Sorry it’s been a while since my last blog, it’s been a mad busy few months! This month I’d like to talk about the magicians that have inspired me. Before that I’d usually tell you about all the places I’ve been and things I’ve done since the last blog but there’s WAY too much to list so I’ll give you the highlights: I performed magic, juggling and fire eating at a MAHOOSIVE medieval festival in Conwy; it was amazing to perform in Conwy Castle itself. If you’ve never been to Conwy I’d highly recommend a visit. It’s a beautiful and amazing little town which is even more wonderful when there’s a big event on. I filmed an episode of Real Housewives of Cheshire; I’ve done plenty of TV work before (see https://www.scoopmagic.co.uk/tv-magic/ for details) but never a constructed reality TV show… and it was just weird! It’s hard to describe why, maybe it was because of the people or because we all had to pretend it was spontaneous but it was definitely an unusual job. Luckily, I like unusual! It all went well apart from Barry the Bird doing a poo when he appeared… and that’s the bit they focussed on. I think you can still see it on the ITV website. Another highlight was performing close-up magic at an outdoor cinema event at Stubbers Activity Centre in Essex. It was a beautiful evening in a beautiful setting entertaining lovely people before they watched the 80’s classic Labyrinth.
A highlight of the last few months that wasn’t strictly work related was going to see Penn and Teller perform live. It got me thinking about how various magicians have influenced and inspired me all through my life, right from first starting out, to getting back into magic as a teen, to the magicians that still influence my shows today. So please find below the top ten magicians that have had an impact on my magic.
- Lance Burton
Probably best known for his Las Vegas shows he also did a number of TV appearances. The main way he influenced me is with his dove magic, without which Barry the Bird probably wouldn’t be in my show. You can see the act which influenced the current opening of my cabaret show here www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIn07RfZ_4E
- Harry Houdini
If you ask anyone to name a magician from history this is probably the name you’d be most likely to hear. He was most famous for his escapes and his record for escaping a strait jacket was the inspiration behind my own escape which was always in 2016’s cabaret show and I still occasionally do now. You can see a video of Houdini’s strait jacket escape here www.youtube.com/watch?v=3r8qr-p9z5g. However, the main reason I admire Houdini is that he blurred the line between magic tricks and stunts and made his performances a life or death, edge of your seat event which is why my shows always have an element of danger.
- David Copperfield
Another American! David Copperfield is best known for his huge illusions, such as making the Statue of Liberty disappear or walking through the Great Wall of China, but I admire him more for the theatricality of his live shows. Whether he is flying or making somebody disappear and reappear in Hawaii or even just making a small piece of paper float, the audience is always left feeling deep emotions. This is my personal favourite www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLfJQkIJy58. In contrast my show is mostly about having fun and I always use small, everyday objects rather than big boxes or huge landmarks but among the laughs I always try to have a couple of moments which make the audience feel something. To paraphrase folk/punk singer Frank Turner: I always make them laugh and I try to make them cry. This is what I learned from watching David Copperfield.
- Barry and Stuart
Barry and Stuart are a comedy magic double act who were regulars on BBC One’s The Magicians as well as recently winning ITV’s The Next Great Magician. However, for most of their career they haven’t been so family friendly, performing various gross and controversial magic stunts. Rather than their prime-time BBC and ITV appearances I personally prefer their late-night Channel 4 show Dirty Tricks. Here is one of their less disturbing but more brilliant moments www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Yw7oX5CXhk. It’s not often that I get to perform anything similar to what Barry and Stuart get away with but at Halloween my sideshow stunts are dripping with a similar kind of dark comedy. Also, the aforementioned Barry the Bird is actually named after Barry from Barry and Stuart.
- Pete Firman
Another magician who appeared on The Magicians, The Next Great Magician and Dirty Tricks is Pete Firman. In many ways he is very similar to Barry and Stuart but his magic is littered with way more gags. He gives magic a whole new level of entertainment value by packing his routines with tons of laughter. Personally I aim to amuse and amaze with about two thirds of the focus on the amazement and a third on the amusement but Pete is a master at both! If anyone’s enjoyed my tricks with a borrowed ring you should take a look at this www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU1uT1Rj7Q4.
- Penn and Teller
Now we’re into the top half of the list we finally get to the people who made me want to share my favourite magicians with you. Anyone who’s interested in magic will have heard of Penn and Teller, the bad boys of magic who were banned from The Magic Circle for giving away magic secrets. An amazing duo who are always pushing the envelope of what’s possible in magic. Penn is the loudmouth who does juggling and stunts, Teller is silent and presents beautiful and amazing sleight of hand and illusion. Their magic can be funny, shocking, emotional but never ever boring. If I ever become half as entertaining or half as successful as these two I’ll be a happy man. Check out their bullet catch which inspired both my own version with a paintball gun in my theatre show Monster Magic as well as inspiring me and my friend to throw knives at each other in my first theatre show Scoop and Friends. However, this is my favourite Penn and Teller routine www.youtube.com/watch?v=8osRaFTtgHo.
- David Blaine
Back when I was a teenager I’d lost interest in magic but David Blaine reignited that interest with a flame thrower! His close-up magic performed to random people on the streets was completely fresh (unless you count Paul Zenon who I think had a street magic style show before David Blaine) and has spawned numerous copycat shows (I’m looking at you Dynamo and Troy and Criss Angel). He has become more known for his endurance stunts but he is at his best performing his close-up magic. His last special Beyond Magic is probably one of my favourite shows that he has done and combines close-up magic with strange stunts as well as danger. This clip was filmed during the promo for that show and starts off with a great trick… then Blaine takes things completely to the next level www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8Ws4PEky28. Close-up is still my favourite way of performing magic, where there’s no possibility of stooges, trapdoors or mirrors and I take this same approach during my stage show and make ridiculous things happen with normal, examinable objects.
- Derren Brown
Some people might not think Derren Brown is a magician but I would describe him as a mentalist, which is a branch of magic, so in my mind he definitely qualifies for this list. He has been controlling our minds in more and more dramatic and amazing ways for more than a decade. We thought he’d peaked when he played Russian roulette but he was just getting warmed up. Since then he’s convinced someone they were in a zombie apocalypse, predicted the National Lottery and convinced members of the public to commit murder. I, however, am more a fan of his award winning live shows. During these performances he proves himself to be a master of showmanship and reveals a sense of humour that remains hidden for most of his TV work. I think you can find edited versions of his live shows on the Channel 4 website but when I first started hammering nails up my nose this is what inspired me www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNbnuZR2wd4 and mind control style stunts still play a big part in my cabaret show and close-up magic.
- Paul Daniels
When I grew up during the 80s and 90s (I’m old, I know!) Paul Daniels seemed to be a constant presence. His magic show was on every Saturday night, his kids’ show Wizbit was on during the week before tea time and his magic sets and books were in all the shops. My first magic book was the Wizbit magic book, my first magic set was Paul Daniels’ 50 tricks (only the posh kids could afford the 100 tricks!), he was my first proper magic influence. Obviously being on the telly so often for so long there is a wealth of material to pick a highlight from but this is the one I really remember from my childhood. It must have been a repeat that I saw as it was first shown when I was about 3! www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cCXBCD6Ols. His friendly, cheeky, humorous style was how you were supposed to do magic in my mind and I still rarely take things seriously.
There’s so many magicians that have influenced me over the years in various ways these are the ones who didn’t quite make the list:
Tommy Cooper – If you ask anyone about combining magic with comedy Tommy Cooper’s name will come up. He was around a bit too early to have a direct influence on me but he influenced every magician who wants to make people laugh.
Paul Zenon – Funny magician who was David Blaine before David Blaine was David Blaine. He also did some stuff for kids’ TV which I loved when I was growing up.
Jesus Christ – His magic (or miracles) is still being copied more than 2,000 years later. He only performed for three years but had an effect on the very fabric of society! I die and come back in my side show performances.
My Magic Mates – I’ve made friends with some very talented magicians along the way but I wouldn’t be where I am without Andy Green (https://www.modernmysteries.co.uk), Mark James (www.magicianmarkjames.com) and especially Paul Roberts (www.paulrobertsmagic.com).
My Dad – Made a coin disappear and reappear behind my ear. The rest, as they say, is history.
- Wayne Dobson
Wayne Dobson was ITV’s answer to Paul Daniels in the early 90s. He was funnier, the magic was snappier and, possibly most importantly to a little boy, the theme tune was better! Right at the height of his fame he was diagnosed with MS. He continued to perform and amaze all over the world. He’s currently confined to a wheelchair with very limited movement but is still a prolific magic creator and performer. He is the very definition of inspirational. Here he is at the Royal Variety Performance entertaining thousands in the theatre, as well as millions watching on their telly boxes, with nothing but a few playing cards and a couple of sponge balls www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAWi15MAOmo.
So, there it is the ten magic acts that have inspired me and my magic the most. Please feel free to comment with your thoughts and if you’d like to book a quality magic act who can perform both close-up and on stage with a mix of magic comedy, juggling, mind control and danger please get in touch!