This Israeli's 'America's Got Talent' audition even made Simon Cowell laugh
Why the comedic mentalist's performance is going viral – and he's not surprised.
Before we get started, take a few minutes and watch the video above. You'll thank us. It's an audition from last night's episode of "America's Got Talent." In it, Israeli mentalist Lioz Shem Tov performed what some people are calling the funniest audition in the show's entire 13 seasons.
The four-minute bit had everyone in stitches, laughing so hard they were crying. This morning, the video of the performance has already been viewed on YouTube more than a quarter million times and has turned Shem Tov into a viral overnight sensation.
"Why were they laughing?" Shem Tov asked us when we reached him by phone today at his home in Tel Aviv. Like comedic icons Andy Kaufmann and Borat, Shem Tov stayed mostly in character during our interview, delivering his answers in a hysterical deadpan.
"I did my best, really. I was practicing for years for this and I really did my best. I showed them my best powers. I showed them my best magic and then they were in shock and then they were laughing. The shock I understand. I don't understand the laughing."
Well, he'd better get used to it. Because the Eilat native is quickly becoming a household name in the U.S. In his home country of Israel, he already has lots of fans. He appeared on "Israel's Got Talent" not too long ago and received a standing ovation.
Ever the mentalist, Shem Tov said he actually foresaw his overnight success coming. "I knew this was going to happen. I could read their minds. I knew that before I went up on stage that this is what will be. I did meditation before the show and I could see five minutes into the future."
Shem Tov – who said he is 42 years and 8 months old – has been performing magic and comedy for years in Tel Aviv. In 2009, he actually appeared on another NBC competition show called "Last Comic Standing." For that show, it was his ridiculous animal impersonations that catapulted him into the semifinals.
He told From The Grapevine that he's been hard at work for the past 16 years creating his current act and has about an hour's worth of material. His ultimate goal, as that of all the contestants on "America's Got Talent," is to have his own headline show in Las Vegas.
To get there, Shem Tov will have to win over even more fans. Judge Heidi Klum hit the dreaded red "X" button during the audition. Judge Simon Cowell gave him an "X" too, but ultimately reversed his decision when he couldn't stop laughing. "This was actually really funny," Cowell admitted.
Shem Tov understands that his comedic stylings divide people. "People who don't understand it, they hate it," he told us during a brief moment when he broke character on our phone call. "People who do understand it, they love it. He's either an idiot or 'Oh my god, me and my wife were crying from laughing.'"
If Shem Tov succeeds, he'll be following in the footsteps of fellow Israeli mentalist Oz Pearlman who made it to the finals of "America's Got Talent" in 2015. Pearlman has offered advice to new contestants and said one of the most important things is to smile and enjoy yourself.
"Have fun, because no matter what happens – if it's good, if it's bad, it doesn't matter," Pearlman told From The Grapevine. "It's going to be a very unique experience in your life and it will fly by. So whether you don't make it through the first round or whether you are the winner, you should have fun with it, because your good energy and the fact that you're enjoying it relates to the audience. They pick up on that. And that's what they want. The audience wants to get behind someone that they like, that they can cheer for and that looks like they're having a good time."
Shem Tov's next performance on "America's Got Talent" should happen in late July when he's expected to perform in the Judge Cut rounds.
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