The Amazing Johnathan, Celebrated Comic-Magician and Las Vegas Stalwart, Dead at 63

The Amazing Johnathan, the magician and comedian who was a longtime fixture on late-night television and the Las Vegas strip, died Tuesday, Feb. 22, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. He was 63. 

An exact cause of death was not immediately given, though Johnathan — born Johnathan Szeles — had previously revealed he had been diagnosed with a heart condition. Szeles’ wife, the performer Anastasia Synn, confirmed her husband’s death, saying he died in his sleep Tuesday night.

“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 said. “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.”

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With his mix of magic tricks, pranks, and gross-out humor, Szeles carved out a wholly unique lane for himself in the Eighties and Nineties. He was a frequent guest on Late Night With David Letterman, helmed several comedy specials, and was a major Vegas headliner for over a decade.

In 2007, Szeles was diagnosed with his heart condition, and while he was able to keep performing for several years after, he announced in 2014 that doctors told him he had just one year left to live. “My heart is failing — my wife would’ve said it failed long ago — but it is actually failing for real,” he said at an event announcing his retirement. “I can’t do shows anymore because my legs lock up and my hands lock up, and that’s kind of shitty for a magician.”

Szeles, however, lived well past that year and actually returned to performing in 2017. In 2019, he was the subject of a documentary, The Amazing Johnathan Documentary, directed by Ben Berman, which examined his career and illness — yet it also openly wondered whether Szeles had actually faked his terminal diagnosis.

In paying tribute to Szeles, Berman wrote on Instagram, “The way Johnathan lived, I respect immensely. He lived on his own terms… He really was so many things. Creator, destroyer, charmer, fighter, fucking weirdo, next level artist, and of course a BRILLIANT COMEDIAN. He really made things, and broke them (intentionally), and made more things. The dude shot from the hip, worked from instinct, and it worked! He did things wrong, and I’m inspired by that. He shook it up like we all should.”

This story is developing.

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