A dragon walks onstage with a Chihuahua. Sounds like the setup for a joke, right? What if the dragon is a sarcastic Brit with a five o’clock shadow and a scowl? What if that dragon performs magic as the similarly costumed Chihuahua looks on, then dozes off?
That dragon is Piff, the alter ego of magician-turned-magician-comedian John van der Put, who charmed Penn and Teller, wowed “America’s Got Talent” viewers and is on his second Vegas residency following a run at the Cosmopolitan. He plays Charlotte’s Comedy Zone with his trusty sidekick, Mr. Piffles, Thursday through Saturday before heading back to his residency at The Flamingo.
Magic isn’t the most secure career. When the Londoner grew bored with performing magic tricks at restaurants and parties, he decided to change up his act.
“Before I’d be quite grumpy. My sense of humor was quite sarcastic and it wasn’t as funny when I was just me. As soon as I came up with the idea of Piff, it was great,” he says.
That wasn’t the end of it, though. In 2009 during his smash debut at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he rescued a white Chihuahua who became his comedic sidekick and traveling partner.
“I thought what my act needed was a gimmick,” he explains. He’s waiting on a flight home to Vegas where he moved two years ago. “We’re pretty tight. Everyone loves Mr. Piffles. They’re more excited to see him than me.”
Animal rights activists need not worry.
“He gets to spend his whole life with me, much more than a normal dog would. Other dogs get left at home. He sort of just sits there in the show. He seems very happy and he’s asleep in my lap right now at the airport. He has a pretty great life, really, and I know he’s happy,” he says. “We just did Christmas shows where we had an auction for the Nevada SPCA no-kill dog shelter. He was a rescue dog, 2 years old when I got him. We always try and give back a bit to that.”
A magician with a tiny dog may seem innocent enough, but the Las Vegas Sun called Piff’s theatrical show at the Flamingo “rude and risque.”
The theater allows him to do over-the-top illusions, while the intimacy of the comedy clubs he’s been touring since September allow for even funnier tricks. With a Vegas show, shows opening for Mumford & Sons and the exposure of television, his first club tour is already a hit.
“Now we’re selling out in comedy clubs all over the country,” he says. “We just sold out six shows in Erie (Pa.), and we’ve broken a lot of records just because we were on everyone’s television every week.”
Piff the Magic Dragon
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. Friday, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Comedy Zone, 900 NC Music Factory Blvd.
Details: 980-321-4702; www.cltcomedyzone.com.