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Showbiz Interview

Barry and Stuart: 'Controversy has never hurt anyone's career'

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Comedy and magic have always been intertwined. From the old-school japery of Paul Daniels to the bile-spitting rage of Jerry Sadowitz and everything in between.

Two of the most current magicians around are duo Barry and Stuart. After years of entertaining with their tricks, they've decided to show us how some of them are done with their new 'Show and Tell' tour, which you can buy tickets for now here.

Barry and Stuart


We caught up with the guys to talk all things comedy and controversy. Here's what they had to say.

Your shows include magic, comedy, a bit of variety - how would you define it?
Stuart: "I guess comedy magic is right. We're interested in pushing magic into areas that we're into - technology, computers, all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes... explaining that part of our lives to an audience."

A lot of people see magic as quite a traditionalist art form, so how much can you incorporate these new elements?
Barry: "Unless magicians are coming up with new tricks all the time, which we try and do, then it is an art form that will become irrelevant. For this show we do a trick where you can predict the future using Twitter and you can read your friend's mind using Facebook. We like coming up with stuff that uses new technologies and new principles and things that are hopefully cutting-edge."

I really enjoyed your 'make your friend think their psychic' video - is making people more credulous an important part of what you do?
Stuart: "We're not out there with a whole rationalist, sceptical movement. Magicians are on both sides of the fence. Harry Houdini spent the second half of his life exposing the secrets of mediums and spiritualists. It's been about for hundreds of years for magicians to come up with sceptical explanations for impossible things.



"On the other hand you've got Uri Geller and those sorts of people who use magic in a different way to make it seem like impossible things are real. I think those sorts of people give life colour in a way, even though it's complete bulls**t."

Barry: "We did a TV show where we try to recreate the miracles from the bible using magic and sleight of hand. Whilst going through the bible and finding out what the miracles were, we discovered that when Moses was showing Pharaoh things like staff to snake to demonstrate the power, Pharaoh employed his magicians to try to replicate things using sleight of hand to try and prove that Moses was a fraud. This kind of debate has been going on for forever."

Do you worry about sketches like 'Suicide in C Sharp' causing negative controversy?
Barry: "I think magic has always been controversial. The first time someone sawed a woman in half, that was really controversial. That was in all the papers. Everybody was talking about it. It just seemed incredibly violent. I think movies become more violent and times change. Our goal isn't to cause controversy - we enjoy watching horror films and that's the stuff that inspires stuff like that.



Stuart: "But controversy has never hurt anyone's career, though, has it?"

Has YouTube and the concept of "viral videos" changed what you do as a duo?
Stuart: "I think that's happened for us by accident. Because we've always worked together, we write magic routines like a sketch group would write sketch comedy. It's typically 3-5 minutes long - a thing that we were doing ever since we started suddenly found a home on YouTube. People would email about out tricks and they'd get millions of hits, because they're friendly to that."

Barry: "Also, we've been asked to perform in countries all around the world because they've seen us on YouTube. The bad thing is the days of an act being able to go around doing the same seven minutes are gone now!"

Does that force you to mix it up a bit more on tour?
Stuart: "We wrote this tour specifically so that we can expose the tricks, and people can go away and perform those tricks themselves. We're addicted to coming up with new material and I think people want to see new stuff. The technology thing - we get a real kick out of finding a way to sort of hack Twitter to make it look like you've read someone's mind. That sort of stuff really excites us. We love to come up with loopholes in technology."



Magic more than anything seems to go in and out of fashion - being really uncool then really cool - how do you ride that wave?
Barry: "It's weird. We just do what we do. One minute everyone wants to interview us and production companies want pilots. It's really busy! And then we'll go away and write a new show and... We're driven by our passion for it really. We've done it since we were kids and it's always something that's fascinated us. Beyond wanting to be famous or whatever we just always wanted to create new and interesting material."

You've worked with Derren Brown before - what's he like to work with?
Stuart: "He's the nicest person you'll meet. That sort of mind reading that he does is phenomenal. He's the best in the world."

Barry and Stuart's 'Show and Tell' tour starts at the London's Jackson Lane Theatre tomorrow (February 7) and runs until March 30 at Chesterfield's Pomegrante Theatre.

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