This week IRL sought out Andrew Lee, the Malaysian magician who managed to get through the first round of Britain’s Got Talent. You can see his audition here.
We ask him what it was like being on the show, how he got into magic, and what his future plans are.
Read about it below!
Could you tell us a bit about your background, and how you ended up becoming a magician?
I was home-schooled. Everything I learnt was self-taught, and/or taught to me by my mom.
I have a degree in nutritional science, and used to work in a large fitness chain in Malaysia. Back then, magic was just a hobby and I never actually took it seriously. I was doing magic performances as side gigs when I was studying (the money was good, and it funded my hobby), lol.
When I was working in the fitness chain, I had no life. It was just work, work, work, and there was no time for magic. One day I got an international show enquiry, and was invited to perform in India for Tech-fest, one of the largest tech festivals in the world. They have audiences of up to 10,000 people.
To cut a long story short, I needed a break from my job so I tried it out. Back then it was just a hobby and I wasn’t even doing it fulltime.
After that I found myself being booked for other international gigs, which led me to quit my job and travel the world to do what I love.
How did you end up in the UK and onto Britain’s Got Talent?
It was always a dream to be on Britain’s Got Talent or even America’s Got Talent to meet and perform in front of Simon Cowell.
Last year, I lost my house to a fire when I was in Australia, watching the Melbourne Cup (one of the world’s largest horse races). I lost everything I had. Everything I worked for and built over the years disappeared overnight.
I took on whatever opportunities that came my way, and it was also the period when I accepted the invitation to be on Asia’s Got Talent Season 2.
After the audition on Asia’s Got Talent, I was invited by America’s Got Talent to be part of season 13, (later this year). However, I didn’t get back to them as I was focusing on my semi-final act for Asia. I wanted to complete the Asia show and then do the America show.
However, after much thought and reading through the Terms and conditions of the contract, unfortunately I found out that it would be a breach of contract/ interest, after completing the Asia show.
I then was contacted by Britain’s Got Talent. By then I was already free of my ties from Asia, so I accepted the offer and went ahead to do Britain’s Got Talent.
Did a particular magician influenced your style?
I look up to magicians based on their delivery and the experience they create for their audience. I like those who don’t just perform tricks – like David Copperfield, for example.
However, along the way I developed my own unique style and performance. After all, magic should be an expression of who you are and your personality.
Why magic? What compelled you to perform magic onstage?
I initially studied medicine, but halfway through I decided to pursue nutritional science instead. Medicine may heal a sickness, but can cause health problems in the long run. Nutritional medicine on the other hand is more preventive, and has better health benefits.
While growing up, I remembered watching one of Robin Williams’s movie – Patch Adams. He plays a doctor who would often cheer his patients up by dressing up as a clown. The main point was that he brought joy to his patients, and made them feel good about themselves. He healed them not just physically, but spiritually as well.
That inspired me, and I use magic the same way. I use it to put smiles on peoples faces and amaze them, bringing out the same childlike wonder we all had. I love it. I think magic connects us all even if we don’t speak the same language.
You mentioned that it was your dream to perform for the Royal Family, why?
I wanted to be the first Malaysian to perform for them. It’s just one of those things on my bucket list. ?
Your girlfriend was part of your act, so she’s supportive of what you do. How did you guys meet and how does she feel being your assistant onstage? Does she like the limelight as well?
She’s new to all this, and performing was never her thing. Before this she was doing marketing for a hair saloon.
We met at an event that she was sponsoring. I was performing onstage and called her up as on one of my volunteers. That’s how we first got to know each other.
She’s come a long way since then. She used to have stage fright, but she’s much better now. She can perform by my side, and she even has her own style of being onstage.
We all know it’s tough to get through BGT. How was it performing there?
It all happened so quickly. I was in London for only 2 ½ days for the show, and when I arrived it was already late at night. I just had enough time for dinner and then went off to bed.
I had to get up early the next day for some interviews, and only performed in front of the judges that night. I was already exhausted by then, and not to mention jet-lagged.
Everything only kicked in after I got back to Malaysia the next day. I thought to myself “I actually did BGT and wow-ed the judges!”
For me, everyone’s seen a card trick. It always goes the same way – a magician gets you to pick a card and he’ll attempt to find your card. It’s the same thing, every time. So I thought – why not make something memorable?
How do you develop the air of suspense? Most magic acts consist of many short acts to keep the viewers entertained – what made you think of doing only one act? Did you think it was a risk? Tell us how you prepared for the audition, and how did you come up with the act?
My shows usually go on for 30 minutes for corporate events, and 45 minutes for cruise ships. I also did my own show in Australia that went on for 90 minutes.
I see myself as a musician, recording an album. Each performance is like a song, and it should lead to something bigger. I also want my audience to feel different emotions during the show, so when they come out of it, they can say they had a great experience.
I don’t want my audience to feel like they were fooled or tricked. Magic isn’t about the tricks being performed – it’s about the experience and the memories you create from the show.
For TV, it needs something short, visually compelling, and be memorable and crazy enough so that people will talk about it.
In fact, that’s how I came up with using the show’s own hosts to be part of it. If the stunt works out, great! And if it doesn’t and the host gets injured, well… people will still talk about it.
So what’s next? What’re your plans with being a magic performer from here on?
I want to continue traveling around the world and bringing my magic to as many places as possible. Even if I got a residential show in Vegas, I wouldn’t want to be in Vegas the entire time. I’d like to see the world.
So far, magic has indeed brought me to places I never thought I would go. As of today, I’ve performed in 17 different countries (and counting).
What lessons have you learned from being a magician onstage which you can apply to other areas of your life?
Everything. To most people, magic performances are just ‘tricks’. But to me, it’s more than that. It’s about achieving something you never thought possible.
Also, to me, magic is poetic. It has the power to make someone laugh or cry. While the tricks may not be real, but the feeling it evokes is. It has the power to build someone or tear them down. It’s similar to an act of kindness – it makes people feel a certain way.
Do you plan to come back to Malaysia and perform here?
Yes, one day I would like to have my own show in Malaysia. I’d want to uplift the entertainment value of magic, and to hopefully change the public perception of magic from “tipu la” to “that was entertaining!”
Could you reveal a magic trick to us maybe?
Can you keep a secret? if you can, so can I 😉