Last night I went to a Piff the Magic Dragon show in Peekskill, New York.
I’d rate the show 7/10, even though I’m probably not the target market for it.
Piff is more comedian than magician, and he’s actually pretty funny – though there was a difference between what I’d seen online and the on-stage performance. The show has more “put people down” humour, and less of the casual irreverence that I find entertaining. Example: Piff was on America’s Got Talent, and when it came time for the judges to review him, he started eating a banana. It’s just good, clean funny.
There were a couple of moments in the show that IMO crossed the line from irreverence to inappropriate. Example: Piff invited a lady up on stage and made a joke about how “she likes dick.” The audience seemed to find this funny, and it’s possible that me having the moral standing of a sensitive nun is partially at fault.
However, this article isn’t really about the show, it’s about a case of sexual harassment that America seems to have missed. Let me tell you about it…
In 2015, Piff was a contestant on America’s Got Talent, a prime-time talent show that millions of people watch. In Piff’s second appearance, he invited Heidi Klum on stage to assist with the act. Heidi is a super model from Germany that is involved in philanthropy, has three children and was previously married to Seal.
At the end of the act, Piff motioned for Heidi to kiss him on the cheek, and turned at the last moment to kiss her on the lips. America laughed, the judges joined them, and I want everyone to level up their integrity. Here’s the clip:
Socially, I think this kind of sexual assault gets categorized as “boys will be boys”, but Heidi’s response was telling, “you didn’t need to kiss me on the lips!”
Neil Patrick Harris laughed at her, “nice job Piff!”
Nick Cannon joked, “Piff’s getting some action!”
Howard Stern laughed.
The next time the camera showed Howie Mandel he was grinning.
Mel B. looked concerned.
These two audience members, and many others, applauded the sexual assault.
America’s Got Talent broadcaster, NBC, and corporate sponsor, Dunkin Donuts, do not appear to have made any statement.
With the exception of Heidi and Mel B., WTF is wrong with all these people? Over 10 million folks, of all ages, watched this episode live. The host and judges are role models for America, and here, grossly failed to model integrity or good judgment. I would have banned Piff from the show. Instead, Neil Patrick Harris validated the sexual assault with a Golden Buzzer, instantly passing Piff through to the next round, saying “I loved all of it.”
Note: America’s Got Talent is heavily edited, so it’s possible that what they televised has differences with what actually happened. It’s also possible that the assault was staged, and that Heidi was a consenting actor. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, though I would be surprised if the kiss was consensual. Regardless, America’s Got Talent chose to meticulously edit and broadcast the assault as non-consensual.
And America’s Got Talent continues to use the assault to promote their brand. The official Youtube upload of the act is titled Piff the Magic Dragon: Comedic Magician Kisses Heidi Klum, which AGT likely named this way to increase views. The video has a range of comments: a few pointing out the sexual assault, others defending it, and many more celebrating Piff. The clip has 44,000+ “thumbs up”.
For Nick Cannon, Neil Patrick Harris, Howie Mandel, Howard Stern and the audience members that reacted positively, this article isn’t meant to demonize them or make definitive claims about their beliefs or values; it is a commentary on their actions portrayed in the limited video segment. I’d like to give these participants some benefit of the doubt, and the chance to correct on how they reacted. A public apology to Heidi, and really girls and women everywhere, would help.
Basically, a bad thing happened; let’s correct it.
I know this incident happened back in 2015, but it’s still relevant and nobody has done anything about it. Piff actually uses the kiss in his marketing materials. If you agree with me that sexual assault is not okay, you can send NBC and America’s Got Talent an email stating so by clicking here and copying and pasting the message below. You can also help by sharing this article on social media or writing about the incident on your own site.
If you think I’m wrong, let me know in the comments.
I’m writing because you broadcast and continue to promote sexual assault via your America’s Got Talent brand.
Here is the specific incident I am referring to:
And here is an article about the incident:
The actions I would like you to take are:
1. Change the title of the Youtube video and other related marketing materials to something that does not promote sexual assault;
2. Make a public apology to Heidi Klum and really girls and women everywhere; and
3. Encourage Piff, Nick Cannon, Neil Patrick Harris, Howie Mandel, Howard Stern and Dunkin Donuts to do the same.
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