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The Amazing Johnathan, Magician And Frequent David Letterman Guest, Is Dead At 63

The Amazing Johnathan starting magic show
(Image credit: Masters of Illusion)

While the world of magic isn't always tied to humor, with many keeping things serious to maintain the mysterious edge, entertainers such as The Amazing Johnathan have crossed those genres for decades and amassed millions of fans in the process. Sadly, there’s no trick involved in the news that the Las Vegas regular and favored guest of David Letterman, The Amazing Johnathan, has died at the age of 63.

The Amazing Johnathan, whose real name is Johnathan Edward Szeles, is reported to have died in his Las Vegas home on the evening of Tuesday, February 22. At 63, he had suffered a variety of health issues for years, and was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy back in 2009.

His wife Anastasia Synn, a celebrated sideshow stunt performer, confirmed the tragic news to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, saying that he passed away at around 11:30 p.m. She also shared their final interaction, which was thankfully a happy one. In her words:

The last thing I said to him was, ‘I love you, honey, I’ll be with you when you get up from your nap.’ 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. We spent that time snuggling with him.

Synn, who has been a rock by her hubby's side ever since they first married back in June 2014, shared the below post on Twitter in the final hours of his life.

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The Amazing Johnathan's health problems became fully transparent to his fandom in June 2014 after he revealed on stage during a Las Vegas event that a doctor had given him a year to live due to potential heart failure. It was an emotional point in the magician's life, but one that he ended up proving completely wrong, as he went on to enjoy another seven or so career-broadening years.

Born on September 9, 1958, the Detroit-raised John Szeles saw his career blossom after moving to San Francisco to perform street magic. He became something of a household name in the 1980s, with TV appearances on talk shows such as NBC's Late Night with David Letterman (and later CBS' The Late Show with David Letterman) as favored destinations, as well as Fox's Comic Strip Live. And I don't believe anyone can forget his appearance in 1997's The Weird Al Show.

On top of joining some of Las Vegas' best acts, The Amazing Johnathan's performances were also showcased more fully in TV specials such as Lounge Lizards, Comedy Central Presents, Amazing Johnathan: Wrong on Every Level (opens in new tab) and more. He also made appearances in projects such as The Aristocrats (along with fellow comedy magicians Penn & Teller), Criss Angel Mindfreak, and Masters of Illusion. Most recently, the entertainer could be seen in the series of web video shorts from The Madmen of Comedy Magic.

The documentary The Amazing Johnathan Documentary, which was released in 2019, is currently available to stream on Hulu (opens in new tab) for those who need or want a reminder of what made him such an endlessly watchable person on or off the stage. But anyone who wants a quicker form of proof need only watch the video below from one of his many appearances closing out an episode of a David Letterman talk show.

We here at CinemaBlend send our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of the amazing John Edward Szeles during their time of mourning, and wear our headbands in tribute. 

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.