AMERICA'S GOT TALENT: THE CHAMPIONS -- "The Champions Two" Episode 102 -- Pictured: (l-r) Piff the Magic Dragon, Heidi Klum -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)
Photo: NBC/Trae Patton/NBC
Photo: NBC/Trae Patton/NBC

Interview: Piff the Magic Dragon rides the wave of dragon love at Variety Playhouse May 24

Originally posted Tuesday, May 21, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Dragons are hot right now with “The Game of Thrones” just ending its run and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” still in theaters.

And then there’s Piff the Magic Dragon. He was one of the more delightfully weird successes from NBC’s hit summer variety show “America’s Got Talent.” 

He’s basically a 39-year-old British native named John van der Put who dresses in a ridiculous dragon outfit, looks perpetually peeved and cradles a tiny chihuahua named Mr. Piffles while doing absurdist magic tricks. And it’s entertaining enough for him to book the Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points Friday at 8 p.m. (Buy tickets here.)

This is a step up from his 2017 stop here when he came to the Punchline. ( “Nothing makes you feel like your career is on the rise is when you perform at a diner!”  Piff said.)

>>RELATED: My 2017 interview with Piff

While Piff has a home base in a 200-seat showroom at the Flamingo in Las Vegas where he does 250 shows a year, he still hits the road for 70 to 100 more dates. That is serious dedication to his work. 

During an interview, Piff intersperses serious answers with dragon references. So he’s kind of in character, kind of not.

When asked about living in Vegas, he noted: “Perfect weather, which by happenstance is great for dragons. I’ve learned dragons are far more successful in America than the U.K.” 

And he feels “morally obligated” to track “Game of Thrones,” “Pete’s Dragon,” “The Hobbit” and the like. “I’m just in a middle of working on 20 minutes of dragon stand-up jokes,” he said. Maybe he is. Maybe he isn’t.

He owns multiple identical green, yellow and red dragon outfits, made of stretchable lycra. 

But he can stay anonymous by simply walking around without the costume. “If I have Mr. Piffles, I sometimes give myself away,” he said.

Mr. Piffles, by the way, is about 10 years old and remains a loyal friend. “He lives a pretty pampered life,” Piff said. “He probably assumes all dogs live like he does.” 

Piff is single but ready to mingle. One of the highlights of his career was seeing Shania Twain at his show. He said she invited him to dinner but he had to leave town: “I’ve never been so heartbroken.” 

He realized he had made it when he found out that someone in Russia was copying his act. Trying to stop that person in a country without a strong rule of law was hopeless. Besides, he cracked, “all the lawyers are too busy with the president.”

And while Howard Stern embraced Piff on “America’s Got Talent,” the radio host has yet to get the big invite to studio. The day of our interview, Stern had talked to Charlize Theron.

“He’s super crazy, busy and successful,” Piff said. “How can I compete with Charlize Theron?”

COMEDY PREVIEW

Piff the Magic Dragon

Friday, May 24, 8 p.m.

$25 to $50

Variety Playhouse

1099 Euclid Ave. NE

Atlanta

www.variety-playhouse.com

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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