Paul Daniels is a British magician and television performer. He achieved international fame through his television series The Paul Daniels Magic Show, which ran on the BBC from 1979 to 1994.
So Paul, you recently appeared on the Mat Ricardo Variety London Variety show.
Yeah, I think Mat is doing a great job there with the show itself and the filming of it for the internet. Although I am not sure if I am keen for my show going online as there may be people in Turkey who might start doing my act.
Well, I’m not too sure about that. I saw you levitate this morning on a YouTube video and I don’t think I’ll be doing that anytime soon. I did buy your Magic App for the Iphone this morning so maybe I can start with that. Did you help to set that up?
Yeah, my head is an ideas machine, so various business people will turn up and ask me what I think of this or that and my head goes sideways and I say, ‘What if you’d done it this way?’ and then they go off and build it. His idea was too narrow but now there are quite a few tricks you can do with the app. Like most magic tricks if you just do it as it comes out the box you miss a lot of the potential.
Well, I haven’t had time to look at it yet but I’m sure I’ll have fun with my son playing with it. Like most young boys, he loves magic and is a fan of Dynamo. He is someone who holds you in high regard, what do you make of him?
I like him, he’s a nice fella and a phenomenal juggler of cards but these close up magic guys like Dynamo and David Blaine are too limited for me. Their shows are edited and it gets up my nose because there is no need for it if you know your job properly. I had a rule on TV where I would never do a trick that I couldn’t do live. Add that to the fact that they use stooges, actors as a lot of the tricks you can’t do with just anybody.
How did you start doing magic?
Well, some people are plumbers or whatever but I always wanted to be a magic guy and I was a member of the Middlesbrough Circle of Magicians and they had a fabulous competition which ran for 6 months and had a different theme every week so I learned the whole gamut of magic. As the lads knew the tricks I started to put a different spin on them and ended up winning several times.
Do you hold the comedy side of your live show with as much importance as the magic?
I threw in the comedy element as I knew I wasn’t good looking so I couldn’t do the producing doves and looking elegant thing and was always a happy, cheeky fella so I went that route. After my show a lot of people came up to me and said ‘I didn’t know you were going to be so funny’. I learned quickly in the early days performing at working mens clubs where I used to win comedy awards.
I developed a kind of script by ad-libbing my way through tricks. I used to write bits down at the start but now I just think funny. In not one of my TV shows did I ever have a script.
I am very at home on the stage, like a fish in the water. In fact on the Magic Days I do in my house, where I show people tricks and the route I came to be a magician, I also teach them how to ignore stage fright. Another thing I do is to help them get better at the business of magic as my attitude has always been that it is show business.
I went into the business full time when my first marriage was breaking up and thought if I don’t make the leap now I never will. Since then my life has gotten better and better.
Did appearing on Opportunity Knocks help your career much?
That doesn’t do you any good. I was told three weeks before that I was going to finish 2nd so now I never trust any phone in on any TV show because of that. The show that helped me most was Wheel Tappers & Shunters Club which was filmed like it was a working mens club with the cameras behind the audience so myself and everyone who performed there felt very comfortable. Nearly every act had a three minute stint but I developed a trick that lasted 12 minutes that couldn’t be edited and the next morning I was a Star.
Didn’t Bernard Manning used to host that show? What do you think of him?
He was a typical club act of the time although in some respects he was ahead of his time with the bad language and in other ways he was a dinosaur who was still doing mother-in-law jokes and could be racist. Something a lot of people don’t know though is that he was a very big charity worker.
I actually find Bernard quite funny and think he got a bad rap at times. To me they were always just jokes.
One of the bid advantages about his type of jokes was it made you realize how stupid they were. They emphasized the stupidity of racism, they didn’t make you racist.
George Carlin said a comedians job was to ‘find the line and cross it’.
Yeah but someone also once said ‘but don’t jump too far’. It is also down to where you are playing. It’s not good effin’ and blindin’ if you are doing the Vicars Tea Party. Some comedians do corporate work and then wonder why they don’t get invited back because they use language that makes the Director’s heckles go up when they are sitting with their wives, so you should always play the Venue.
If you love the audience and the audience loves you, you don’t want to upset that balance. You can say things in one way that the audience would be offended but just by chasing the accentuation you can say the same thing and they know it’s just for fun.
I don’t like watching the X Factor as the judges just go out of their way to be rude. I think there are better ways to tell the performer how to improve without being rude. I don’t like rudeness.
You appeared on Celebrity X Factor singing Robbie Williams ‘Let me entertain you’.
Yeah, that was for charity. I am a member of the Grand Order of Water Rats which is a show business charity and so do a lot with them. After my current tour I am going to teach people how to make more money at their charity events. I am 75 now and I have put a lot back into this business but I can’t do everything so it is good to pass the information on that I have gleaned.
A lot of business men fail to sell themselves because they don’t express themselves within their own groups so I also teach business techniques as well as motivational speaking so they can stand in front of an audience and deliver the goods.
I like the way that you are outspoken on your blog and youtube about a variety of issues, including Politics.
If people ask me something I don’t lie. My mother told me ‘You have to have a damn good memory to tell a lies’, so I just tell what I believe. What I’ve learned and where I’ve learned it.
For instance, there was a recent hoo-ha about Margaret Thatcher. I think those who don’t like Maggie for what she was allegedly doing are speaking from a mis-educated standpoint.
I come from a very strong Labour background but I did a show in 10 Downing Street during the so called ‘Winter of Discontent’ and Jimmy Callaghan asked if I was doing alright. I said ‘Yeah, better than you’.
He said, ‘Well in the last 10 years my government has given into every Union demand and we have priced this country out of the world market.’ I’m thinking ‘Hey man, tell that to the country’. He didn’t and was voted out.
Maggie was called the Iron Lady cause she stood up to the Unions because the country was effectively bankrupt and she could not give into the Union demands.
It’s easy to lay the blame with someone else I think. We all have to take responsibility for our own lives.
Yeah, when the Buffalo went South the Red Indians went South. Just because you been brought up in one area doesn’t mean you have to stay there for the rest of your life. I had to move to London to earn money and now I travel to New Zealand, Germany, France, Spain, everywhere.
Is that because you couldn’t make a good living in the UK or you just enjoy the travelling?
I believe the Live Shows are not promoted well here at all. People think TV is everything but it’s not. At no time did I ever earn the majority of my income from television.
I enjoy the live shows now and keep trying to make the audiences laugh more and more and occasionally gasp. Magic is a funny thing, you got to mix it up. In my head I call my Live Shows ‘Going Home Magic Shows’. People should be laughing through the show but on the way home they should be saying to each other, ‘I wonder how he done that one’. The trick has got to be a baffler.
Debbie still tours with me although sometimes due to her radio work I will do the show without her.
Ah, so you don’t really need her, she’s just there to provide the glamour.
Now, let’s get one thing straight Boy-o… I provide the glamour. Audiences do really love her though.
You have also appeared in a few plays over the years, including playing Scrooge.
Yeah, I really enjoyed that. About 6 days into the run something amazing happened in that I actually became Scrooge. Mind you, Debbie said I had been rehearsing the part for years.
I read that you were actually relieved when your show got dropped by the BBC, is that right?
Yeah, it was a big pressure to come up with ideas and routines all the time. I had to work very hard every day and now I can just have fun and play with my toys and get paid for it. Would I do a special? Yeah, sure I would. Just so I could put the stuff I’ve been working on for the last 10 years into it.
And with that Paul had to go and visit his 97 year old mother.
The Chop Cup
Many people have done this trick over the years but Paul Daniels is widely recognised at being the master. As he said in the interview he likes to do a little twist to make it his and he does a double one at the end of this routine. He said it took him over a year of performing this every night before he eventually got it down. Great stuff.