Piff the Magic Dragon: Beyond the scales
What do dragons love? Kidnapping princesses, burning up the countryside and, as Piff the Magic Dragon would tell you, hoarding gold. “Nothing more comfortable than a big pile of rocky gold to sleep on. A lot of people invest in Sleep Number beds and I just say, ‘They’re missing out.’” But aside from all the gold (he’s especially enamored with the Golden Nugget’s Gold to Go ATM), Piff also loves having the ability to perform in Las Vegas, the “mecca of magic,” as he calls it.
A mecca, indeed. With magicians like David Copperfield, Mac King, Penn & Teller, Criss Angel and fellow America’s Got Talent alum Mat Franco crowding real estate on the Strip, it seems that it’d be hard out there for a magic dragon, but Piff is unfazed. “I’m never going to be in competition with them, and they’re never going to be in competition with me because we all do something so different,” he says.
Piff’s actually more relieved that he doesn’t have to compete with more generic shows. “If you’re dealing with dancing girls and tigers, how do you set yourself apart from the other dancing girl and tiger shows?” he says. “Unless you’re a dancing tigers and girls show. I mean, that would be a good way to do it.”
Yet, when Piff was honing his craft, he looked far beyond dancing tigers. “I literally thought, ‘This act needs a gimmick,’ so I got Mr. Piffles,” the adorable, magic-performing Chihuahua, who also performs as “The Dog Who Knows,” a psychic, all-knowing canine. That worked so well he could almost do without the dragon. “Right,” says Piff. “Who are they here to see, me or the dog? OK. As long as they buy a ticket.”
Among other characters making appearances in his show are David Copperfish, the mindreading goldfish, and Piff’s disgruntled, wisecracking squire, Francis, who summons Piff from his slumber with a song, and a lot of audience help.
Although he doesn’t see the abundance of magicians as a threat, Piff’s deadpan brand of prestidigitation isn’t an act that has gone unnoticed. In fact, the magic community has embraced him, especially Penn & Teller. Since his bit on the magic duo’s show, Penn & Teller: Fool Us, went viral on YouTube in 2011, the two have become mentors to the young dragon. “(They) emailed me to say, ‘Look, we really liked what you did on the show.’ So I took that time to say to them, ‘OK, well, how does this whole show business thing work?’ And they were really great,” says Piff. “They’ve been very generous with their time. It’s just been a pleasure in getting to know them.”
Obviously, whatever advice they offered has worked. Piff rocketed from Fool Us to become the “loser of America’s Got Talent,” combining his experience, exposure and individualism into a successful Vegas residency at the Flamingo–recently extended through the summer–allowing that rocky pile of gold to grow even larger.
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