Peter Antoniou: Your Mind Is Not Safe

With a strapline like that it was with some trepidation we caught up with the charismatic performer ahead of his show in Sheffield next week. It’s very difficult to define exactly what this man does, so in his own words…

NT: Can you define your work for us?
Well, I’ve been billed as a mind reader, a psychic comedian or, as I put it, ‘comedium’.

NT: So, is it mind reading?
It depends how you see the term ‘psychic’. For some people it’s talking to the dead. I don’t do that. I put people in situations that make them think of certain things.
I started out learning hypnosis, people watching, experimenting and wondering. I watched a lot of tv psychics and observed how they worked and thought “I wonder if I could do that”.

NT: How long have you been at this?
I started about 8 years ago and used it to pay my way through uni. Not my course fees and such but you know, so I could eat. I like eating.
So I did student gigs, comedy nights and weddings. Weddings are difficult as there’s a lot of drunk people and that makes their reactions different.

NT: Were you studying psychology?
No I’m entirely self taught, I actually studied music. So I have no clinical psychology knowledge it’s all applied. There are about eight other people in the UK doing a similar thing and we get together sometimes and there is a certain amount of sharing techniques, but we all do things differently.

NT: How do you feel about the popularity of shows like Lie to Me and Derren Brown?
They’re both quite different to what I do and many of the other performers I mentioned. But it gets people interested in the techniques and the acts so that helps. I can’t complain.

NT: Does being a mind reader ever make day to day conversation and relationships difficult?
[Laughs.] Believe it or not it’s actually easier to read a stranger than someone you know really well. That may seem odd but with a stranger you can be more objective. With someone you know you have expectations and hopes around what they may think or feel and it clouds the issue.

NT: Tell us about your upcoming Sheffield Show.
Well it will be a comedy/cabaret night by Club 197 at the Great Gatsby on 26th May. We wanted to create somewhere for the weird acts to go like Geeks and ventriloquists, the kind of thing you see in 1930s carnivals and see less and less these days so we started Club 197. I’m really excited to have Musa Okwonga coming to perform and it’ll be a great night.
I’ll be performing a preview taster of my show for the Edinburgh Festival this year, and I’ll be doing a full Edinburgh preview in a couple of months.

NT: So what’s next for you?
I’m working on books about improvised comedy for performers and improvised comedy for business. Really it’s about teaching the techniques of quick thinking which is something I know well. Once during a show in Stratford I was frisked on stage by an ex-US serviceman, I’ve never been more thoroughly blindfolded in my life. I lost a bit of my fringe!
Comedy is a ruthless and brutal business, if people don’t like it they tell you. My show for Edinburgh this year is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted.

Keep up to date with the goings on of Pete here.

Grab your tickets for Club 197 here.


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