Stage magic is making something of a comeback with shows coming up with ever more spectacular visual effects to wow their audiences. For Mike Tyler and Christopher Wayne, aka The Naked Magicians, though, the approach has been more back to basics, promising full frontal nudity with sleeves up and pants down. Glen Pearce sat down with the boys as they prepare to bare all and whip out their wands in London’s West End.
There’s a rather startled looking rabbit on the poster for The Naked Magicians show, emerging from a top hat that is strategically placed to cover an otherwise naked Christopher Wayne. Fellow magician Mike Tyler stands beside him also wearing his top hat in an unconventional location. As Tyler explains, the image really sums up what audiences can expect from The Naked Magicians. “We literally strip away all those old magical stereotypes – the top hats, the capes, the magic wands, and deliver the funniest, the cheekiest and the naughtiest magic show in the whole world.”
On paper, it sounds like the perfect girls’ night out but, as Wayne explains, it’s not solely a show for the ladies. “That’s one of our favourite things about the show, we do get a large female populace in the show but then we get lots of gay nights out, you have the boys and you’ve got married couples there as well.” He explains: “So we see a really broad range in the audience and the best part is that no matter who’s out there, everyone’s having fun. You see all sorts! But then doesn’t everyone have that naughty side inside them?”
So what’s the reaction from the guys like? For Wayne there is a universal thread of fun all can share, regardless of gender or sexual orientation – though there is one slight difference in audience reaction. “The guys have just as much fun as the girls, it’s just that the girls scream a little higher!” he laughs.
Stage illusion is, at its heart, about distraction. Is that the real reason for getting naked? Tyler says no. “The real reason was thatChris and myself were magicians full-time and had successful careers with our clothes on, but we wanted to take magic to an audience who wouldn’t normally attend a magic show,” he explains. “What better way to do that than to do a naughty magic show with our sleeves up and our pants down!”
The guys have just as much fun as the girls, it’s just that the girls scream a little higher!
Though the concept sounds good on paper – who took the plunge first and suggested to the other they get naked? Wayne breaks into a loud laugh. “I was just looking for any excuse to get Mike naked, you know?” Taking a more serious approach, he explains how the idea actually developed. “We sort of came up with the name and the idea at the same time then we realised together that, if we were going to create something that took magic to a place it had never been before, we’d have to be willing to do something that magicians had never done before.”
It was a brave step but one the boys haven’t regretted taking. “We thought let’s just try it and give it a go. We put our careers on the line trying it and it was the best thing we ever did because, 2½ years later, we’re opening in London’s West End!” Wayne explains.
It must have been hard, though, to step out on stage in the buff the first time? They both laugh nervously. “We talk about it quite regularly; I still remember that first show – my heart was beating out of my chest,” chuckles Wayne. “We opened the show at Brisbane’s Comedy Festival [Brisbane’s their home city]and actually sold out all the shows two weeks in advance. We knew we had a great idea but we did a few test shows to the audiences back home to make sure that the show wasn’t horrible.”
For Mike Tyler, those initial nerves have developed into something more comforting. “It was crazy, but it’s quite liberating now. We feel so comfortable being on stage in front of 500 or 1000 people! It’s crazy to think back to the start, which was only 2½ years ago!”
The show has played all over the world before heading to the UK but the lads have found the themes tend to be universal. “The comedy elements and the magic elements are pretty universal,” explains Tyler. “They’re based on things we can all relate to – drinking too much and texting your ex! Or your celebrity free to pass – if you could sleep with any celebrity, who would it be? All these naughty, cheeky things that people can relate to.”
Bringing the show to British audiences has found a stronger link between Australian and British humour, though. “The British people really connect, I think they are the closest culturally to Australians. You guys pick on people who you like and you swear a lot, and that’s very much the Aussie way,” laughs Wayne.
Australians are renowned for not being easily embarrassed but surely in their line of work there have been a couple of embarrassing incidents? The question triggers a round of knowing laughter from the pair that eventually subsides as Wayne regains composure. “The thing that comes to mind first and foremost happened during a photo shoot for l one of the biggest newspapers in Australia. We were on the front page of the entertainment section. We were both naked wearing our top hats – it’s the image you see on the poster,” he explains. “Mike had to throw some flash paper, which is magician’s paper that burns instantaneously and creates a really cool visual effect. So this fireball went right up in the air and kept burning, and it landed on the tip of my dick. I burned my penis!” Tyler corrects him with a knowing laugh. “I burned your penis!”
And that wasn’t the end of the incident, as Wayne explains. “The photographer was like ‘Are you okay?’ And I’m like ‘Yes’ and he said ‘Good, ’cause we have to do it again!’ So we did it again and I’ll never forget this, exactly the same thing happened again. I almost lost my job and my hobby in one go!” Surprisingly, the pair remain best friends even after that.
Both are currently in their 30s, and even magic can’t hold back the natural ageing process. They accept the clock is ticking and so are looking to take the show to as many countries as possible before everything ‘heads south’. As Wayne laughs: “Nobody wants to see a naked 40-year-old onstage!”
Does the nature of the show, though, bias tour bookings to countries with warmer climates? Tyler laughs. “The show is definitely a little longer in the warmer weather! It was tough and in Edinburgh… well the show was definitely cut down in size but in London, you’ll get the full length!” Innuendo, so much innuendo.
Opening nights for shows are often packed with friends and family. Given the full frontal nature of this show what has been their reaction? “The funny thing is Mike and I used to have “regular” 9 to 5 jobs and we both left those jobs to become magicians.” Explains Wayne. “That was a stranger transition for our parents – when your adult child comes home and says ‘I’m going to leave my job and become a magician!’”
Both guys’ parents have seen the show and are proud of it. Wayne’s mum did cause some embarrassment, as he explains “My mum flew to Edinburgh to see the show and asked if she could have a ticket right in front of Mike!”
Tyler laughs at the memory. “She locked eyes with me in a part of the show where I’m fully naked; I looked down and locked eyes with Chris’s Mum! It was a little strange for me – she won’t stop texting me either!”
So what is it in the Australian psyche that encourages such a liberal attitude to nudity? The duo has different views. “It’s the weather, it’s so hot nobody likes keeping their clothes on!” laughs Tyler. Wayne has an alternative view: “ I think generally Aussies like getting their kit off! We are all ex-convicts right?” Tyler, though, has the last word on the subject: “Yes, from England!”
The pair sees each other naked daily so how would they describe their friend’s best physical attribute? The duo descends into laughter. Wayne nominates Tyler to answer first. “Mike, you go first and then I’ll decide how friendly I’m going to be!” Tyler takes a moment to consider his options. “There’s are a lot of gags about the length of Chris’s… tongue!” he laughs. “Chris can hyper-extend his tongue – it comes out so far – and provides a great bit of comedy in the show. I guess the girls like it as well!”
Wayne returns the compliment. “Mike’s just got the most amazing knee caps you’ll ever see!” the pair dissolve into laughter again. “No, I’ll just have to say it, I have a nice body but Mike has the six-pack and no one ever complains about that!”
The Naked Magicians runs at Trafalgar Studios, London 31 August – 24 September 2016 | Main image: Contributed
For more information visit nakedmagicians.com