Comedian and magician The Amazing Johnathan died at his Las Vegas home late on February 22, after years of living with the heart disease cardiomyopathy, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. He was 63 years old.
“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,” his wife, sideshow performer Anastasia Synn, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The self-dubbed “Freddy Krueger of Comedy” was born John Edward Szeles in Detroit, Michigan, on Sept. 9, 1958. He began performing magic tricks at kids’ parties, later moving to San Francisco to further his career.
The perpetually headband-sporting comedian will be remembered for his goofiness, blending stand-up and magic into one outlandish, filthy spectacle. One of Szeles’ first TV appearances was on The 8th Annual Young Comedians Show in 1983, alongside Bill Maher, Paula Poundstone and host John Candy. He hosted the game show Ruckus from 1991 to 1992. Two of his specials were released as part of Comedy Central Presents and the channel’s Lounge Lizards program. His 2006 hour-long set Amazing Johnathan: Wrong on Every Level was also released on Comedy Central. Szeles also performed on talk shows, including the Late Show with David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
Szeles struggled with an addiction to cocaine and later amphetamines. The Las Vegas Review-Journal announced that he was diagnosed with a “heart condition” in 2007, later revealed to be cardiomyopathy. In 2014, he told a live audience that he only had a year to live, a diagnosis he outlived. Szeles returned to the stage in 2017, despite his doctor’s advice.
Two documentaries about him were released in 2019, touching on his disease and comeback: The Amazing Johnathan Documentary on Hulu and Always Amazing: The True Story of the Life Death and Return of Amazing Johnathan on YouTube.