Dressed head to toe in a vibrant green and yellow dragon costume, magician and comedian John van der Put couldn’t believe his friends ostracized him with their normal clothes at what was supposed to be a costume party. “In the UK, they call it a ‘fancy dress’ party,” he says. “I turned up and no one else was in costume. So, I asked them, ‘What’s going on, guys?’ They said, ‘Well, we thought it was a bit childish.’ Well, no kidding.”
Their lack of participation killed his mood until one suggested he incorporate the grumpy dragon he’d become into his routine. In fact, it helped him overcome a nagging problem.
“I have a grumpy face,” he explains. “For a while it was causing me to lose work. When I put on the dragon outfit, though, everyone thought it was hilarious—because now, I’m a grumpy guy in a dragon outfit.”
Thus Piff the Magic Dragon, one of the finalists from season 10 of “America’s Got Talent,” was born.
Accompanied by the world’s only magic performing chihuahua, Mr. Piffles, Piff the Magic Dragon will capture Wilmington audiences with an equally hilarious and astonishing shows when Piff kicks off 2017’s Cape Fear Comedy Festival (May 17-20) on Wednesday, May 17.
With his unique juxtaposition of sarcasm and in-your-face delivery style, audiences are rarely prepared for what Piff will say or do onstage. On “America’s Got Talent,” he threw the judges through a constant series of loops with his antics, such as nonchalantly making a ham and cheese sandwich and even drinking out of Heidi Klum’s glass.
“I went on the show because I wanted to introduce my act to America,” he tells. “It was great because it gave us a real showcase, and we were in everyone’s living room for three months. We came out of it with enough people aware of the act that we got to continue to perform around the world.”
Prior to his rise to fame from the acclaimed talent show, Piff the Magic Dragon was kid-inspired by Jerry Sadowitz and his blended routine of comedy and magic. “Jerry Sadowitz was one of the reasons I got into close-up magic,” Piff says. “He’s a Scottish magician and probably one of the five best card magicians in the world. He was a really filthy comic as well.”
As a teenager, Piff became a member of the Magic Circle, a British organization of magicians dedicated to helping their fellow performers perfect their craft. He even became their youngest lecturer.
“Being surrounded by other magicians when I was younger was very helpful,” he says. “A lot of what they did was show me I wanted to be something a little different from a traditional magician. The Magic Circle was a great way to build up a network because we would all give each other leads on gigs.”
After becoming Piff the Magic Dragon, he decided to try out his new act at the world’s largest arts festival in Scotland. “I went to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2009 and did my first full show there,” Piff states. “I thought, What this act needs is a gimmick, so, I got Mr. Piffles, who I’ve had for eight years, now. He’s a rescued dog and will be 10 this year.”
Piff the Magic Dragon holds a record-breaking five-year run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe alongside his tiny, furry sidekick. Flaunting a matching dragon costume of his own, Mr. Piffles captured everyone’s hearts on “America’s Got Talent” and helped Piff win over the admiration of some of America’s most beloved comedians. “I got the golden buzzer from Neal Patrick Harris, which was a big moment because it really helped catapult my career,” Piff tells.
Now that Piff has flown away from the talent-show world, so to speak, he spends his days alternating between the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas and performing on the road. During his travels, he constantly sees hilarity of life itself.
“I find inspiration all over the place,” Piff states. “Sometimes, it’s just a funny idea, such as shooting Mr. Piffles out of a cannon.”
Don’t worry, Mr. Piffles never gets hurt, it’s all a part of the magic.
“I always try to improve on my material and keep it fresh,” Piff says. “Originality and working hard at least gives you a fighting chance.”
To see the latest tricks this dragon has up his sleeve, The Rooftop Bar at N. Front Theatre welcomes him May 17 for a two-show run at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Tickets and festival multipasses for Cape Fear Comedy Festival can be purchased at deadcrowcomedy.com.
MORE ABOUT THE
CAPE FEAR COMEDY FESTIVAL
Multiple venues downtown Wilmington
Last week encore interviewed “American’s Got Talent” talent Piff the Magic Dragon for the fifth annual Cape Fear Comedy Festival to learn about his approach of combining magic and comedy and Chihuahuas (check it out online at encorepub.com). But Piff isn’t the only alternative approach to comedy that will entertain the masses across multiple venues this week. Timmy Sherrill and Cole Craven, the owners of Dead Crow Comedy Room and operators of the festival, have booked the comedic competition, Air Sex Championships and a judged game show, “Uncalled Four,” among standup comedians galore.
“Air Sex Championship will be held at Rooftop Bar at N. Front Theater on Thursday, May 18,” Sherrill says. It combines sports and art, pageantry and presitge, in a dirty, fun little, if not predictably hilarious, celebration of sexual expression, all hosted by comedian Chris Tew. Naturally, the audience is welcome to sign up and become a part of the show.
The Uncalled Four Game Show will be held at Rooftop Bar at N. Front Theater on Friday, May 19. Also an interactive audience experience, it’s based on a specific card game that rhymes with “Darts of Profanity.” The game was written by comedians who scribed 20 awful questions/statements for audiences to answer/fill in, like “Dad went out to buy _____ and never came back.”
The standup headliner for the week is Jesse Joyce, who takes over Dead Crow on Friday and Saturday evenings. Joyce is known for his appearances on “Comedy Underground,” “Live at Gotham” and History Channel’s “I Love The 1880′s.”
“We’ve provided a wide variety of comedic styles,” Sherrill says, “from underground to sketch, from clean to a little risque. It has always been our goal to provide an underground comedy festival that allows the audiences to feel as included as the invitees and enjoy multiple shows at multiple venues.”