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The magician and Britain’s Got More Talent presenter tells us about his run-ins with giant spiders and mad Jedward fans

You’re always doing spin-off shows like Dancing On Ice Defrosted and Britain’s Got More Talent: when are you going to get a prime-time show of your own?
I’m always on TV around 6.30pm, what I call the Jim’ll Fix It slot, when the whole family can sit down and watch it. But to get a prime-time show you need to display your worth and learn your craft. I’m virtually there. I’m in talks for a new Saturday night entertainment programme that brings back some of the old-school elements of shows like the Generation Game or Noel’s House Party but brings them up to date.

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve ever done as a TV presenter?
We used to do this show called Brilliant Creatures, which looked at some of the wildest animals from around the world. We went to the Amazon, which was an amazing experience but, stupidly, I didn’t anticipate some of the things we had to deal with. For example, there was this thing called the Goliath bird-eating spider, which is the size of a plate. You can actually see its eyes blinking, that’s how big it was – it was just horrible. You’d come out of your hut and they would be everywhere. It was like a horror film. And they wouldn’t move; they weren’t scared of people. I just thought, I don’t want to do this.

Looking at some of your fan messages online, people seem to really love you. There isn’t a bad word against you. Why?
It’s because I don’t seem to do anything that warrants any negativity, really. The only time I’ve ever had a bit of a backlash, which slightly shocked me to be honest, was when I had Jedward on Britain’s Got More Talent. We were making some jokes, admittedly aimed at them, but on Twitter I was threatened: “How dare you take the mick out of Jedward … we know where your studios are and we’ll come down!” It was a nightmare. I spoke to producer because I didn’t think the interview warranted that response. Jedward were fine about it and came back on the show.

Jedward’s fans sound more obsessive than yours. Although one of your fans followed you around a supermarket.
It’s scary how immediate Twitter and Facebook are. Sometimes when someone’s got their phone you just know they’re either taking a photo or making a video. They think they’re being quite clever and sly but in reality they might as well have a big placard going “I’m Taking A Picture Of You!” I was in a restaurant in Leicester Square the other day and I just knew this girl was making a video of me, which is quite rude – if people want a photo they only have to ask. Within five minutes I was online. That’s amazing, and scary!

You started out as a Butlins redcoat. How important was that training for what you do now?
I’ve always said this: I believe being a redcoat is better training than any drama school could ever be. I’m talking about being a performer, not an actor. You just have to get up and do it. I’ve had friends who went to drama school and after two years of their course, they still didn’t know their craft. Like they don’t know how to make an audience cheer at a certain point. You learn those clever little technical things as a redcoat.

You’re also a magician. Ever had a trick go spectacularly wrong?
I used to do corporate events around tables, and I’d do this trick where I’d borrow someone’s ring and make it disappear. A couple of jokes down the line you make it reappear. I did this trick one night and the ring was no longer there. My heart sunk and I had to say to the woman: “I’ve lost your ring.” The problem was the whole table started laughing cos they thought it was a gag. I had to say: “No, I’m being serious. I’ve lost your ring, it must be on the floor.” And the whole table had to get down on their hands and knees. We found the ring but I don’t do that trick anymore – it made me feel physically sick!

What did the Queen say to you when you met her?
She said I was an amusing young man and shook my hand and I said: “Thank you very much.” You just get so nervous. There’s something about the whole etiquette – you’re not allowed to talk to her before she talks to you – so you’re waiting in the line and you’re thinking: “What do I say?”

What panto have you got lined up for later this year?
I’m doing Cinderella (The Marlowe Theatre, Kent), my favourite pantomime story. I’m playing Bottoms, Cinderella’s best friend ... who loses out to Prince Charming. It’s a really nice story and I get to do a lot of illusions during the show.


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