Michael Lauck is a columnist for iTricks. His work appears on Mondays.

In case you have not heard, Smoothini the Ghetto Houdini is a national sensation.

His official America’s Got Talent audition YouTube video has over 12.5 million views. That is 2.5 times the amount views of the other three magicians auditions put together.

When the two episodes of America’s Got Talent called Judgement Week aired, Smoothini was nowhere to be seen. He did not perform, he was not seen watching the other acts. His audition had been a huge hit. Not only did he have millions of views on the official AGT YouTube page, it had been reposted by dozens and dozens of other users. In fact, even a month later his video was still being reposted every day. When he was absent from the Judgement Week episodes, which revealed the acts going to the live shows, #WheresSmoothini trended on Twitter.

Smoothini did make it through to the live rounds, though, along with David and Leeman, Mat Franco and Mike Super (the first two acts have already gone through to the next round and Mike Super will have his shot before America this Tuesday). He was not only not seen in the episode, he was not mentioned until the official list of finalists was put on on the NBC website. “It was probably the best thing they could have done for me,” Smoothini said “because everyone went crazy.” As for Smoothini, he, his girlfriend Laura and family were occupied with the impending arrival of new twins. They were born as the show’s East Coast feed aired.

While he is waiting for his turn to take the stage on AGT live episodes (we now know that he will be on the August 19 show), Smoothini hit the road to do a series of live shows across the United States. I was able to catch him at the Bottleneck Blues Bar at the Ameristar Casino just outside of St. Louis. After the show, he and I sat down for a good long talk about magic, fame, his goals and more.

Before we get into the post-show conversation, it is important to understand exactly what goes on at a Smoothini show. He is a self-described bar magician, comfortable with magic done up close and with plenty of participation. The Bottleneck Blues Bar, where I saw him, is usually a music venue, set up with plenty of monitors to show sports on the “off nights” and a large bar opposite the stage. The seating is mainly arranged around small tables, although there are seats on both sides of the bar as well. Even though a camera was set up to show close ups of the stage on the many monitors, anyone in the house should have been able to see the stage clearly enough, although they may not have been able to actually see the faces of cards from the rear. There was a small table on the left side of the audience on stage a DJ set up on the right.

As show time approached, the DJ spun tracks, mainly hip hop tracks you would hear in dance clubs. Smooth came in the back of the room and surveyed the place; I had already seen him scoping out the line to get in earlier. He spotted me and came over to sit at my table. I noticed a few of the tables around noticed that Smoothini was out in the audience as we talked about the new babies and such. When he found out that my wife was not a magic fan, he jumped right out of his seat. “We’re going to change that right now,” he announced and it was on. He launched into a mini-close up show right there next to our table. Soon, the tables around us were on their feet and gathered around as well. Cards vanished and re-appeared in bras, dirty jokes were told, spongeballs danced around.

Truth be told, the magic was not “high end” by magicians’ standards. Ashes to palm, card reveals, cigarette tricks… the kind of stuff you can learn in a hundred different books. But it did not matter, not a single person said anything about that (and I kind of doubt that anyone but me and Smooth realized it). They were all too busy laughing. Then Smoothini took pictures with everyone who wanted one and he went on to get ready. As he made his way backstage, he was stopped a few more times and did more tricks and took many more pictures. As he would tell me later, “These people are paying my bills when they buy tickets, how can I be too good to take a picture?”

Before the show actually began, Smoothini walked through the crowd immediately in front of the stage at least one more time. He popped out on the stage several times to dance with the DJ when his favorite songs came on, too. He checked over his table in full view of the audience, placing two wine glasses on it. When he was finally announced, he almost bounced out on to the stage, grabbing a mike off its stand and immediately asked how the audience was doing.

Now, many comedians will tell you that they hate when people open by asking the audience this question. It is a cheap way to get a reaction from an audience. But when Smoothini asked, it was a little different. He really seemed to care; in fact, I will tell you he does care. When you go to a Smoothini show, you are really going to a party hosted by him. There is music, there is drinking and there are plenty of laughs. You may not be friends with everyone there yet, but that will change. You are partying at Smoothini’s house now.

“My name is Smoothini the Ghetto Houdini, and I like to mess with people, so I need someone to mess with… How about you!” Smooth does not need to ask for volunteers, you are fair game when you show up. He selected a middle aged guy who looks like the last person to be listening to the rap still going on in the background. He looked like the only way he would know Smooth in real life was if he was his boss. Smooth asked his name, mentioned he is terrible with names and never got it right after that. He announced that he was going to teach the guy a trick and launched into a silk to egg bit. He explained it, and then set his assistant up… with a shot. They did it together and then did the do as I do silk to egg routine, with the middle aged cat getting plenty of laughs by following Smooth’s directions, but never at his expense. At the end, Smooth did the old kicker ending where he peeled the “opening” off of his “fake” egg and cracked it open and emptied the very real yolk into his wineglass. Everyone cheered, including the guy on stage. Smooth then told him “I said do what I do, c’mon!” The victim then cracked his egg and it was real too! Everyone has learned an important lesson: Smoothini might mess with you, but he is not going to make fun of you. You are a guest at his party and everyone is there to have fun.

More assistants were chosen, more shots were poured and the tricks went on. The laughter was non-stop. The jokes were raunchy, but never quite dirty. Later he told me he was asked to try to keep it clean, but as soon as he did not get a laugh in the first bit he was worried that the crowd was not getting into the performance the way he wanted… so he went ahead and kicked in with the innuendo and cursing. I guarantee you the bar had heard worse. Smooth told the audience very early on that he and his girl had just had twins, he was off the market. It was easy to tell he was excited about the babies, but this also made him safe. His jokes were harmless, and often self effacing, such as “I need a lady to help… how about you, the blonde I could never have.” Everyone played along, it was a party.

There was a glitch in the show when an assistant busted Smoothini during his card in hat routine. The guy told Smooth later that he had seen him do it on YouTube, the price of Smooth’s newly found fame. The recovery was pure Smooth: “Damn, bro, couldn’t you just play along? These people paid for this and you just cut like 15 minutes out of the show!” The important thing was that Smoothini was laughing, at himself, the whole time. He was not mad at the guy in the slightest; it was funny that the guy busted him and he knew it. He insisted the guy stay up on stage and help him in his next bit. I think Smooth even did an extra shot with the guy.

There were only two bits of magic without audience assistance. In the middle of the show, Smooth asked the audience for an old school rap jam. Several were called out and when the DJ selected one, Smoothini used it as background for a silent rope routine. He then announced he was going to do “the drunk version,” which was a second, faster routine that ended with him throwing the rope into the crowd for examination. Of course, the guy who caught it was also the next guy to come up on stage and get messed with. At the end of the stage show came the second bit of solo magic, the salt pour which has become Smoothini’s signature piece.

During the show Smooth had explained that as a bar magician, he usually worked up close so if everyone stayed when the stage show was over, he would come around to perform at everyone’s table and even take pictures. After the stage show was over, the music kept going and Smooth made good on his word. The party went on until closing time.

After the show, I caught up with Smooth. We hung out in his hotel room and talked magic until it was time for him to get ready to catch his plane. Much of our conversation was only for us, of course, two old penpals who were finally getting the chance to sit down with each other, Smooth knew that I would be writing up something too. I wanted to do an article on him because he was suddenly bursting onto the magic scene and felt like he might be a bit misunderstood. For one thing, even though he is a new name to many (even in magic), he has been working steadily in Las Vegas for five years and has even toured with Jay-Z. He is one of those “overnight successes” with years of hard work behind him.

The fact is that Smooth is insanely popular among TV viewers, but I have heard some magicians bad mouth him because of his simple tricks. He calls himself a “karaoke magician” because he does not create new effects. He adapts things that have been published by others to his style. Still, why go with such simple tricks on his AGT audition? Spongeballs, pen up the nose and a salt pour? That is the most basic of beginner magic. The pen, he said, was spur of the moment. As far as the spongeball and salt pour, “I wanted to make magic kit stuff entertaining. I wanted kids watching at home to be like oh, man, I can do that!” That is at the core of Smoothini’s approach to magic.

“I am just a karaoke magician, but that is okay because my real job is being an entertainer. I’ll tell jokes, we’ll drink and have fun. Why are people paying money to see me? To be entertained, to have fun. They don’t care if I am doing simple magic, it is still magic to them. They don’t care if I am using a thumbtip or whatever as long as we are having fun.”

As far as America’s Got Talent goes, Smooth is excited that both magic acts who have been on the live shows have made it through. He honestly expects both Mike Super and himself to get through because “America is ready for a magician to win this.” And will it be him? “I already won, I already got so much out of this. I just want to see one of the magicians win.” But is he trying to win? “Of course! I need a million dollars, I got kids to feed!” Fair enough.

I asked Smooth about what he wanted for the future, whether or not he won AGT. He told me how he wanted to give back to magic, because it had already gave him so much. He wants to help kids see that if they practice and apply themselves, they can do everything he does and more. I pressed a little more about Smooth himself, and his career. “What you saw tonight is just a skeleton of the show I want to do,” he said, “if I had the money to put into it I would do so much more. But I will always be a bar magician, so no boxes.” What does that mean? His own theater? “I would love that, something like tonight, you know? My own theater with a DJ and some guest acts, magicians and music, too. Magic and then it is like a club.”

The way he is going, do not be surprised if that club opens sooner rather than later.