John Edward Szeles, the comedian and magician who combined jokes with gore in his stage character Amazing Johnathan, died Tuesday at his home in Henderson, Nev., a suburb of Las Vegas. He is 63 years old.
His death was confirmed by Michael Peters, a funeral director at the Palm Cheyenne Mortuary in Las Vegas, who said that Mr Szeles’ hospice report showed he had end-stage heart failure.
Mr. Szeles’ wife, Anastasia Synn, a magician and entertainer, said on Twitter that he received hospice care.
In 2014, Mr Szeles said he consulted doctors after he started feeling dizzy and short of breath. He was told he had a heart condition, the doctors said he only had 12 to 15 months to live. according to his website.
The death “didn’t happen,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 2018. “I waited another year, and then another year. I was sitting and waiting around so I went back to work.”
Mr. Szeles, who has described himself as the “Freddy Krueger of comedy,” deftly blends genres in his routine. In an act in the 1990s, he incorporated harmless pranks, like a story in which he complained about a mole on his neck, then turned his back to the audience to reveal a stuffed rodent. Minutes later, he pretended to cut his own arm and cut off his own eye and ate it.
In an interview with The New York Times in 1998, Mr Szeles said he initially wanted to be a magician but had to add comedy to his repertoire because “my magic is so bad.”
His father, a draftsman, didn’t want him to “become anything ordinary”, he said, and supported his ambition to become an entertainer.
“He wanted me to do comedies for fun,” Mr. Szeles said. “I think he lived through me.”
John Edward Szeles was born on September 9, 1958 in Detroit, the youngest of 3 children of Doreen Szeles and Edward Szeles, who designed tanks and military equipment. The family moved to Fraser, Mich., where John attended Bethlehem Lutheran School and Fraser High School. He is a below average student, according to his website bio.
He started out as a street performer in San Francisco in the 1970s, showing his performances on Fisherman’s Wharf. He became so popular that crowds would spill onto the street.
Mr. Szeles then moved on to work in nightclubs and colleges in the 1980s, performing in front of President Ronald Reagan in 1986. By the 1990s, he was gaining popularity after his appearances. on Comedy Central.
In 2001, Mr. Szeles stopped touring and spent two years in residence at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. He stayed in the city, performing regularly for 13 years, according to his website.
Later, in a show in 2014, he told the audience he had one year left to live. The announcement came after more than 10 minutes of joking around about his early years as a performer and amusing stories about his growing up in Michigan. Some viewers believe that he is still joking and talking bad.
“It’s not a joke,” he said, then he began to cry. “It’s very scary. My heart is breaking.”
“I can’t perform anymore,” he added, “because my legs are locked and my hands are locked” — a dire scenario for a magician, he said.
He said he’s retired and has put his “work in order.”
His illness doesn’t make him prone to pranks and dark humor.
In “Amazing Johnathan Documentarya 2019 documentary, Mr. Szeles appeared to be joking with the filmmaker, Ben Berman, when he began stalking Mr. Szeles after he announced he was ill.
The film shows Mr Szeles smoking methamphetamine, allowing access to competing documentary filmmakers and behaving so unpredictable that Mr Berman questions whether Mr Szeles is terminally ill.
Szeles “wants to do something wicked and self-serving but, for purposes of our absorption, also very clever,” wrote critic Wesley Morris in Review of the film for The Times. “Szeles became Berman’s enemy. They’re both going to make this movie, no matter what, in Berman’s case, Szeles throws at him. “
Full details of Mr. Szeles’ survivors were not immediately available.
Szeles performed sporadically throughout 2019, according to his website, which lists performances in Boston, Utah and England.
In 2017, he appeared at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, Mich. In an interview with news site MLive.com, he described how he still performs a “floating zombie ball“Tricks have been a part of his actions since he was 16 years old.
“That never left my show,” Mr. Szeles said. “I did not find a better ending.”
Alyssa Lukpat contribution report.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/arts/the-amazing-johnathan-szeles-dead.html John Szeles, who joked with Gore as the great Johnathan, dies aged 63