'The dragon suit made my grouchiness socially acceptable' | Piff The Magic Dragon recalls his most memorable gigs

'The dragon suit made my grouchiness socially acceptable'

Piff The Magic Dragon recalls his most memorable gigs

 First gig 

Saturday July 5, 2008:  Quircus, London 

Before I started wearing the dragon suit I was simply a grumpy guy doing card tricks. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, corporate dinners, retirement parties, you name it, I did it. Except children’s parties.  Their choice, not mine. 

I was good at the tricks, but magic is essentially a service industry, and my perennial resting grumpy face was an issue. I got fired wherever I went. At a wedding, a guy came up to me. ‘What is your problem?’ he said, ‘You’re like the Eeyore of magic.’ He was the groom. And then he fired me.

In 2005 fate intervened. I got invited to a costume party. I had no costume to wear, so my sister lent me a dragon outfit she had stashed under her bed. I don’t know why, and I didn’t ask. Neither should you.

I walked into the party and no one else was in costume. Not one. Even the host had changed. Too childish, she said when I demanded an explanation. I was drinking red wine in the corner, appropriately miffed for once, when a friend came up to me and changed my life. You could do this in your act, she said, you could be Puff the Magic Dragon. Wait! I replied, I could be Piff The Magic Dragon. You might have heard of my older brother? Steve.

On July 5, 2008, I gave it a go. It was an instant hit. The dragon suit made my grouchiness socially acceptable, charming even. Everyone who fired me rehired me. Before you were just a dickhead, they said. Now you’re a dickhead in a dragon suit. And that’s hilarious

 Best gig

 Saturday February 12, 2011: La Soiree, Southbank 

Long before I debuted the dragon, I landed a part in a musical, Mikey The Pikey. I had no ability to sing or dance, but it was going to Edinburgh so I was on board. 

Whilst there, in 2004, I saw the first ever season of La Clique, starring a family of novelty outcasts all doing 5-7 minutes of the strangest, most peculiar acts. Captain Frodo - The Incredible RubbermanMarawa the AmazingCarl-Einar Häckner. I'd never seen anything like it. I loved it and all I wanted was to be a part of it. 

Seven years later they came to London. By this time I had become friends with Marawa. How do I get booked in the show? I asked her. Do they know you want to do it? She replied, simultaneously teaching me a very important life lesson. 

So I submitted a DVD of my act and landed myself a gig. I achieved all I had ever hoped to achieve that night and everything since has been gravy.

Gig that changed my life

Having now accomplished my life's goals, I appeared on Penn & Teller: Fool Us. I didn’t enter the show to fool them, just to do a trick, tell some jokes and eat a banana, yet this would be my first step in a long career of memorably losing. 

The show went fine, but nothing particularly memorable from my point of view, and when I came offstage the show producers bustled me into a car and sent me on my way. 

I didn't really think about it much until it aired a few months later. My emails exploded, my Facebook went crazy and I haven't stopped working since. 

The nicest part was that years later, Penn & Teller have become dear friends in my everyday life. In fact I just appeared with them on their most reason season, with Penn in a strangely familiar outfit. 

 Best heckler

Here are my top three:

  1. In Nashville, I asked a guy what he did. He said he used to be a magician. I said, why did you quit? He said, I grew up. 
  2. In Manchester, having done a bit about 4 per cent of the merchandising profits going to feed my chihuahua, Mr Piffles, I then did a bit where I shot him out of a cannon and he died. In the midst of this poignant moment, a voice shouted from the darkness: ‘Does this mean we get a discount?’
  3.  In Norwich, I had a migraine and performed through it. Mistake. In the second half, I dropped Mr Piffles. Twice. A distressed woman called out: ‘Would you just stop dropping the dog.’ Factual not funny, but still impossible to comeback to.

And finally here's me laying down some burn of my own:

 Least welcome post-show comment 

After a series of remarkable events landed me a Las Vegas residency, I soon got a taste of the dog-loving American public. A woman came up to me after a show and said: ‘Where’s Mr Piffles?’

I said: ‘He’s outside, smoking’

She said: ‘That’s not funny, this environment is far too stressful for a dog to be in.’

 I said: ‘Why do you think he’s outside smoking.’

Security had to drag her away.

 • Piff the Magic Dragon and the Dog Who Knows is at the Stand’s New Town Theatre  at 19:20 from tomorrow 

Published: 15 Aug 2018

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