The Amazing Johnathan's 25-Year Meth Addiction Chronicled In New Doc

By Lindsey Weedston 08/21/19

The former Las Vegas headliner gives an open, honest look into his ongoing drug use in the Hulu documentary. 

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The Amazing Johnathan
Photo via YouTube

A new documentary was released on Hulu over the weekend that follows the Amazing Johnathan, a comedic magician who rose to become a year-round headliner in Las Vegas from 2001 to 2012.

In 2014, he revealed that due to a chronic heart condition and long-term methamphetamine use, he had one year to live. However, he is still alive today and continues to attempt to do limited tours, which was to be the main subject of the documentary simply titled The Amazing Johnathan Documentary.

Much of the documentary deals with the filmmaker, Ben Berman, struggling to make his movie about a man who built his career around deception and pranks as the Amazing Johnathan (real name John Szeles) invited other documentary makers to film him at the same time.

At one turning point, Szeles invites Berman to smoke meth with him on camera.

According to Szeles, he made the proposal because he felt Berman was focusing too much of the documentary on the drug use.

“We both wanted a totally honest approach to show how I actually lived, and how I’m still doing drugs,” Szeles told The Los Angeles Times. “But he got a bit too obsessed on that. Every time I went to my bedroom to do drugs, he would try to follow me. I said, ‘I know what you’re gonna do. You’re trying to catch me. You want to do the drug angle so much? Do it with me.’ I thought that would be my way off the hook.”

Using On Camera

Though Szeles says that Berman did indeed take a hit from the meth pipe, the documentary does a freeze-frame and blocks out the pipe right before he does, then begins a voice-over from Berman's lawyer advising him not to take an illegal drug on screen.

Szeles himself has been open about his drug use, saying he doesn't recommend anyone do it but that it has helped him remain creative.

“I’m not one to be told how to live,” he says. “This is how I’ve been for 25 years. I want my life on record, and this is exactly what I do. And I think it’s funny that Disney [which owns Hulu] has a meth documentary.”

However, he also called himself a "slave" to the drug and that it doesn't even get him high anymore. He says he takes it "every hour or two."

Currently, Szeles is unable to perform because his body begins to lock up after 30 minutes. He uses a motorized scooter to get around and is still waiting for the moment that his heart gives out.

“It’s been three years since I was supposed to be dead,” he says. “But when it happens, it’s gonna go quick. They say I’ll have an event and it’ll go fast, hopefully."

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at NotSorryFeminism.com. Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindseyWeedston

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