“Do you believe in magic?” the Lovin’ Spoonful once sang.
When you see magic performed by such greats as David Copperfield, who made the Orient Express disappear; David Blaine wandering the streets, befuddling everyone he comes in contact with; Criss “Mind Freak” Angel, cutting people in half; and the incomparable Penn & Teller, catching bullets between their teeth … how can their illusions be explained?
“They’re my heroes in magic … (my) inspiration,” says Piff the Magic Dragon. “They push what magic can do.”
Just as those magicians have their shtick, so, does Piff.
“Piff the Magic Dragon” returns to The Stage at Santa Ana Star Casino Friday and Saturday, performing with his dog, “Mr. Piffles.” He first visited New Mexico in November 2017.
Basically an overnight success since his first stint on NBC-TV’s “America’s Got Talent,” Piff has entertained hundreds of thousands in venues across the world, including Radio City Music Hall, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Sydney Opera House.
Piff — Englishman John van der Put in real life — dresses in a green, red and yellow dragon suit and performs jaw-dropping magic tricks.
“There’s a rule about comedy magicians — they aren’t funny and they aren’t baffling,” says Penn Jillette, half of Penn & Teller. “Piff is different. Piff had the (“Fool Us” TV audience) screaming in laughter, and he fooled the pants off every one of them.”
Piff’s Las Vegas residency — he loves the desert sun, he says — in “Bugsy’s Cabaret” at the Flamingo was extended throughout 2019 due to popular demand, smashing all box-office records over this last summer.
If you’ve watched AGT, you’ve seen his tricks, interaction with the quartet of judges — and him eating a banana or stalk of celery while the judges comment on what they just saw.
They were speechless, for the most part, after seeing a trick Piff did with Heidi Klum’s ring: It appeared to be swallowed by Mr. Piffles, then go through his digestive tract into his “business end,” and somehow wound up in the yolk of an uncracked egg.
Piff told the Observer “The Lucky Dragon” tour has new material for The Stage crowd, and he’s hoping to play another round of golf while he’s here.
“I’m better than the dog,” he quipped.
Yes, he’ll bring Mr. Piffles, but admitted he has “a second (dog) but he’s terrible at magic; now he’s just a regular pet. He enjoys the time off.”
When he’s out of costume, Piff said, he can wander the streets of Sin City and elsewhere unrecognized, but if he has Mr. Piffles along, people immediately recognize him.
His self-deprecating humor is part of his shtick.
“When I first came to Las Vegas, I saw posters of Terry Fator, ‘winner of America’s Got Talent.’ When AGT’s champions (competition) came up, I had to keep my losing streak going,” he said, explaining his own poster, which proclaims him in his 2019 Lucky Dragon Tour as “The Loser of America’s Got Talent.”
It’s been a great time for Piff, not to be confused with Puff the Magic Dragon.
“The last few years I got to travel, see America, places I’d read about,” he said, although “There are some (places) where people (think) I’m a crocodile.”
Maybe they’ll all get it when his just-completed TV special, yet to be sold to a network, comes out.
If you go
What: Piff the Magic Dragon
When: 7 p.m. Friday; 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Stage, inside Santa Ana Star Casino
How much: $25 and $30
(Shows are for those 21 and older.)