The Magicians

Popular hit magic show returns to BBC One

Interview with Pete Firman

When did you first get into magic – or did comedy come first?

Magic definitely came first, I’m completely self-taught. I got a magic set when I was eight years old - a Fisher Price magic set and then there was subsequent sets, a Paul Daniels one and then a couple of other ones. Then books were the next move after that. When I was at college I did magic as part-time work which I suppose is a little bit odd. I was working in bars and clubs doing sleight of hand magic tricks. I did that through university, and then I wanted to be an actor. Once I’d trained there was then an opportunity to send an audition tape to a TV production company who were looking for magicians to make a show and I got the gig and moved to London.

What do you prefer - sleight of hand work or grand illusions?

I think it depends on what sort of room you’re in. I think personally, if I’m working in a comedy club then it should just be what is in my pockets, something that is organic to the environment rather than wheeling in a massive sparkly box. With bigger events, such as the Edinburgh Festival or a Theatre Tour, I have more room and it’s more theatrical so I can do larger and more elaborate tricks.

Who are your magic heroes?

Paul Daniels in a sense but only because when I was a kid he was the only person on TV doing magic tricks. Penn and Teller. Barry and Stuart - I admire them, no-one thinks like they do.

Did you watch the first series of The Magicians?

I caught a few episodes but a lot of my gigs are on a Saturday night so I missed some shows. I saw the first episode though, the one with Sian Williams. Walking on hot coals. Ouch!

What illusions particularly impressed you?

The routine that I really liked, which wasn’t in episode one, was the one Barry and Stuart performed with Martin Kemp. Barry and Martin got into a box and shrunk themselves down to magically move from one magic box to another, the sight of mini Barry and Martin was hilarious. That was my favourite one of the whole series.

Are you competitive?

Yes. I am keen to win. There will be banter I think when we get into the studio. That competitive element will kick in and there might be a little ribbing and sparring. I’m trying to make my stuff as funny as I can and make the tricks amazing and make sure the laughs don’t detract from the trick because I am a magician.

What do you think will make you stand out from Barry and Stuart and Latimer?

Personality? Oh, the sparring begins! I’m going to try and give my routines some old school razzmatazz.

What traits will your celebrity partner need to be a good assistant/magician?

I want someone that’s going to commit, throw themselves in and not be afraid to get their hands dirty. What I don’t want is me doing it and the celebrity throwing in the odd line because then that’s not a team thing. It’s better if it’s a 50/50 split - that’s what I’m hoping for.

Are you nervous about the forfeits?

Well I’m a weed, a real soft touch, so anything dangerous or scary I will not be doing! I don’t mind taking risks, in my acts in the past I’ve pounded a nail into my face and I’ve done all sorts of gross tricks but they are tricks. So for example that fire walk thing that Barry and Stuart did, I don’t think I could do that but a bed of nails – I’ve done that. The one that scared me is the walking on fire. I just don’t get it, there must be a science but I just can’t get my head round it.