfect illusion.
Particularly bold dye jobs and otherworldly command of supernatural forces aside, magicians are just like us: they’re vain, petty, and love to stir up drama on Twitter. Back in May, Criss Angel decided to engage in some light social media PR, retweeting an article deeming him “The biggest name in Las Vegas Magic.” The article came courtesy of Bloomberg Businessweek, which Angel referred to as “the most respected business magazine.” Unfortunately, Angel’s self-proclaimed supremacy was short-lived—on Oct. 27, Forbes named Copperfield the highest-paid magician in the world. Needless to say, Criss Angel was irked. For a man who has had metal suspension hooks inserted into his back, the magician has surprisingly thin skin. Angel’s multi-pronged social media offensive began with him quoting Vanish, “#1MagicMagazineWorldwide,” who crowned him the highest paid magician in the world.
Rather than resting on the journalistic reputation of Vanish magazine, Angel then retweeted his own Bloomberg tweet, adding, “Most respected business mag got it right without bias or agenda&I don't buy twitter followers or reviews like he who plays venue 1/2 my size.” This tweet is very informative. Most importantly, it indicates that Criss Angel will not refer to David Copperfield by name, using the sort of “he who must not be named” approach usually reserved for Voldemort and Donald Trump. Secondly, it hones in on Angel’s two main points: that he is better than David Copperfield, and that David Copperfield has dabbled in the dark art of purchasing Twitter followers. For a feud between two Las Vegas magicians, this beef is comically lacking in showbiz pizazz, essentially boiling down to Twitter bots and seating capacities. According to the website Twitter audit, Angel has a point. The site gives Copperfield a 30% audit score, claiming that he has over two million fake followers. Meanwhile, Angel checks out with an 85% score, but only has around one million followers overall. Clearly, Angel is salty that his competitor maintains the fraudulent appearance of a larger social media following.
Criss Angel’s real feud is with Forbes’ ranking. However, this hasn’t stopped him from going after Copperfield every chance he gets. In one tweet, he mused that, “The old school, tired, hokey magic shows of yesterday are done…#POOF.” In another, he insisted that “I don’t buy my twitter followers, reviews or hair,” insinuating that David Copperfield’s social media following is as fake as his raven-colored coiffure. And in his latest attack, Angel bragged, “Just hit 1million Real twitter followers. Didn’t buy them like DC—who continues to buy all his fake followers. Real fans can’t be bought.” Meanwhile, Copperfield retweeted a Forbes graphic illustrating his status as the world’s highest-paid magician. Aside from that tweet, which appears to be a response to Angel’s taunts, he’s just been sharing glowing reviews from his fans. Either David Copperfield is classy AF, or he’s just a 60-year-old man who doesn’t actively use his Twitter account.
So, who is Vegas’ greatest magician? Having taken the huge logical leap of assuming that magic is both real and worthy of analysis, the first step is assessing the profitability of Angel and Copperfield’s respective shows. Copperfield performs in an MGM Grand Theater that boasts 743 seats. Meanwhile, Criss’ Luxor Theater can hold up to 1,533. Therefore, Forbes’ ranking does seem a tad suspect—it would take a true magical feat for Copperfield to conjure up profits rivaling Angel’s, given the size of his venue and his average ticket price. Official David Copperfield tickets start selling at $71.37, with Criss Angel seats going for as low as $64.31.
The various magazines who have crowned Criss Angel as Vegas’s top magician are likely taking into account the entirety of Angel’s brand. According to the Bloomberg Businessweek piece, which claims that the magician generates about $70 million in annual profits, Angel’s success comes from his TV specials, reruns of Mindfreak on A&E, and his touring show “The Supernaturalists.” Also, Criss Angel has made more than $35 million dollars off of magic kits since 2005. That being said, David Copperfield is no stranger to diverse revenue streams. When not performing on the strip, the magician manages his chain of eleven resort islands in the Bahamas, which he calls “Musha Cay and the Islands of Copperfield Bay.”
Profitability aside, the debate over the world’s greatest magician ultimately comes down to taste. There are three types of people in this world: David Copperfield fans, Criss Angel fans, and the 95% of the population that doesn’t care for magic. Members of the first two groups will likely agree that these illusionists have extremely different styles. Copperfield is old school and classy—his stage name is a freaking Charles Dickens’ reference. His television specials have won 21 Emmy Awards. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is a member of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He was named a living legend by the U.S. Library of Congress, making him an actual national treasure. Copperfield wows his audiences with an intoxicating cocktail of storytelling and illusion.
Meanwhile, Criss Angel has tapped into the unique desire of many to be simultaneously, awed, scared, skeeved out, and a little bit turned on. Angel became an unlikely sex symbol in the early aughts by closely resembling the hottest scene kid at your local middle school. But his greatest feat was tricking the world into believing that he was a B-list celebrity. From producing some genuinely compelling television to dating Paris Hilton and publicly feuding with Perez Hilton, Angel knew how to stay in the spotlight. He also co-authored a book, Mindfreak: Secret Revelations, which provides step-by-step instructions for 40 of his basic Mindfreaks—and which, if Arrested Development has taught me anything, makes Criss Angel a really bad magician.
At the end of the day, mystery and magic go hand in hand. We may never know which illusionist is superior. What we do know is that they both perform at venues that are owned and operated by MGM, making the global entertainment company the real winner of this attention-grabbing feud.