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Las Vegas illusionists sweep top 3 spots of Forbes’ ‘Highest-Paid Magicians’ list

Las Vegas magicians led by David Copperfield conjured a formidable $114 million a year and swept the top three spots on a new Forbes list of “The World’s Highest-Paid Magicians.”

The magazine’s first ranking of magic acts in 12 years placed Copperfield at the top of the seven-name list with an estimated $64 million, followed by Penn & Teller at $31.5 million and Criss Angel at $19 million.

A Bloomberg piece about Angel this year estimated the Luxor headliner’s annual earnings at about $70 million, but Forbes took issue with that number in print: “upon closer inspection, Forbes determined that Angel earned $19 million in our 12-month scoring period.”

“I think it’s good for magic when somebody in our art is put in the same category as Beyonce or Taylor Swift,” Copperfield said Wednesday.

He said he was especially proud of himself and Rio headliners Penn & Teller making Forbes’ more comprehensive list of “The World’s Highest-Paid Celebrities” last July.

“The fact that we were both on there says a lot for the strength and power of our art,” Copperfield said of the list that had him at No. 20 (between Dwayne Johnson and Calvin Harris) and Penn & Teller at No. 94.

“I’ve never been competitive with other magicians. I love and respect them — mostly,” he added. “But I’ve always looked at other entertainment forms to try to have magic be included in that landscape.”

At 60, Copperfield still earns his spot the hard way, doing far more shows than his Las Vegas competitors. He performs at the MGM Grand 42 weeks a year and racks up about 640 shows a year. Copperfield averages 15 shows a week at the MGM, never fewer than two a day and sometimes as many as four on holidays such as Thanksgiving.

“But I love it,” he says.

The No. 5 spot went to “The Illusionists” ($11 million), a touring hit with an ensemble cast that has included Las Vegas magicians such as Kevin James and Jeff Hobson.

The No. 7 spot ($6 million) went to cable-TV magic prankster Michael Carbonaro, who makes his Las Vegas debut at The Mirage on Dec. 23.

See the full list at Forbes.com.

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