John Holt, who are you?
I’m many things. I’m a magician, comedian , father, husband. That’s pretty much my life summed up in four words.
How did you get into magic?
Not the way most people do. Most people would get the Paul Daniels’ magic set , eat most of the contents and not do it again. I didn’t get into it until I was working in a casino. I used to work in Blackpool until I was 33..
During the war?
Yeah, during the Boer war. I used to take my rifle out.. those were the days. Then I’d work in a casino in the evening. Some guys taught me some moves. In gambling, theres a lot of cheating moves, but if you get caught, you’ll get your arm broken or possibly killed. In magic, a trick messes up. I thought I’d go the magic way and learn a few tricks.
It was probably about 2001-2. Before magic I was doing tonnes of stuff. I was a radio presenter for Wish FM in Wigan.. it was my dream job. In the space of 24 hours I got replaced by a machine to do my links. Then I got re-hired at £5 extra a day. The first thing I did was an accountant .Then I sold timeshare, psychiatric worker. In Blackpool I was a social worker before I became a magician. I was the world’s worst social worker, I didn’t have the mentality for that. On the day my daughter was born, one of my patients set fire to his house as a way to get admitted into hospital. As I was on my way to see my wife, he was on the front of the Evening Gazette, saying “pensioner had been let down by council services” i.e me…
Blackpool gets a bad rap, but I lived there for 33 years. Its trying to get away from the stag and hen culture at the weekends.. People say the same about Chester on a race day. Its cheap so stag and hens go there to trash the town and get drunk.
Tell me about your magical voyage?
It began when I moved to Chester …
What made you come to Chester?
The authorities caught up with me! And the Roman walls… Blackpool is great, but has a lot of problems that its dealing with. A lot of people escape to Blackpool. My wife’s dad lives in Chester and every time we came up to see him , we walked through the city centre and it seemed like a great place to be. Really friendly, we thought it would be a good place to bring up kids. I was a stay at home dad for a year while I grew my magic business. Cheshire is a good place to be, with a lot more disposable income. The good and bad thing about being a magician is you don’t need any qualifications.. Most events I work at are for drunk corporate adults and they’re quite easy to entertain. You dont need anything to set up, if you have a pack of cards you can go. I wish I’d done it sooner.
I’ve done stand up comedy for about a year. I am an award winning comedian! Liverpool new comedian of the year 2014! That was my third gig as well… I did one in Higher Kinnerton. I died on my backside… it was in the back of a Harvester. It was the worst gig I’ve ever done in my entire life!
Tell me about what services you offer. Wedding’s and you know…
Parkinson’s safe isn’t he! I specialise in close up magic, basically working around small groups of people. Its magic that will go anywhere.
How do you do the book (mindreading ) trick ?
Well obviously I cant tell you that. The thing about magic is its based on secrets. What I can tell you is , the ethos of magic is very strong in me. I’m not a member of the Magic Circle… I am in this to perform for lay people. Most of the things I do I learn from speaking to other magicians or trying out. I’d rather go out and do a gig in a restaurant than go to a magic circle meeting. I cant tell people how it’s done because it would just blow it. Once you learn how it’s done, your reaction is just “oh”. There’s no gaping wonder there. The secret is mind numbingly boring. We spend time thinking up ways to fool you. It kinda ruins it. I want it to be amazing!
Is magic a skill you can learn just like bookbinding.. or knitting ?
Yes. Magic is like anything, there’s physical aspects, there’s presentational aspects to it. It’s creative thinking. Like any other performance art. A songwriter will sit down and write a song, and craft the melody. I sit down and think “what kind of card trick do I want?”. There’s a lot of skills that go into it. A lot of my life is spent making people laugh, and that’s about the confidence and having the interpersonal skills to go up to somebody be they 89 or 8.
Can you raise the dead?
No, that’s probably what Viagra is for isn’t it?
Do you have any comedy gigs lined up in Chester?
Not at the moment. The comedy thing is something I don’t really wanna make a career of. I don’t think I could. Its a good skill to learn, hopefully in the new year I’ll have some time for it
Can you make people disappear for the right price?
Yes that’s why I had to move from Blackpool. The authorities will catch me eventually!
Paul Daniels, The Great Soprendo, or up and coming magician like Dynamo?
I can never answer that. Paul Daniels and the Great Soprendo are two of my favourite magicians. Paul Daniels had a prime time TV show on Saturday nights, 1979 to 1994. 15 years! That will never happen again. He did everything on there. He did stage, he did escapes, he did big illusions. I’ve never met him no. He shys away from magicians because he tends to get hassled , which is unfair because he’s absolutely fantastic. Nobody would be anywhere without Paul Daniels. The Great Soprendo. I’ve go to have respect for a guy that wakes up in the middle of the night and thinks: “I can do my act in Spanish, I can wear Cuban heels, make a silly piff paff poof thing”… he creates an act in like 15 seconds and then does it on Crackerjack! I dont watch a lot of modern magic on TV.
What about the show where they reveal the Magician’s secrets with the masked man?
.. Yeah… you know what, a magician’s act is all based on secrecy. If you give those secrets away, you do cheapen it. The fact is, despite those shows, people still love magic and they still come to see it. People will still be entertained by magic and that’s the main thing, its not about the secrets it’s about giving them a good time.
What number am I thinking of ?
38.. but you’ll deny it and say 64
The magicians craft is dependent on mystery. What margin or error do you operate on and does the possibility of secrets being uncovered play on your mind?
You have to carry out physical movements to do a trick.. It’s down to fine motor skills. It’s the difference between knowing the secret and physically being able to do it. The book trick for example, there is a heck of a lot of work involved before, and also after. To give someone a normal book, they pick a word, and you tell them what the word is . Mentally it is an absolute bloody nightmare!
What do you think of Chester?
I really like Chester. There seems to be a really good vibe. I enjoyed getting involved with Chester Fringe, hopefully do something like that again. I enjoy going to places, I occasionally do free gigs in places like Duttons or The Church. It’s a good chance for me to get out there and be seen. I recently joined Good for Nothing Chester as well. There seems to be more of an independent vibe, where people are taking the chance and doing stuff on their own. It seems to be that kind of community, and its great to be part of it!
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