By Bobbie Katz
For comedy magician The Amazing Johnathan, Halloween is the perfect time to reach out and touch someone.
And he doesn’t phone that sentiment in, either – he’s right there at The Amazing Jonathan’s SCREAMont Experience he created downtown at the Las Vegas Club, offering you a hand from a dark hiding place as he suddenly grabs your ankle as you walk through the multi-level, multi-room 35,000-square-foot haunted house complete with elevator.
But don’t expect him to buy you dinner first. He’s on a tight schedule, having to leave SCREAMont to go to his nightly gig at Bally’s Las Vegas where he appears nightly. It has been said that seeing is believing and from the minute the comedy magician walks out on stage, he offers a crystal clear, streak-free picture of “bizarrely funny” – even if he’s not, at that particular moment, gulping down Windex.
“People still want to be shocked verbally and physically and I don’t disappoint,” Johnathan explains. “I’ve been in Las Vegas 13 years and am the longest running comedy magic act here – I beat Penn & Teller by seven months. Most of my show is kind of ad-lib and I bring a guy up from the audience every night for half the show, which makes things different every night. Half of my audience has seen my show three or four times. My assistant is The PsychicTanya, a.k.a.. Penny Wiggins, an actress and standup comic from Los Angeles. She has amazing timing with me and she’s a goofball, so there is a lot of spontaneity every night. We get more repeat business than any other show in Las Vegas. There are people who come to see us every time they come to town.
” The proof is in the (Windex) pouring -- Amazing is as Amazing does. Nightly packed houses watch The Amazing Johnathan, among various other miraculous feats, eat razor blades, put a knife through his arm, put a pencil in his ear that comes out his nose, and swig Windex. Now Johnathan can see clearly into the future – his original two-week run that began in June 2001 at a downtown hotel property and has kept going and going and going to several other casinos in town, appears to have a window.
“I’ve got about two more years in me before I retire,” Johnathan, who began his career as a street performer in San Francisco, admits. “My show is still fun but I don’t want to work every night. I want to do other stuff and I like the idea of haunted houses. I want to be commissioned to create them and put them in different casinos. SCREAMont took me two-and-a-half months to build and a lot of that time was spent in painting and fireproofing. I drew it all on big sheets of paper, figured out what was going to go in each room and then how to make it fluid so that people could get from one place to another. I’ve created my own haunted house for years but up until this year, it was always a private event.
”So, one has to wonder, just how different is The Amazing Johnathan from everyday Johnthan?
“Amazing Johnathan is on all the time while I’m not,” he responds. “Although, I do have that in me. But I’m definitely a practical joker and a big kid. I think there’s a part of us that never grows up. I think creative people who have done really well have kept that part of them. Magician David Copperfield is still a kid at heart. He came to SCREAMont and screamed all through it and then hid in a closet with me and grabbed people’s ankles. I’ve actually hooked up part of his warehouse as a fulltime haunted house.
“If it were up to me and there were no rules, which there are, I would create a haunted house where people would walk off a 30-foot embankment, fly through mid-air and land in a kiddy pool. There’s nothing like falling in the dark and not know if you’re going to hit water I know what’s scary – I do my homework and go to all the haunted houses and then create mine with my own unique twist. And I ask people’s opinions.
” Johnathan also notes that he loves to surprise people but that he also likes to be on the other end and invites it. He says, however, that people are afraid to play practical jokes on him for fear that he’ll retaliate. When it comes to his act, he reveals that it’s rare for him to sit down and write things but that he has trained his mind so that ideas are always flying around in his head. Sometimes something will come to him on stage and if it works and it’s funny, he’ll keep it in the act. He also gets ideas from the screw-ups of his peers when he watches their shows at the Magic Castle in L.A.
“When I started out, I studied Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton,” Johanthan recalls. “I’d watch comedy and try to get the hang of the formula and learn what was right for a certain character. With the magic, when I was performing on the street, I used to swallow razor blades on a string. A guy said to me that I should add blood and he gave me a capsule and I used it. It tripled the response so I started putting blood in all my tricks.
“The idea is to shock people and make them laugh,” he sums up. “I lull them into the funny part then hit them with a Boo!. My show is fast-paced and people are laughing more times per minute than anywhere else. When it comes to SCREAMont, they’ll also do both. After Halloween, it will be staying open on weekends and possibly all year round.”
In this case, the trick IS the treat..
This article appears by courtesy of Vegas Insider Daily.com.