Last Friday night we went to go see Piff the Magic Dragon at Cobbs in North Beach. I admit that I did not know much about him before the show other than the fact that he had been the runner-up on America's Got Talent. And he dresses like a dragon. And has a dog named Mr. Piffles, that also dresses like a dragon. And does magic. OK, so it was an easy sell for me. Whatever. He was pretty awesome.
John van der Put (born 9 June 1980), who performs under the stage name Piff the Magic Dragon (http://piffthemagicdragon.com/), is a magician and comedian from the United Kingdom. He grew up in South East London. As a teenager, he was inspired to become a magician after seeing Jerry Sadowitz on his BBC2 show Stuff the White Rabbit. At the age of eighteen, he became a member of The Magic Circle, and subsequently one of the youngest members to have lectured there.
His parents persuaded him to have a back-up career, so he completed a Computer Science degree, and began a career in IT. After two years, however, a bout of acute pancreatis caused him to rethink his life goals, and he quit IT to learn performance methods as a drama student.
In 2008, he created the stage persona of Piff the Magic Dragon, dressed in a green, red and yellow dragon costume, with self-deprecating humor and deadpan delivery. He is assisted by "Mr. Piffles", a chihuahua in a matching dragon costume. The character was created by happenstance, when van der Put was the only one to arrive in costume at a fancy dress party. "I spent the whole night getting more and more grumpy. And then my friend said, 'you should do this in your act'".
In 2011, Piff appeared on the first season of Penn & Teller: Fool Us with a phased transformation of incorrect card to signed card, a performance which according to Metro saw him "steal the show" with a routine that'd "have been as welcome on a small stage at a comedy festival as it would a Vegas stage". Although his performance fooled Teller, Penn guessed the correct method at the last moment, however the duo rated the act their favourite of the season, and Piff "a stunningly good magician".
As Piff, he was a support act for band Mumford & Sons on their 2012 Tour of Two Halves. The band first discovered him when they both appeared in the benefit concert The Secret Policeman's Ball 2012, and included him in their Galway Gentlemen of the Road Stopover and on the cover of their album Babel. Seriously, HE IS ON THE COVER OF THEIR ALBUM. He showed us this at his show. Together with his other 2012 performances, these appearances made him the UK Magician seen live on stage by the most people that year.
In May 2015, Piff appeared on the 10th season of NBC's America's Got Talent. His audition, a repeat of his Fool Us routine with a phased transformation of incorrect card to signed card, was unanimously selected for the Judge Cuts round. He made it to the Final round, where he messed up. That week's act, which involved firing Mr Piffles from a cannon and the reappearance of a signed bill inside a walnut, did not win.
In late 2015 he opened a solo stage show as Piff the Magic Dragon at The Flamingo, a super classy joint. He currently lives in Las Vegas, but travels the country to perform his act at random places.
His act was pretty fun, though his magic wasn't all that magical. He shot fire out of his nose when he sneezed, did some card tricks, talked about Mr. Piffles a lot, made fun of pretty much everyone, used a toaster, had a talking fish come on stage under the name Chris Angelfish, and then took pictures with us after the show. Of course, I gave him a business card. And then the bouncer asked me for a business card too. WIN WIN night all around. At least his costume was awesome. And he knows MUMFORD & SONS. Pretty crazy for a guy that dresses like a dragon, and yet could not answer the question of "why do you dress like a dragon?" That's the weirdest, yet best, part. Just dressing like a dragon made him more awesome in life. Noted.