Canadian illusionist Darcy Oake has established himself as a favourite to win season 8 of ‘Britain’s Got Talent.’

He made doves appear out of thin air. He transformed the doves’ birdcage into a young woman. Those and other illusions earned a standing ovation and high praise – even from snarky judge Simon Cowell.

“You are without question the best magician we’ve ever had on the show,” Cowell said, calling Oake a “star.”

The audition video went viral, with two million hits in two days after the show aired on April 19. It now has over 18 million views on YouTube.

Many British fans were critical because Oake, 26, is not British talent, and he doesn’t even live in the UK.

“Canada’s part of the Commonwealth, so what are these people talking about?” he told Canada AM’s Marci Ien Thursday morning. Last year, a dance group from Hungary won the show.

But he understands where the nay-sayers are coming from: “They want a Brit to win, it’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, of course.”

Besides, it’s not like there’s an available domestic alternative -- ‘Canada’s Got Talent’ was scrapped after one season in 2012.

Oake was also criticized for being a professional entertainer. Some fans think the show should be for amateurs, and Oake has already made a name for himself in the magic industry: he’s won several magic awards, performed off Broadway in New York and on the strip in Las Vegas, and completed his first Canada-wide tour at age 20.

Oake isn’t troubled by the criticism. “I’m in the competition for the same reason everyone else is – to make people say ‘wow’.”

Specializing in sleight of hand and illusions, Oake got into magic after his father – Scott Oake of Hockey Night in Canada – showed him a card trick that actually turned out to be a joke. He asked Darcy to take a card from the deck and put it back, and the youngster was blown away when his dad pulled out the same card.

“He tortured me for about three weeks before I found out it was just a complete fluke,” Oake said.

But he was hooked: “I experienced that feeling of ‘how did you do that?’ and I wanted to do that to other people.”

Oake described the overall response to the viral video as “absolutely crazy.”

He no longer has to “knock on doors” to get gigs: “At this point it seems like I’ve got some options, it’s really nice.”

Oake and the other contestants on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ will learn later this month if they made the semi-finals.