Talking magic with John Lenahan

Ahead of shows with the Punchline Comedy Club we got to know the magican-turned-comic

Talking magic with John Lenahan

Ahead a string of gigs across the region with Punchline Comedy throughout September, we chatted to this stand-up comic about London’s comedy clubs, winning a Time Out Street Magician of the Year award and getting kicked out of the ‘Magic Circle’.

You started out as a street performer, busking around Europe. How did that happen?
I saw Penn & Teller perfoming on the street in Philadelphia and one day tried it. I got successful and decided to use street performing to fund a trip for year around Europe. That was in the ‘80s and I still haven’t gone home.

So how did you make the transition to stand-up comedian?
London is awash with little comedy clubs. You do a free spot and if you’re good the next time they hire you. I was already a good street act and the transition to the clubs, for me, was easy.

How do you describe your comedy style?
When I performed at the Hong Kong festival they needed to give me a Chinese name with a symbol. They watched my video and named me John Laidback.

What has been the highlight of your comedy career so far?
I had my own show on the BBC and was asked by the palace to provide all the magical entertainment for the Queen’s jubilee.

How excited were you to get the Time Out Street Magician of the Year award once?
I think it was my very first award. I’m still proud of it.

What’s the coolest trick you’ve ever done?
I made a 20 piece orchestra disappear from the back of a truck going 40 miles an hour once. I won’t be doing that trick on this tour. [Ed: awwhhh]

How does it feel to be the first person in 85 years to be expelled from the Magic Circle for revealing a card trick?
Proud of that too!

What was the aftermath of your expulsion?
I got so much press that I was a clue in the [UK's] Sunday Telegraph’s crossword puzzle. ‘What circle was John Lenahan expelled from this week?’

You’ve also written fantasy novels. Where did you get the inspiration to write these?
I’m a big fan of Irish mythology. My three Shadowmagic novels are a retelling of those – with jokes. The first one is only a quid [one English pound sterling] on Kindle.

What can we expect from you next?
I’m always performing somewhere but I’m also writing a murder mystery. Log on to and get on my mailing list.

Are you a magician, novelist or comedian first? Why?
Comedian first. If they ain’t laughing, it ain’t workin’.

Tell us a joke… Or reveal a magic trick… whatever
You know when David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear? Well here’s how he did it. You see what really happened is jsdhdy leleh kldhc… Sorry something seems to be wrong with my computer……..

Punchline Comedy Club will bring three comedians, including John Lenahan, to perform across the region.

This includes one night at the Hilton Doha on Tuesday September 17. Dinner and the show costs QR300 with one welcome drink. The show starts at 7pm. The show starts at 7pm.
Call 4423 3333.

The Punchline Comedy will also be at:
Emirates Golf Club, Dubai on Thursday September 12.
Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Friday September 13.
Hilton Al Ain Wednesday September 18.
Jumeirah Creekside Hotel on Thursday September 19
Sharjah Wanderers Sports club on Friday September 20.

Tickets for all the above shows can be bought from

Click here to view John Lenahan's How to Be A Stand-Up Comedian guide.

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