Think Larry David’s cranky-honest sarcastic humor taken to another level. Piff the Magic Dragon is a 30-something-year-old comedian/magician dressed in what looks to be a homemade dragon costume carrying a sidekick Chihuahua — doing legitimately impressive magic tricks.
He became the breakout star of the 10th season of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” when Howard Stern and Howie Mandel singled him out as one of the funniest and most unique acts in the history of the show.
As part “The Dog Who Knows” tour, Piff the Magic Dragon will perform at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8.
Piff, who no longer goes by his given name John van der Put, currently has one of the most successful acts in the world, but it was almost a fluke the way it came about. He came up with the name 10 years ago, 10 years into his career as a magician. (Piff once did accounting but “kept being fired at work because I was too grumpy.”) Then one day he went to a costume party in a dragon outfit he borrowed from his sister at the last minute.
“I was a dragon up at this party and nobody else was impractically dressed, it was just me. It was just. Me,” he said by phone recently. “My friend said, ‘Hey you could 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.’”
“I tried it and it was just really funny,” Piff said. “Because, before when I was just being grumpy, apparently I wasn’t funny but as soon as you have a grumpy guy in a dragon outfit, that’s hilarious.”
It takes a minute to get past the strangeness of seeing a grown man in costume carrying a tiny dog, also in costume. But then he does some seriously impressive magic.
The pick-a-card-any-card magic trick is fun when it works the usual way. But in one of Piff’s acts, which he did on America’s Got Talent with Heidi Klum, her card turned up in a vacuum-sealed can of dog food. They’re tricks that seem impossible and he’s thinking up new ones all the time. One of his latest involves his Chihuahua Mr. Piffles solving Rubik’s cubes.
“I thought it would be pretty funny if a dog sort of played with it and was able to solve a Rubik’s cube,” Piff said. “And then you work out the trick part after that. It takes a couple years to get something into the show.”
Piff’s unique act is baffling at first. But he gave some insight into it in a backstage interview on America’s Got Talent when an interviewer asked him, “What do you do? What’s your act?”
“What do you mean what do I do? I’m a magic dragon,” Piff says indignantly. “Doing magic is sort of my reason to be.”