An eight-limbed Gibsons resident is set to compete in the second season of a nationally televised talent show alongside his human companion.
Season two of Canada’s Got Talent premiered on March 21 on the Citytv network. Mr. Cuddles the Evil Octopus — operated by Sunshine Coast ventriloquist Damien James — is among 82 acts spotlighted in the series.
The Gibsons-based James previously appeared on Penn & Teller: Fool Us, a long-running TV series where magicians attempt to stump the eponymous Las Vegas illusionists. In the 2018 segment, James successfully fooled the venerable conjurers using original puppets.
James competed in Britain’s Got Talent in 2020, and returned to Penn & Teller: Fool Us earlier this year — both times with Mr. Cuddles in hand.
110 separate acts — singers, dancers, and other novelty performers — competed to appear on Canada’s Got Talent, auditioning in October for the privilege of being part of the nine-episode series. Scenes were recorded in the 5,000-seat Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
James began practicing ventriloquism at the age of six, and at 15 began performing at fairs, festivals and comedy clubs. Following formal instruction by Dick Smith, who won an Academy Award for best makeup in 1985, James found work in the movie special effects industry. His puppetry and creature performances have appeared in TV programs like The Flash and films such as Predator.
“Personally I’m not all that impressed,” said Mr. Cuddles in an interview with the Coast Reporter. James converses with news media exclusively through his purple-skinned puppet, who wears a permanent scowl. “Sounds like the makings of a life of poverty followed by a sad and boring eulogy at a poorly attended funeral to me. My cat will probably have more attendees when he passes.”
In performances, Mr. Cuddles frequently describes his plan for world domination. One-on-one with the Coast Reporter, he commended the newspaper for participating in his three-part plan to enslave the human population, giving the paper’s staff the option of wearing a shock collar in lieu of a full frontal lobotomy.
During television appearances, James is swathed in a white lab coat with a lobotomy scar traced across his forehead. He remains (seemingly) mute while Mr. Cuddles monopolizes conversation with the judges.
Judges for Canada’s Got Talent include rapper Kardinal Offishall, wrestler Trish Stratus, social media personality Lilly Singh, and comedian Howie Mandel.
The winner will receive $150,000 and financial advice. The top finisher will also have the opportunity to perform in America’s Got Talent Presents SUPERSTARS Live at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
For Mr. Cuddles and James, the jackpot would enable an ambition that is decidedly close to home. “It’s not cheap to live in British Columbia,” said Mr. Cuddles, “but there is nowhere else I’d rather be based than the Sunshine Coast. The humans here are especially susceptible to mind control via social media and as a Giant Pacific Northwest octopus my kind has thrived here for generations.”
A few days before taping his audition for Canada’s Got Talent, James’s father — whom he calls his greatest fan and supporter — died from cancer.
“His father would have been very proud of his performance and may have even admitted to knowing him had he seen the airing of the show,” added Mr. Cuddles.
After broadcasts of the auditions and semi-finals, the two-hour live finale of Canada’s Got Talent will air on Tuesday, May 16 at 8 p.m. Regular updates are available via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at @CanGotTalent.