Piff’s real magic is in the jokes — but the cute chihuahua helps

Don’t be distracted by the dragon costume or the cute doggy. Pay attention if you want to follow the card tricks, but pay more attention if you want to hear all the jokes.

“Sometimes I think what I need is a gimmick” is one, coming almost under the breath of Piff the Magic Dragon.

True, a satin dragon suit got the British comedy magician much closer to Heidi Klum on “America’s Got Talent” than the pre-Piff magician named John Van der Put probably ever would.

But it was really a minor miracle that Piff’s bad attitude made it all the way to the NBC talent contest’s top 10, since his act unfolds at a more leisurely, slow-burn pace than the TV show usually tolerates.


Being “the loser on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ ” as he’s announced, really just got him where he should be anyway: a weekly berth in Bugsy’s Cabaret at the Flamingo — “one of the more economically accessible properties,” he points out.

He’s been there a year, working most Mondays through Wednesdays before hitting the road for one-nighters. This schedule doesn’t make us expect drastic differences between the suitcase show and the resident one, but Piff has customized the Flamingo version with an expanded cast that gives it a “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” vibe.

An extended introduction from one Francis the Squire (Brett Alters) replaces a conventional opening act. Francis jump-starts a recurring theme of low expectations with a bit of a meltdown after comparing the relative merits of his Renaissance festival garb to “herbal sales,” or being “my own boss at Uber.”

Francis and showgirl Jade Simone still know you can’t compete with dogs, especially when it’s Mr. Piffles, the stoic chihuahua introduced about 10 minutes in. Don’t worry when Piff claims to tape his eyes shut: “He loves the darkness. It reminds him of the womb.”

Despite a delayed arrival, fame hasn’t gone to Piff’s head. He might be a wee bit less dour about making a living in a dragon suit, but try telling that to the “volunteer” who hears, “Just put the card back for the love of God,” before Piff recites the serenity prayer.

And Piff almost steps beyond his stage character when he pauses the magic for a head-shaking monologue about all the places his post-“AGT” life has taken him, from the comedy tent at the Bonnaroo Festival to Hong Kong, where some of the verbal humor did not land.

Most of the show does still depend on your ears, and Piff’s interactions with audience recruits. It’s the same basic comedy-magic format long popularized by Mac King two doors down at Harrah’s Las Vegas. But the two end up as an accidental lesson in just how much it’s about their comedic personas and not the card tricks, or where that $20 bill ends up.

“It’s a lovely card trick, but what does it tell you about life?” Piff notes at one point.

Piff might be his magic’s worse enemy when it comes to elongating the tricks with so many jokes and detours that we can lose track of which card was picked or what happened to it. Our senses are distracted by the real smell of burning toast wafting across the room when “Piff’s Magic Box” (a toaster) is intentionally neglected.

And you haven’t truly joined the pantheon of Vegas magic stars without a Criss Angel joke. Piff gives us a whole segment revolving around the fish bowl housing Criss Angel-fish, complete with blistering rock music. The real Angel is trying so hard to be likable these days, but Piff gets the laughs trying not to be.

Read more from Mike Weatherford at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com. Follow him @Mikeweatherford.

CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Panel talks Impossible Burger 2.0
Panel talks Impossible Burger at CES during launch at Border Grill on Monday, Jan. 7. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Dream of AJ Montgomery
AJ Montgomery lost part of his leg in a vehicle accident but found his dream as a performer in “Le Reve.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kelly Clinton-Holmes of the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes chats with Kelly Clinton-Holmes, director of the Stirling Club's New Year's Eve entertainment.
Month-by-month entertainment coming in 2019
“True Detective” Season 3, HBO (Jan. 13) Travis Scott, T-Mobile Arena (Feb. 6) Robbie Williams, Encore Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas (March 6, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 16) “Game of Thrones” Season 8, HBO (April) Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas Motor Speedway (May 17-19) “Fiddler on the Roof,” The Smith Center (June 4-9) “The Lion King” (July 19) Psycho Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay (Aug. 16-18) Life is Beautiful, downtown Las Vegas (Sept. 20-22) “Tim Burton @ the Neon Museum” (Oct. 15) “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22) “Star Wars: Episode IX” (Dec. 20)
Lacey Huszcza invites you to find something to love at the Las Vegas Philharmonic
Lacey Huszcza, executive director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic talks about the orchestra's wealth of programming. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gina Marinelli offers La Strega preview
Gina Marinelli used a pop-up New Year’s Eve dinner at Starboard Tack to preview items she’ll feature at her new Summerlin restaurant, La Strega. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Year’s Eve at Sparrow + Wolf
Sparrow + Wolf’s New Year’s Eve party was a sort of official unveiling of its newly renovated space. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Debra Kelleher Of The Stirling Club
Debra Kelleher, DK Hospitality President talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the Stirling Club.
Richard Ditton Of The Stirling Club
Richard Ditton, an investment partner of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
NYE at the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes reports from the reopening of the Stirling Club on New Year's Eve 2018.
Michael Stapleton of the Stirling Club
Michael Stapleton, COO of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
Recap the Countdown on Fremont Street — VIDEO
Nearly 40,000 people packed Fremont Street to enjoy America's Party Downtown. As the tradition stands, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman counted down the clock on the 3rd Street Stage, alongside her husband and former mayor, Oscar Goodman.
New Year's Eve live from the Las Vegas Strip Bellagio Fountains - Video
Reporter Aaron Drawhorn near the Bellagio Fountains as hundreds of thousands gather to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas
Ryan Reaves describes the flavors in Training Day beer
Ryan Reaves talks about the flavor of Training Day, the new beer from 7Five Brewing that was launched at the PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves describes his new beer
Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves talks about his new beer from 7Five Brewing at a launch party at PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' five biggest NYE concerts
Imagine Dragons at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lady Gaga at The Park Theater at Park MGM, Maroon 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Bruno Mars at T-Mobile Arena, and Tenacious D at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye @bizutesfaye
New American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
Bellagio Conservatory display is Majestic Holiday Magic
Majestic Holiday Magic at the Bellagio Conservatory
Las Vegas Ready for 2019 NYE Fireworks Show
The city of Las Vegas is ready to celebrate "America's Party" with a new and improved fireworks show that will pay tribute to the Golden Knights.
Sugar Factory makes a shareable Christmas cocktail
If you’re looking to share holiday cheer, this goblet is big enough to split among at least a few friends. The bubbly punch is made with cherry vodka, cranberry juice and a scoop of Christmas tree gummy candies — just in case it’s not sufficiently sweet.
New Year's Eve fireworks are ready to fly in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Fireworks by Grucci unveil details of “America’s Party 2019” New Year's Eve fireworks and entertainment extravaganza during a news conference at the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like