- 24 Feb 20
Ahead of his appearance at the Hot Press-curated Southern Comfort ‘Carnival Spirit’ Mardi Gras night, magician and mentalist Jamie Skelton talks about his experiences on Ireland’s Got Talent – and the secrets of mind-reading!
“Pick a number.”
I’m sitting across from Jamie Skelton, magician and mentalist of Ireland’s Got Talent fame. 36, I choose. He asks if I’m sure – am I? I panic and switch to 72. He then pulls out his phone and asks me to open a note with a list of numbers and celebrities, and choose the corresponding celebrity to my number.
Ed Sheeran. Skelton starts asking me questions while folding and cutting a small piece of paper, almost as if he’s making a paper snowflake. Does my celebrity have red hair? Yes. Are they a musician? …Yes. He goes on, questions getting more specific, until he lands on the answer and unfolds the piece of paper. Lo and behold – he’s just cut out a portrait of Ed Sheeran. I’m too stunned to react, but that kind of confusion is exactly what he’s looking for.
“An internal reaction is what I strive for,” he says. “It’s when someone turns over a sheet of paper that you’ve just written the name of their first kiss on – they don’t move. They’re just frozen still and looking around thinking, what’s going on? That’s my favourite type of reaction.”
Initially inspired by his magician uncle and David Blaine, Skelton began professionally performing magic at the age of 13. He made his own business cards and kept doing it as a side job until the demand was big enough he could take on magic as a full-time gig. Before deciding to go all-in, Skelton studied marketing at Dublin Institute of Technology, which ended up making his tricks even more complex.
“A lot of that was consumer behaviour,” he notes. “How we think and how brands influence your decisions, whether it be the colour of the packaging or even the words used. I got a lot of books about psychology, linguistic programming, consumer behaviour. I started to mix that in with tricks. I wasn’t just doing card tricks, I was telling people what cards they were thinking of, and what celebrities they were thinking of. I could pick up on facial cues. It’s not actual mind-reading, obviously – it’s all to do with facial reading and expressions.”
His practice worked – in 2018, Skelton became the first magician to get a Yes from all four judges on Ireland’s Got Talent.
“It seemed the judges were really freaked out by it,” he reflects. “I put a deck of cards in Jason Byrne’s hand that he’d shuffled and looked at. It turned into a block of glass in his hand – he was just screaming and didn’t know what was going on.”
The block of glass has since become his signature move, but he was anxious about pulling off such a nuanced trick on the small screen.
“Not only do you have to fool the four judges who you’re doing the magic too,” says Skelton. “But you have angle issues, so there’s people on either side of me that I didn’t know were going to be there, I had to adapt and manoeuvre on the day and cover certain things that might be seen. Then of course they zoom in on your hands. If you make one false move, or someone sees something, it’s game over.”
After successfully fooling the judges and the audience, whose eyes were glued to the big screen, Skelton’s career went into the stratosphere.
“It’s changed the trajectory,” he acknowledges. “The day after Ireland’s Got Talent, my phone was blowing up with emails, calls and texts. A lot of companies like Google and Facebook were ringing me saying, ‘Hey we’d love to book you for our next corporate event.’ It added that extra element of authenticity to who I am as a performer.”
Even with all these higher expectations and bigger events, Skelton wants to stick to smaller-scale, mind-reading type tricks. Those, he feels, are what really blow people’s minds.
"I don’t do big box illusions. I find when magicians do those, the audience think the box is doing the work – it’s a trapdoor, it’s a mirror. With the magic I do, it’s right in front of people’s face. They see it and go, ‘Oh my god… How did you do that?’ ‘There’s no cameras here, you’re not on the stage, how did you read my mind?’ Or ‘how did you turn that deck of cards into a block of glass in my hands?’”
Between all of his other gigs, experience the magic for yourself Hot Press and Southern Comfort’s upcoming Carnival Spirit Mardi Gras night in Dublin’s brilliant Lost Lane venue, which also features Booka Brass, Tebi Rex, Jess “Soul” Kavanagh, DJ Tara “Star Time” Stewart, DJ Marcus “Voodoo” O’Laoire – and a host of other musicians, magicians, jugglers, stilt walkers and more!
“I can’t wait, it’s going to be really fun,” enthuses Jamie. “I’m really looking forward to freaking a few people out. Mardi Gras will be an interesting theme, I’m going to try to work a few tricks into that theme.”
And can we expect any brand new tricks on February 25?
“I might have something up my sleeve!”
Jamie Skelton appears as part of the Southern Comfort “Carnival Spirit”, presented by Hot Press on Mardi Gras night, February 25 in Lost Lane. Apply for complimentary tickets here.
Get the latest issue of Hot Press here!
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