On Thursday November 8 at New Greenham Arts in Newbury you’ll be able to catch one of the most unique comedy magic acts you’re ever likely to see. Piff the Magic Dragon, who is actually magician Jon Van de Put, will be performing his new show Jurassic Bark along with his pet chihuahua Mr Piffles. Jamie Hill spoke to him.
Hi John, tell me about Piff the Magic Dragon?
It’s a dragon that does magic.
Oh you want more. Well I started doing magic about 15 to 20 years ago but I was getting quite bored with all the corporate functions and stuff. It just all seemed to be about the same thing so I started searching for a way to revitalise my act. Then I was invited to a fancy dress party and went dressed as a dragon only to find I was the only one in fancy dress. It was whilst there that a friend said I should incorporate the outfit into my act. So Piff the Magic Dragon was born. You might have heard of his elder brother….. Steve.
And what about Mr Piffles?
Mr Piffles became part of my act at my first show in Edinburgh. I thought my act needed something more. The venue owner had a Chihuahua so I used it in the show and it worked brilliantly. The next day I went out and bought a Chihuahua and we haven’t looked back since.
Tell us about the new show Jurassic Bark?
In the new show Mr Piffles has got a bit too famous and people are mainly coming to see him and not me. He’s now so popular that I’ve had to insure him for a million pounds so the act sees me putting this small dog through more and more dangerous stunts. If the Chihuahua doesn’t make it I’ll make sure that I spend the money wisely.
Are you a magician or a comedian?
I don’t really like to put a label on it. I’m an entertainer. I do magic but try to be funny at the same time. So I’m both.
What is it about magic you like so much?
I think magic is all about the reaction you get off people. With comedy you make people laugh but with magic you make people wonder. That look they get on their face when they really are amazed is pretty addictive. It also ended up paying most of my bills at university so that also helped.
Have you a favourite trick?
At the moment, I’ve got to say that it’s firing Mr Piffles from the Cannon of Certain Death.
Yes, certain death.
What other acts do you respect and admire?
I like magicians who try to do something different. It’s not all about wearing a shiny jacket and pointing at a box before shouting Ta-dah! I like the real pioneers who do something genuinely different with their act like the American magicians Barry & Stuart. I like them a lot.
How do you come up with inspiration for new tricks?
Well mostly I sit around thinking about what’s the stupidest thing that I could do to a small dog. I’m toying with the idea of laminating him at the moment to stop him getting dirty.
So what’s next for you and Mr Piffles after this tour?
We’ve got loads of things up our sleeves. There might be a sitcom or a film or anything! Or probably just a new touring show!
For tickets call 0845 5218 218