Misery loves company, as they say. It must be true, as nearly 1,000 people packed into Yardley Hall, at the newly renamed Midwest Trust Center at Johnson County Community College, for an evening with a surly magic dragon, and sad clown, with a golden voice, on their “Misery Loves Company” tour.
It may seem an odd pairing, a magic dragon, and a sad clown, but the connection between Jon and Mike (Piff and Puddles to the rest of us), extends well beyond their shared appearances on America’s Got Talent, having gotten to know each other through their separate performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Piff, originally from South London, first shot to international stardom from his appearance on the first season of Penn & Teller’s Fool Us. After a short stint in Vegas Nocturne at Rose. Rabbit Lie. Piff won the coveted Golden Buzzer from fellow magician (but not dragon) Neil Patrick Harris on season 10 of America’s Got Talent, which would ultimately land him a headliner spot at the Flamingo in Las Vegas, now through 2025.
Piff’s show has evolved over the years, and is certainly different from what he was doing when I saw him at The Improv in 2016. Piff’s show is high on audience interaction, and comedy. Piff even makes a child’s wish come true, by helping him perform a card trick on stage (and find a new family).
All volunteers, 16 in total, help out onstage for a finale that just has to be seen, where everyone, even those who may have been the butt of a joke or two, are heroes, and things are brought to a satisfying conclusion.
Were this just Piff’s show in Las Vegas, things would end there. And it would be a very good show. But this is the Misery Loves Company tour. Puddles Pity Party was on next. Though camera shy (or at least not allowing professional cameras), Puddles spent 10 minutes, before going on stage, shaking hands, or high fiving as many members of the audience as he could. Even 20 rows back, I was greeted by the giant crooner.
Though his show is largely silent (Puddles never speaks), it is high on entertainment. During the intermission, we were treated to a slideshow of pictures, and facts, of Kevin Costner. After making a dramatic entrance to the stage (why use stairs?) the show began.
Puddles would harmonize with the screech of a microphone stand dragged across the stage, and invite the audience to join him, something that would repeat throughout the night, with increased enthusiasm from the audience.
Though Puddles is alone on stage (performing to a recorded track), it does not feel like a karaoke show. Even when members of the audience are brought onstage to play a cardboard guitar, or air drums, they slide into the roles with enthusiasm, happily falling into the madcap world of Puddles.
Puddles performs songs familiar to most all of us, with minor changes. Britney Spears’ Toxic is shifted into a minor key, while a video that will cause anyone with OCD to twitch, plays in the background. Led Zeppelin’s iconic Stairway to Heaven has its lyrics replaced with the theme of Gilligan’s Island much to the delight of everyone present. I don’t know why the mashup works, but it just does.
Even those who stayed seated, and not brought onstage, were not immune to the hijinks of Puddles, who tossed Kleenex into the audience, and displayed different patrons on his “Cry Cam”. And unless you want to make new friends, don’t take pictures when Puddles starts walking through the audience.
On their own, Piff and Puddles are each worth the price of admission, seeing them together on the same bill, though with very different shows, makes it all the better. And both performers come together for a double-encore, where Piff performs what is probably his most famous trick, while Puddles serenades us with his version of Yesterday.
Piff makes us laugh, and Puddles also makes us laugh, but also cry with his haunting beauty. The Magic Dragon, and sad clown with a golden voice.
Words and Photos by Josh Chaikin