Special guest and co-host of the 2017 Group Leisure & Travel Awards, Ben Hanlin talks to us about inspiring magicians, pranking celebrities and what the audience can expect on the night.
Not long now until the Group Leisure & Travel Awards ceremony, on 11th October, what can the audience expect from you?
I can’t say too much obviously but there’ll be a lot of audience interaction. I will be pulling people up on to the stage and having fun with them but nobody will be a victim. There will hopefully be some moments that the audience will be amazed about.
You’re best known for presenting the ITV2 series Tricked and have been performing magic for over 15 years, how did it all start?
When David Blaine came on the television in the late 90s I thought he was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen and I wanted to be like him.
At school I sat at the back of the classroom and began learning card tricks. I went to university but didn’t like it so I started doing tricks on the streets. Then I decided to create my own YouTube channel called Magic Boy TV in which I would track down celebrities and play tricks on them and post the videos online. Another TV channel saw it and then I started working on TV. Tricked on ITV2 was my first show.
You’ve been described as having a ‘devishly quick’ sleight of hand. How would you personally describe your style?
I suppose it’s funny and a bit cheeky. If I can entertain people and keep it fun and then every now and then hit them with ‘how the hell did I do that’ kind of moment, that’s how I like to structure my shows. I’m a big fan of comedy and like to include it in what I do.
When you started the YouTube channel did you ever imagine it would lead to where you are now (your videos have had almost 1m views)?
It has been a bit bonkers. I’ve gone from getting lifts and sleeping on peoples’ floors to being flown around the world to perform to people like Kim Kardashian. The thing with magic is that once you’ve done certain things you have to start again.
Pictured: Ben Hanlin has performed for many celebrities including Kim Kardashian
You’ve appeared on various shows including Celebrity Juice, BBC Breakfast and This Morning, what could possibly be next?
I can’t say too much but I’m working on a new project which is going to air in the new year on BBC 1 on Saturday nights. It’s great because Saturday night on the BBC is where magic used to live and to be part of that heritage is great.
Do you have a personal highlight in your career to date?
Performing at the Palladium was a good moment; 2,000 people standing up because of the way you make them feel is pretty cool. Having people like Jack Whitehall saying they like what I do and find me funny is great.
You’re well known for some incredible celebrity pranks, what’s the most extreme reaction you’ve had?
The best was the boy band Blue. I dropped a caravan over a cliff and they thought one of the band members, Simon, was in it. Some would say their reaction was a bit harsh but it was very funny.
Do you have a favourite trick?
I do something where I swallow needles and I’ve done it since I was performing on the streets. When I first began, that trick paid my rent and I’ve since performed it to people like Kim Kardashian so it’s pretty special. I actually started it with toothpicks because they’re softer and not as sharp.
Pictured: Ben Hanlin performing his favourite needles trick
Magic has clearly become much more popular, where do you see its future?
Everything comes around in circles. It’s super popular now and is having a bit of a renaissance and I think the gear will change again. Perhaps it may go back to being more about live performances again and you’ll start seeing big studios with large audiences. Or perhaps it’ll go online and you’ll see individual tricks and lots of them.
For more information on the GLT Awards go to www.groupleisureandtravel.com/awards.