Named “One of the Ten Comics to Watch” by Variety magazine and the breakout star of ‘America’s Got Talent’ and ‘Penn & Teller: Fool Us’ – there is no doubt that there isn’t a reptile, mystical creature, or extraordinary performer that puts on a show like the phenomenal Piff the Magic Dragon. One of the most popular acts in the Entertainment Capital of the World, Piff has spent the past several years dazzling audiences from around the globe with his nightly spell-binding show at The Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Building a weighty reputation as one of the “must-see” acts on the legendary Vegas Strip, his contract was recently extended for an additional three years. Of the accomplishment, Piff is proud to say, “I now hold the record for the longest run of any magic-performing dragon with a magic Chihuahua in Las Vegas. Where else can you see a show that is 50% COMEDIAN. 50% MAGICIAN. 100% DRAGON.”
Truer words have never been spoken —Piff The Magic Dragon has become an unstoppable force in entertainment!
Fans can dive deeper into his world as the award-winning performer recently released his first one-hour special, REPTILE DYSFUNCTION, into the wild! Available now via Piff’s official YouTube Channel, the FREE comedy special serves as a gift to his adoring fans.A bonafide smash (with over 200,000+ views and climbing since it’s July 1st launch), ‘Reptile Dysfunction’ was filmed at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino’s Piff the Magic Dragon Theater and other fanciful locales on the Las Vegas Strip. Together, Piff and his old pal Mr. Piffles — The World’s First Magic Performing Chihuahua™ deliver a delightfully unique blend of comedy and magic that rivals any legendary night on the town in Sin City. If that wasn’t enough, Piff’s good friend and mentor, Penn Jillette, is along for the ride for a special appearance as Pop the Magic Dragon!
Icon Vs. Icon’s Jason Price recently caught up with Piff The Magic Dragon to discuss his amazing reign in Las Vegas. In the interview, Piff discusses the evolution of his stage show, the making of ‘Reptile Dysfunction’, and much more!
I have to say, you’ve built one of the most exciting careers of anyone I have ever interviewed. It’s a pleasure to speak with you to a glimpse behind the curtain.
You’re very welcome!
Before we dive into everything you have going on at the moment, I wanted to go back to the beginning. How did you get involved with the arts earlier on in life?
My friends and I used to play cards together all the time, and I would work at ways to cheat. Card cheating is the same stuff as sleight of hand magic. So, after a while, I started doing card tricks for my friends, which grew from there. I never really wanted to get a real job, so I thought it was much better to do card tricks to strangers for a living! Eventually, I found my way into comedy clubs. That’s where it all began.
It’s no easy feat to pull off a career in the entertainment industry, so going that route was a huge step. Did you have any reservations about taking that plunge?
Oh yeah, but only the natural ones of thinking I was going to be broke all the time!
What went into finding your comedic voice?
I just got lucky. I was getting fired everywhere because I was too grumpy! Magic is something you typically do at weddings, bat mitzvahs, restaurants, etcetera. It’s the catering industry where you have to have service with a smile. However, I was walking around with a sourpuss face all the time. One day, I went to a costume party. I said to my sister, “I need a costume!” She had a dragon outfit under her bed. I didn’t ask why. Who knows! To this very day, I’ve never asked why she had a dragon outfit under her bed. I went to the party, and my friend said, “You should do this in your act. You could be Puff The Magic Dragon.” I said, “Wait! I could be Piff The Magic Dragon. You might have heard of my older brother Steve!” So, I took that idea and all the other magic I had learned and put it together. Low and behold, it was an instant hit! When I started out with magic, it was mostly card tricks because they were cheap. It’s just a deck of cards. Now, when we make a trick, it costs tens of thousands of dollars! In the beginning, it’s much easier to start off doing close-up magic, which is how I got into it. As you go on, I wanted to play for more and more people, so the tricks had to get bigger and bigger.
When do you feel you came into your own as a performer?
It was around the time I started doing the Piff The Magic Dragon stuff. That was the first time that what I imagined in my head I was actually doing on stage. Before that, I had worked as an actor and did serious magic, but it was dreadful. When I watched the videos back, they were really cringy. Whereas, when I did the Piff The Magic Dragon stuff, I felt like it was exactly what I wanted to do.
It sounds like it came down to finding a creative balance.
It was about finding a dragon outfit! Before that, I was just a dickhead, but now I’m a dickhead in a dragon suit, and that’s hilarious.
Who are some of the people behind the scenes who’ve had the biggest impact on you?
I think the most significant influences have been Penn & Teller because I actually got my first big break on their show, “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.” I did a trick for them, and it went viral. Off the back of that, I started performing all over the world. Over the years, they have become friends and mentors to me. Because of them, I’ve learned to do magic a lot better.
Your path ultimately led you to Las Vegas. It’s a legendary town that seems like it would be a perfect fit for a guy in a dragon costume. What drew you there, and what has it been like to be a part of that creative community?
Yeah, it’s funny. Las Vegas is the Mecca of Magic. The more I started getting into magic, and the more I performed on stage, the more I realized that there was only one place to be, and that place is Las Vegas. You can’t change your show every year with magic. It takes too long to develop the tricks, so you have to be able to play for three or four years and have the audience come to you. Once I moved to Las Vegas, I somehow got introduced to people like David Copperfield, Lance Burton, Penn & Teller, and a guy called Mac King, who is an amazing comedy magician. As a community, they welcomed me in and have shown me tremendous love and support since I’ve been here.
Your career continues to gain momentum. You’ve had your headlining show for years, but you just inked a deal for another three years. How has the show evolved along the way?
It’s taken years to develop it. We do five shows a week at The Flamingo, Thursday through Monday, and we do that forty-six weeks a year. Ya know, magic is not like comedy. With comedy, you can get up and try a joke, and if it fails, you can try a new one the next day. With magic, it can be a year or two of research and development to make the trick work. Then you take the trick in front of an audience, and it could still crash and burn. I’m looking now that I’ve evolved this act to the point where it is now, and now I love it! We do five shows a week at The Flamingo, Thursday through Monday, and we do that forty-six weeks a year. We’ve got a ton of people who work backstage who are the unsung heroes. It’s not magic; it’s just us doing a lot of clever shit! There are about twelve people on my team now, and every one of them is great. It’s taken a long time to assemble that team, and we are lucky to have them. I’m really proud of what we do in Las Vegas! One of the highlights has been that we’ve moved to the Flamingo Showroom. Wayne Newton used to play that stage! The amount of incredibly famous people that have shared the stage that we headline every night is absolutely mind-blowing!
I’m sure you’re always thinking of new ways to thrill your audiences. So what goes into bringing a unique premise to life?
First of all, I have to come up with a funny idea. For example, this past weekend, we just put out a brand new trick. The idea is that Mr. Piffles pisses any drink that is named. So, somebody in the audience will name a drink, and Mr. Piffles pisses it! I had that idea three or four years ago. It’s taken three or four years, as well as thousands and thousands of dollars, to make it happen. This weekend we had the nerve-racking moment of trying it on stage and seeing if the audience actually liked it. Fortunately, it killed!
Las Vegas is back in full swing post-pandemic, but I imagine it had a profound impact on your professional life.
Yeah, it shot the show down for six months, and we had to pivot. That led us to build a television studio in my garage. We ended up doing YouTube shows every day. We also did virtual magic shows that people could pay to watch. We also won a show called “Tournament of Laughs,” where we were up against thirty-two other comedians. Then, in October of 2020, The Flamingo called, and they said, “Hey, do you want to be the first headliner back on the Vegas Strip? We’re going to move you into the big room as well.” So, it was painful, but a lot of great things happened during that time for us!
In addition to your residency, you still hit the road.
Yeah! We do a completely different show on the road because, for the Vegas show, you’d need a truck to move it! So it’s an entirely different show with different material when we hit the road. Puddles and I are doing a show where I do the first half, and he does the second half. That’s one of the best things — if people have seen us in Vegas, they know when they come and see us on the road, they are going to see a totally different show!
You just unleashed a new comedy special on YouTube titled “Reptile Dysfunction” for your fans to experience. It’s so much fun! So how did the ball get rolling, and what made now the time to release it into the wild?
I wanted to be able to record the material I was doing at that time. That was the previous show that we did from about 2017 to 2019. I wanted to capture that because there was a load of tricks I really loved in there. Now, as I mentioned, we are in the new showroom and doing a totally different show, so I thought now was the perfect time to release it!
One of the things I love about it is that you get to see the stage show, but you also make it out onto The Strip and interact with people from all walks of life. How did that aspect come about?
It was a learning curve. We shot the stage show, and when I watched it back, I realized that there was a lot of tension in the room. That’s because at the time you are shooting it, you don’t know whether the magic trick is going to work. Once you’ve shot it and you’re showing it to people, you know it’s going to work because otherwise, you wouldn’t be watching it. I wanted a way to break it up and show the backstage side of the characters. We’re in Las Vegas, which is a gift, so we wanted to take some of the magic tricks we did on stage and perform them outside of the theater. For example, we do a trick on The High Roller, which is a big landmark here. We also do tricks on The Strip, as you said. I wanted to show people the side of Vegas that I love, in addition to the stage staff. That’s how it came about!
The scenes that take place inside The Flamingo with Penn Jillette, Mr. Piffles, and yourself were so much fun!
Yeah, we had the time of our lives! We shot a huge amount of footage, and we had to edit it down to ten or fifteen minutes. I love working with him, and he loves being Pop The Magic Dragon, so I’m sure there will be even more opportunities to keep developing that!
With over 250 shows at The Flamingo, road dates, and a successful podcast, your schedule is jammed-packed. With such a heavy workload for anyone, magical dragon or not.
Yeah, it is, but I love doing what I’m doing! Penn & Teller have an incredible output, so I feel like a part-timer compared to them!
For those who haven’t given it a whirl, what can you tell us about the status of “The Piff Pod”?
One of the things we have done with the podcast is that we’ve broken it up into seasons. The first season was audio only. We did the second season in the TV studio we built in the garage. We’re working on a third season now where we will bring in guests and interview them. Comedians and magicians, for example. So we’re working on that now. Hopefully, we will launch that later in the year!
I’ve been enjoying the podcast because it offers a unique insight into your world. For example, in one of the recent episodes, you mentioned you were working on a book.
Oh yeah! I’ve written a magic book for magicians detailing how some of my tricks work. Tat’s how it works in magic. We write books to document our tricks, and that’s the way of claiming ownership of it. The hardest part is sitting down to write it for God knows how long! But it’s written now, so the hard part is behind me!
How does the rest of the year look to be shaping up creatively?
We’re back on the road with Piff & Puddles, but mainly we’re focused on continuing to develop the show in Vegas. We’ve got a couple of TV pitches in the works as well. I want to make a TV series in the same way we made this special, where it’s that onstage/off-stage dynamic of the characters. I shot the special as sort of a backdoor pilot. So, fingers crossed, something happens with that!
That’s terrific! A show based around the world you’ve built would make for fantastic viewing! ‘Reptile Dysfunction’ definitely showcases everything you have to offer!
I know you also use your platform to help support some noble causes. What is close to your heart these days that we can help shine a light on?
There is a charity here in Las Vegas called Three Square, which provides meals to those in need. As a dragon who likes to eat, I think it’s a very worthy charity!
I have one last question for you before I let you get back to it. Your story serves as an inspiration to so many creative folks. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?
It’s quite simple, really. If a guy in a dragon outfit can headline his own show in Las Vegas, then anyone can make it!
Well said, Piff! Thank you so much for your time today, and I wish you continued success. Keep the good stuff coming!
Thanks, bud! It’s been a pleasure to speak with you. Take care!
Get all the latest information on the continuing adventures of Piff The Magic Dragon at www.piffthemagicdragon.com. Connect with him on social media via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Watch Piff’s hilarious new special, ‘Reptile Dysfunction,’ on YouTube today!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.