Chris Cook has been bewildering and delighting audiences with his magic for ten years. Coming into his fourth year at the Edinburgh Fringe we get the low-down on how to become a successful magician, nerves and best tricks to perform.
How did you first get into magic? And when did you realise you could make a living out of it?
I first got into it when I learned some little bar bets and scams that I could use to win beers down the pub. I think my girlfriend would argue I still haven’t realised I can make a living out of it…
Seeing as this is your fourth year performing at the Fringe, do you still get nervous?
I only ever get nervous for the first show. That’s the real make-or-break moment. Beyond that, the Fringe is starting to feel like home now. If anything, I feel more comfortable stepping out on that stage than any other stage anywhere else in the world.
What makes your show different from other magic shows? Why should people come and see you?
I think a lot of magic shows don’t really have a clear purpose. They aren’t really shows, but more a collection of tricks. Whenever I’m writing a new show, I focus on what the purpose is first. I try to focus on what the audience will gain from seeing my show, rather than just focusing on impressing them. My aim is to have the audience leave that theatre as better people than when they walked in.
Best comment you’ve received after a show?
Two years ago someone emailed me to tell me that he’s been coming to the Fringe every year for two decades and that he sees at least ten shows a year. He said my show was the best thing he’d seen in all that time and that it genuinely impacted on how he looked at his own life. That meant far more to me than any review ever could.
Funniest comment after a show?
“I’m not sure how you ended up wearing it, but can I have my watch back now?”
What’s your favourite magic trick to perform?
I don’t like big props but instead enjoy the challenge of performing magic with whatever people have in their pockets. My favourite tricks are always during moments when you weren’t expecting any magic at all.
What advice would you give to aspiring magicians?
Don’t just be a magician. Anyone can be a magician, all you have to do is learn a few tricks, which these days is easier than ever. If you want to be a really good magician, be more than that. Become an actor, a comedian, a mime artist, a circus entertainer, a dancer or an acrobat. Once you have skills in another field you can then start to incorporate magic. Do that and you will truly stand out from the crowd.
Who else at the Fringe are you looking forward to seeing?
There’s lots I want to see. I’m excited to see Paul Currie’s new show and I’m looking forward to seeing what the circus company Circa have to offer this year. Most of all, I’m excited to see the return of Red Bastard. His show three years ago was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen and completely changed my life and my outlook on theatre. It’s a cathartic experience that I can’t describe and can understand why it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I can’t wait to see him again.