Tricks are magic on Five
Ali Cook ('Monkey Boy'), Pete Firman ('Tufty'), Jonathan Goodwin ('The Colonel') and Pete McCahon ('Papa') dropped by to talk to us about the series, The Greatest Magic Tricks In The Universe.. Ever, which begins with a countdown of the 20 greatest tricks ever.
Why should we watch the show?
Monkey Boy: "You're seeing the best ever tricks from the best ever magicians."
Tufty: "There's a whole audience that hasn't seen that stuff. It's a privilege to pay tribute to the people who inspired us to become magicians."
The Colonel: "And the whole retro phenomenon means people will dig the kitschness of the clothes and the sets - especially from the 70s and 80s!"
How has TV magic developed over the years?
Monkey Boy: "Magic hasn't really changed much: there are only so many tricks, and the rest depends on the presentation. Everyone has their own style."
The Colonel: "Having said that, we try to push things forward. It frustrates me that magicians still do tricks with silk hankerchiefs when people don't wear them any more. You should move with the times and perform with objects the audience is familiar with. Who carries a spangly box around with them? I work with contemporary props like mobile phones - it makes it feel more real."
What are your favourite tricks and who are your favourite magicians?
Tufty: "David Copperfield's buzz-saw trick, where he saws himself in half. The first time I saw it, I was baffled and I still get a kick out of it, even now I know how it's done. I also love Doug Henning's stuff: he was a total hippy, the top magician before Copperfield. He really believes what he's doing is real magic! I really dig his clothes as well!"
Papa: "I love Copperfield as well. He's fantastic, no matter how many wind machines he has! I like death-defying escape tricks."
Monkey Boy: "Channing Pollock is great, he's real matinee-idol material. He was the first one on TV to wear top hat and tails and produce doves from thin air. Everyone ripped him off. I love Henning too: he was meditating when he levitated! And Penn and Teller: they're in-your-face performers; really funny."
The Colonel: "I'm a big fan of Paul Daniels. He's not very cool, but he's my biggest influence. And there's a magician called Tom Mullica who smokes 40 cigarettes at once. He's a real character."
The programme really emphasises how many different styles the magicians had...
Monkey Boy: "Definitely. David Blaine hardly utters a word but freaks people out, whereas Tommy Cooper hardly did a trick but was hilarious. It's a flexible medium: you do what you want as long as you entertain people."
Do some of the tricks baffle even you?
Tufty: "Yes, and it's great when it happens, although the longer you're in the business, the rarer it is. It's like reliving the feeling of seeing the first trick that got you hooked. I don't want to know how it's done: I know enough tricks to last me a lifetime! I'm happy to be baffled."
Do magicians jealously guard their tricks?
The Colonel: "It depends. The world of magic is a real brotherhood, all the pros know each other and teach the new kids some tricks - but they keep their favourite few tricks to themselves. After all, those tricks are the foundation of their act, and what makes them special. If they give up their secrets, they endanger their livelihood. Many take their secrets to the grave."
The show seems timely, given the increased interest in magic right now.
Tufty: "Definitely: look at the blockbuster films of the moment: Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. David Blaine and my friend Derren Brown have made it cool again."
How would you describe your own style?
Tufty: "We don't take outselves too seriously. We're very English and quite deadpan. We like to muck around, and hopefully our personalities come across. With Copperfield and the like, you don't get much of a sense of who they are."
The Colonel: "We have a strong group identity. We all have our different tastes so we can perform a broad cross-section of tricks. We all get on really well and even hang out together when we're not working."
Is there a second series of Monkey Magic in the pipeline?
Tufty: "Yes - we're rehearsing it now, it should be out next Spring. It's a dream come true, and it's increasing our public profile. We get recognised a lot when we're out together. Ali got mobbed by a huge gang of skater kids recently!"
Do you feel you have the best job in the world?
Tufty: "Going to work is just like going into a nursery - it doesn't feel like work at all, it's just four good mates having a laugh. I don't think I could do a proper job."
The Greatest Magic Tricks In The Universe... Ever begins Sunday, September 21 at 8pm on Five.