Comedian magician Pete Firman stars in the Saturday night Prime time BBC One hit ‘The Magicians’. We tricked him into chatting with us between shows, so read on to find out more…
Mayhem! catches up with TV comedian magician… Pete Firman
Your mum introduced you to the world of Magic with a book when you were about eight. What was it about magic that grabbed you and do you still have your book?
I do still have the book. It was ‘The Pocket Book of Magic’. I think as a kid I was drawn in by the idea of having a secret and keeping secrets. It’s cool to baffle an adult when you are eight and then not tell them how it’s done.
You won your school talent contest a couple of times, the other kids must have been asking you to do tricks all the time…?
What was first trick you ever performed?
Yep, I would do tricks in class and I even ran a ‘Jacks, twos and eights’ card ring at one point. I rinsed them for tons of cola cubes! The first proper trick I performed was a box that produced an infinite number of fake cigarettes. Perfect for a schoolboy.
Can you remember your first ever paid gig?
Not really. When I was about 15 I would do young children’s birthday parties, balloon animals, the lot. They were horrible, I’m surprised I stuck with it. Luckily I quite quickly moved into doing close-up magic in bars and restaurants for adults.
Your first break came from the TV show ‘Monkey Magic’… where did you see things going back then?
I had no idea! I was 21 and making a TV show that I hadn’t really chased after getting. I just sent in a showreel as a bit of a laugh and got the gig. What it did do was focus my life and that one ‘chance’ happening turned into my job for the last 10 years.
During this time you lived with fellow magician Ali Cook. What was it like living in a house of magic? What was the worst tricks you played on each other…?
It was magic 24/7. We didn’t really play tricks on each other. We spent our time trying to think up new tricks.
You played the Edinburgh Fringe in 2007 and toured all sorts of other festivals but which has been the best?
It was certainly a huge buzz to do Montreal’s ‘Just For Laughs’ Comedy Festival. I was on the bill with Hollywood big hitters. It was very nerve-wracking, but so much fun.
Travelling the world performing magic and getting to meet some of the worlds greatest magicians for TVs ‘The Secret World of Magic’ must have been awesome. What was your favourite place to visit?
I loved Argentina because it was so different to the magic I was familiar with.
Who was your favourite magician to interview for the show?
There is a French magician called Gaetan Bloom. He is a creative genius and a fantastic guy to hang out with.
You wrote a book called ‘Tricks to freak out your Friends’ foreworded by Derren Brown. Are you guys mates?
How many of the tricks in your book did you try out on your own friends…?
Derren and I are friends. I was very grateful he agreed to write my foreword. I gathered the material over the years, so yeah, lots had been tried on my pals and used when I have been working real audiences.
Who are your magical influences? Do you have anyone in particular you look up to?
I love lots of dead guys you will never have heard of! I have a thing for magic history, I’m a big fan of moving things forward by understanding what has gone before. My heroes are magicians who were great entertainers. I see a lot of people doing magic and it’s so indulgent. We are here to entertain, make them laugh, gasp, care. Don’t just do it for yourself.
Lots of other magicians have glamorous assistants… if you could choose an assistant who would it be?
Are you offering? I prefer working alone, I’m a lone wolf!
Do you have any pre-show habits or rituals?
Just some time alone to collect my thoughts and focus on the show. I usually pace quite a lot.
How do you feel magic is perceived by the audience nowadays?
I think people love magic. They just hate bad magicians.
People have started calling you a ‘geek’ magician; insult or compliment?
Compliment. I think… It refers to the kind of magic/sideshow stunts I perform. The geek was the guy in the carnival that would do anything. He’d bite the heads off chickens and snakes and eat glass etc. Those things arrest an audience. I tried to do those kind of shocking things with magic in my early days. I guess the geek thing stuck.
If you were only allowed to perform one more trick ever… what would it be?
The appearing £50 note.
You’re about to start your Jiggery Pokery tour and heading to Fareham. What can people expect?
Expect laughs and tricks.
Where did you get the name for your tour from?
I thought it perfectly summed up what us magicians do!
Finally, from being in the biz for a number of years, what golden nuggets of advice can you pass onto any aspiring performers?
Be good. Be original. Be on time.
Pete’s tour – Jiggery Pokery, swings into the ashcroft arts centre in fareham on march 1st. Get your tickets NOW.