Entertainment Interviews

Ali Cook: Wild Card Magic

portrait of ali cookAli Cook quite possibly needs no introduction, you may well recognise him from the tele box! From shows such as Now You See It (BBC1), Dirty
(Channel 4), Monkey Magic (Five), Psychic Secrets Revealed – with Derren Brown (Five) and The Secret World of Magic (Sky1). Then again, you might have caught him acting in ITV1’s Mr Selfridge or in the movies; Get Lucky, The Anomoly and Kajaki.

Ali is part of a whole army of young performers helping to breathe new fire into a once tired magic scene. After years of family friendly Paul Daniels
shows, where magic was synonymous with cheesy, over-dramatic cape-and-top-hat antics, magic is now appealing to a younger and
cooler audience, with tricks that are a complete departure from the family friendly shows of the past; in fact, ‘abracadabra’ is no longer needed, the tricks wow enough on their own.

You know razor blades? Those sharp metal blades? Oh yeah, Ali Cook eats those… And how about Houdini’s water tank escape, heard of that? Well he’s done that too, with an extra twist! “As well as escapology, Cook does jaw-dropping Derren Brown-style mind-reading feats, fabulously
dexterous close-up magic, gruesome gross-out pranks and magic tricks the like of which you’ve never seen before” So says Steve Bennett from the UK’s comedy guide Chortle.

Ali’s Water Tank Variation…

GQ called him “one of the most sought-after illusionists on the planet" and his new show The Art of Astonishment is on tour right through May to July 2015.

What people are saying about the show:

Ali Cook delivers “…mischief of the slickest kind” Telegraph.

Supremely talented” Time Out.

You blew us way” Penn & Teller.

'Tricks the like of which you’ve never seen before” Chortle.

We were able to get in a few questions to get a little insight into the man behind all the buzz. Here’s what Ali Cook has to say on his show, career and the magic scene.

Can you give us a summary of The Art of Astonishment?

It’s a curious combination of dexterous sleight of hand performed alongside rarely
seen grand stage illusions.

You are touring from May until July. How do you find life on the road?

I love it.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

When a new bit of the show finally gets a great reaction from the audience.

What is the most memorable reaction you have had to one of your tricks?

Someone fainted on a TV show I did where I seemingly removed a tumour from someone’s body. In fact it’s an illusion called psychic surgery and we were trying to expose the scam for what it is: A con.

What is your favourite trick to perform?

It changes all the time. Although maybe it’s the one is where I swallow goldfish.

How long do you practice new tricks before you perform them?

It’s a mixture. I try to start performing new material as soon as possible. It can only get better in front of an audience.

Do you think people’s opinion on magic has changed in recent years?

Yes magic is hip again. Magic is the new comedy.

What do you think has been the catalyst for this?

I think it’s YouTube. Magic is very popular on YouTube. People love to watch and re watch and re watch until they have figured it out.

As well as live performances, you've also done lots for TV and film. Do you have a preference between the two?

Any TV or film is exciting but nothing beats the thrill of a live audience.

You have written many of the shows you performed in. Where do you find inspiration for your comedy writing?

Comedy writing is hard. I keep a little notebook and take it around with me everywhere. When inspiration strikes I jot it down.

How does working on a movie compare to making work for the small screen?

Interestingly there is a lot more money in TV than movies in the UK so really when you guest on something like Mr. Selfridge it’s a real luxury. British films are hard, hard work.

The movie The Anomaly is quite a break from your comedic style. How did you find the transition?

Its all the same rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse.

How did you get into magic?

My mum had a new age book shop and some of the books that came into the shop were about magic tricks rather than real magic. A few came in and I was hooked.

Where do you think you would be now if you hadn’t seen those books?

Working in my mum’s new age bookshop.

What or who is your biggest influence?

Steve Martin. He started out working in a magic shop in Disney Land and became a movie star. There is hope for us all.

Would you like to follow in his direction as a Hollywood actor?

What writing and starring in your own hit movies??? Er maybe I guess. I suppose hosting the Oscars wouldn’t be too bad either.

What advice would you give to any aspiring magicians?

Perform wherever you can to anyone who will watch.

What’s next for you?

The Edinburgh festival 2015 with my new show The Art Of Astonishment.

How do you wind down after a show?

Watch House of Cards.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Irish coffee. 

What’s in your headphones?

The lines I need to learn!

What’s on your Kindle?

I’m old school. I like books.

Don’t miss The Art of Astonishment at The Firestation on Friday the 29th of May, for your chance to see Ali in action! Get your tickets here!

Check out Ali in the movies! The Anomaly and Kajaki [DVD]

Why not follow Ali and wind down with some House of Cards? Check it out on Itunes here!

About the author

Beat Ed

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