Don’t be a jerk — treat everyone with respect. Not only is it bad for your own mindset and attitude to live life negatively, but other people simply won’t want to work with you or assist you if you’re just not pleasant to be around.
As a part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Colin Cloud.
Known as a ‘Real Life Sherlock Holmes,’ Colin Cloud’s unique mentalism skills have led to him selling out theaters at the Edinburgh Festival, on London’s West End, Broadway and now the Las Vegas Strip — starring in LIMITLESS at the Mirage Las Vegas. Colin never hesitates to shock audiences with his performances, spending over twenty years in the industry, wowing those from royalty to celebrities (including the judges and audience on Season 12 of America’s Got Talent). With recognition from some of the biggest names in media, his work has been complimented by Prince William, Ellen DeGeneres, Simon Cowell, and Howie Mandel. Colin is originally from Edinburg, Scotland, where he studied forensic investigation, specifically criminal profiling, which then led to his success in showcasing his mentalist techniques to fans all around the world.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
To be honest, finding myself in Vegas walking down The Strip every night is a stark difference to growing up in the middle of the country (aka middle of nowhere) in Scotland. I’m from a small town called Harthill which is halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh — so I was very grateful to only be a short 40 minute train ride from both cities. I was accepted to university in Glasgow to study forensic investigation at the age of 15 and started when I was 16, which was pretty intimidating given how introverted I’ve always been (*off stage). It was during these university years I discovered the comedy club scene and really began to appreciate the skills of stand up comedians–their awareness, their command of an audience and their ability to entertain. So I decided to combine all of my skills in criminal profiling, hypnosis and mentalism to create a really distinctive form of entertainment. It’s since taken me to sell out runs at the Edinburgh Festival, London’s West End, Broadway and now the Las Vegas Strip.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been fascinated, I’d dare say obsessed, with Sherlock Holmes — his ability to know literally everything and his thirst for understanding. I first discovered the books when I was around 6 or 7 and would skip to the pages where he was doing ‘the cool stuff’, revealing facts and secrets about people. When I was 8, I found out he never existed, the way the books were written.I’d assumed he was a real person. I was a little devastated. But by then, the bug had bitten. Other kids would be playing football (the official name of soccer) and I’d be in my room taking my TV set apart to fathom how it worked. Then I discovered psychology and became enthralled with understanding people and how they ‘work’.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m truly lucky and incredibly grateful that both my parents have always been incredibly supportive of all of my life choices. Without their encouragement and reassurance, I would definitely be stuck in a lab somewhere right now. But there are two other key people, phenomenal mentors and friends. The first is Gavin Oattes, author and now owner of the UK’s leading motivation and engagement training organisation. When I was just about to leave university and wondering what I was going to do in life, I saw him speak at an event and he was hilarious and inspirational in equal measures. We got chatting afterwards and he hired me to join. I was with the company for seven years, where Gav and I eventually bought the company and separately went on to perform comedy shows together. The other is David Gerard, a phenomenal mentalist and marketing genius in the Bay Area. He’s been my director and co-writer through all of my TV work and one man stage shows. He and I met in Vegas ten years ago and immediately realised we had a perfect synergy. We’ve also gone on to perform all over the world together and continue to meet up monthly to improve every detail of everything I present on stage and on TV.
You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Easy, being invited to perform as part of the Royal variety performance in 2017. It was in the London Palladium. Prince William and Kate Middleton were in the audience and The Killers were on right before me playing ‘Mr Brightside’. It was a lot of pressure, largely because my parents were in the audience. But it was such a perfect night and a moment I will always treasure.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Never mind mistakes when I started, I still make mistakes weekly, if not nightly. Everything I do relies on the interaction with truly random strangers. The success of what I do and reveal, as well as how entertaining it is for the other 1000 people watching comes down to the interaction I have with them. I have a strict rule that I never want to embarrass anyone, but I want to exploit the engagement I create with them to make it as hilarious and astounding as possible so they leave the stage feeling delighted to have taken part and also feel like ‘the Star of the Show’. So after every show I replay footage and make notes on new lines that really landed and continue punching up lines that I know can still be better. It’s a constant evolutionary process and one I not only thoroughly thrive on, it’s one of the driving factors in my success … constantly learning from my failures. What I will say is that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at accepting and dealing with these moments — they used to really eat away at me and they would really add to my nerves for the next time I’d be getting on stage. Thankfully I realised you either let these moments stick as pillars that suppress your potential and hinder you, or you can find the solutions to these challenges and they’ll become your staircase, driving you closer to perfection.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Obviously Shin Lim and I are constantly working to improve every moment in ‘Limitless’ which essentially tells the story of his life and the hurdles he overcame to ultimately win America’s Got Talent … TWICE. But I’m just about to take my new one man show to the Edinburgh Festival in August. ‘After Dark’ is a much more personal story and instead of just looking into the audience’s minds and revealing what they’re thinking, I’m going to turn the tables and share with the audience a lot of what’s been going on in my mind, my mental health journey these last few years and share some powerful skills and techniques I’ve discovered and tweaked that have really had a profound impact on my life. Usually in my industry, you’re trying to connect with an audience by amazing them with deceit, so it’s been really nice to write and share a show that’s much more honest and authentic than anything else I’ve ever written.
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of rejection, lack of support, or failure?
Accept now there will be rejection, there will be people concerned about choices you make and you are going to have failures along the way. Accept that now and start immediately. There is no right time to start, there’s no point waiting, just start and make it up as you go. That’s what the rest of us are doing! When you feel rejected or like you’ve failed — work out where and why that happened and improve. It’s only failure if you quit, otherwise it’s learning and improving. Also try to surround yourself with people who are smarter and better than you are in your field, but also people who care — then listen to them. If they’re criticising or giving notes, you know it’s from a place of love and not some weird-bitter-controlling-rudeness (official scientific label). I have people I send everything I’m writing to and I let them tear it apart because I know they’re going to help me put it back together and make it infinitely better. It can be tough at the beginning, but when you learn to remove emotions from the process, you start mining gems much faster. I’ve found it to be a really efficient way to work.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the live performance industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Take time to rest. Reflect on what you’ve already achieved. Get excited about everything you still want to achieve. Then rest some more.
Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performances” and why? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Be unique — if you want to stand out, you need to be doing something completely original or you need to be doing something old in an original way.
- Energy — eat right, exercise and stay healthy. It can be a mentally and emotionally taxing journey and sometimes you can control those things. But you can ensure you’re fueling and caring for yourself correctly to increase your effectiveness and focus.
- Your team — once you’ve gotten your vision and yourself in check, you need to be surrounded by the types of people I’ve mentioned to keep you on track. This is all a journey and there is no set path, so only add people who add fuel and get rid of the people burning it. But also add fuel to theirs where you can too.
- Constantly aim to improve — try things, get the data points, tweak the results, try them again. Repeat.
- Don’t be a jerk — treat everyone with respect. Not only is it bad for your own mindset and attitude to live life negatively, but other people simply won’t want to work with you or assist you if you’re just not pleasant to be around.
For the benefit of our readers, could you describe how the skill-sets you need in a theatre performance are different than the skill-sets you need for TV or Film?
Easy! When you’re an actor on a show, or movie you’re given a script to memorise and deliver. In what I do, every night is different depending on the people who are picked at random to come on stage. So as much as some of the stories I share are the same, the delivery will change to match the energy of the audience and then when I start interacting it becomes completely free form — I’m left to rely on my ad libbing abilities, experiences and quick wit to create instant responses and reactions to whatever may happen. For an actor, every show is the same. For me, no two shows even come close.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Again — don’t be a jerk. We all get a set amount of fuel to burn each day for ourselves and others, you choose if you want to burn it to move yourself and others in a positive direction or in a negative one. It is absolutely a choice we each get to make. I know what I choose.
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” Yeah, it would’ve been great if you’d started back then, but you didn’t — so get over it. You can keep putting it off and resenting yourself for not doing it yet, or you can give yourself a break and go make it happen for now instead and be proud of yourself for finally making it happen. There are some things I wish I’d done sooner, now I’m just grateful I did them at all. I promise, doing it now is still going to be SO worth it.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Probably comedian Anthony Jeselnik. I’ve only discovered him in recent years and while his content or subject matter may not be to everyone’s taste, you cannot deny his delivery, writing style and character are utterly perfect. I’d love to get time to understand how he developed and continues to define this approach. Just to get a glimpse into his process would be incredible.
How can our readers continue to follow your work online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!