Tributes to The Amazing Johnathan quickly appeared on social media after it was announced that the comedian and magician had died at the age of 63.
“Sad to lose my friend The Amazing Johnathan today, absolutely one of the funniest guys in the world,” Las Vegas comedy magician Mac King tweeted. “Thanksgiving will never be the same.”
Johnathan, whose birth name was John Edward Szeles, died at his Las Vegas home on the night of February 22 after suffering from heart issues for more than a decade. His wife and fellow Las Vegas performer Anastasia Synn confirmed his death in comments to The Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“The last thing I said to him was, ‘I love you, honey, I’ll be with you when you get up from your nap,’” Synn told the paper roughly 30 minutes after Johnathan died. “We were feeding him oranges and strawberries. He was so peaceful. He said, ‘Yay!’ He had the most pure and sweetest look on his face.”
“For the next 36 hours, he was unresponsive,” she added. “We spent that time snuggling with him.”
Johnathan, who was born in Detroit, Michigan, began his comedy and magic career as a street performer in San Francisco, California. He gained a following by developing a uniquely outrageous and often macabre act that included illusions like slicing his arm with a knife or eating his own eyeball.
After a series of tv appearances and specials beginning in the mid-1980s, the beloved performer had lived in Las Vegas for over 20 years and he was regular headliner in the city until 2014, the year he announced that doctors had told him he only had one year to live.
The 2019 film The Amazing Johnathan Documentary detailed Johnathan’s performing comeback amid his struggles with addiction and his heart condition. The documentary also explored the suspicions of some who speculated that he was faking his illness, noting that he had far outlived his terminal prognosis.
Johnathan strongly denied that his illness was faked or exaggerated. However, he later told The Las Vegas Review-Journal that, during an earlier point in his life, he had wanted to fake his death and “disappear for five years, minimum, and then come back and show the whole process of what I had to do, as a documentary.”
The death hoax was called off after Johnathan’s attorneys warned him about the serious “illegal ramifications” of the stunt. After Johnathan’s real death was announced on Tuesday, fans and magic and comedy colleagues took to Twitter to pay tribute to his life and career.
“Goodbye to @TheAmazing,” tweeted Penn Jillette of the magic duo Penn and Teller. “Man, #AmazingJohnathan was, well, amazing. Such a funny and crazy motherf***er. Just a beautiful nut. He will be missed and all our hearts are with @SiaSynn. You know, it’s not like we didn’t have warning, but it’s still so so sad.”
“We say farewell to a giant in the field. He had a profound impact on me and how I approach what I do,” tweeted comedian and “mind reader” Eric Dittelman. “I watched his Comedy Central specials hundreds and hundreds of times & he was so astonishing and hilarious. He showed me what comedy magic could ascend to. RIP Amazing Johnathan.”
We say farewell to a giant in the field. He had a profound impact on me and how I approach what I do. I watched his Comedy Central specials hundreds and hundreds of times & he was so astonishing and hilarious. He showed me what comedy magic could ascend to. RIP Amazing Johnathan pic.twitter.com/tvVMPyj1K6
— Eric Dittelman (@EDittelman) February 23, 2022
“The Amazing Johnathan is a legend,” professional wrestler Arik Cannon tweeted. “He was creative and innovative. The way he combined magic, comedy, and gore was forever entertaining. Truly, amazing. RIP: Amazing Johnathan.”
“The Amazing Johnathan kept us all on the edge of our seats in performance and for the last several years in life as he seemed to be perpetually cheating imminent death,” comedy producer Dan Pasternak tweeted. “Sad that he couldn’t stay longer but so glad we had him for as long as we did.”
The Amazing Johnathan kept us all on the edge of our seats in performance and for the last several years in life as he seemed to be perpetually cheating imminent death. Sad that he couldn’t stay longer but so glad we had him for as long as we did. https://t.co/JADOUvF7ja
— Dan Pasternack (@DanPasternack) February 23, 2022
“RIP The Amazing Jonathan,” tweeted comedian Marc Maron. “When I talked to him in 2014 he thought he only had a year to live.”
“Give it up one more time for the Amazing Johnathan,” comedian Dave Attell tweeted alongside a video clip of Johnathan performing at the 1995 Just For Laughs festival. “Rest in peace Mr J..”
“RIP Amazing Johnathan,” comedy writer and performer J. Elvis Weinstein tweeted. “I had a lot of fun hanging out and writing with him (it was a blurry line between the two) as a young man. I was in awe of his brazenness on and off stage.”
RIP Amazing Johnathan. I had a lot of fun hanging out and writing with him (it was a blurry line between the two) as a young man. I was in awe of his brazenness on and off stage.
— J. Elvis Weinstein (@JElvisWeinstein) February 23, 2022
“Oh no amazing johnathan,” tweeted comedian Kath Barbadoro. “One of the first stand ups I ever really loved as a kid. Really underrated as an influence on many of the unhinged brilliant weirdos of comedy that have come after. RIP”
Oh no amazing johnathan. One of the first stand ups I ever really loved as a kid. Really underrated as an influence on many of the unhinged brilliant weirdos of comedy that have come after. RIP
— Kath Barbadoro (@kathbarbadoro) February 23, 2022
“RIP The Amazing Johnathan,” comedian and writer Murray Valeriano tweeted. “What a powerhouse of a performer. Sure he wasn’t the only comedian/magician, but he was the only one who did it like he did it. #TheAmazingJohnathan”
“He was an inspiration to all comedy magicians,” comedy magician John Archer tweeted. “He will be missed but remembered fondly.”
He was an inspiration to all comedy magicians. He will be missed but remembered fondly.
— John Archer (@TheArchini) February 23, 2022
“Amazing Johnathan, you will be truly missed,” tweeted the Academy of Magical Arts. “Thank you for all the laughs over the years. Rest easy.”
In addition to Synn, Johnathan is survived by his sisters Nancy Rogers and Gail McGuire, as well as his first wife Sandra Bowing. Plans for a public celebration of his life in Las Vegas are expected to be finalized within three weeks.
The post R.I.P. The Amazing Johnathan: Tributes Pour In for Comedy Magician appeared first on Newsweek.