Keith Barry: 'If I'm buying a new house or car, I'll use any technique I can to get them cheaper'
Keith Barry tells Joanna Kiernan about creating monsters, getting to grips with his body and touring
He has messed with the minds of some of the world's biggest stars, from Morgan Freeman and Keanu Reeves to Nicole Scherzinger and Woody Harrelson, so meeting mentalist and hypnotist Keith Barry one-to-one is a slightly intimidating affair, to say the least.
Fresh from his success on the ratings-topping ITV show You're Back in the Room with Phillip Schofield, which has now been commissioned for a second season and has also been recorded for Australia's Channel Nine, Keith is excited to be back in Ireland to tour with his latest stage show 'Out of Control.'
This will be Keith's eleventh original stage show since 2004 and with his star continuing to rise internationally through his work as consultant on Hollywood movies, as well as his TV gigs, the Waterford native's schedule is an extremely busy one.
"The next nine months are already chock-a-block, full of work which is great," Keith tells me. "The one thing I am learning to do now is to take time off, which I didn't do for 15 years.
"This time around, I made a promise to myself I would take some time off, so I had three weeks off in the last 18 months," he smirks.
Keith's passion for his art, and the fun and interest he derives from it, is infectious. When I happen to mention that I would have been quite open to visiting the odd psychic/fortune teller type (or 10) before attending his show '8 Deadly Sins' a number of years ago - where he displayed just how easy it is for them to fool people - he immediately produces a pack of ESP cards and a pendulum.
Keith and his wife, Mairead
ESP cards, Keith explains, were developed during the 1930s in Duke University to test for clairvoyance.However, within minutes, he demonstrates that what they actually pick up on is a reflex in the body called the "idiomotor response".
"I would love somebody to walk in here and sit down there and convince me that they are truly psychic, but I have educated myself in the overt techniques that they don't want you and the general public to know.
"I've been to hundreds of psychics and I have yet to meet any who would come even close," he explains.
"I am certainly not an expert and I have a long way to go; I am still absorbed and fascinated by the power of the subconscious mind. I have yet to find something that is completely unexplainable because I am also a scientist - I studied science in college, so I have a good grounding in the sense that I know all of the magic and hypnosis techniques as well.
"Would I love to find something that is completely unexplained or supernatural? Of course: I love a good conspiracy theory and all of that stuff. Do I believe in half of them? No. But I am fascinated by all of these things."
Keith and Joanna Kiernan
"I live for research," Keith smiles. "I have a passion for the subconscious mind and what we are capable of and all of that type of stuff. My office is just rammed with books full of information."
This passion goes right back to Keith's childhood, when he was gifted a magic set.
"I started off in hypnosis when I was 14 and then I was 18 when I went off to college," Keith says. "I studied chemistry in college, but my girlfriend then, who is now my wife Mairead, she studied psychology. So I started to read all of her psychology books and that's when I started to mix the psychology with the hypnosis and the magic, so it evolved over all the years."
So does Keith ever use his hypnotic techniques in real life? I venture, half afraid that I am under a spell as I utter these very words.
"Oh I do, yeah!" he answers immediately, "it's called covert hypnosis and conversational hypnosis, and I use it all of the time," he smiles. "When I am buying a new house or a new car, of course I am going to use any technique that I can to get these things cheaper. Does that mean I will put somebody asleep and get these things for nothing? Well, no, not really. But there are secret techniques; neuro-linguistic programming, the yes-setting mixed with hypnotic triggers and all that kind of stuff. I'd use it on a daily basis," he laughs. "It'd be stupid not to."
Earlier this year, Keith spoke about hypnotising his wife during the birth of their second child. However, Mairead has her own knowledge of hypnotism.
"Mairead can hypnotise people as well, so if you learn how to hypnotise people, you can learn how to block it, so those days are over unfortunately," Keith laughs. And the couple's two children Breanna (7) and Braden (3) just might be set to follow in their parents' footsteps.
"My seven-year-old is running around trying to hypnotise people already. I think I could have created a monster there," Keith smiles.
He is delighted to be filming a new show for TV3 this autumn.
"I'll be doing more television here in Ireland over the next year, which is brilliant. I haven't done any television here now since Brain Hacker," he explains. "I have no want or need to move out of Ireland any time soon; it is always going to be my home and my bread and butter, especially with the kids now."
However, Keith may have to fly between Ireland and Hollywood over the next few months should his services be called upon once again, as magic mentor for the next instalment of US film blockbuster, Now You See Me.
"I'm waiting on a call -it may come, it may not, but I know they are going to film a third act of Now You See Me and I just finished working on the second one for 16 months that time around, so fingers crossed," Keith explains.
So what have been Keith favourite stunts to date?
"The one moment that sticks out even still was the time drove Nicole Scherzinger at 100 miles-an-hour down a canyon road blindfolded," he smiles. "It was kind of a special moment I suppose - abducting Nicole Scherzinger - and it was mega dangerous. Then there was a time that I met Keanu Reeves and he got completely freaked out by some of the stuff I was doing and he ran out of the restaurant, so there have been a few special moments."
Keith believes that improving his fitness over the last number of years has been key to his success.
"I was fat for a good few years," he says plainly. "There are not too many photographs of the fat Keith Barry floating around," he laughs. "Over 15 years ago, I met my manager Eamon and in the very first meeting that we ever had, he sat down and said, 'You're fat', so that was a bit of a wake-up call.
"People are very sensitive about the entire issue, but he was right, I was fat, so I took it on the chin and joined a gym.
"I was about 16 stone at that stage, which was very heavy for me and I lost about two stone and he knew then that I was serious about what I wanted to do; that's why we ended up working together and why we are still working together now."
Six years ago, Keith began to improve his health and strength even further by training with Paul Byrne of BodyByrne fitness.
"I bumped into Paul Byrne and he recognised with some of the escapes that I do that I needed a different form of training, so I started working out with him six years ago and I go there religiously now when I am home."
Keith is looking forward to getting back on the road.
"I haven't toured in 18 months, which is a long time for me to not tour. I have toured every 12 months really for the past 10 years and I love it, it is by far the most enjoyable aspect of what I do, so I can't wait to get out on the road again," he says.
"People get nervous and I understand that - sometimes I am not even sure what will happen," he flashes a mischievous grin. "The first half of this show is mentalism and to give an example, the end of the first half will involve a member - a danger stunt where a member of the audience, will be shooting an object at 700f-per-second at my face.
"If I get it wrong, it will either blind me or, at best, break my nose. But, really, the whole ethos is that it is 'Out of Control' - the show is loosely scripted, but to a very large extent, it's improvised, and I like that. It's scary for me, but it also makes it way more interesting."
Before we finish up, Keith asks me to think of a time in my life where I was out of control and write down where I was and who was with me on a piece of paper. I will spare you the details, but within about three minutes of looking into my eyes, Keith was able to pinpoint not just the place (France), but the specific city (Montpellier), and asks what Niamh (the girl who had been with me) was doing up the mountains recently. She was just back from skiing the previous day.
Keith's new show 'Out of Control' kicks off at the Olympia Theatre on October 16 before touring nationwide. For more information, see Ticketmaster.ie