Episode 20: Oz Pearlman, mentalist and 'America's Got Talent' finalist
He can read minds, so how did he answer our questions?
The guest: Oz Pearlman is an Israel-born mentalist and magician. While he had some measure of success in the early part of his career, he became instantly famous during the 2015 season of "America's Got Talent" on NBC. Week in and week out, he impressed the judges – Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel. His routines, where he read their minds and baffled the audience, left everybody amazed.
The gist: Out of the more than 10,000 acts that applied to be on the show that year, Oz Pearlman would continue in the competition all the way to the finale – coming in third place. And while he may not have won the grand prize, the adoring TV coverage propelled him into the pop culture stratosphere. After the show aired, he became a regular on daytime TV, appearing frequently on The Today Show, the Rachael Ray show, Dr. Oz's show and much more. NBC is even considering giving him his own show. He's now in high demand, performing hundreds of shows a year all across the globe. On today's episode we visit Oz at his home in New York City to discuss the meteoric rise in his career, how running marathons helps his magic and the way his performance style is like jazz. Plus, he reveals why he sends his wife a postcard from every city he visits.
- Oz Pearlman's favorite tricks
- Oz Pearlman's final trick on 'America's Got Talent'
- On ESPN, Pearlman predicts Final Four winner 3 weeks in advance
- Pearlman stuns 'Today' show hosts
- Pearlman predicts the passing of Mary Tyler Moore
- Oz Pearlman stuns reporter by guessing iPhone contact from a list of thousands
- 5 people who know how to read minds
"Our Friend from Israel" is hosted by Benyamin Cohen. Our podcast theme music is by Haim Mazar, a Hollywood film composer who grew up in Israel. Follow our podcast on Facebook for behind-the-scenes access to the show and sneak peeks of future episodes.
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Benyamin: On this episode of Our Friend From Israel.
Oz: I can't believe I used to work on Wall Street, but I just knew it wasn't my career. I wasn't where I needed to be. And just being on stage is where I feel at home.
Speaker 1: So what do you do?
Oz: I'm a mentalist.
Benyamin: That's Oz Pearlman during his audition for the hit NBC show America's Got Talent, where he performed in front of judges Heidi Klum, Mel B, Howie Mandel and Howard Stern.
Howard Stern: What's your name?
Oz: Oz Pearlman.
Howard Stern: Oz Pearlman. How do you spell Oz?
Howard Stern: O-Z. That's your real name?
Oz: Can you believe it? Israeli name. That's what they named me.
Howard Stern: Well, here you are. What do you do?
Oz: I'm a mentalist.
Howard Stern: A mental ... Well, I'm mental. You're lucky.
Oz: Yeah, me too.
Benyamin: His routine, where he read the judges minds wowed the audience.
Speaker 2: Oh my God.
Nick Cannon: Wow. That's pretty amazing!
Mel B: That is banana's!
Howard Stern: That's amazing! That's a good one.
Benyamin: During the 2015 season of America's Got Talent, Pearlman would go on week after week to impress the judges and the voting public at home. His act, where he correctly made predictions that left people's jaws on the floor, catapulted him past thousands of other acts. And in the fall of that year, he made it to the show's grand finale.
Nick Cannon: Oz Pearlman.
Oz: I have been waiting 20 years for this moment.
Benyamin: And just like every performance before, Oz amazed the crowd.
Nick Cannon: Oz Pearlman, ladies and gentleman. Heidi.
Heidi Klum: Oz, my God. I mean really, this was incredible. Every week you have been incredible. But tonight this act has been your best yet, really. I'm speechless.
Benyamin: Out of the more than 10,000 acts that applied to be on America's Got Talent, Oz Pearlman would go on to come in third place. And while he may not have won the grand prize, the adoring TV coverage propelled him into the pop culture stratosphere. After the show aired, he became a regular on daytime TV, appearing frequently on The Today Show, the Rachael Ray show, Dr. Oz's show and much more. NBC is even considering giving him his own show. He's now in high demand, performing hundreds of shows a year all across the globe. On today's episode we visit Oz at his home in New York City to discuss the meteoric rise in his career, how running marathons helps his magic and the way his performance style is like jazz. Plus, he reveals why he sends his wife a postcard from every city he visits. Stay tuned.
Benyamin: Welcome to Our Friend from Israel, a podcast brought to you by fromthegrapevine.com. I'm your host Benyamin Cohen and each week we'll have a conversation with an intriguing Israeli. They'll come from all walks of life. Actors, artists, athletes, academics, archaeologists and other news makers. On today's episode we chat with magician and mentalist, Oz Pearlman.
Oz: Voice inside my head. Hello. Hello. Hello.
Benyamin: Hey. Hey. Hey.
Benyamin: Hello everyone and welcome to today's show. We are in lower Manhattan visiting our good friend mentalist Oz Pearlman. Welcome to this show.
Oz: Hey Benyamin. Thanks for coming down to my neck of the woods.
Benyamin: Thank you so much. Yeah, I didn't realize how close to like the whole action you are. You're like a block away from all the action on Wall Street.
Oz: If by woods you mean literally all skyscrapers with no greenery. Other than the water. The water's nice, but yeah, we are just a couple blocks away from the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Wall Street indeed, my former stomping grounds.
Benyamin: Yeah. I was going to say you used to work on Wall Street.
Oz: I worked across the street. At one of my first internships was at the World Financial Center, which is now Brookfield, and that's where I worked.
Benyamin: So you just stuck with it in this neighborhood?
Oz: If you took and just dropped marbles on a map of Manhattan, 10 marbles, every single place they land, I've lived. I've been on a cycle of every 18 to 36 months I move somewhere new. It's the life of somebody in Manhattan, but now I've been going up and then uptown and then further downtown and I can't get any further downtown.
Benyamin: You can't get any further south than this.
Oz: No, I'll go to the water. I'm going to live in the Hudson.
Benyamin: You can move below the Mason-Dixon line.
Oz: I'm going to Staten Island next.
Benyamin: So talking about all the places you've lived. You were born in Israel?
Oz: In Israel the homeland.
Benyamin: Yeah. So how long did you live there for?
Oz: I lived there until I was three, so I don't really remember that well. A little peeks here and there of things like I remember this little and that a little. I've gone back many times. My parents made Aliyah. They both went back. My sister lives in Israel, so I have one sister that lives here. But otherwise all the cousins back in Israel, but we moved when I was three to the states and then we moved around a bunch.
Oz: My dad was an engineer by trade, worked in the Navy. He was in the Navy in Israel for 20 something years as an engineer and would design bridges and all different very unique amphibious vehicles and things of that sort. So, he did ... They do a lot of partnering with, I don't know what you would call them, military contractors in the states, joint ventures and they'll send over an engineer here, they'll go an engineer ... And the states got an engineer for two years and then we loved it and stayed.
Benyamin: Where did you grow up?
Oz: My formative years were in Michigan.
Oz: But I had lived in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin before that. Each for just a handful of years but Michigan was where I went to middle school, high school, college. Like that's where I grew up, if you will.
Benyamin: And so you still have family in Israel and you get back there?
Oz: Yeah. Not enough according to my mom, of course. But I try.
Benyamin: Have you ever performed there?
Oz: I have. Of course, I lectured too and in Israel.
Oz: Yeah, for four Israeli mentalists.
Benyamin: They have a big mentalism community there.
Benyamin: I mean obviously Uri Geller but I was just ... Lioz?
Oz: Lior Suchard.
Benyamin: Lior Suchard. No, But Lioz who was also recently on America's got talent.
Oz: Oh, Lioz. Yeah. Yeah. Of course with the funny act.
Benyamin: Lior Suchard is amazing. I've seen him on a few shows.
Oz: Lioz Shem Tov. That was the best part. Shem Tov, in Hebrew, it's almost like a Borat play. It means good name. Like, "What are you going to name yourself?" "I don't know, Shem Tov."
Benyamin: So, that's cool. I didn't know that you go back there and lecture on that. That's very cool.
Benyamin: So you grew up all around Michigan et cetera, and then was I reading somewhere you were on a family cruise and got interested in magic?
Oz: That's right. So in lieu of a bar mitzvah and instead, we went on a cruise. We'd never done something like this as a family before, my grandma came in from Israel. And on the cruise ship, there was a magician and I'd never seen anything like this. I can't remember ever, before age 13, seeing a magician. Maybe on TV, but even then, I don't recall it, so it was very new to me and we spent the better part of ... He did multiple shows different nights.
Benyamin: On the cruise.
Oz: Yeah. And he did a thing where it's close up. I borderline stalk this guy. The fact that I didn't walk into the bathroom and watch, "Hey show me another trick," right then, this guy. Well, I'm sure he's used to it. Kids are very malleable and I caught the bug. I saw this and it was instant. The moment we got home from the show, from the cruise, I went to the library, checked out all the books, and you'd be surprised. Really great books are available at most public libraries to teach you tricks. It's just, do you have the attention span to read through them?
Benyamin: Yeah. So I have a similar story, believe it or not. My two older brothers, were magicians.
Oz: Oh yeah?
Benyamin: And they used to do magic shows. They were in high school. They did magic shows and then they went off to college and they gifted me all their tricks.
Oz: That's awesome.
Benyamin: And I wanted to follow in my big brother's footsteps so I started., I have the Mexican centavo, I don't know if you remember that trick.
Oz: Of course. Scotch and soda, you had all the good ones.
Benyamin: Scotch and soda, yeah. Balls and cups. So I started off with a nice base of tricks and then I got some more of my own. But yes the books, what you were saying. I used to get these 100 card tricks books, that teach your 100 card tricks in one book or get a stripper deck and you could do-
Oz: Amazing things, yeah.
Benyamin: We're talking shop now, but it's a special deck and you do all sorts of tricks with that deck.
Oz: Yeah, it's true you just have your gimmick after gimmick and the goal is, when your younger you just want all the tricks more, more tricks and then as you become more of a honed professional your goal is to get rid of all the tricky stuff and to make it much more pure. The best pursuit if you're a magician is to just show up anywhere and you could do an hour show with nothing, literally nothing. Right now what do you have? You have a watch, you have glasses. We have a phone, you have a KIND bar, you have a Starbucks, like everything you have on you, a ring, I could do your wallet. I could do an hour show with nothing with what's known as impromptu magic. And now it's even more pure pursuit. I mostly do mentalism, I still love magic, I'm a fan of the art but it's not what I do anymore.
Benyamin: So going back to what you just said it's like if you could take someone's watch and make it disappear or something like that is that what-
Oz: Make it appear, make the time change, make it ... I have a coin make it vanish and have it appear under your watch. The goal is to have so much in your arsenal that you're never in a situation where you can't perform.
Oz: Because then, here's the problem, it's like Superman and Superman at any moment can rip off his shirt and become Superman, right?
Oz: It's not like I can only do it on the third Tuesday of the month. If somebody says you do a trick right now and you can't. What kind of magician are you?
Benyamin: Right, right, it's almost like you're at a cocktail party and you grab whatever is available and you do a trick or something.
Oz: You should have that ability is my personal viewpoint, whether you want to always be on the spot because then your kind of a dancing monkey, you're like, "Do a trick, do a trick," and for years I was that monkey, I was the opposite. I was the guy would be like, "You want to see a trick? You want to see a trick?" My grandma, God bless her, must have picked 8 million cards out of a deck of cards and you know I'm doing the tricks, I'm terrible but she was such a supporter and, "Oh, do another one." And that's what you really need you need somebody to give you that support when you're starting right and give you that reaction of "Wow!" even when you're terrible.
Benyamin: Right. So you went to this cruise ship. You stalked the magician, you came back off the cruise ship and so you just started learning magic on your own, got books.
Oz: So, I primarily learned from books and videos but there wasn't really the internet, dating myself here, I'd go to borders, again, it doesn't exist anymore and-
Benyamin: You ever got to Tannen's Magic shop?
Oz: Well, I didn't live in New York, so I didn't go to Tannen's for years, till later but that's a really well-known shop.
Oz: And really, if you come to New York definitely stop by its cool, it's got a lot of history. But yeah, I was learning on my own and it came to a head ,where I want to buy more stuff, but hey, the money is not unlimited. And my mom was somewhat entrepreneurial at the time, because my folks had split up and this magic was a big void in my life where I could put my energies into that. Whereas some kids would rebel, I was just obsessed with magic.
Oz: And so I started doing shows at age 14 about a year in, I started performing-
Benyamin: Birthday parties?
Oz: Birthday parties and restaurants. There's a restaurant that was quarter mile from where I lived. I walked in there calm as could be, four foot nothing, fourteen year old and I was small for my age even then and I could barely reach the table height and I had my sales shtick and I don't know where it came from, I just was ... at a young age learned how to read people in a certain way and I don't mean this as a magical way, it's a skill that people have that are good at sales, that are good at any type of craft that involves interacting with people.
Oz: I knew how to ingratiate myself in a way and I landed a job I went in there, 15 minutes later, I've got a job. 50 bucks for two hours, great money for a kid. I come in once a week and I made it like win-win for them if you don't like me get rid of me. No hard feelings, but I'm going to make it so that everybody that walks out of the place going to say, "Where'd you find this kid? He's amazing and I'm gonna come back with more friends."
Oz: So you know what a restaurant needs. You get a grasp of the fact they don't want you doing stuff when people have their food they want to turn the table. Do it while people were waiting for their food.
Benyamin: So you'd go around from table to table?
Oz: Table to table and that's the best way I've ever seen to learn how to work a crowd because you're invading people's private space. People are at dinner, they don't know who you are, you coming on and talking to them, "What do you want my money? Are you good? Are you crazy? Are you going to stay here." It's the school of hard knocks, how to learn, how to win people over that don't want to be won over. And if you can do that, then now what I do was a cake walk. I mean, I do events where people pay me and they bring me in and I'm a star attraction. So now it's easy but when you go to people who don't want you don't know who you are. That's really how you get better.
Benyamin: Uh-huh (Affirmative). So, you did that in your teenage years, but-
Oz: Into my 20s, I would say restaurants or prior to some TV exposure are what made me. I was always doing restaurants. There was a point when I lived in Manhattan. I had a day job and I was working four restaurants a week meaning, Monday, Tuesday Wednesday, Thursday, I'm at a restaurant every single night, table to table to table, two three four hours a night and that's just a game of repetition. Where you learn every single time, iterate how to get a little better, a little better, a little better and you learn how to perform. It's the 10,000 hours.
Benyamin: What happens when a trick goes wrong? I mean-
Oz: Got another table.
Benyamin: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Oz: It's like asking a girl if you go over and she says, "No" and it crushes you and you never talk to another girl, that's a mistake. You go to the next one, you go to the next one, with the tables you learn what did I do wrong that time? And sometimes you realize it's not them, it's me. I should never have gone to that table they're having a deep conversation. You something's wrong or come over later or everything is a learning lesson.
Benyamin: They're having a spousal-
Oz: Sometimes, a spousal honestly, I could break the tension. So to be honest there was a lot of value in what I did. Where people, let's say the dish went wrong and they didn't like it and something took too long, it's cold, they bring me over. Special attraction, look who we brought, we have a special guy is gonna amaze you and suddenly instead of them berating the manager, ten minutes flew by, they cooked another salmon, they love me, they're laughing, the food's here, "Oh, great thank you," instead of ... and the waitstaff likes you.
Oz: I would make it so that everybody at that restaurant was my best friend. I made it so that they liked me. They never said, "Oh, this guy's stealing our tips." They go, We love this guy. And that was a lesson learned, that to this day I can tell you so much of my success is based on that. You should make it so that everybody you meet, whether it's the person taking your trash or it's the person doing your hair and makeup when I go to a TV rehearsal.
Oz: If those people like you more things will come your way. It's a good karma thing, so I perform for people ... It doesn't have to be just the star in the show or the producer, everyone I meet.
Benyamin: Right. Right, because you never know when it's gonna come back.
Oz: You don't know who that person will be or what they will do or even just to make them feel good. But some of the people that I met ten years ago that were, I don't want to say quote unquote not high up the food chain are now CEOs of their own company have their own startup have their own this. They remember me from then and they go, "You're always our guy," you don't who that's going to be.
Benyamin: Right, right. That's a good philosophy in life.
Benyamin: When we return, Oz reveals how the head of Merrill Lynch gave him the push he needed to leave Wall Street and perform magic full time.
Oz: The CFO, he's Australian, "Oh my God mate, We got to get you working here," and everyone laughs, it's a great joke. And then I take a beating and I go, "I do work here," He thinks I'm joking.
Benyamin: All that and much more after the break.
Benyamin: If you're looking for more episodes of Our Friend From Israel. Head on over to fromthegrapevine.com, one episode we'd recommend is our interview with Brian Blum, the author of a book about an Israeli startup called Better Place and its charismatic young CEO Shai Agassi.
Benyamin: I think, I read in your book he was also a competitive poker player with Ben Affleck and Toby Maguire and that they ran in those circles.
Brian Blum: Well, I wouldn't say he exactly ran those circles but he used to sometimes play in the World Series of Poker, which took place in Las Vegas and at some point, you know, Ben Affleck and Toby Maguire, were also in those World Series of Poker. And so I won a few small but decent sized pots as part of his poker play He gave that up, actually when he started Better Place, when Better Place went out of business actually he went back and played a little poker and won a little bit more.
Benyamin: Look for that episode at fromthegrapevine.com.
Benyamin: And now back to today's conversation with Mentalist and America's Got Talent finalist, Oz Pearlman.
Benyamin: So you had ... As you said, you had a day job.
Oz: I sure did, yeah.
Benyamin: And that was working on Wall Street?
Oz: I worked for Merrill Lynch, not even very far away from here and I was in technology. So on America's Got Talent, they like to spin it and make it a little more sexy and say, "Hey, he's the Wall Street guy."
Oz: So I supported the traders. I knew what they were doing and I that's kind of my passion. I know a lot about finance in general ,just cause so many of my friends went into that field and when you support them you have to know what they're doing. But I was handling, it's called manage hosting, we would buy a lot of servers and I was the guy who was the red tape. I'm this little 21 year old, wet nose behind the ear, nobody knows who you are, telling people that are ten times smarter than me and double my age, "Oh, you need 3 million dollars of stuff to do this, I'm going to give you a million and a half," and they go, "Oh."
Oz: It should be a role with they hate you, I'm red tape. I'm a guy who saves the company money. My clients were internal, so what I did to win them over was I did magic, all the time. Happy hours, everybody that should have hated me went, "Oh, it's the magician."
Oz: They loved me. And again this is a common theme in life. I would use magic to win people over, which I don't think it's manipulative. I think it's that's what the skill is. That's what you get to do by bringing them wonder.
Benyamin: Right, interesting. Yeah, you're bringing them a moment of fantasy in their regular life.
Oz: If you're a chef and you can make amazing food, that's how you communicate with those people. They have a meal, they warm up to you, they love what you're eating. With me, I hopefully bring amazement I bring you a moment where you just look at me and you haven't had this moment of, "Ah," in who knows, days, months, years maybe just a few hours and it just takes you out of the zone you were in and you're for ... Even if it's a moment, a minute, you're just blown away. It's great, recharges the batteries. People need that.
Benyamin: So, what was the moment then, when you's decided, "Hey I'm going to give this a go full time"?
Oz: There's little steps that always go bring you to that moment, if that makes sense. I can tell you the exact moment is, it's the story I've told many times. I was doing a show for Merrill Lynch for the CFO and this guy doesn't know who I am. This is a 40,000 person company, I'm below the ... I'm nobody. And I was hired internally because people knew me, up the food chain people saw, and they're like, "Oh, we got a guy, he's great." And so I did a trick that I did many, many times, thousands times. I take one dollar bills everyone give me a dollar bill. I snap my fingers, and they turn into a hundreds, that's it.
Oz: It's just absolute pure visual, blow your mind. Everyone looks stunned and there's a group of them, the CFO he's Australian, he goes, "Oh my God, mate. We got to get you working here," and everyone laughs, it's a great joke and then I take a beating, I go, "I do work here." He thinks I'm joking, "Oh, what do you mean?" Because, you know, the joke lingered, and I go, "I work in your global technology service department, 95 green." It was too specific of a reference that he just looks around befuddled, he just didn't expect it and he goes, "What the hell you doing working here?"
Oz: And it was just one of those things where, "You're right, what am I doing working here?" And everyone around me, when I put in my two weeks notice, not a single person goes, "Oh man you're leaving?" Everyone said, "This is not your path in life, like we all know, we've all seen you. You do this all time, like you need to go after this dream," because for a lot of people they haven't found that dream, or they don't know what it is and here it was just clear that this was not my destiny, that I was not going to climb the corporate ladder.
Oz: And the first year I made less money than I did at Wall Street because you're building a business. And listen, there's different parts in life, you have kids to support, you of this, you have that. If it would have been three years later, and the recession had happened, I probably wouldn't have done it. But here I felt, "What's the worst case scenario?" I'll go back and get another job. That's a real luxury to have, I had money saved. I don't for a moment not realize, kind of the blessings I had that allowed me to do it. But you can't go swimming if you don't jump in.
Oz: I couldn't have done what I wanted to do if I was still at work. I got to that point where push, pull I can't get to the next level as a performer. If I'm holding down the day job.
Benyamin: You need to follow your passion.
Oz: More than that, you need to have uncertainty. Certainty cripples, do you know what I mean? If I had that job during the day, there's just no way that the other things that would happened-
Oz: ... could have happened. I needed a kick in the butt. I needed to go sit on my couch twiddle my thumbs. The phone's not ringing and say if I don't make this happen. No magical agent is going to call and say, "Oz Pearlman, you're a star," you need to get out there and you need to be hungry. You need that one year where I'm not making a good paycheck and oh my God I need to be hungry. And I think that's that's the key to success. The people that just have things handed to them they never ... It's very rare that you go far you need to be hungry.
Benyamin: So, you started just performing, you knocking on doors?
Oz: I did restaurants.
Oz: Exactly that. I mean, I don't know if any ... I've done videos where I explain like how I did it but there's no there's no quick path. Every event planner, I start saying, "Who do I want to be? Who do I want to emulate?" Find those mentors, who's me ten years from now that I want to be. Take them out to lunch, schmooze them, complement them, people love that. And most people will be willing to share and they give you a little advice, you go, "Oh, wow," and you'll hopefully avoid some of the mistakes and pitfalls they made, you'll still make your own.
Oz: But I did a lot of that, where I talk to people that were who I wanted to be in the future. And also I started knocking on doors and not taking rejection personally. Go to event planners, they're the ones who make the parties in New York, Bar Mitzvahs there's a million of them, I wanna be the guy at them.
Benyamin: Right, and like corporate events, things like that.
Oz: So a lot of the corporate events, a lot of the stuff it's funny because people that are very early in their stages will ask me, "What do you do?" And the problem is, a lot of it is, you can't ... You can fake it till you make it for a bit but as I kept doing shows, I kept getting testimonials. There's a lot of stuff that can slip through your fingers. But when I go do a show for someone, I tell them, "Hey, how did I do? Give me a testimonial," add that to a site, like video footage of me doing a show and suddenly that's what sells me.
Oz: In entertainment, you need a good real, if you're a comedian, if you're a singer if you're this. You need the hits, so you need to create that footage that people see you, 'cause they don't know who you are. Very few people will experience you live. It doesn't matter, unless your David Copperfield and even then maybe for a hundred million, there's seven billion people on the planet, most of them haven't seen him. So, you need things that you can become multipliers, something ... Now social media but TV, clips you could put online things that could sell you.
Benyamin: I don't think he knows this, but David Copperfield is actually my grandfather's second cousin's son.
Oz: Tell him you need to be in the will. I'll call him I was with David Copperfield like a week ago.
Benyamin: I saw a picture on your Instagram.
Oz: Yeah, he's a great guy.
Benyamin: Yeah. So what was it like, what were you thinking ... I guess, what were you thinking in 2014 when you decided to audition for America's Got Talent?
Oz: So, I had auditioned before, it's important I really want people to know that. It's not like, "Hey, this guy ... " It went, I auditioned once before and the first time I auditioned was what they call a producer call. That's where they roll out the red carpet, "Woo, come on in, wait there in that chair, want a glass of water Mr. Pearlman?" Ten minutes later you're in a room.
Benyamin: You're not with the judges you're saying, you're with a producer.
Oz: Correct. So, it's-
Benyamin: It's not what we see on TV?
Oz: Correct, most people's experience is not that, that's their first encounter with the AGT machine, if you will, like the people that decide things, the producers. There are some that, that's their first attempt but mostly they source talent. They go to these things that are casting calls. They get some huge pier or room or some auditorium. I mean, I'm talking thousands of people-
Benyamin: Right, convention center.
Oz: Fully, so the first time I did it for a lot of different reasons, it didn't go well my setting wasn't proper. I, again, don't like to make put blame on others but this is a situation where I couldn't ... I went into a room to read someone's mind and do my thing and it's me and a cameraman, I go, "Where's the person whose mind I'm going to read?"
Benyamin: Oh, wow.
Oz: So, it's never going to be that great if it's not set up for success, if you will. Second time I did the casting call and this was three years later.
Benyamin: Oh, wow.
Oz: And multiply the fact that during those three years I probably did over eight hundred shows. So I was not the same person I was three years earlier. I would tell you that it was a blessing in disguise that I waited because then when I went in there, I was so much ... I was more confident, I was more adept, I had much more experience and I did the casting call and I really honestly didn't care.
Oz: There's a real power to going into something where you don't think you're gonna get it and you don't care and it doesn't matter.
Oz: Things were good. Like I had a good career, things were very good. I didn't need it. I didn't know how much it was going to change my life at the time. But when you go in there not caring, I mean my confidence was overwhelming. When I went in there, some of the things I said, were just outrageous and I just wowed them and they go, "You're in," and came in did my first audition on camera, the thing you see.
Benyamin: And this was filmed in New York, I think that season-
Oz: New Jersey.
Benyamin: Oh, New Jersey, yeah.
Benyamin: 'Cause Howard Stern was a judge and they wanted to keep everything in the Tri State area.
Oz: Everything moved to New York.
Oz: Had it, again serendipitous, if this would happen in L.A., I doubt I would have done it because it's-
Benyamin: Because you were married and you had a kid at that-
Oz: No kid yet, no kid yet, married, but just the time involved for a lot of these acts that come in, especially make it to the later rounds. It takes over your life and if this is your only thing, if you're an up and coming talent, which they like to kind of make everyone else seem to be, for some of the people that are established, I had already been doing this 10 years.
Benyamin: So it was taking away from your day from working shows?
Oz: Again, it would have I missed one show because of AGT, one show and then I miss some after the fact, There's a lot of TV commitments you have to have afterwards, that were booked. You know, you booked me for Thursday, September of 2015 and I've got AGT finale, sorry, we're gonna have to get somebody else for that party.
Oz: But for the most part since it was in New York, I would go do a thing for them. We'd film a lot of B-roll and then go do my show and then it really was incredible experience, just incredible.
Benyamin: Did you ever in your wildest dreams think you'd make it to the finale?
Oz: No, truly not. And to get third I just didn't ... No, honestly no. It was very ... It's very humbling because, it's one of those things where if you think you're good, "I think, I'm pretty good at this but who knows," and you don't know what other people. But when this is something where America and the judges and the producers who have seen everything, it's very validating because at that point you go, "Wow, I think I really am good at this," you know?
Oz: I'm serious, I'm not trying to false humble. I seriously like-
Benyamin: Howard Stern says he likes me.
Oz: Yeah and Howard Stern is just destroy people on his show, he'll bring magicians or mentalists on his show and just pick them apart.
Oz: And the one thing that I have that's unique quality, I'm a mentalist, is I'm very loose. When I do things I'm not ... I go with the flow, if you go, "I want to do this, instead of that," good, do this do that. I'm very loose in a way that a lot of performers aren't. It's very stiff, like, "Do this, do that. I'm going to read your mind." I'm a very go with the flow person if you ever see my show. It feels like I'm almost playing jazz.
Oz: Yeah and that's what audience is, that's what diffuses tension, that's what builds rapport. That's how to some degree I'm able to pull some of things off that I do is that, if I was much more tense it would change it. Like I could tell you act that I've seen that have been on AGT that do what I do but when you watch them, it's just such a different feel than what I do, you know?
Benyamin: Everybody else, to your point, is so rehearsed or they're playing a character I mean you come-
Oz: I'm me.
Benyamin: You're a Joe, you're a average Joe, you know, you come on, you're yourself.
Oz: I'm average, David Rabinowitz instead of Joe, but yeah, I'm very schmoozy and I did a lot more jokes in it. It was meant to be light hearted. If you could read someone's mind, legitimately think about that, some people believe if you could read someone's mind ,that intrinsically is creepy. That's a creepy thing, that's your invading people's privacy of their mind.
Oz: So a lot of performers that do this fall into the trap of people don't like you, do you have the beer test? At the end of my show, do most people want to go have a beer with me? The unequivocal answer is yes. I'm not saying that from guessing, I know, I've actually surveyed people, "Oh, they want to hang out." First, a lot of people that do what I do, at the end show, they want to get the hell out of there.
Benyamin: There a lot of mentalists who put on this façade, this creepy façade.
Benyamin: There's an act, there's a girl on this season of America's Got Talent who she comes across as like a poltergeist character.
Oz: I saw one of those, The Riana, yeah.
Benyamin: And the show was okay, whatever, I mean, the trick was okay, but it just ... It was such a turnoff.
Oz: Yeah. I mean, I want to be likable ... Listen, I'm not knocking other people. There's people that are goth, there's people that are this, that are a little scary.
Benyamin: Right, goth. Yeah.
Oz: And that works for them. I could never pull it off, because it's just not me.
Benyamin: So how do you come up ... I mean, some of your tricks are there all original, We're not talking cutting a woman in half, that's magic. What you're doing is mentalism, you're reading minds you're making predictions. I highly recommend people go to youtube and-
Oz: Go down a wormhole, just type in my name and sit there for hours.
Benyamin: Type in Oz Pearlman, you'll see him guessing winners of the final four basketball tournament. You'll see him on Rachael Ray and the Today show. And he's ripping off his shirt and he has predictions under his shirt and he has tattoos on his leg.
Oz: Thank God, I'm wearing an undershirt because you don't want to see that with no shirt, Benyamin.
Benyamin: So, these ... Unless you have like big fans, maybe.
Oz: Yeah, oh maybe.
Benyamin: So I mean these are very elaborate and clever and original, I don't even want to use the word, "tricks"
Oz: Tricks, routines, whatever you call them it doesn't matter to me how you define it. These are moments of wonder. These are things where you see them and I hope you just like, "Whoa!"
Benyamin: So how do you come up with these ideas?
Oz: I will tell you that this is the worst thing to tell, the procrastination for me is like in my blood. If you told me right now that in one year you're going to the biggest TV appearance your life, 51 of the weeks, I would be not knowing what to do and that last week I would somehow go into overdrive creative. I can't even tell you, a lot of it is when I'm running, a lot of its when I shower, when I'm on a plane. Places where I can check out, not touch a phone, relax.
Oz: One thing I recommend more than anything in today's day and age, we're always on screens, you're always on your phone, you're always this. We're scared to be alone in our own brains, is if you can check out, whatever that means, and you'll do meditation, I don't know what you can do. For me it's running, I will go out and run, I like listening to podcast but if I need something I go out and run, and I just think, and my mind goes in a million different directions, and I always come up with it based on what I want the effect to be.
Oz: I'm audience driven, so I say somebody watching this right now. What did they experience? What are they going to go and tell their friend after they saw this? And I engineer that line, I try to craft that memory.
Benyamin: Reverse engineering.
Oz: Yes, I decide, here's what I want them to say. I want them to say, "He was just on Rachael Ray and he took one of her recipe books and told somebody open to any page, think of any ingredient in there," and I make that ingredient appear and then I imagine think of any amount of money you spent and they say it was four dollars 18 cents and I dump out of an envelope that amount of money and then I say, "Rachel, right now, what do you want to cook tonight?" She says, "Lamb chops scottadito," and I say, "Turn over the bills," and you turn over the four dollar bills and it says, "Lamb chops scottadito," written on the back.
Benyamin: Oh my God.
Oz: And I want something where every moment gets bigger and better than the last one and when you leave, your mind is just melting. So, I come up with those things in reverse. I know the fundamentals of mentalism and then I use them to create the routines.
Benyamin: Right, I hope you listen to my podcasts when you're going running.
Oz: Next time, I'm doing it right now. Subscribe, subscribe.
Benyamin: Our Friend From Isreal.com.
Oz: Give it a plug.
Benyamin: So, you say you go running a lot. A lot of people may not know this, but you're a ... Like a ... I don't want to say professional, you're a marathoner.
Oz: I'm a good weekend warrior. Yeah, I run marathons for about 14 years now, wow. Since I was 22 was when I got into it and then I wasn't that good at first and I was never good athlete, I swam in high school. I liked sports and I always liked having a goal, something to go after, otherwise I'd languish. If I don't have something in the calendar, I get kind of depressed. I'm like, "I need something to achieve," and the marathons did it for me.
Oz: So, I'm doing marathons. I won a lot of marathons.
Benyamin: That's pretty amazing and you won the Long Island marathon, right?
Oz: A few times. I actually, the one good thing, I set the course record. That ones been around for 30 years and I didn't just win it, I'm the fastest person to have ever run it.
Benyamin: And what is it two hours?
Oz: It was 2.25.
Oz: Somebody might've beat it since, that was two years ago.
Benyamin: Yeah, for those of you who are ... obviously, this is an audio podcast, you're not seeing him. Oz has zero percent body fat.
Oz: Yeah, right. Yeah, I've been eating a lot lately. A little vacation.
Benyamin: So, when you run, you're kinda just zoning out and thinking about coming up with ideas for tricks?
Oz: I ... When I see other people running, when people don't like to run say to me, "How do you do it? It's just so boring, it's so this." It's funny because I don't see other people run and say, "Oh, that looks fun," it looks miserable. But when I run, I just find absolute joy in it. I just find peace, I just like to get out, it's a great way to be out. When I travel to so many cities, I do corporate events, private parties all over the U.S., all over Canada, all over the world really.
Oz: Most of my stuff is North America based, but anywhere you can tell me I probably have performed about 50 countries, that's how I see them. I go run, if I go do a show in Australia, I'm running Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. If I'm in Iceland, I'll be out, and I'll go run 15-20 miles, and I see the things that people don't see. Because if you go on a tour and that's how I remember places. That's honestly my ... Some of my fondest memories of traveling and going to do gigs are the gigs, but there also the run right before.
Benyamin: So, it's right before, I was just-
Oz: Oh, usually right before, yeah. When I get in, I have like a thing, I unpack my bags, boom hit the ground running. A lot of my clients, they know I'm just mashugana. Like I have clients that know, when they intro me and they give the whole thing about, "Here he is" they go and this crazy guy just ran 20 miles. I usually don't tell them, 'cause I don't want them to really know how crazy I am. But I ... That's ... and they think I should be tired, but it's the opposite. If I go run, I have higher energy.
Oz: Most people that tell you when they exercise, they get better energy because of it.
Benyamin: Yeah, yeah. I mean, not that I'm a not like in any way shape or form like you, but I try to exercise in the morning because it gives me a little more-
Oz: Absolutely, it wakes you up.
Benyamin: You'll notice that every single podcast on the planet asks you to rate and review them on iTunes. Why do they do that? Well, here's the answer. The more reviews and ratings that our show gets, the higher the show winds up on the iTunes charts, which in turn helps more people discover the show. So, if you're enjoying this podcast, please head on over to iTunes and leave us a rating and a review. We greatly appreciate it.
Benyamin: If you're enjoying this episode, you'll also want to check out our interview with celebrity chef Ron Ben-Israel. He told us what it was like being discovered by Martha Stewart.
Benyamin: What was it like getting a call from Martha Stewart?
Ron Ben-Israel: Actually I thought it was a joke. I thought somebody's pulling my leg and then when I'll arrive, they will all be laughing at me.
Benyamin: You can find that interview and our entire archive of episodes at ourfriendfromisreal.com.
Benyamin: And now, the thrilling conclusion to our conversation with mentalist Oz Pearlman.
Benyamin: So, I've known you for about three years now and every time I speak to you-
Oz: One of my biggest fans the grapevine is always showing love.
Benyamin: Every ... Literally, I don't think there's ever been a time where I haven't called you where you're not on your way to the airport or at the airport.
Oz: Don't tell my wife. I have a funny tradition, I send her a postcard. And this is going back, we've been married for almost six years, since the early days. I send her a postcard everywhere I went, I did it at first for fun and then it became like a thing. I'm the one keeping the USPS in business.
Benyamin: So, you go and send ... But so, it arrives, you're already home by the time it arrives.
Oz: Most times. But it's funny, it's quirky, I always do it in the moment. It's just like a thing but anyway, she has ... I'm talking shoe boxes full of them now, and it's a direct corelation like what you just said, where I'm at the airport where the months where she gets the most postcards, is the months I'm in the most trouble because I've been working so much.
Oz: But it's a great way to look back and with kids now, to like open them up. They're not old enough to look back and see like, in 2013 look I was in Idaho, I was in this, I was this, I went back to Vegas four times. Like it's just very, very funny to see your life laid out because we don't really keep journals anymore. We don't have photo albums, everything's on a phone.
Oz: I'm a bit of a Luddite, a little romantic where I like seeing things in that way and it's just funny. But it's true, I'm traveling on the road all the time.
Benyamin: Most days, right?
Oz: To me most, it just happens to be ... you have a sick sense of calling me when I'm busy, 'cause I just did a TV show, so now I gotta go do this one. But there's seasons, in July and August, thank goodness, I'm not quite as busy and I try to take that time off to recharge and really spend time with family as much as possible. But certain months, like December, every single day.
Benyamin: Every single day, different city.
Oz: Well, not necessarily, some of its in New York. Because there's so many big corporate holiday parties, but I have one or two or three events every day. December 1st to like 21st and then, Christmas kinda hits, but just corporate holiday parties, people bring me in to do their parties because it makes it very special and unique.
Benyamin: And you perform for everyone. I mean, I've seen pictures of you with Steven Spielberg and I mean, all sorts of ... was there anyone that was like-
Oz: One of the benefits. Spielberg was amazing to meet, Spielberg, I mean there's so many people.
Benyamin: And you said you met David Copperfield last week, I mean you've kind of-
Oz: I was doing a show, yeah.
Benyamin: You've kinda met a lot of your heroes I'm assuming.
Oz: Many, like almost all that I could think of. There's one or two that I've never ... I've met but just a hand shake and quick conversation, where I'd love to really do this. Sit down and pick their brain and here their story.
Benyamin: Who's that?
Oz: There's many, I mean, I would definitely do that with David Blaine, with Derren Brown, in a hypothetical world, with Houdini, I mean can you imagine to just sit down and just hear the stories, I've read his biographies. Just people that inspire me or that I find interesting. I love biographies in general, I just love knowing what went into peoples minds.
Benyamin: It's funny, I was just interviewing someone, he's a professor at Harvard who taught the most popular course in Harvard's history, it was on happiness. How to be happy, positive psychology. He said the exact same thing to me, he said, "He loves reading biographies," because you learn so much about what motivates someone. You learn ... It's lessons for life.
Benyamin: Yeah, everything about their life.
Oz: 'cause everyone thinks their special. Everyone thinks, "Oh, I'm unique" but there's been billions of people before you, there's gonna be billions of people after you and there's patterns. So much of what mentalism is, is recognizing patterns in peoples behaviors, so I love reading about ... Like there's mentalists from over a hundred years ago. There's very famous ones, that the public wouldn't know about but they were famous in their era.
Oz: And just like the same way in a hundred years, 2200 no ones gonna know who I am, probably. We'll try, knock on wood. But I'm saying there's so much to learn, 'cause some of the things you see now that you said are so amazing, they're just repackaged things that somebody did a hundred years ago but there was no Super Bowl then, there was no this.
Oz: So, what's old is new always.
Benyamin: So, that's actually leads me to my next question, where do you see yourself or where do you hope to be 5-10 years from now? Or how do you want to be remembered?
Oz: So, I hope I'm not gone in 10 years, I hope I got a few more years than that, but remembered is ... Right now, I'm living my dream. There's no question, I get to perform all the time, I bring joy. I go to an event, I have fun, I interact, I meet thousands of new people every month.
Oz: The one thing that's amazing is TV. I really enjoy the creativity involved in making TV.
Benyamin: You just came here, you said you were at the Dr. Oz show this morning.
Oz: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:39:03] with Dr. Oz, yeah and so I had my own show on NBC, we had one episode, it was like a pilot, it was called Oz knows. My hope and we're working on, it's so tough right now, is to get a season, to get that to the next big step.
Benyamin: And you were going around the city, it was in New York and you were doing tricks for people.
Oz: So, it was actually funny, it was mostly not performance. It was seeing the world through the eyes of a mentalist. We went Katz's Delicatessen, we went to Grand Central, we went to Time Square. We go to all these iconic locations and that you'd go on a travel show, food show. It's kind of a mix of the three, travel, food, but you see it through my eyes and I go to these people that don't even know I'm a mentalist and imagine you could go in and the pastrami guy who's cutting your meat up of pastrami at Katz's and I start reading his mind, he's blown away.
Oz: And then you do ... I did stuff that made sense in the locations, you get real candid genuine reactions from people that are relatable. Went to Broadway met Chazz Palminteri and did stuff for him on the set of Bullets over Broadway. I'm sorry ... why do I say that, the Broadway, A Bronx Tale. I went to see Bullets over Broadway right before that, but you just see how people react. It was more of a travel slash food show, with mentalism then a David Blaine special.
Benyamin: And so you hope that maybe that would-
Oz: We could do it in different cities, it's got legs because there's no city that I couldn't go to and open your eyes to things that you would never know. No travel show or food show has done it because I'm a mind reader. I can get into people's heads as well as in their stomachs and into their locations.
Oz: Honestly, continue doing what I'm doing in a bigger scale.
Benyamin: Is there ... I like to ask this at the end of my interviews, is there any question that I didn't ask you that I should've asked you?
Oz: I'll tell you one question you didn't ask me, which I love that you didn't, which is how do you do it? Because man oh man, is that the story of my life.
Benyamin: The answer is always ... Whenever people ask, the funny line i always heard was, when someone asks a magician, "How did you do it?" The answer is, "Very well."
Oz: Yeah, very well, thank you. If your asking then I did it pretty well. It's a difficult one, because people always want to know to some degree how mentalism works and magic and things like that, but the secret is the joy.
Benyamin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Oz: And a lot of it, when you learn the secret, it goes two ways. One, you're either very impressed and people will say to me, "But you couldn't have done that" and a lot of times, especially if it's TV based, you go, "What if it went wrong? It could've gone wrong so easily" and they just ... You see them getting nervous for me and I go, "It could've" with no risk, no reward.
Benyamin: I'm nervous for you, when I see you on the Today Show 'cause I know that's live and it's just ... God.
Oz: A million factors, a million variables, anything could change in a blink of an eye.
Oz: And the other thing is or it's very smack your head. You put your head, just like that emoji where you smack your face, you go, "There's no way, that's how you just ... It blew me away, there's no way that you just did that to Steven Spielberg and he's blown away by how you did that," and it's amazing because simple principles performed properly can amaze even the most intelligent skeptical people you've ever seen.
Oz: I know facts, I'm living it. It's either very simple or very complex and there's very little middle ground and a lot of the times, the tricks that look the most simple like you just said pick something, I just guessed it and he goes, "Gee, that was easy," I go, "You don't understand how intense it is," it would've been like reading a recipe, that's 20 pages when you thought it was three lines. There's so much that goes into the things that look the simplest.
Oz: Making it look that easy, is the skill.
Benyamin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's a good point. So, if people want to find out more about you, besides going to youtube, where else can they-
Oz: The best way nowadays is social, so if you just go to @ozthementalist and it's this wacky Israeli name, it's spelled O-Z.
Benyamin: The wizard of Oz.
Oz: People listening they might know, [Foreign Language 00:42:40], brave and strong even though you could see my muscles, there's not many of them. But yeah, ozthementalist on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, that's where I publicize all my appearances and if you want go to my website, ozpearlman.com.
Benyamin: And you're currently doing a residency in New York?
Oz: I have a show in New York City, if you're hearing this and you are in the Tri State area or visiting New York, you absolutely should come. I'm saying that none biased, I promise you, guaranteed 100% you will have a fun night. It's called Truth Be Told, it's about a 90 minute interactive mind reading and mentalism show where you are the show. If you go to it, you will be a part of it.
Oz: Very interactive with the audience, it's very unique, like you said, a lot of original content. You will not have a minute of being bored. My goal when you see this is you do not even check your watch, it's just over before it started. You'll have fun, you'll laugh, you'll enjoy and you'll walk away scratching your head I hope.
Benyamin: Cool. Well, Oz thank you so much, this has been a really immense pleasure, personally to hang out with you for a little bit and just to chat with you, you have so much insightful things to say. So, we really appreciate you stopping by.
Oz: Thank you.
Benyamin: Or letting us stop by your place.
Oz: I'm your new friend from Israel, it worked out, the name worked out.
Benyamin: The name worked out. Alright, thanks so much Oz, take care.
Oz: You got it, thanks Benyamin.
Benyamin: Our Friend From Israel is a production of fromthegrapevine.com extra notes and a transcript of today's episode can be found at ourfriendfromisreal.com. Want behind the scenes access to the show, including sneak peeks of future episodes? Join the Our Friend From Israel Facebook group, subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app. If you haven't already, please leave us a review on iTunes, it only takes a minute and when you do, it helps others discover Our Friend From Israel. You can visit our website at ourfriendfromisreal.com to find more episodes of the show and if you have an idea for a future guest that we should interview, send me an email at [email protected]
Benyamin: Our show is produced by [Paul Casco 00:44:55], editorial help from [Jamie Bender 00:44:57] our head engineer is [Everett Adams 00:44:59], our theme music is by Haim Mazar a Hollywood film composer who grew up in Israel.
Benyamin: I'm your host Benyamin Cohen and until next time, we hope you have a great week.
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