The Amazing Johnathan, the veteran magician and comic who headlined in Las Vegas for more than a decade and appeared often on television including stand-up specials and David Letterman’s shows, died late Tuesday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 63 and had been struggling with health problems including cardiomyopathy for several years.
His wife, sideshow stunt artist Anastasia Synn, confirmed the news to the Las Vegas Journal-Review today. “I’m losing my beautiful, brilliant husband,” she’d said Tuesday on social media.
Born John Edward Szeles on September 9, 1958, in Detroit, he began doing street comedy in San Francisco as in the early 1980s and starting landing guest spots on TV including Thicke of the Night, Up All Night and Late Night with David Letterman. He would go on to appear many times on Letterman’s show on NBC and later CBS.
As stand-up comedy boomed in the late ’80s and early 1990s, the Amazing Johnathan — usually with his trademark headband — continued to work in clubs and TV. He multiple episodes of A&E’s An Evening at the Improv and ultimately making a record two dozen appearances on Fox’s Comic Strip Live, with audiences lapping up his unique style that combined sometimes-gory imagery with audience interaction and shtick.
By 2001, he was headlining in Sin City — a gig that would last 13 years at various venues before he returned to the club circuit. All the while, he continued to book TV gigs including Comedy Central stand-up specials, the CW’s Masters of Illusion, The Weird Al Show and with his pal Chris Angel in Mindfreak.
The magician-comic appeared in 2005’s star-studded dirty-joke documentary The Aristocrats, alongside fellow comics including Bob Saget and Gilbert Gottfried and many others, and in 2019 was the subject of his own documentary feature. Benjamin Berman wrote and directed The Amazing Jonathan Documentary, which streamed on Hulu and chronicled the comic’s final tour. Jonathan had been diagnosed with a heart condition in 2007 and told a live audience in 2014 that he “had a year to live.”
A 2018 docu-feature Always Amazing: The True Story of the Life Death and Return of Amazing Johnathan, also followed his career and health problems.
Along with his wife, the Amazing Johnathan is survived by his sisters, Nancy Rogers and Gail McGuire; and his first wife, Sandra Bowing.
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