John Archer, the man who was the first person to fool Penn and Teller, chats to us about BGT, Fool Us and more.
1. Thanks for your time. Can you tell us a bit about who John Archer is ?
A: Well I am told that I am regarded by many as one of the best Comedy Magicians in the UK, but some of the others are close friends so let’s not push that. I am a past winner of the ‘Magic Circle Stage Magician of the Year’, first man to fool Penn and Teller, writer and tour support for the hilarious Tim Vine and of course that guy who insulted Simon Cowell so well on Britain’s Got Talent. Outside of work I live up in the North East of England and I am married to Julie with three great kids and so far, three great grandchildren, but that keeps growing!
2. You became the first man to beat Penn & Teller on ITV’s ‘Penn and Teller: Fool Us’, how did that feel?
A: Amazing. It was the pilot show, before the series was made and none of the magicians taking part knew what to expect. I was very nervous and didn’t have any thoughts about fooling them, I just didn’t want to mess it up. When Penn said those words “You fooled us” I was in a daze.
3. You obviously spent time with Penn & Teller, what advice did they give you?
A: They didn’t really give me any advice. They treated me like an equal which was very flattering. They were very complimentary and supportive and they continue to be so.
4. You also made it through to the semi-final on Britain’s Got Talent, what did you learn from that experience?
A: I learnt that it’s a reality show as much as a talent show. BGT have a TV show to make and they have thoughts on how and what will get people shouting at the screen or filling up with tears. I know I wasn’t on their agenda as a finalist, obviously they can’t affect the voting but they control so much of who and what is seen and when. That isn’t a complaint as such because as I said, they are making a TV show and I am just an ingredient in the mix. When my semi final spot got switched with ‘X’ (I was due to be in the Friday semi-final and got switched to the Wednesday), I knew it was probably the end of the ride. I loved the whole process and everyone involved in the show was lovely to me. I don’t regret a thing… other than agreeing to switch to the Wednesday semi….
5. What prompted you to go on the show and would you do it again ?
A: Well theoretically I can’t enter again, that’s sort of the rules, but if you mean would I do it again if I hadn’t already, then yes, in a heartbeat it was a crazy but fun 6 months. Why did I do it? A few reasons. Mainly it was to face my fear and do something different. My life is pretty normal, or as normal as it can be for an entertainer. I go out and do shows, now and then a bit of TV or a tour with Tim. BGT seemed like an exciting challenge. I had chickened out for a lot of years and I decided to force myself to do it this year. It was also to show my family (Wife, parents and kids) that all the time missing me while I was on the road maybe was worth it, to show them that I had got somewhere so to speak.
6. Now you’re ready to go out on your own for your one-man show Against The Odds, what can you tell us about the show?
A: Well put simply it’s going to be a night of laughter and bewilderment. Lots of audience participation and interaction. If you don’t laugh or leave saying how the heck did he do that then I will have failed but hopefully I won’t fail. I might sing the odd silly song with the ukulele too, but apparently that could scare people off so let’s keep quiet about that!
7. You’re also a former winner of the Magic Circle Stage Magician Of The Year. How did it feel to win an award from such a prestigious organisation as the Magic Circle?
A: At the time that was a huge highlight in my career. To win it doing comedy magic was a surprise especially against some amazingly competent and strong magical performers. Being judged by your peers and gaining their approval is extremely flattering.
8. Have you ever had a trick go disastrously wrong on stage and how did you handle it ?
A: Many times. Sometimes I have been able to use my skill and knowledge to recover the situation and sometimes I have had to cut and run. Being a comedy magic act gives me the slight advantage that sometimes an audience aren’t really sure if a trick was meant to work or not. My live semi-final performance on BGT didn’t actually go completely to plan but I still managed to pull it off. No I won’t say what happened.
9. Curveball question – Would you rather fight one elephant-sized pigeon or 50 pigeon-sized elephants?
A: 50 pigeon sized elephants would be so much more fun…. the sound alone would be hilarious. A giant pigeon would just be annoying. Definitely 50 pigeon sized elephants please.
10. Thanks for your time again. Just to finish, the tour kicks off in February next year, what are your plans up to then?
A: You are welcome, thank you. Well I need to decide exactly what I am going to do on tour for a start. Since it is my first solo tour I do have a lot of material to choose from so it’s just about making it nice and balanced. Other than that I will be making appearances here and there for private gigs and little pop up gigs around the country. Trying to stay busy really.