Waltham magician Shin Lim had Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum screeching in disbelief Tuesday night on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
“What just happened?” Banks, the show’s host, said at one point.
“No!” Klum, a judge, said at another.
And it wasn’t just Banks and Klum who were seriously dazzled. Lim performed a series of sleight-of-hand card tricks during the semifinal round of the reality talent show that wowed viewers and judges Mel B, Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, and Klum alike, earning him a spot in the Sept. 18 finals. The winner of the $1 million grand prize will be crowned on the Sept. 19 season finale.
“It feels really good to know that Americans like close-up magic,” Lim, 26, said in an interview a few days after the show. “I gained a ton of followers on Instagram overnight. It’s kind of crazy. It’s still a dream.”
In a black shirt and red vest, Lim took the stage during the semifinals and asked Klum to pick a card, sign her name on it with a Sharpie, and show the card to the camera. Then, with the camera zoomed in close on his hands, Lim made the Sharpie disappear, and pulled Klum’s card — smoking — from his mouth.
“Now it’s your turn,” he said to Banks, handing her the marker and deck. Her face looked so wary that the crowd laughed.
“I’m nervous!” she said.
Lim added Banks’s signed card to the deck — and later pulled the card out from his vest pocket. Then he turned around and pulled Banks’s card from his back pants pocket. And then he turned to face the camera and pulled Banks’s card from his mouth.
“That is not your card again, Tyra!” Klum said.
With Banks’s card still in his mouth, he held up Klum’s card in a plastic sandwich baggie. He shook the baggie — and suddenly the card in the baggie was Banks’s card. In the next moment, the sandwich bag was empty.
“What the heck? What the heck?” Banks said, turning away.
The Acton-reared magician’s brand of close-up, sleight-of-hand card magic has impressed judges since Lim first appeared on the show in May. Lim, whose parents are from Singapore, was born in Canada and grew up in Massachusetts. He started practicing magic at 16; his first-ever gig was at his parents’ church in Lexington, he said.
A winner at the 2015 International Federation of Magic Societies World Championships, most of Lim’s professional gigs have been overseas.
So far this season, all of his AGT acts have been part of his repertoire — but he’s working on something completely new for the finals.
“I’m busy at the moment scrambling everything together. It starts out as close-up, then takes a left turn. This was something I always had an idea in my head to do, and now is my chance to do it,” Lim said. “I’m definitely excited.”Lauren Daley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @laurendaley1.