Norfolk’s Great American Comedy Festival opened Thursday night with a lot of magic mixed in with a little comedy, too.
The performance at the Johnny Carson Theatre featured self-proclaimed “best friends” — magician Ben Seidman and juggler Marcus Monroe — along with surprise guest magician Charlie Caper.
Following a tribute to the late Johnny Carson — after whom the festival was created 12 years ago — Seidman began his part of the show by making a handkerchief appear to pass through the microphone stand to the audience’s amazement.
Soon after, Monroe began juggling — starting with balls, then switching to hoops, then clubs and, later, knives. He has appeared on several television shows, including “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Pawn Stars” and “Secret Talents of the Stars.”
The show then went back to magic as Seidman correctly guessed the cards that several audience volunteers were thinking of. He guest stars on Netflix’s show “Brainchild” and has appeared on the CW show “Fool Us.”
Monroe took his turn again, this time spinning up to seven bowls on sticks while painting what turned out to be a portrait of Seidman.
Seidman and Monroe turned the show over to Caper after that.
Caper, who is from Sweden, won “Sweden’s Got Talent” in 2009. He previously worked with Seidman on the Swedish television show “Helt magiskt” after he hired him to help. He also has worked with Monroe before.
Caper’s portion of the show focused on magic tricks such as pulling pop cans from his shoe, making objects appear to pass through glass cups and putting a newspaper back together after tearing it up.
A recurring trick, and an audience favorite, of Caper’s performance was his disappearing bowtie that would show up throughout his tricks.
After Caper completed his portion of the performance, Monroe performed his final acts of the night, juggling knives, balancing chairs and ladders on his nose and even riding a “bedazzled” 7-foot unicycle while juggling knives.
The show was a shortened version of the one Seidman and Monroe have been performing for the last several weeks. It was shortened to make time for Caper’s performance, Monroe said.
Seidman, who also performed at the 2018 Great American Comedy Festival, brought the three performers together after he was asked to host the 2019 comedy-magic show. Monroe and Caper were the two performers he immediately thought of, Seidman said.
Monroe said he was pleased with how Thursday’s performance went — and numerous audience members agreed.
Stefan Christ has seen magic shows in the past, but this one was better. “It was a great show,” Christ said. “I wish I could come again.”
Skyler Krause said the knife juggling and Caper’s magic tricks were her favorite parts of the show.
“It was really good,” she said. “It was better than what I thought it would be.”
After the show, all three performers signed autographs and took photos with fans.
In addition to Seidman’s return performance at the Great American Comedy Festival, Monroe also was a repeat performer, having been part of the 2017 festival.
“We think it’s so cool — the community that has been built around this show,” Seidman said. “They treat us (the performers) great, and they want everyone to have a great show.”
Caper and Seidman will be sticking around to see the rest of the festival, they said.
“It’s going to be great,” Caper said. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s shows.”
The Great American Comedy Festival continues at 7 p.m. Friday with actor and comedian Dave Coulier performing at the Johnny Carson Theatre. Coulier starred in “Full House” and hosted “America’s Funniest People.” He also has performed stand-up on “The Tonight Show.” Friday also will feature a 10 p.m. CableOne Late Night Show for adults at the Divots Conference Center in Norfolk.
Then, on Saturday at 7 p.m., will be the closing Festival Gala featuring comedian and actor Paul Reiser as headliner.