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Eric Antoine: “I made a career out of my clumsiness”

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The French magician-comedian, Eric Antoine, who performed his ‘magicomedy’ show, “Le Best-Of” on Friday 27 April 2008 at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, stayed with his family at the Royal Palm during his visit to Mauritius.

Mauritius is not totally unknown territory for Eric Antoine, who travelled with his wife and assistant, Calista Sinclair, and their two sons, Raphael and Ulysse. “This is probably my sixth or seventh time here and I really do like the place a lot. I feel that I get along well with the people here.”

“I am familiar with the Beachcomber hotels, namely Dinarobin Beachcomber, Paradis Beachcomber and Royal Palm, and I have just discovered Canonnier Beachcomber. It makes one feel lucky to have the chance to stay in such wonderful places,” said the French magician-comedian in an interview after his press conference on 24 April at Canonnier Beachcomber.

He admits to appreciating the “utterly light humour” of the American film director, Woody Allen as well as the British comedy troupe, Monty Python and their absurd sense of humour. He also wonders whether this isn’t the true meaning of life. “Removing significance and taking the seriousness out of things is a way to free our thinking and I like that idea. It’s one of those things that I find in Mauritius. There is a form of lightness here, for example with regard to religion, which can be a very complex issue. The people here treat religion as a part of daily life and as something personal. It’s something closer to celebration while in France and in many other countries, it is viewed as something more serious and solemn.”

 

Measuring 2m07 tall, he describes himself as “The No. 1 magician on Earth in height, not talent.” He now puts his size and clumsiness to good use in his shows. “I think I’ve gained enough distance to realise that my clumsiness was actually not a flaw in other people’s eyes, but a quality and that it gave me an altogether more human side compared to most other magicians, who may appear too cold and aseptic,” said Eric Antoine. “People will always tell you about your flaws. I was frequently told that I was clumsy and awkward. But what if it wasn’t really a flaw? I made a career out of my clumsiness.”

He tried studying medicine, then psychology before quickly returning to his first passion. “I have always been drawn to the entertainment scene. I had a keen interest in stage work in all its forms – technique, lighting, directing, scriptwriting…” He was also doing some student jobs on the side. “I was performing some magic tricks in bars, restaurants and kids’ parties.”

The turning point came when he was asked to speak at a conference on illusion. “There was also a neurosurgeon who spoke of illusion from a cerebral point of view and a philosopher. I was the last speaker and was like a hellion, talking about illusion from a magician’s point of view. I watched the videos afterwards and for the first time, I made myself laugh. I thought that if I could make myself laugh and surprise myself, maybe I could also surprise other people. That’s how my character was born.”

 

The magician-comedian got a career boost in 2006 through his participation in the first season of the TV show, ‘Incroyable Talent’ (France Has Got Talent), broadcast on the French channel, M6. He crossed to the other side in 2015 and is now part of the show’s jury. “When I was a candidate, I wanted to give a good time to the viewers and jury. Now, I also try to make sure that the candidates have a good time too.”

He displays tremendous energy on stage, combining magic with humour and exuberance. “My mind keeps wandering in all directions and I need to apply self-restraint in order to maintain narrative consistency. But I am also continually seeking diversity in my work because I don’t want to be locked in a box. I don’t want to be just a magician or just a comedian; I don’t want to be just a magician-comedian either. I want to stage productions, write scripts, I’m interested in books and movies, I want to do lots of different things. And I see absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t.”

The magic has been going on for some 15 years now. Eric Antoine hopes that it will last much longer, and that “The magic will continue long after I am gone.”