Pete Firman was given a guitar as a birthday present when he was a boy. He still can’t play it.
But there was just something about the magic set he was given another year that’s inspiring him still.
Now established as one of the country’s leading comedy magicians, Pete brings his latest show Trickster to the Brighton Dome Theatre Studio on October 11 (www.brightondome.org/01273 709709).
“I had this Fisher Price magic set for a birthday, and I just loved it,” Pete recalls. “I must have bored my parents to death with the tricks from it. I suppose I must have seen a magic show on TV, and they were thinking what could they get me for my birthday. And for some reason it just stuck.
“When I got to university, I was earning an extra few quid by working in bars doing tricks. I just took it from there and then started taking it a bit more seriously.”
It’s difficult to say why it grabbed him so much: “It’s an odd thing, but in some way I think it empowers you. As a child, when you can fool an adult, it’s a good feeling, and you get a kick out of it.
“I used to do the magic tricks at school, and I suppose it was just a natural progression.”
As for the attraction for the people on the wrong end of the tricks, Pete believes much of it comes down to the curiosity factor: “It’s just nice to be fooled in the best possible way, not in the sense of being made to feel a fool or being made to look foolish, but just in the sense of being fooled, being tricked.
“We live in a world where there is so little mystery. There are so few things left to be discovered. For a few brief moments, it’s great to have the rug pulled from underneath you.”
And from Pete’s point of view, it all works so well because comedy and magic, as he says, are very natural bedfellows.
“There is a lot about comedy and magic that is very similar. If you analyse the structure of a trick and the structure of a joke, there is a lot about it that is actually the same. They both work on surprise. The set-up for both leads in one direction and then throws you off kilter. In so many ways, it is the same thing.”
But the comedy also helps in other ways: “Comedy lends itself to magic because without it the magician can fall into the ‘How clever am I!’ trap.
“It’s easy to look a bit of a smart Alec. I think that the humour can balance that out a bit.
“The way that I do it is quite self-deprecating, with the humour based around what I am doing. The show is not split up into comedy and then into magic. The two are interwoven in the trick that I am doing.”
Also the solo show fits Pete well: “I learnt my trade in the comedy clubs where it was really bang, bang, bang. You really had to deliver. With my own shows, I can really develop that.”
Pete has a list of TV credits as impressive as the tricks themselves.
He starred in BBC1’s prime-time Saturday night programme The Magicians, and his skill for fusing magic and comedy has made him one of the most in demand magicians working on British television, writing and performing in magic shows such as Monkey Magic (Channel 5), Dirty Tricks, Derren Brown’s 3D Magic Spectacular (Channel 4) and The Secret World of Magic (Sky One).
He has also made dozens of guest appearances on programmes like The One Show, BBC Breakfast, The Sarah Millican Television Programme, Celebrity Mastermind and Gordon Ramsay’s Cookalong Live.