Nothing But TV Interview: Magician Ben Hanlin.
It’s a chilly Monday morning, so what better way to kick off the week than a quick chat to magician and presenter, Ben Hanlin?!
First things first,how was your weekend?
This was a rare weekend where I had nothing on at all, so I’ve just sat watching Netflix and getting fat!
I had a couple of things in London last week, and I hosted a big awards ceremony in Aberdeen, where I did some magic and had a bit of a laugh with everyone and then hosted the event.
Today is starting really chilled out, I’m at home with the family today, which is unusual but nice. I like to try and start my Mondays slowly – my brain can’t function until about 3.00pm on a Monday!
Ha! How did you get into magic?
So I’ve been doing magic about 15 years – I used to sit in the back of classrooms learning tricks when I should have been listening to what the teachers were telling me!
It all came from seeing David Blaine on the telly – I saw this guy in the late 90s walking round the streets of New York with a deck of cards in a t-shirt and jeans, and he made magic the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, it was a game changer – I saw that and I thought I’ve got to learn that!
I bought beginner books of magic and stuff like that and it went from there really.
And you became one of the youngest members of the magic circle?
Ermmm that was a few years ago – I wouldn’t necessarily hold myself to that anymore! But yeah, I’m in the magic circle!
How do you get into the Magic circle? Is there a certificate or anything?
Well I can’t say too much, but you apply to be in it, and have a serious interview with some oldskool magicians. Then they audition you in front of a panel – and they judge you and decide whether you’re of the standard required to be in the circle.
You presented a TV show called Tricked - tell us more about it, and how it came about?
Tricked ran for three series and a special, and it gave me the opportunity to use magic to wind people up and prank celebrities!
It came about after I used social media around eight years ago to try and stalk celebrities, track them down, doorstep them and show them magic!
I shared this online, people saw it, the people in telly saw me doing it and thought it was quite good, and said, why don’t we make a TV show, and it went from there really!
Since then you’ve been involved with Live and Deadly with Joey Essex…it was live, and we’re speaking now…it went ok then?!
Yeah it did…it was something we’ve never done before. Magic in general is something you see on the telly, but it’s often pre-receded, and especially when you get into stunts and escapology– and one of the reasons for that is that if stuff does go wrong, then the viewer won’t see it. So we decided we should do it live – if something goes wrong, people will see, and that adds a whole new layer to it.
On the night I think I stayed under the water for two minutes and 45 seconds, and luckily there wasn’t any problems. I think what’s nice from a telly point of view is that you were seeing that live, so you know that the outcome hasn’t been pre-determined, and what you’re seeing is really happening.
There was a genuine tension on the night, because you were seeing this thing unfold on live telly.
Was it all smooth…er…sailing?
I blacked out on day three of training. I was trying to get out of some locks, I pushed it and stayed under too long, and the next thing I know I’m up out of the water because of lack of oxygen.
We had this amazing free diver who could hold his breath for seven minutes under the water, which is mental! So he was teaching us how to use your body to stay under water as long as possible.
I lost just under a stone in weight for it – when you’re lighter you use up less oxygen. I changed my diet to an alkaline one, so your blood stream is more alkaline – so much stuff you don’t even think about!
How did you pick Joey Essex as somebody to work with?
I’ll be honest, I asked a lot of people, and a lot of celebrities pretty much laughed in my face! There were loads that completely sacked me off, but Joey was somebody that I went to…fair play to him, he’s done stuff like The Jump before, and the jungle, so he’s got some bottle, which is half the battle for this, and he was like, yeah, let’s give it a crack!
I only had five days to teach Joey what he needed to know, he’ll admit himself that he’s not the best at sitting in class and learning things, so there were some big challenges.
Are you looking to do anything similar again…maybe next Halloween?
Oooo I don’t know – it’s early days. I’m still recovering. I lost quite a bit of weight, so I’m gonna get a bit fatter again! It’s something that I did enjoy, and escapology is a side of magic I haven’t delved into so to speak. I quite liked seeing what myself and a celebrity can do!
Obviously you do radio as well?
Yeah I do, I was on Capital, I’m just taking a break from that, and looking at some other potential radio stuff coming up…
What’s your favourite thing to do? TV/radio/live shows?
Ermmmm. You know what, I probably prefer doing my one man live show. There’s something about being in a room with people and them seeing it for themselves.
As a fan, I think the best way to enjoy it is to be in the audience - the person to your left or your right isn’t an actor, there’s no camera tricks or editing, it just feels a bit more special I think.
You can hear the audience’s reaction to it as well, whereas when you do something on telly, you miss that side to it, how the audience react – and the whole reason you get into magic is to get the buzz from the audience.
Looking into the future, where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully not dead! Especially after these deadly stunts, that’s one life goal! I don’t want to be killed on telly and be in some Channel Five clip show, When Magic Goes Wrong!
I suppose doing more TV stuff, and people seeing that and wanting to buy tickets and come and see me live. I’ve got no intention of stopping that, so if in five years’ time I’m selling some nice venues around the UK, and people are coming to see me, that’s a good place to be!
Watch Ben Hanlin’s Live and & Deadly: Drowned via itv hub, here