The Amazing Johnathan

John Edward Szeles (September 9, 1958 – February 22, 2022), better known by the stage name The Amazing Johnathan, was an American comedian and magician. His act was mostly composed of hijinks, interaction with one specific audience member, and a few legitimate magic tricks. From 2001 to 2014, he was a year-round headliner in Las Vegas. Self-described as the "Freddy Krueger of Comedy",[2] Szeles performed wearing his ever-present headband, and his shows frequently used gore; for example, pretending to suck on his own hanging eyeball, cutting his wrists, and skewering his own tongue. He was also good friends with fellow performer Criss Angel and helped him perform a variety of illusions, most notably during three guest appearances on Angel's Mindfreak.

The Amazing Johnathan
The Amazing Johnathan, 2008.jpg
Johnathan in 2008
John Edward Szeles

(1958-09-09)September 9, 1958
DiedFebruary 22, 2022(2022-02-22) (aged 63)
Occupation(s)Magician, comedian, actor
Years active1983–2014; 2017–2022
Sandra Bowing
(m. 1995; div. 2000)
(m. 2014)


Early careerEdit

Szeles was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Doreen and Edward Szeles.[3][4] In the 1970s, he relocated to California, where he began his career performing on the streets of San Francisco.[5] He first appeared on television in The 8th Annual Young Comedians Show in 1983 and later went on to become the host of the short-lived 1991 syndicated variety/game show Ruckus. He appeared on various talk and variety shows from the mid 1980s to mid 2000s. His only credited performance as an actor was "The Obligatory Holiday Episode" of The Weird Al Show (playing the part of Uncle Johnathan). He made several appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, a record 24 appearances on Fox's Comic Strip Live, and had several specials on Comedy Central including Comedy Central Presents, Lounge Lizards, and more recently his own one-hour special entitled Wrong on Every Level. He dedicated the special to his Uncle Eugene, who showed him his first card trick which "started this whole mess". He appeared in the 2005 documentary The Aristocrats.

Johnathan had success in Australia following appearances on Channel 9's Hey Hey It's Saturday.[6]

Szeles also authored a how-to book on practical jokes titled Every Trick in the Book, a compilation of both classic practical jokes and plain magic tricks, along with his own original material in both categories. From 2014 onwards, he was working on his memoirs with the working title of Drive It Like You Stole It, although his declining health prevented him from finishing it.[7]

Later yearsEdit

In 2008, Szeles combined two of his passions, classic-car collecting and drive-in movie theaters, to open the "Amazing Underground", a members-only indoor drive-in located within his warehouse facilities in Las Vegas.[8]

In 2011, Szeles was performing regular shows in Las Vegas at the Harmon Theater while also taking select dates at venues across the United States and in Australia. 2011 marked Szeles' third year of performing at the Harmon Theatre and Szeles' 11th consecutive year as a full-time Las Vegas headliner. He won the "Best Comedian" award from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Comedian of the Year from Nevada Magazine, Top Ten Acts in Vegas (LVRJ), and was the longest-running, most successful solo comic magician in U.S. history.[citation needed]

In 2013, Szeles hosted an online talk show called Burn Unit.[9]

Personal lifeEdit

In March 2007, it was reported that Szeles was diagnosed with "a serious heart condition".[10] The performer's website identified the condition as cardiomyopathy and went on to assert that, due to a combination of weight loss and blood thinners, he was doing well.

In December 2012, Szeles ended his one-year contract with Bally's and ceased performing in Las Vegas. He had been performing in the city for 13 years. Szeles toured throughout 2013, playing The Improv comedy clubs. On June 7, 2014, he married his partner and manager Anastasia Synn.[11] He has a stepdaughter, Haley Kenyon, from Synn's previous relationship. [12][13]

However, his heart condition worsened, and Szeles announced that he would effectively retire, performing a final show in Toledo, Ohio, for the general public, and then for members of The Magic Castle on June 30 and July 1, 2014. On November 5, 2014, in front of a live audience on ENT Speaks, he stated that he had a year to live.[14] However, Szeles defied his initial terminal prognosis. In 2017, he played several shows across the United States,[15] with Synn assisting him and taking over when he became fatigued.[16]

A documentary titled The Amazing Johnathan Documentary about his illness and return to the stage was released on Hulu in 2019.[17]

A second documentary, Always Amazing: The True Story of the Life, Death, and Return of Amazing Johnathan, was also released in 2019, on YouTube.[18]

Szeles died in his sleep of heart failure at his home in Las Vegas on February 22, 2022, at the age of 63.[17][19]

A memorial service was held for Szeles in Las Vegas. He was humorously eulogized by Penny Wiggins (AKA Psychic Tanya), Mac King, Butthole the Clown, Billy the Mime, Criss Angel, Tape Face, and Harrison Greenbaum.[20][21][22][23][24][25]


  1. ^ Robin Leach. "The Amazing Johnathan weds Anastasia Synn at A Special Memory Chapel in Las Vegas". Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
  2. ^ Blowen, Michael (April 17, 1998). "Pauly Shore, Part 2: The grown-up years?". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 9, 2008. The Amazing Jonathan, the self-proclaimed Freddie Krueger of Comedy, is at the Comedy Palace at Grill 93 off Route 93 in Andover tonight and tomorrow night.
  3. ^ "The Amazing Johnathan, Celebrated Comic-Magician and Las Vegas Stalwart, Dead at 63". Rolling Stone. February 23, 2022.
  4. ^ Cramer, Maria (February 23, 2022). "John Szeles, Comic Magician as the Amazing Johnathan, Dies at 63". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "Best bets 1/18". Los Angeles Times. Orange County edition. January 18, 2001. p. F.2. Retrieved November 9, 2008. A San Francisco street performer in the '70s, the Amazing Jonathan...
  6. ^ "'The Amazing Johnathan' reveals he is dying". minisites. Retrieved April 1, 2021.
  7. ^ Bailey-Millado, Rob (February 23, 2022). "The Amazing Johnathan, the 'Freddy Krueger of comedy,' dead at 63". New York Post. Retrieved February 25, 2022.
  8. ^ {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "Amazing Johnathan's Burn Unit". Retrieved February 12, 2015.
  10. ^ Weatherford, Mike (March 8, 2007). "Amazing Johnathan to bid farewell". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on December 18, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2007.
  11. ^ Lenker, George (March 28, 2014). "Club Scout: Amazing Johnathan bringing farewell tour to Hu Ke Lau in Chicopee". Mass Live. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  12. ^ "Johnathan Szeles Facebook Page". Facebook. March 7, 2011. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  13. ^ "Anastasia Synn Instagram Page". Instagram. November 19, 2018. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  14. ^ "ENT Speaks Amazing Johnathan". YouTube. November 5, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
  15. ^ "Amazing Jonathan Live Dates".
  16. ^ Fraser, Trevor (April 27, 2017). "Amazing Johnathan heads to Orlando despite 'waiting to die'". Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  17. ^ a b "Groundbreaking Vegas magician The Amazing Johnathan dies at 63". Las Vegas Review-Journal. February 23, 2022. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
  18. ^ ALWAYS AMAZING: The True Story of the Life, Death, and Return of Amazing Johnathan | Movie, retrieved February 25, 2022
  19. ^ Bailey-Millado, Rob (February 23, 2022). "The Amazing Johnathan, the 'Freddy Krueger of comedy,' dead at 63". New York Post. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
  20. ^ Amazing Jonathan Memorial - Las Vegas - 3/7/22 - Part I - Psychic Tanya and Mac King, retrieved March 8, 2022
  21. ^ Amazing Johnathan Memorial Part II - 3/7/22 - Butthole the Clown eulogizes AJ, retrieved March 9, 2022
  22. ^ Amazing Johnathan Memorial Part III - Billy the Mime (SPEAKS!), retrieved March 9, 2022
  23. ^ Amazing Johnathan Memorial Part IV - Criss Angel, retrieved March 9, 2022
  24. ^ Amazing Johnathan Memorial Part V - Tape Face says it all, retrieved March 9, 2022
  25. ^ Amazing Johnathan Part VI - Harrison Greenbaum, retrieved March 9, 2022

External linksEdit