Judge Mike MacNeil would now like a victim, er, volunteer, from the audience.
"My thumb was on fire, did you see that? That was awesome!"—The Amazing Johnathan
The Amazing Johnathan: Wrong On Every Level almost defies description. It's not a stand-up performance, though it is loaded with jokes. It's not a magic show, though it does boast some impressive illusions. It's a sort of hybrid, with liberal doses of insanity heaped on throughout. The star of the show is, of course, The Amazing Johnathan, and what a star he is. He twitches, he sweats profusely, and he conducts the proceedings in the most manic, crazed manner possible. For most of the show, he's accompanied by a hapless victim—er, volunteer, selected from the audience at random. Then there's his lovely assistant, Psychic Tanya.
As befits this kind of show, Psychic Tanya is not the least bit psychic. She's about as blonde as blonde can be, and she manages to giggle throughout her entire act. It seems the whole point of her performance is to be as loopy as possible, and if she weren't able to pull it off, it would be a disaster. But she does. By the end of the show, the mere appearance of Psychic Tanya on stage is enough to inspire fits of laughter. She has a unique gift for antagonizing The Amazing Johnathan, which usually results in her scurrying offstage before he can find a blunt object with which to hit her.
I'm convinced that Johnathan himself is some kind of genius. There's no other explanation for why Wrong On Every Level works so well. He's vulgar, he abuses his assistant, and he flips off his audience a lot, but somehow it all adds up to hilarity. It should be an off-putting experience, but instead you end up being thoroughly entertained, even if you're not quite sure what the hell you just saw. I can only assume that he's transcended the standard comic fare and is now operating at a higher level of performance entirely, following in the footsteps of guys like Andy Kaufman and Bam Margera (yeah, I said it). At one point in the show, Johnathan decides to investigate whether or not his audience volunteer is ticklish. I can't explain why the sight of a magician tickling an audience member is hilarious, but there it is.
For the bulk of the show, though, the only two people onstage are Johnathan and John, the audience participant. John's purpose isn't really to assist in any of The Amazing Johnathan's magic tricks; he's actually there to react to the madness surrounding him. For the most part, he just laughs nervously, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Johnathan gets a lot of laughs out of making John as jumpy as possible. Remember that practical joker in high school who would always get people with that old "made-ya-look" routine, so that everyone was always on-guard around him? That's The Amazing Johnathan. Of course, he waits for those rare moments in which he's lulled poor John into a false sense of security before he actually tries to pull one over on him.
Toward the end of the show, The Amazing Johnathan pulls off some pretty impressive magic. After all the high-energy shenanigans, it's a bit of a shock to be reminded that he's actually a talented illusionist.
The DVD has a staggering amount of extra content, including a heaping helping of deleted scenes. I didn't time it, but there seems to be at least enough material here to double the length of the main attraction, and all of it seems just as strong as the stuff in the feature presentation. I can only assume that it was excised due to time constraints. It looks like The Amazing Johnathan: Wrong On Every Level is going to appear as a Comedy Central special at some point, if the presence of the logo on the packaging is any indicator. Also, when the disc is inserted into the DVD player, it automatically starts running through commercials for Comedy Central programs. The immediate barrage of advertisements is not the best way to start your DVD viewing experience, but you are able to skip through them.
The special features are rounded out by two other Comedy Central appearances: "Comedy Central Presents the Amazing Johnathan," his special from 2001, and a shorter appearance on "Premium Blend." There are only a few repeat jokes here, but the real value of these two performances is how they contrast Johnathan's act in 2007. In "Comedy Central Presents," for example, all the elements are there: the goofy tricks, the tormented audience member, and Psychic Tanya. But Johnathan isn't giving the same unhinged performance that we see on the main feature. He plays it straight a little bit more, and the result is an entertaining act, but one that feels more like a standard-issue Vegas show (which is where he does most of his work). Even his attempt to fool his volunteer into thinking he's tripping on LSD feels more mundane than it should. Watch Wrong On Every Level again after you've seen the special features. You'll marvel at how The Amazing Johnathan honed his act in the intermittent years. I'm not sure exactly what changed, but whatever it was, it brought his show to where should be: over the top.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Comedy Central
• Comedy Central Presents: The Amazing Johnathan
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