Piff and Mr. Piffles bring magic to town
John van der Put, a 30-something Englishman, finds that when he goes to Starbucks or makes a dinner reservation, it's just easier to use his stage name.
Piff the Magic Dragon is just clearer, he says. There are no mistakes.
Since becoming a breakout star from "America's Got Talent" in 2015, Piff, as he likes to be called, has been performing his unique brand of comedy and magic around the world from his home base in Las Vegas, where he partners with the likes of magic icon Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame).
Piff has performed in Portland once, during the 2017 winter snowpocalypse when "everyone was freaking out," he says. Now he's back in April for three days of shows, April 19-21, at the Helium Comedy Club as part of his new 2018 tour.
This time, the spotlight is on his loyal sidekick, a rescue Chihuahua named Mr. Piffles (also in dragon costume), who has learned how to read minds and tells the future.
"It's a new act based on (1930s vaudeville magician) Guy Alexander," who was famous for his psychic abilities, Piff told the Tribune by phone.
The past three years have kept Piff busy, performing about 500 shows each year at iconic venues such as Radio City Music Hall, Shakespeare's Globe and the London and Sydney opera houses.
He hosts a podcast — The Piff Pod — with his friends the Dragon Squad as they discuss weekly adventures and catastrophes. And, he's filming a recent one-hour special featuring Penn.
His one-man show has had five runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, two sold-out seasons at SoHo Theatre in London's West End, a national tour of the United Kingdom and Australia.
He also has been the opening act for Mumford & Sons on their tour through the U.K., and just completed a six-month residency at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in their flagship show Vegas Nocturne.
Yet, Piff, who has 12 million YouTube hits to his name, says he still has plenty of material that doesn't make it into his shows.
"'The Dog Who Knows 2018 Tour' will feature tricks that audiences haven't seen before, all new jokes, and Mr. Piffles in disguise as a mind-reading marvel.
That's especially funny considering that Piff likes to joke that Mr. Piffles "sleeps through everything — traveling, rehearsals and shows," he says. "That's the genius."
For anyone who hasn't seen Piff, part of his brand is his grumpy scowl, his sound effects (lots of explosion noises and dragon sparks), and his habit of eating on stage, midperformance. Most commonly, it's sandwiches and bananas, which he attests are a dragon's favorite food.
"I'm genuinely hungry," he says. It started at one of his early "America's Got Talent" appearances: "I just hadn't eaten that day. On those shows, you have to sit there and listen to what (show judge) Mel B. thinks, and as nice as the Spice Girls are, I don't really care what they think about magic dragons."
Piff says he did get along well on- and off-stage with fellow comics and judges Howard Stern and Howie Mandel, and they've been champions of his ever since.
While in Las Vegas, he also has gotten to meet David Copperfield, "a very nice guy," Piff says, as well as comedy magician legend Mac King and card trick prodigy Matt Franco, a fellow "America's Got Talent" star (and winner of the show in 2014).
"It's amazing to be out here," Piff says. Nowadays, he's also working on a special sitcom-type show for network or cable TV, which he hopes will take off in the near future.
"I've got a very grumpy-looking face because I'm English," Piff deadpans. "There's not much I can do about that."
Piff the Magic Dragon performs at Helium Comedy Club, 1510 S.E. Ninth Ave., 8 p.m. April 19, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. April 20, and 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. April 21. Tickets: $20-$28, www.piffthemagicdragon.com, www.heliumcomedy.com.