“Oh for fuck’s sake!” I said to Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. Let’s just say the trick I was doing hadn't quite gone to plan…
It all started a few months earlier when I received a phone call I remember vividly. It was just after 4pm and I was driving when my phone rang.
“Hello…” I said, answering the phone in the traditional manner. I was using the hands-free of course, your honour.
I heard a woman’s voice on the other end of the phone. For the sake of retelling the story, we’ll call her Emma… which is strange, since her real name was Becky.
Emma told me she was looking for a magician to perform at 9pm that very same night; it was for a private party with only 8 people, for just 15 minutes. This was odd.
I recognised the restaurant where the event was taking place - it happened to be one of the swankiest in Liverpool - but she was being quite vague about exactly what the event was, and it was just a couple of hours later? Still, she seemed very nice, so I agreed to do it and went home to get myself ready.
Fast forward a few hours, I arrived at the venue and walked into the private dining room they’d booked. Sitting inside was just one person. It was Emma. We chatted briefly, making all the usual small talk before finally, I had to ask: “Other people will be coming, won’t they?” Emma laughed.
“Oh yeah, the guys will be here in about 10 minutes, probably. They’ll be finishing their show about now and will come straight over…” she said.
“Great,” I said, still unsure of exactly what this was, “And what show are they finishing?” I questioned, trying not to sound like I was recreating Frost/Nixon.
“Top Gear Live,” Emma said, nonchalantly.
I paused for a moment to let that sink in. “So, this will be for the Top Gear presenters?” I asked, trying to maintain my sudden narcissistic spasm of excitement.
“Yep, they’re on tour at the minute and we’d been recommended your details for some entertainment. Just 15 minutes during the drinks when they arrive will be perfect,” she said. “No worries,” I offered, popping off to set up my tricks and subtly fist-pump the air in the corner of the room. Emma definitely saw the fist-pump.
Now, I’m happy to admit that Top Gear has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, along with Turkish Delight and Take That - although not necessarily in that order. To be able to perform for the team, especially just after their sell-out arena show, was tremendously exciting. It was also, if I’m honest, slightly nerve-wracking. Jeremy, in particular, is known for being somewhat loud and happy to speak his mind, so if he didn’t like it….
A few minutes later, the team walked into the room and grabbed a drink. It was really them. The actual trio I’d spent Sunday nights watching on BBC Two for years. I let a few moments pass, allowed them to find their positions, and then went in for the kill.
Clarkson is just under a foot taller than me, whilst Hammond is roughly my height. That alone broke the ice instantly… one of the few times being short had a genuine advantage. Well, that and the fact that I get more legroom on an airplane than the average person. I’ve also never needed to duck to walk under a door frame - so, you know, every cloud.
The 15 minutes flew passed. Then it became 20. Then 30. They invited me to join them for the meal and I ended up leaving at 1am.
Just as I was saying my goodbyes, one of the management team asked me if I’d be interested in becoming the tour’s resident ‘house’ magician. His idea was that throughout the tour, I’d appear, for lack of a better word, in different parts of the country and spend the evening with them, performing magic. I agreed instantly and wished them goodnight, before hopping back into my 1.2 Corsa to drive home… a car, which I’m sure you can imagine, I didn’t mention I owned to them.
The truth is, these are normal blokes who just want to have a laugh. They’re brilliant fun to be around and seem (especially Clarkson) to be absolutely avid magic fans, so it was a genuine pleasure to be able to spend so much time with them. Having said that, not everything always went to plan….
During another night with the team, I’d planned on performing a brand-new trick. It’s always exciting when I try something new and this particular one I was genuinely quite giddy about.
I’d been secretly working on it for a few months and had even brought in a couple of other magicians to help with the development as well. Countless hours had been spent to get it just right. I instinctively knew that out of everything I’d ever shown them, this was going to be the one they’d talk about - the one they’d remember most. I wanted to get it right.
I saved it for the end of the evening - knowing I had an ace up my sleeve. I’d built up the suspense and there was a palpable tension in the room. Now, it’s difficult to explain exactly what happened without ruining the trick for you, especially since it’s now a part of my actual show - but let’s just say the whole thing went spectacularly wrong. In one of the most utterly cringeworthy moments of my career up to this point, the trick backfired completely. It was my big finish for the night, and it went nothing other than totally tits up.
Thankfully they laughed about it and we were able to move on to the night of food, drinking and karaoke relatively quickly.
Thinking about it now though, I’m not sure which they found worse: The trick going completely wrong or my rendition of the Tom Jones’ hit, ‘It’s Not Unusual’? It’s a close call, I reckon.