Why you should watch mentalist Oz Pearlman's new NBC special
In an exclusive interview, the magician reveals how the show was hatched and what viewers can expect.
Oz Pearlman knows how to put on a show. Literally. The 35-year-old Israel-born mentalist is getting his own NBC special, which will air May 12 after "Saturday Night Live." We caught up with Pearlman between gigs to talk about the show.
The show is more like Anthony Bourdain than David Blaine.
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Pearlman told us to expect more than just mind-bending feats during the show. We'll also be introduced to interesting locales like McSorley's Old Ale House, the oldest Irish tavern in New York City. "It's a travel show, but seen through the eyes of a mentalist."
Or maybe a little like 'Undercover Boss.'
In one setup for the upcoming special, Pearlman went undercover at the famous Katz's Deli in Manhattan's Lower East Side. He worked the front counter and even made sandwiches for customers. In another scene, he visits the set of the Broadway musical "A Bronx Tale" and shocks its star Chazz Palminteri. The fact that they don't know he's a magician makes it all the more surprising when Pearlman pulls off an incredible feat. "It's quite a fun dynamic," he said.
You film a lot for 22 minutes of air time.
Times Square provided the perfect backdrop for Pearlman to interact with tourists. (Photo: Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock)
Pearlman and his team filmed interactions with passersby at about a dozen locations including Times Square, Grand Central Station, Wall Street and Central Park. Not everything will make it into the special. "It's the gift of plenty," he said. "We have too much stuff."
His favorite trick involved an ATM machine.
For one sequence in the special, people think Pearlman is an investigative reporter doing a story about ATM passwords and how easy they are to figure out. So he has them swipe their card at an ATM, and Pearlman proceeds to enter the four-digit password correctly every time. One guy had an amazing response. "His eyes exploded. He ran all around the street. His reaction was on steroids," Pearlman told us. "It's going to pain me if it doesn't make the final cut."
The special was conceived more than a year ago.
Pearlman happened to be sitting next to a TV producer at a July 4th barbecue in 2016 when the idea for the show was hatched. "That was the seed that planted the rest of it," Pearlman said. "Go figure." The mentalist, who won third place on "America's Got Talent" in 2015 and appears regularly on daytime TV, knows it takes hard work to get to where he is today. "It takes like 10 years to become an overnight success," he said. "This was a long, winding path where all the domino pieces come together." He paused before adding: "And at the end it was just dumb luck."
This may be the first of many episodes.
"This is the pilot. It's 1000% what it is," Pearlman revealed. "It's to test out the waters to see how it plays. The hope is that it goes very well and NBC will pick it up as a series." In future episodes, Pearlman hopes to travel to cities like New Orleans, Los Angeles, Chicago and Montreal (where his wife is from). "I want to go to places that have a lot of deep history where we can go and explore."
Speaking of his wife...
Pearlman and his wife Elisa are expecting their second child this year. The baby will join brother Theo in a few months. The birth should provide Pearlman an opportunity to stay in one city for a while. He normally performs 180 shows a year across the globe.
And he's still on the run.
Fans of Pearlman know of his other passion: running marathons. He runs several every year. In fact, he completed the New Jersey Marathon just a few days ago, a race he has actually won four times. Despite completing it in under three hours, he did not come in first place this year. "My dad body is not in great shape," he joked.
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