Jonathan Neal Brown leads off ‘TV’s Magic Stars’
June 4, 2007
Grand Illusion, spectacular magic, impressive sleight-of-hand, side-splitting comedy, and great fun for the entire family. This is what you’ll get from the latest production show, “TV’s Magic Stars”, inside the Golden Cabaret at the Horizon Casino Resort.
TV’s Magic Stars features four headliners who have amazed TV audiences for years on NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. From their numerous appearances on The Tonight Show, to starring roles in specials, and major motion pictures, you can’t help but recognize the talent featured on stage.
Taking the starring role is Jonathan Neal Brown who, along with his assistant Liane, starred in the CBS show, “The World’s Greatest Magicians.” Along with his numerous repeat performances on NBC’s The Tonight Show, Jonathan Neal Brown has received ten consecutive nominations and has been twice voted “Stage Magician Of The Year.”
Brown’s first appearance on nationwide TV was on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” but what is more amazing is that it was a show he never auditioned for, or hoped to be on. And stranger still, Jonathan didn’t even own a television.
So how does a novice magician with limited professional experience get to appear on one of the most important TV variety shows of its time? In a word, magic. Jonathan had moved to Hollywood a couple of years earlier and was focused entirely on developing a fresh and original style of magic based on music and movement and simplicity.
“I was living in a cheap, furnished apartment that was really just a rehearsal studio for my act and I was practicing all day and performing at local clubs by night,” Brown said. “It meant for me, living as inexpensively as possible until I could achieve my goals. I figured it would take me at least another five years before I would be ready for any TV appearances. So I figured I could live without a TV and get more work done as well.”
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Meanwhile, The Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach was becoming well known to many top comedians as the leading route to the Tonight Show. But to Brown, who still didn’t own a TV, it was just another place to present his developing act.
“Harry Anderson (“Night Court”), who was a friend of mine, kept telling me that I should be working the Comedy and Magic Club, but I felt I wasn’t ready,” Brown said. “I was quite happy in smaller, less recognized venues. Well, Harry kept after me for months and finally forced me to do it. “
Soon Jonathan was working on a regular rotation there with many rising comics: Gary Shandling, Kevin Pollock, Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, Robert Wuhl, and others that would go on to great success.
“Of course, the comics were all vying for a Tonight Show spot, and the man to whom all paid obeisance was Jim McCauley, the talent coordinator for Johnny Carson,” Brown said. “Believe me, with all that comic energy around me, the last thought I had was getting a Tonight Show spot. In those days, everyone knows Johnny did a little magic, but his main interest was comedy. So when Jim McCauley was in the house, the tension was over the top, almost electric!
“On those nights, the comics didn’t watch each other, they watched McCauley watch the comics, and judged accordingly. So me, with my little magic act , I was quite content to be apart from it all and do my spot without the added pressure.”
Jonathan was packing up his props after the show when the word came down that McCauley was making his way backstage, where all the acts “hung out.” This meant that one of the comics would probably get the coveted Carson spot.
“I’m not sure who was more surprised, me or the comics, when Jim asked me if I wanted to do the Tonight show,” Brown said. “To say I was stunned would be an understatement. I was flattered of course, but was my act ready? What if I screwed up? And would this opportunity ever be offered again?
McCauley told Jonathan that he would like a spot that could be as long as nine minutes (very long for a first time appearance), but might be shorter because of the program was on New Year’s Eve. The program was to be different that night, with very little chit chat and just strong performances from Tina Turner and Bill Maher (making his first Tonight Show appearance).
When show day arrived and Brown was ushered into a camera rehearsal, McCauley asked him if he could alter the rehearsed nine minute spot if it proved necessary to something as short as 3-to-6 minutes. Brown’s act then as now was modular by design, like a singer who does a series of three-minute songs. Due to programming, it was unknown as to how long a spot Jonathan might have until minutes before he was to begin!.
Today Jonathan looks back and just laughs.
“If I only knew then what I know now,” he said. “But perhaps I was better off. I was too young to realize how nervous I should have been.”
Brown’s performance went off without a hitch, and he tells us that his second Tonight Show was even more bizarre and exciting. But that’s a story for another time.
TV’s Magic Stars runs nightly except Tuesdays at the Golden Cabaret Theater inside the Horizon Casino Resort. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., with a special kids free matinee at 3 p.m. on Sundays (certain restrictions apply. Call for details). Adult tickets are $24.95, and children 12 and under are $19.95. Tickets are available at the Horizon Casino and Resort Box Office or you can purchase online at http://www.ticketmaster.com. For more information call the Horizon, (775) 588-6211, or visit http://www.tvsmagicshow.com.