Catching Up with Oz Pearlman (The 2019 Edition)

Mentalist and magician Oz Pearlman returns to ‘Jake’s Take.’ (Photo property of Todd France & courtesy of Oz Pearlman)

It is a pleasure to welcome back mentalist and magician Oz Pearlman to Jake’s Take.

Since we last spoke, the America’s Got Talent (AGT): Season 10 finalist has entertained a plethora of public figures that ranged from superstars such as Matt Damon, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Usher to legends such as Bill Murray, Gloria Estefan, and Lionel Richie. He also had the opportunity to perform in front of former U.S. President Bill Clinton twice.  Also, Oz appeared on a variety of television programs such as The CNBC Stock Draft, Good Day New York, Live with Kelly & Ryan, Rachael Ray, and The Today Show.

Recently, Oz won an Emmy Award for his NBC television special, 1st Look Presents Oz Knows. The special showcased him entertaining New Yorkers across the city. The episode cumulated when Oz visited A Bronx Tale: The Musical, where he took the show’s creator, Chazz Palminteri, on an interesting trip into the past.

In this edition of Catching Up, Oz Pearlman opened up about 1st Look Presents Oz Knows, why he had a hard time asking Steven Spielberg questions, and if he would return to compete on the sophomore season of America’s Got Talent: The Champions.

Jacob Elyachar: It has been four years since we last down for “A Conversation.” How have you grown as a performer since we last spoke?

Oz Pearlman: Wow, four years! That is pretty wild to think. Did we speak at the start of America’s Got Talent or after the show ended?

Jacob Elyachar: It was after AGT concluded.

Oz Pearlman: I cannot even tell you. America’s Got Talent is kind of like pouring jet fuel on a spark. It just really ignites you in a way that almost nothing else can. What it did for me is that I went from kind of being what I would describe as a local performer, where I was really well-known in the tri-state area to more of a national stage. Now, I fly to most of my events as opposed to driving to most of them. That’s a huge difference. The show exposed me to so many people, opened a lot of doors, and just got the momentum going, where I have kept going with the energy since. I owe so much to America’s Got Talent.

Jacob Elyachar: What have been some of the challenges that you faced since we last spoke? How did you overcome those obstacles?

Oz Pearlman:  One thing is that there is no career manual when you are in show business. There is not like a book that says: “Here’s how to do well and be famous and successful.” As a career, you have to figure it out for yourself. The best way is to see other people that have achieved what you want to meet, talk to them. I think that I was navigating the waters of agents, managers, kind of the business portion of show business if that makes sense. And also, TV. The one big challenge is how to harness what I do on TV, and I have been lucky enough to do that, a ton of it since AGT. I’ve had somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 national TV appearances, I think. It’s hard to keep track, but tons and tons, all different networks. Then, I had my TV special on NBC, and we won an Emmy for it. I do not know the challenges, there’ve been challenges, but good things came from them. I guess never taking no for an answer is the big challenge. Kind of keep on going and not taking rejection personally. That’s just a stumbling block that you jump over to get to the next reward or rung of your ladder in your career.

Jacob Elyachar: I am glad that you brought up 1st Look Presents Oz Knows. How did that collaboration come about?

Oz Pearlman: People say to me that showbiz is all random. It’s random, and luck and you have to try to create that luck. The way it all started had nothing to do with America’s Got Talent or even anything to do with magic or mind-reading. I was at a Fourth of July barbecue, with people that are not even work in show business. They were friends with my wife. She went to Columbia for her Masters, and one of her school partners and her brother were there. We start talking. Next thing I know, he tells me that he works at NBC. He goes, “Oh yeah, you were on America’s Got Talent.” We started talking, and I think nothing’s going to come of it. It was not a business networking event if that makes sense. It’s me drinking a beer, in my swim trunks, looking at my little boy. It was casual.

Then I followed up. I kept in touch. I ended up doing a showcase for the LXTV production company that films 1st Look. Then again, nothing happened. Everything is about timing. They had a bunch of other stuff going on, but I kept in touch. That is the number one thing I would tell anybody in any business — Follow-Up, follow-up, follow-up. People are busy, forget, and have things going on in their life. If you keep in touch, you keep yourself top of mind, that is when things happen.  Then lo and behold, I wrote to them. We got back together, and a week later, we were shooting the show. I’m telling you, it was just the craziest, serendipitous luck and timing. It all worked out, and I am so happy it did because the show was so much fun to shoot. It was incredible.

Jacob Elyachar: You also hosted your residency, Truth be Told, at iPic Theatre last year. What were some of the lessons that you learned from the residency that helped you grow to improve your act? Also, will you return to the NYC stage anytime soon?

Oz Pearlman: I would love to. Right now, the difficult challenge for me is kind of; I would say, juggling family life. I have two pretty young kids, being married, and my travel schedule. I do upwards of 170 events a year. The majority of those mean I fly somewhere, so anywhere from my slowest month with maybe five or six nights that I am gone a month and my busiest month is 20-plus nights that I am gone. I want to see the family. I want to see my friends, few and far between. Finding a residency always involves locking up a bunch of dates. You cannot just tell them specific dates. It’s like every Thursday and Saturday. That creates a following, and it is what we did at iPic for a while, and that ran its course. So the answer to you is I don’t have anything guaranteed yet. I’m looking at different stages. For anyone this is reading this interview and is out in the Hamptons, I am going to be the headlining performer at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on July 13. It’s a charming venue. I think there are stills seats available, tickets available, and it’s a great way to see me interact and hopefully get to have your mind blown.

Oz had the opportunity to perform for former US President Bill Clinton twice in his career. (Photo courtesy of Oz Pearlman)

Jacob Elyachar: You have showcased your talent to various public figures that included former President Bill Clinton and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg to legendary entertainers such as Gloria Estefan and Stevie Wonder. Whose reactions to your work made your smile? Why do they stand out?

Oz Pearlman: That is honestly one of the luckiest parts of what I do, getting to meet people that I admire and respect. In some cases, I have performed in front of people that I am just a massive fan. I did a private party for Steven Spielberg, for his family, and that was almost surreal, an out-of-body experience where I’m sitting there almost looking down at me trying to see if Spielberg is looking for like two or three minutes. We chatted for about 20 minutes, and he was just voraciously curious. He just kept asking me questions about me and how I do this and how I got into magic and mentalism. I just wanted to almost say, “Stop. You are Steven Spielberg. I have about a million questions for you.” All he wanted to talk about was me which was so challenging because all I wanted to talk about was him.

Oz posed with legendary film director Steven Spielberg after a performance. (Photo courtesy of Oz Pearlman)

There are so many other people that I could tell you that I have blown me away. One of them that is a stand out is Larry David, just because I am a monster fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld, and everything that he has ever created. When I performed for him, it was so incredible. He acted the way you would want. Sometimes you think you’re going to meet a rock star and you think they’re going to be a rock star. Then you meet them, and they are very timid, and they are not what you expect. Larry David is everything I expected and more. He was hysterical, and his comments were so Larry David. It was great.

Jacob Elyachar: Recently, America’s Got Talent: The Champions was renewed for its sophomore season. What was your reaction when you saw the inaugural season? Were you asked to participate? Also, if the production team asked you to perform on the sophomore season, would you return? Why or why not?

Oz Pearlman: I was asked to perform on the first Champions season. However, it did not work out because of our schedules. I very much hope they are going to keep doing it. My understanding is they have another season coming up. If NBC is continuing this spin-off, the AGT: Champions production team have a specific pool of talent to choose from, and there are not that many finalists. At the end of the day, I am very confident that at some point, when it’s meant to be, it’ll be meant to be and I’ll be back on there. I don’t know yet. I do not think the casting team has made selections for this coming season.

The AGT production team has been so good to me. Their producers are all about highlighting talent. They want to make you look good. They want to promote your career. Other America’s Got Talent acts; I’m so happy for as well. I just did a show recently with a bunch of big-name acts that were there. Darci Lynne Farmer and I performed together, Tom Cotter, who was the Season Seven runner-up and is an incredible comedian, was also there. I also met a bunch of other AGT acts. I watched it, and the part about it that stood out was just it’s a little bit difficult when you start judging acts like that as to how they get ranked. I don’t know if it’s a live audience or how it’s precisely picked. I will have to find out more about that if I am in it. But honestly, I only do what I can control which is put out the best possible performance I can and do something original and unique and blow people’s minds when it comes to the power of the human mind doing something you know is impossible.

Jacob Elyachar: I agree with you, Oz. In fact, you are one of the several acts that I have championed to return for Champions’ second season.

Oz Pearlman: Thanks, Jacob! Last year, they had great magicians on the show! AGT has incredible magicians to choose from and they had Colin Cloud, who is a mentalist. He did an amazing Job! I saw Jon Dorenbos and Shin Lim, who obviously crushed it. I just like the fact that anytime they are putting on really highly talented acts that do what we do, it makes all of us look good. I have had business where the supply and demand, did you call it that, like the supply and demand curve, there’s very few supply of people that do what I do in the world. There’s not that many of us. There is a lot more people that see it and then they want us. If somebody does a great job, that makes me look good. They will hire me next. I would like to get out there and just take a swing and hopefully wow America and wow the judges.

Jacob Elyachar: If you had the opportunity to meet with aspiring mentalists who want to take their craft to the next level, what advice would you share with them?

Oz Pearlman: All different advice that I give people, one of the big ones is get out there and perform as often as possible. If you’re a magician, if you’re a mentalist, these are interactive crafts. The only way you get better, exactly like a stand-up comedian, is by going out there and doing stuff for an audience. You can’t just practice at home and think that people will approve. Because some of the things you think are the best ever, when you go do those, you realize that fell flat. Some of the things you don’t think are good, you go out and do them, and they’re amazing. With a craft, the more you do it, the better you become.

For more information about Oz, visit his website. You can also connect with Oz Pearlman on social media.  Visit his Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube channels.


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