Piff the Magic Dragon’s genesis was strictly accidental. “I was a close-up magician,” said the comic magician during a recent phone interview. “I did parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, but I kept getting fired. I looked too grumpy. I’m not really grumpy, it’s just my face.”

Then one day, he was invited to a costume party. “My sister said, ‘Yeah, I have a dragon costume under my bed.’ I didn’t ask any questions, but I wore the outfit to the party.”

As it turns out, no one else was in costume, but Piff rolled with it. “I introduced myself as Piff the Magic Dragon. ‘You may have heard of my older brother? Steve?’” People laughed, and “it made my grumpy face socially acceptable.” So, Piff was born, in 2008.

Piff – real name, John van der Put – will be performing at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium on Thursday, September 29 with Puddles Pity Party in the “Misery Loves Company” Tour.

Piff has been in Rhode Island before, at the Comedy Connection in East Providence. “The last time we came, we broke records at the Connection. They added a bunch of shows. I think we did eight shows in one weekend.”

In 2013, Piff moved to Las Vegas to be a “small part of a big show. We had a ten-year contract. Six months later, it closed.”

In 2015, Piff appeared in Season 10 of “America’s Got Talent,” finishing in the Top Ten. “I made it all the way to the finals and went down in flames. I lost to puppets.”

But things worked out. Piff landed a regular show at the Flamingo, where he appears 46 weeks every year, Thursdays through Mondays. He spends four weeks doing shows on the road and takes two weeks’ vacation. “Thankfully, I like what I do so it never feels like work.”

So how did this current tour and partnership happen? “Puddles and I have known each other for years. We did the same festivals around the world. Edinburgh, Adelaide. When it came time to tour after the pandemic, I said, ‘I don’t want to do that.’”

But then he thought, “How about if we combine forces, do it together.”

Piff does 45 to 50 minutes. Puddles does the same, and “we join forces at the end. He does stuff with me, and I do stuff with him.”

The Providence show is part of a five-show run including Worcester and Lowell, Laconia, NH and Red Bank, NJ. “We bus in between shows, I bring a lot of gear for the magic. I just wake up in a new city, we do a sound check that afternoon, and do the show at night.”

Piff is careful to do different material on the road than he does in Vegas. “In case people have seen me there, I don’t want them hearing the same material.”

Piff loves being in Vegas. “We just signed up for another three years.”

He never really had a “fallback” if the comedy and magic didn’t work out. “I really didn’t have one. I was just becoming less and less successful as a magician. It’s kind of strange how things worked out. I could never have imagined this. Twenty years ago, I thought this was terrible, and I still do.”

Piff the Magic Dragon and Puddles Pity Party combine in the “Misery Loves Company Tour” at the Vets on Thursday, September 29. For tickets and information, visit www.thevetsri.com.

More from What'sUpNewp

Loading...

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Frank O'Donnell

Frank O’Donnell has worn many different hats. As an actor, he’s performed in three professional theatrical productions and countless community theater productions. He’s written, produced and directed four holiday-themed shows and once helmed the Notfanuttin’ Players, specializing in audience-participation dinner shows. He’s been performing as a stand-up comedian since 1982 and has been inducted into the RI Comedy Hall of Fame. He’s written comedy for other performers, like Bob Hope, Jay Leno and Joe Piscopo. He’s opened for performers as diverse as the Judds, Michael Bolton, Chicago, David Brenner, Gilbert Gottfried and more. He’s been writing reviews and features about theater in Rhode Island for better than two decades. His work to help save the monarch butterfly has been chronicled on NBC Nightly News and he is president of the Keri Anne O’Donnell Memorial Fund. A native of Providence and long-time resident of North Providence, Frank now calls Jamestown home. He and his wife Karen – who he met when both were students at Classical High School – have four children, and recently became grandparents.