As a child growing up in Rhode Island, Mat's way of learning magic was by watching magicians on TV. He would videotape the shows and then study them for countless hours in great detail. At just 12 years old, after saving money from local shows, Mat traveled to Las Vegas to study and learn from some of magic's biggest names.
Just a few years later, Mat was invited back to Las Vegas as a teenager, being hired to perform at the Riviera Hotel and Casino as part of the Society of American Magicians National Convention. During his teen years, Mat won several awards from the magic community, by competing in statewide and national magic contests.
As a high school student, Mat's only marketing tool was a business card. Mat was always amazed with the power and effectiveness of "word-of-mouth" advertising, but to bring his passion to the next level, he knew there was much more to be learned.
Before approaching magic as a full time endeavor, Franco was a student of Business (Marketing) at the University of Rhode Island. Mat also minored in Communication Studies. Using his education as a tool, he was able to morph his hobby into a career. Since graduating from College in 2010, Franco has become a campus University Red/White/Black favorite across the country. In addition to Mat's work as a live performer, he is also the founder of "Franco Talent" - a specialty talent agency featuring only the best college performers the world has to offer. The roster includes Eric Dittelman (America's Got Talent, Fox Business News, The Ellen DeGeneres Show) and Jacob Williams (MTV's Wild' N Out, America's Got Talent).
Mat Franco's audition in Episode 904 consisted of performing a card trick in which he told a story about his magic career and the America's Got Talent judges while pulling out cards that fit the story. He also created the illusion of morphing cards into pictures of the judges. Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B, and Howie Mandel all voted "Yes," sending Mat to Judgment Week.
Mat Franco was sorted into the "Magicians" category in Judgment Week. His performance in Episode 907 consisted of having Mel B pick a random card and laying cards on a table so that their backs created an image of Howie Mandel holding the card Mel B picked. Mat's performance was strong enough for the judges to send him to the Quarterfinals in Episode 908.
Mat Franco's Week 2 Quarterfinals performance in Episode 911 consisted of spraying with paint a playing card image on the back of a wall, having Heidi Klum pick a random card from a deck of cards, revealing the painted wall to portray a different card than the one Heidi picked, and then lighting the wall paper on fire to reveal Heidi's card imprinted on the wall. He then revealed the card he had painted had been slipped into Howie Mandel's back pocket. Howard Stern, Heidi, and Howie gave Mat standing ovations. He received enough votes to be sent to the Semifinals in Episode 912 instead of Livy, Matt & Sammy.
Mat Franco's Week 2 Semifinals performance in Episode 919 consisted of Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, and Howie Mandel picking three playing cards at random. Mat then handed the three cards (numbered 6, 4, and 2) to Mel B and took a photo of her holding the cards with her phone. He then appeared to mistakenly dropped Mel B's phone into cup of water, and, to fix it, isolated the phone in a bag, drying the phone within the bag with a hair dryer, and revealing the phone to have disappeared within the bag as smoke was emitted. Heidi then called Mel B's phone, revealing the phone to be ringing in the audience. Mat cut into a seat cushion labeled "642," revealing the phone ringing in the seat cushion. He then revealed that the phone contained the photo taken earlier in the performance. Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel both gave Mat standing ovations. Mat received enough votes to be sent to the Top 12 Finals in Episode 920 instead of Jonah Smith.
Mat Franco's Top 12 Finals performance in Episode 921 consisted of laying a small box on the judges' table and having Mel B place her phone on the small box. Mat then showed a deck of different playing cards. He asked the audience to think of just one card in a deck he flipped through, loaded a cannon with cards, and revealed only one card stuck to the ceiling. He then had Howard Stern sign his name on one card, buried it halfway in the deck, and asked the judges to snap their fingers. Whenever they did, the signed card returned back to the top of deck whether the card was stuck in the middle, a stack of cards was laid on it, or the card was bent. Mat then had Mel B lift her phone and reveal inside the small box Howard's signed card. Mat received enough votes to be sent to the Final 6 in Episode 922 instead of David and Leeman and Mike Super.
Mat Franco's Top 6 Finals recap performance in Episode 923 consisted of telling a rhyming story about the judges' interactions in a bar with three cups and three balls that were repeatedly disappearing. The performance ended with three tennis balls appearing from within the cups. Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B, and Howie Mandel all gave him standing ovations.
Mat's second performance of the night consisted of 52 audience members hold large masked playing cards on the stage. Mat held a normal deck of cards. He then shuffled the deck on the table while the audience shuffled themselves into one line. Mat pulled out one random red card and one random black card. Howard Stern used his intuition to place red cards on one side and black cards on the other side. Mel B used her intuition to arrange certain members of the on-stage audience onto a red side and other members onto the black side. In the middle of the performance, Mat switched the black and red sides both on the table and on the stage. After both decks had been intuitively sorted, Mat revealed Howard to have had all of cards arranged as he anticipated except the Three of Clubs. On the stage, the people arranged revealed cards with the correct card colors except, once again, the Three of Clubs. Howard, Heidi, Mel B, and Howie all gave Mat standing ovations.
For the finale in Episode 924, Mat Franco performed an illusion consisting of three playing cards being transferred without touch from Rosie O'Donnell's body to Howard Stern's body. Mat was revealed to have finished in first place in the competition that same night, in front of Emily West, AcroArmy, Sons of Serendip, Quintavious Johnson, and Miguel Dakota, winning one million dollars and a headline show in Las Vegas.
After The Show
Mat Franco returned in season 10 in episode 1013 as a guest where his performance consisted of two cylinders magically making more wine bottles as well as switching wine glasses and wine bottles.
He returned in Episode 1023 to perform a combination magic/mentalist routine with Derek Hughes.
On September 17, 2015, exactly one year after his win, he starred in his own 2-hour special Mat Franco's Got Magic.
Since August 2015, he has been in residency at The LINQ Hotel with his new show "Mat Franco: Magic Reinvented Nightly."
In November of 2019, Mat performed on a Penn & Teller: Fool Us holiday special. He returned to AGT in Episode 1510 to perform a card trick with Heidi Klum and guest judge Kelly Clarkson. He later returned in Episode 1620 to perform a routine with Dustin Tavella.
- Mat Franco is the first magician to win America's Got Talent, as well as progress past the Top 5. He was later succeeded by Shin Lim and Dustin Tavella.
- He is also the first non-singing act to win over a singer in the Top 2.
- Not counting Terry Fator, who incorporated singing into each performance, Mat is the first variety winner that had to perform in the second round (Vegas Round/Judgment Week), as the two before him (Olate Dogs and Kenichi Ebina) both got an automatic pass through to the Quarterfinals.
- Mel B. has stated that Mat was her favorite act.
- Since Mat's victory in Season 9, Seasons 13 and 14 are the only seasons where Mat did not return as a guest performer during the live shows.