Charles The French is a half French, half Thai magician and comedian rolled into one. He is a sensation on YouTube and is widely known for his silly videos about students, technology and relationship problems. Eileen McCormick caught up with Charles The French before his performance tomorrow at 6:30pm in Phnom Penh at the Department of Performing Arts.
Good Times2: Can you describe the most rewarding aspect of performing before audiences?
Charles: Seeing people happy is the most rewarding part for me. I do magic to entertain people, make them smile and forget about the real world for an hour.
Good Times2: How long have you been preforming magic?
Charles: I started when I was 7 years old. So that’s almost 16 years of doing magic. I’ve been performing professionally since the age of 16.
Good Times2: What got you into magic, comedy and entertainment?
Charles: I saw a magic show in Las Vegas when I was 7. I told my parents I wanted to do this when I grow up. Comedy wise, I’ve always tried to mix magic and comedy. But in 2017, I tried to do stand up comedy for the first time. The idea later came to combine both.
Good Times2: How is comedy and magic synonymous?
Charles: Magic can be synonymous with many things. For me, I chose comedy. In the field, we often say that the magic trick itself is only 10 percent of the performance. The other 90 percent is how you perform, how to make the trick interesting and unique, how to make the audience forget that it’s just a trick. A lot is involved in making a magic performance original.
Good Times2: How would you describe your performance style?
Charles: It is full of sarcasm and absurd humor!
Good Times2: Which do you prefer, performing magic or comedy acts? Why?
Charles: Magic acts. I like to get away from reality when I watch a show. Magic is a good way to do that. I enjoy comedy acts, too, of course!
Good Times2: Is this your full time gig? Or do you have other work you do during the day?
Charles: I am a comedian full time, both online and on stage. I’m also a part time teacher in a school in Bangkok.
Good Times2: Any challenges you had to overcome?Charles: The challenge of every comedian is to make people laugh. And it is mentally difficult when you don’t get any laughs during a performance (it happened back when I was beginning). It can be quite intimidating to go back on stage after flopping. But you just got to tell yourself that it’s part of the job! The other challenge was financial: even though I’m doing fine now, it was difficult to pay the bills when I first started.
Good Times2: Are you worried about the mystery of your art being destroyed by the Internet?
Charles: Not really. Although people revealing tricks online just want attention, it doesn’t really concern my show. The tricks revealed online are often easy to perform, hence why they are revealed. It opens magic to more people, which in a way, is a good thing. The tricks that I perform on stage use a lot of sleight of hand, it took years to perfect them. So even if somehow, someone was to reveal those tricks, people wouldn’t do them right away due to the difficulty and the amount of practice it takes.
Good Times2: Who has inspired you in the industry?
Charles: Lance Burton. Among magicians, he is a reference. He is the one that I saw in Las Vegas and it’s because of him that I became a magician. Although we have very different performance styles, he is very elegant and can make any sleight invisible. A true master.
Good Times2: You’re quite big on the Internet especially among university students. Can you share with me how that all came about?
Charles: Thanks! Back in February 2016, I had 20 minutes to spare due a teacher being late. So I quickly wrote and filmed a video called “What I would love to hear in class”. To my surprise, it got a lot of views and I thought of doing more. From the third video onwards, my best friend Tada joined the adventure. He is also a magician and we have done lots of shows together. We also have the same sense of humor, which made it very easy to create more content. It does feel surreal to now have more than 150 million online views (Facebook and YouTube combined). We can’t wait to keep creating.
Good Times2: Can you tell me about this upcoming tour? Is this your first tour? Do you have a favourite place or venue since starting your tour or time on the road?
Charles: Yes, it is our first tour. Although it is a solo show, Tada will be joining as the technician and stage hand. The tour is great opportunity to meet our fans. The tour almost didn’t happen. Lots of organisers and managers rejected it because it is unusual for tour managers to bring YouTubers abroad. So after many doors being shut, I chose to organise this tour by myself. It is a very stressing process! But the fans’ response following the announcement was amazing! So I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. We look forward to each country equally! My favourite part of the tour will definitely be the meet and greet with the fans after each show.
Good Times2: Have you ever used magic to pick up a girl?
Charles: Yes! Back when I was 17 or 18. It did work. But that shouldn’t be a reason to start magic. I do magic because I love the art and I didn’t think of getting girls at all back when I was seven. But knowing how to do magic certainly gave me an advantage later during my teenage years.
Good Times2: Any funny stories or things you would like to add?
Charles: We look forward to see all of you on tour! Endless thanks for your support.
Tickets can be bought for $10 on the door of the theatre, or $8 in advance via Last2Ticket website and their outlets across town. Bookings can also be made via email to [email protected]