Updated: Sep 6, 2021
David Penn is an international award-winning magician, innovator and creator of original magic. I chatted with David Penn on Magicians Talking Magic Podcast during social distancing and stay home to get his perspective about the future of magic.
David shares insight and ideas that I have not heard from any other magician.
Highly recommend for working professionals.
David Penn Interview
David Penn Biography
Britain’s Got Talent's David Penn is a seven-time national award-winning magician and illusionist, whose amazing style of magic will be sure to enhance your next important event.
The entertainment options that David offers include close up magic, after dinner cabaret and illusion shows. His large scale illusion show won him the title of ‘British Magic Champion’ and also secured him a place in Britain’s Got Talent's live final stages.
As a close-up magician, David has also been awarded the title of the 'Magic Circle Close Up Magician Of The Year’ and the International Brotherhood of Magicians ‘Close Up Magician of the Year’ for his Close Up Magic. This makes him the number one choice for discerning individuals booking entertainment for weddings, corporate, and private events.
David’s magic has been seen in six major TV series which include ’Britain’s Got Talent’ on ITV, ‘FREAKY’ on Channel 4, ‘Astounding Celebrities’ on ITV and ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ on the BBC. David has also been booked to work internationally alongside performers such as Andrea Bocelli and Il Divo and he has entertained various celebrities and heads of state from around the world, including The Sultan of Brunei and Her Majesty The Queen.
A realistic view of what magicians should expect after social distancing
A solid piece of advice for magicians
WATCH: Magician David Penn on BGT
Interview with Magician David Penn Audio Transcript
David Penn: Really busy right now. Ryan Joyce: Oh gosh. It is a little crazy. What kind of gigs did you lose? David Penn: A lot of weddings, especially this time of year. Uh, and they're the people that I'm disappointed for the most, cause the wedding industry in the U K Ryan is really booming. A lot of magicians do weddings, something that I've done for over 10 years. I have a really good relationship with a lot of my bride and grooms that we're really looking forward to getting married this year and they're having to postpone, but we're just trying to do everything we can with venues and that kind of thing to coordinate and make sure that they don't get their day to tarnish. Uh, I did have a couple of really big trade shows. One was meant to be in Singapore. Uh, my client cancelled the Singapore trade show and then the show actually ended up getting completely cancelled. And then I was meant to go from Singapore to Hong Kong for a company that I do a lot of work for Hanberry Tennyson that make exclusive sort of jewelry boxes and cigar boxes. And I'm kind of like entertainment on their stands for V for VIP is visiting to see a demonstration and uh, yeah, the whole thing got cancelled and it was such a shame because uh, we're hoping to kick off again and visit a few more of the countries that I was very privileged to visit last year with Henry Tennyson. Ryan Joyce: Yeah. Well it certainly is interrupting everything. I mean everybody is, you know, uncertainty. It looks like maybe this summer-ish now. What kind of things are you doing to keep yourself busy? Are you studying any projects? David Penn: The crazy thing is I'm actually getting quite a lot done and I know a lot of people will go on and give this sort of motivational chat about Oh it's show business, you know, part show, part business. We need to take care of the business side. But that is kind of what I'm doing. I'm getting things ready but I don't normally do to later in the year. A good example of that is black Paul release. So, so a lot of people release magic products at Blackpool. I will normally start looking at and going into production with Blackpool releases at the end of the year, maybe October, November because things can be turned around very quickly, like a deck run for example. But I'm actually being doing that now and looking at suppliers and that kind of thing to get the gimmicks and get all that work done now. So instead of me having a last-minute panic, October, November, December, January to get those things ready for that big convention, which has very close to 5,000 registrants now I, uh, I've been doing like a lot of that I'd been working on my stage show, I do a, a whole stage show which uses mobile phones and either my own mobile phone or a mobile phone from a member of the audience. That's all they do. It's just all mobile phones. I've created a brand new routine for that. And uh, yeah, it's, it's just doing the little things really. And working on a new brochure, just tweaking the website, things that just keep you busy anyway. It's, it's all you can do right now. But you know, I know you're the same cause we spoke many times performing this such a drug. You want to be out there, you want to be out there feeling that energy from the audience and to not have that. It's like you're just going through the DT. Is that every single day it's, it's terrible. I picked up a pack of cards the other day and I was frightened at the state I've got myself into. I know, I know the first gig back I'll be able to take, what the hell am I doing going on a double what I was doing, that sort of thing and thinking, wow, this is, this is really ropey. This is really bad. I need to just do some practice. You really do need to, and it's amazing how much, yeah, there's technique, but there's a lot of muscle memory that goes on with performances and you know, you know when you're on a tour, there's a point sort of five, six shows in where it becomes very relaxing and you know what you're doing. But I feel like I'll be on the first day of a tour and everything's new the next day I go and do a closeup gig. I've never felt like that before. Ryan Joyce: Yes. Well and like it is a good time for magicians to get active in some of their new, like the tasks that they've been putting off a side. I know like you shouldn't do it. Just stop. Just that. It's a good time for magicians to get active. There's a lot of dragging myself to the gym every day. And that's another thing that's close at the moment. Yeah. And that is a, I mean nowadays most people are confined to their homes, so finding ways to add that into the routine is essential. Seven-minute workout on your phone is a good option for sure. But a lot of magicians are also, I'm diving into the whole live streaming. What are some of the projects that you've been, I know you've been recording, uh, so what are some of the projects you've been working on? David Penn: I did something the other day for global magicians on Instagram where I'm invited me on his Instagram live feed. Obviously I'm here with you now. I'm doing something on Friday for Jamie Allen. He's asked me to go and he's live broadcast, uh, on Friday and do a trick to camera. So that's terrifying. Doing something live for magicians. It's while we're talking, I don't want to forget this, I'm going to have a little bit of a ramp, a ramp right now and get off that soapbox. There's a lot of, there's a lot of people going on these live streams and doing fricking liar lectures on that public Facebook page. Like what the hell are you guys doing? I don't understand this. And there was a guy this morning who is UK based going Hey, here's a lecture. And I'm like yeah and your mum's on the profile, your sister's on your profile, all these non-magicians are on your profile and your, you now think it's okay to do a live lecture. This is not okay. But suddenly it's like everybody's desperate to do a live stream and the ones that can't perform think it's okay to teach and this has got to stop. It's really got to stop. That's not what we're about is week two currently. So I figure about the third-week people will start to fade off and then the fourth week, depending on how long we are in this, you'll see people's interest in the lives shooting fake cause it's work. What do you predict? Um, how long were you going to be? Well, okay, I've tried to look logically. Yeah, the whole thing. Not emotionally because emotionally it was like, Oh, let's have this done early June. Uh, and uh, hopefully magic wife, we'll go ahead. You know, that's, that's not how, because magic lives like my time to see my friends like you and Keith and everybody like that across the pond. And I really enjoy going to magic live. I was deeply saddened when it got canceled even though fully understandable. Um, my flights still going ahead. So I guess I'm still going to Vegas cause I don't think I'll get my money back for the flight if Vegas is open by then. But I've been keeping an eye on, uh, been, uh, uh, sort of, uh, produced some promoter of shows. Sometimes I've been looking at what's been going on with the industry in the U K and a lot of people that are organizing big theatre-style shows that we're sold out seem to be looking at September onwards as a guarantee that they're going to be able to rerun. So shows that were ticketed for that time. They are now saying this is the new date. Uh, most of those dates tend to start in September and it's not a conspiracy theory or anything like that. But, uh, I think those people with all these multimillion-pound industries are probably got a different level of information that we are being fed by the media every single day. And I think if you're rescheduling an event that's costing tens of thousands of pounds to put on, I think they, they've had some pretty good advice to for that information. How do you think this is going to change? Like magic is so interactive? I think once there's a vaccine, I think no problem. Uh, I think everybody's going to be fine. But when you do close up magic, we all know we've all been that. And there's, there's the guy that when you walk, sometimes it's a woman, but mostly it's a guy. But when you walk up to a table, uh, they want to cause you a problem. They want a hackle and eventually if, if you're the winner and you have a bit of banter but you sound very reasonable and you end up winning bell, just make a big scene and stand up and go, I am going to go and get a drink and walk away from the table because they didn't win their little battle with the magician and they were trying to cause you trouble and they didn't really want to watch the show because they wanted to be the center of attention. They didn't realize you were there to entertain them and it wasn't a fight. It wasn't a battle. And they take that very, very badly. That person now is the person that I'm worried about at events because that person has got some serious ammunition now that if they want to make it difficult for you, whereas it used to be difficult for the, it was difficult for them and you could just be nice and turn the audience against them. They can kind of go, Whoa, don't touch that. You don't know if he's washed his hands and they can make everybody very, very negative. It's, it's only that one person I'm worried about. It is it becomes a weapon for some now. Yeah, it because that's, that's the person that I'm worried about. I think for a while take a card, might have to be, think of a card you might have to be performing. Watch me magic instead of participation magic just for a while. I don't think it will take a long time for people to go back to normal and I'm hoping that when people do go back to normal, they really appreciate that interactivity and what they've actually got and maybe they'll appreciate it like they never appreciated it before and that will be a positive thing. In the long run. The truth of it is, I don't know, nobody knows, but a good professional. Well adapt. Do you think Ellucian's we'll come back for a small bubble? I think illusions have already gone. Yeah. Uh, I, I know, you know, I really respect what you do. Your, your show is standup guy now in the U K uh, I think if I'm really honest, I think illusions in general are getting very, very hard to sell. Now there's this whole sexism angle, but people do not like, and yet illusions are tailored for magicians to perform with a woman. Uh, you know, if she, even if you've got somebody like a genre on origami, it's kind of why I'm saying doing more mobile phone magic. My whole stage show now just use as mobile phones and it's something I've done for a long time. I used to have like a, a 20 minute bit in the middle of my show was all tech magic and now it's just become the show. That's awesome as well. When I say about illusion, so I don't want anybody who does illusions. Like, you know, I've got really good friends that do illusions, uh, people like Kaila Misty for example, and that they're brilliant at what they do. What I'm saying, it's a different market. I think if you're doing cruise ship shows, you're doing a production show, I think it's great. I think it's absolutely fine. But I think if you're trying to get a booking from the PA to the managing director, I think they've got different things going on in their head now and they want to please everybody and they, they actually don't want to show that could upset anybody. And in the U K there is a lot in the media, uh, that's kind of putting people off that style of show comedians. A friend of mine, Sean, that does a lot of comedy clubs, he's having to really reign is material and double-check everything that he does. So you don't offend anybody these days. Everybody's got such a thin skin and I don't, I don't think it will affect big, big production shows, but where you are a corporate guy that used to go in and do a booking for a company and do a tappers and have uh, uh, uh, my assistant Juliet loves being part of my show, but it's whether married from accounts that pokes you in the first place wants Juliet in the show. And that's the difficult thing at the moment. They're taking these roles away from people. Ryan Joyce: So how many years have you been doing magic full time, just to give everybody a full spectrum of your career since 1992. Can you just give some of the, some of the big highlights, some of the things that bring the most joy or are these years, David Penn: well, eight years ago as a semi-finalist on Britain's got talent, uh, so that was quite good for my career. But the thing that meant most to me actually was not Britain's got talent. If you said Korea highlights, uh, the number one would be just being a professional is a career highlight cause that's all they ever wanted to do. And I don't mind what I do. Years ago I did children's magic, uh, you know, whatever style of magic I do, as long as I can maintain a living for me and my family and provide for them and do magic, that's a highlight in itself. That's the best highlight. But I think when I won the magic circle close up magician of the year, that was, uh, I think that meant a lot to me, mainly because it was a bit of a wakeup call from my dad because my dad, uh, said, uh, you know, when he, when are you going to get a real job? Uh, and I want it to be a magician. I was doing children's parties and the, we did kind of kick me out of the house and I had to get a flat and fend for myself. But then I won that award, which was kind of like from a society that even my dad knew. Because in the UK, a lot of people talk about the magic circle on television. I had instant recognition and I started getting better work. And, uh, I w I went from a Citron, Diane to brand new Ford Mondeo overnight and that, that, that was a big thing for my dad. And, uh, when close up magic was booming in the mid nineties, you know, I w I was earning a very, very good living as, as I do now, but it was really booming at that time. That's well, that's incredible. I mean, you are just so talented and you're very personable and like onstage, you're so authentic. What would you say is maybe one piece of advice you could give them after all these years in magic? I would, uh, advise people to think more about the performance than the actual Trek. Uh, once you get to a certain standard of, of magician, I think the tricks kind of come the routines or such kind of, you know, do you feel comfortable with those? But I don't think people actually know how to present themselves in front of an audience. They don't look like they're meant to be there. And you know, if I'm being brutally honest, there's very, very few people in the UK that if I couldn't do a job, if I couldn't present a show at a conference or something, there's probably less than 10 people that I would actually recommend to do that job. So I would say work on the actual performance side. When you talk about being personable to an audience, I think that's just genuinely caring about doing a good show for your audience. And one bit of advice that I always say is think about how your, you want your audience to feel. Don't think about fooling them. Don't think about tricking them. Think about the feeling you're going to leave them with. And once you get kind of that into your head what you're trying to do for your audience, it can kind of make you like kind of self-programmed you to act a certain way during your routine. And uh, you'll probably find yourself structuring your routine a completely different way. If you think about how you're going to make them feel rather than whether you're going to fool them on up. That's incredible advice. David. Thank you so much for your time. Thanks for having me.