Friday 14 December 2018

Keith Barry

Keith Barry, 32, is a magician. He is originally from Waterford, but now lives in Dublin with his wife, Mairead, and their baby daughter, Breanna

Ciara O'Dwyer

Our baby girl wakes us up at 6.30am or 7am. Her name is Breanna -- it's the Irish for strength. My wife, Mairead, is a computer programmer, but she's still on maternity leave. I'm up no later than 9am. This is usually after three hours sleep. I can survive on very little sleep and I can keep going like that for three months and then I catch up. There is no normal day but the one regular thing is that I stay up working until the early hours. I might stay up until 4am or 5am. I just don't find inspiration during the day.

I'm a night owl and this is when I do most of my creative work. The tricks don't come out of nowhere. So I have to stay up and develop them. I'm up developing material or taking conference calls from the States because they're eight hours behind us. I've got a new show on the Discovery Channel coming up, so right now I'm working on that. I could be sitting down with scripts, doing research or reading books on anything from CIA brainwashing techniques right through to looking up stuff on YouTube.

When Will Smith was trying to become a rapper, he said: "When all the other rappers are at home in bed, I'm up practising my rapping." It stuck with me. So when all the other magicians are at home in bed, I'm up practising. That's the only way to stay ahead of the game.

In the mornings I have breakfast, take meetings and do press. If I have nothing on, I might read a magazine and play with my kid. Then I'll go to the gym to work out. They've got me on a really strict diet. The Discovery Channel is filming in August and I've got to get into really good shape for that. I'll probably do some physical stunts, but as well as that, you've got to look slim on camera.

Up until five years ago, just before I started doing TV, I was overweight. I used to be three stone heavier. When I met my manager, one of the first things he said to me was: "You're fat. Get to the gym." So I did.

I lost about three stone in seven weeks by going on the treadmill and eating salads. I probably should have been eating more because I lost it very quickly and I fainted on the treadmill.

Going to the gym takes about three hours every day. Then I'll go home, watch a bit of telly for half an hour and then it's back into work. I've got to keep creating new shows. I've done five live tours and I'm in the process of developing my sixth. Every second night I'll Skype with a magic consultant I've got over in Canada and I've got two over here as well. If I'm on my own, inspiration could come from anywhere. It could be from watching a movie like The Sixth Sense. In my current show I do this routine where I basically die on stage. I can slow down my heart rate so that it stops. This is called the dead zone. My heart stops beating for 20 seconds. Then I'll ask them to take me out of that because if it goes on any longer it can be dangerous. I could die, but also I could come back with brain damage. Then I'll ask someone from the audience to think of somebody who has passed to the other side. Through reading their body language, I'll try to figure out who that person is. But I need to go to this zone before I can do this. That whole routine was spawned from watching The Sixth Sense and thinking about dead people.

I've also done the bullet catch, which is known as the black trick of magic. You try to catch a bullet between your teeth. Thirteen guys have died trying to do it. I was told not to do it but I did it anyway. I'm a bit of a rebel.

After this month, most of my work will be in the States. Vegas is a funny place. I've spent a lot of time out there. I was headlining Planet Hollywood and also living there. I was doing a show for six weeks and during that time I got two nights off. A lot of Irish people don't realise that they've got to put in more hours than anybody else. Yes, it's great to have an Irish act in Vegas but you have to work so much harder because they prefer to look after their own. I do a huge amount of press over there. Also, I go to the ticket outlets, so that I get to know people on the ground level. They've got 200 shows to sell and you want them to have you in mind.

In the beginning in LA, I spent my time bullshitting my way into nightclubs to get to do tricks in front of all the celebrities. It sounds like fun but it was tedious. I had to go out night after night, getting past bouncers. But this is what I had to do to become established. Eventually we were able to book the celebrities directly for the TV shows.

In LA, they will tell you straight away what they think of you. If they don't like you, they'll tell you. If you weren't hardened, you'd get out of it straight away. I get my confidence from my dad. We're tough as nails.

An hour before I go out on stage I've got to eat a big meal. I need it for the energy. Then five minutes before I go out on stage, I'll be sitting on the loo. I love doing the stage show. Live is where it's at for me. It's about magic but it's also about the power of the mind and hypnosis. Every night I put up €10,000 for grabs if someone can catch me out on stage. I have it there in cash. Once in Vegas, doing this, I lost $5,000. We weren't too happy about it. Then I'll do a meet and greet. I'm wired after a show. I love it. I've been a full-time magician since I was 23. I followed what I really wanted to do.

I'll go home, get into the PJs, have a Jack Daniels and watch a bit of telly. I'll zone out, eventually come down off the adrenalin rush, and then crash.


Keith Barry's 'Direct from Vegas', is at the Olympia Theatre, July 30-August 2. Tickets from €28, including booking fee, from Ticketmaster and outlets nationwide. See or

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