THINK of someone you went to school with, he begins. “Hold out your hands to the camera. Imagine you are typing this name.”
I imagine myself typing. On the other end of this Zoom link, Colin Cloud lifts his blackboard and starts writing. “Is there an R in this name?” he asks me. 
“Now be honest, were you going to say Simon and you changed your mind?” 
He turns the board around. It doesn’t say Simon. It says the name I was thinking of. 
“Is there any way I could have known you were going to say Malcolm?”
No, no there bloody isn’t. 
On the other side of the world Colin Cloud puts his board down and smiles. It’s midnight in Las Vegas. (That’s a line I don’t get to write nearly enough in this job.) Three hours ago, Cloud came offstage at The Mirage on the Vegas Strip and now he’s talking to someone (OK, me) nearly 5,000 miles away and eight hours into the future. 

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Cloud is at home but he’s still in stage make-up, his hair pimped up to look like a poodle on uppers. (Or is it downers?) If he was to tell me he had been a member of a minor synthpop band from 1981 I wouldn’t be surprised. Instead, he’s here to talk about magic, mentalism and the distance both geographically and emotionally from Harthill to the Vegas Strip, a journey that has taken in Britain’s Got Talent, a Royal Variety Performance, America’s Got Talent, Broadway, the West End and more than a few Edinburgh Festival Fringes along the way.

It’s possible no-one is more amazed by the journey he’s made than Cloud himself. “Given that I am a reserved, shy little boy from Harthill in the middle of nowhere in Scotland, to be standing in the Vegas Strip every night and seeing my face on billboards, posters … To say it is unbelievably surreal is an understatement.” 
Cloud currently has a residence at The Mirage where he is the support to America’s Got Talent winner Shin Lim. “It is a massively wonderful responsibility to be on that stage presenting mentalism for 1,000 audience members every night. And I never take it for granted. I never really get nervous, but I get the pressure of wanting to give that audience the best show that I possibly can. Because even though I get to do it 500 times a year, they get to see it probably once so I want it to be the best it possibly can be for them.”
He moved to Vegas in 2019. “The commute from Harthill would be dreadful,” he points out. “I live eight minutes from the Strip, if you hit every green light, which is brilliant.”
But this coming week he’s back in Scotland for a limited run at the Fringe with a new show, After Dark. Why? Presumably he doesn’t need to?
“Just a genuine appreciation for what that festival means to me and performers everywhere,” he says. “I really believe that it is the best performing arts festival in the world. A lot of major shows here got their break at Edinburgh. Look at all the Spiegelworld shows; Absinthe [currently at Caesars Palace in Vegas], Atomic Saloon Show [at The Venetian] started in Edinburgh. 
“Not that Vegas is the natural progression, but I just feel that everyone I’ve ever respected as a performer has made it in Edinburgh. Jimmy Carr. Michael McIntyre, James Acaster, so many comedians that I love and appreciate have made a name for themselves in Edinburgh.
“I feel what I’m coming back with is the best thing I’ve written. But I also feel coming back is  a good challenge for me to want to write to that level where I deserve to be back there because I know that I am up against the best in the world. Not just magic and mentalism, but all arts are there.”
After Dark is, Cloud admits, the most personal thing he has ever performed. “The main topic of this show is something I never thought I would speak about,” he admits. And we can’t really talk about it now without spoiling the show for audiences. Suffice to say that it will touch on mental health and how even mind readers sometimes don’t know how their own minds work.
“Every show that I’ve done before is about revealing secrets from the audience. This is the first show where I am turning the table and sharing my secrets with them. I think a lot of magicians or mentalists want to be the all-powerful hero on stage and never want to be seen as vulnerable.
“I’m not arrogant, but I am very comfortable on stage now as a performer and I feel like I’m able to be my real self. So, as much as it will be a fully  entertaining hour – there will be loads of comedy,  loads of amazing mentalism and hypnosis – when that moment hits people … It’s a good surprise I’ve been finding. It takes them on a real journey that they don’t even realise they are on until that last moment when everything clicks together.”
Cloud cut his teeth performing in Edinburgh and in Glasgow, at the Wild Cabaret. Of the latter, he says: “I had 20 minutes on stage and I was competing with waiters, waitresses taking orders, people getting drinks, people being seated at different times. And learning to grab and hold attention in that environment is the only reason I think I got spotted for doing mentalism for the likes of The Illusionists show. 
“They realised I could tie in the comedy and be fast and witty and no matter what seemed to happen I was able to bring it into the act and make it part of the experience rather than let it hinder or distract. So, I will be forever grateful for that training ground because without it I definitely wouldn’t be here.”
This year’s Fringe marks a homecoming of sorts. The foundational story of Colin Cloud starts with that 12-year-old shy boy, terrified that his teacher is going to make him read out loud in class. 
He was Colin McLeod back then. “I remember being in the school canteen one day playing a game with one of my friends where there were different cups. They would hide an object under a cup and I would look away and they would mix them round and I was able to tell them over and over again where they were hiding it. 
“I looked up at one point and it felt like 1,000 people were around watching me do this. Probably about 12 people, but I realised that it wasn’t that bad.”

As he got older his self-consciousness dropped away. He went to university young, at just 16, and that helped his confidence. At university in Glasgow he realised there was none of the stigma attached to learning that he’d felt at school. Cloud’s career path at that time may have led him to be a criminal profiler but he was seduced by the pull of comedy.
“Discovering the Stand comedy club in Glasgow and just seeing these guys onstage … As I’m sure you’re aware, the number one fear of humans is public speaking and these guys actively wanted to be onstage speaking to people. The best ones not only had an amazing perspective on the world to dissect it for comedy. They were also present in the room, picking up things happening. And I was like – how are you able to function basically like Sherlock Holmes? That presence, that attention to detail. It was like a superpower. 
“So I read books on it and kind of got it but didn’t get it. I realised the only way to understand it is to do it, so I forced myself to get on stage. And, yeah, from there it’s a bit of a blur.”
Are there people he just can’t read? “No, I’m really good,” he says, without a hint of arrogance. “I can tell when there are people who don’t want me to read them, but then the comedian comes out and I just address the fact that they want me to be wrong. I think it’s a challenge. It’s not me against you, it’s me plus you equals amazement for everyone.”
He never wants anyone to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed onstage. “I remember how 12-year-old Colin would have felt had he been forced to come on stage,” he points out. “If you are on my stage it’s the safest place to be because my job is to protect you, make you look good and ultimately create this moment together.”
What does he want to create for himself? That seems to be changing. “Before it was all about … Fame isn’t quite the right word,” he says. “Success.” But now Cloud has it, he has realised he wants something else.
“I definitely want to do stuff that is more fulfilling on a real personal level and create a legacy that is respected. So, rather than being famous I am remembered for something that is more …” He pauses, then smiles. “I don’t know what it is yet, but I know what it isn’t.”
Colin Cloud can probably read your mind. He is now learning to read his own.

Colin Cloud: After Dark is at Underbelly, Bristo Square (McEwan Hall), Edinburgh, 9.15pm, from Thursday to Monday