Keith Barry chats famous fans, sceptics and dealing with on-stage mishaps

Keith Barry is a busy man.

He’s currently working on a new live show, he has a children’s book coming out in the coming months and he is also running magic camps in Barretstown.

VIP Magazine caught up with Keith to chat famous fans, dealing with sceptics and what happens when his act goes wrong on stage.

Pic: Shane O’Neill, Coalesce

Hi Keith, you’re a busy man! Why was it important to you to get involved with Barretstown?

I have kids myself. They’ve been in and out of hospitals over the years, luckily it was never with anything too serious or long-term or life-threatening. But it just makes me appreciate the trials and tribulations that other families go through. Having kids myself, I’m always looking to find out what I can do to give back. Barretstown is the perfect way to do that. It’s a camp full of wonder and magic for these kids. It’s great for me to go out there and spread some magic and wonder. It’s amazing to see that on their faces. I perform magic for the kids and sometimes I do camps where I teach them magic. It’s a great confidence builder for the kids.

It must be lovely to see the kids blossom!

It fills my heart with gratitude. Gratitude that my own children are healthy and gratitude that I can bring joy during troubled times. I was doing a camp a few weeks ago and there was one child who couldn’t engage with the camp. He had his own issues and ailments that made it difficult to socialise and engage. But during the camp, we all saw him transition from a child who finds it hard to socialise to a child who was engaging and putting his hand up. He wanted to come up and interact with the trick. You could see the sense of wonder come across his face. It was a real magical moment for his parents and for me. That’s what I love about it.

You’re going back on the road soon..

I wrote a new live show recently, called Mindgames. That’s the next batch of shows that I’ll do next year. I always come up with the concept first. After COVID, I came up with the reconnection show, then I work backwards from there. For Mindgames, I looked at what games people are playing and what they engage in. Then I loop them into mindreading and mindhacking experiences.

Keith Barry with wifer Mairead, Braden (10) and Breanna (13) Pic: Andres Poveda

Obviously not everyone believes in what you do. How do you handle sceptics?

I understand that there’s lots of scepticism when it comes to what I do. So I play into that. Every night I’m on stage I say if a sceptic can beat the brainhacker they can win €15,000! I love sceptics! They think I’m wearing earpieces, they think I’ve set it all up! They think I have electronics. I love sceptics coming to the show. Alot of the time people come to the show because they like my work but they drag unwilling participants. They’re the people who I want to come to the show and I want to hack into their brains. I want to make them believers.

Have you ever dealt with people who are afraid of magic or your act?

Keanu Reeves, randomly, is frightened s**t of magic. At least me anyway! Also the woman who is NCIS, she works in the lab in the show. That actress [Pauley Perrette] I went to do a trick for her once and she was like, “I can’t see this. Don’t move your hands.” And I was like, “What do you mean?” And she explained that she’s frightened of magicians.

So when you write a show, do you drag your family in to practice your act on?

That’s the difficult part! My kids and my wife have no interest in what I do at all! So I can’t rehearse on them. They do not care. I remember years ago talking to Tommy Tiernan and Jason Byrne and they thought I was crazy. They always break in material in comedy clubs before they put a show together. But I put the show down on paper and then I get my team together for three days, that’s all I have time for. We get all the technology and props together in those three days and see what things might work. Then I just go for it on opening night. So over the last 10 years, the material when I start the show is completely untested. But I kind of like that. I like living on the adrenaline. Then the show evolves very quickly on what will and won’t work.

Pic: Shane O’Neill, Coalesce

Do things go wrong on stage?

Oh yeah! Things fail all the time. But you learn from those failures all the time. Sometimes I can’t get inside someone’s head and sometimes funny things happen during the show. A few years ago I passed out in front of a thousand of people in the Olympia. I was doing an escape where I was wrapped in 100 foot of rope, tied to a chair and my face was wrapped with cling film so I couldn’t see or breathe while trying to escape. Ultimately, I fell over and winded myself. I inhaled cling film directly into my mouth and almost into my lungs. So I passed out. Everyone thought it was part of the act, until the shutters came down and they realised that was the end of the show. But they had two hours of entertainment before that. I always put the escapes at the end of the show. Most of the time I have a second or a third escape route planned, so the audience isn’t aware something has gone horribly wrong.

Okay, we have to ask, who is the most famous person who have done magic on?

Probably Morgan Freeman. I think most people around know him. Woody Harrelson introduced me to him and wanted me to hack Mrogan’s mind. So I did but Morgan is a bit of a sceptic. But then I told him about a childhood friend of his called Booboo that he hadn’t heard from or thought of for 60 years. They used to go fishing together. He freaked out and lost his mind, he started cursing and everything. That was a real special moment for me. The director, John Chu, captured the moment in pictures which I have in pride of place in my home.

Keith Barry was speaking to VIP Magazine as Barretstown welcomes its 100,00th camper. With only 2 per cent government funding annually, charity issues rallying call for support to help put the smiles back on the faces of children affected by cancer and other serious illnesses


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