Interview with Alan Chamo | Extracted from Summer 2016 CLT Magazine
1.What is a mentalist?
Being a mentalist means that you are a magician with mental issues, or at least that is what I always say in my shows. Basically, mentalism is one of the branches that stems out of the ‘tree of magic,’ where there are other subdivisions such as illusionism and escapism. Mentalism is about how to trick the mind, and it has various factors involved including psychology with hypnotic suggestions. I also studied hypnosis, so I am one of the few that successfully combined it with magic, in order to create a higher level of amazement in my audience, also knowing that not everyone is going to see the same thing. Every person’s mind and perception is different and therefore everyone reacts differently.
2. What is the difference between a mentalist and a magician?
The main difference is that the magician tries to impress, while mentalist tries to impress your mind. Mentalists try to use amazement through the senses and a regular magician is more visual by using a lot more magic props for their tricks. Meanwhile, I use items that you could easily find at an office supply store. One is not better than the other, they are simply just different. I still enjoy doing more traditional magic tricks as well.
3.What are the most popular questions you get when you say you are a mentalist?
It is definitely unusual for people to meet a mentalist, so they obviously always ask questions. The top questions I get are:
- Mentalist, like the TV guy?
- They cover their eyes and say,
- “Don’t stare into my eyes!”
- Can you make my wife/girlfriend disappear?
- Can you tell me what I’m thinking now?
- Can you tell me the lottery numbers? Then I answer, “Yeah, sure, just give me your phone number an as soon as I get them, you’ll be the first one to know.”
- Yes, but what’s your real job?
- How do you do it? me: “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you, and you seem like a nice guy.” him: “Then tell my wife!”
4. What can an audience expect from one of your presentations?
My number one goal is to be entertaining, because I feel like the experience is not as valuable if I simply go on stage and do casual tricks. I believe that the actual effect is only 20 percent of the presentation and people are truly there because they want to have a good time. They want to laugh, be surprised, and they want the person doing the presentation to have a connection with them. In my shows I try to create different atmospheres, and I accomplish that through lighting, sounds, music and the rhythm in which I do it. Those details are important, because it avoids giving off a monotonous vibe.
5. What is the difference between your comedy hypnosis show and mentalism shows?
My comedy hypnosis show is a very funny and entertaining show where I bring people on stage. They are then hypnotized and each participant transforms into a different person or thing, depending on what character I give them. I give each of them a character. Meanwhile, the mentalism show is more visual and interactive, which is something that’s very important to me. The show isn’t about simply sitting and watching; it’s about participating. It’s not about seeing the magic, it’s about feeling the magic. I offer both shows to colleges and universities.
6. When did you realize your love for magic?
I was 7 years old the first time I saw magic and was wowed by it. It was during a birthday party. There was a magician and after that, I would always have one at my birthday parties. Later I got a magician’s kit and unlike most children, I picked it up and never put it down. I was always doing tricks in front of family, friends and people. I also had an uncle who was also a magic aficionado, so he taught me some tricks and from there it all started.
7. What was your childhood and growing up like?
I was born in Argentina. When I was 8 my parents decided to move to Israel, where I lived until I was 22. In Israel was where I actually learned the professional aspect of what I do. I was the first magician of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). I would do shows for the soldiers. That was where I gained my experience in performing for young adult audiences.
8. How did your talent transform from a hobby into a career?
I wanted to study something related to international business or just business, but at 14 I started performing and doing children’s magic shows in Israel. I made good money for a 14-year-old, making about $100 per show. I was the richest kid on the block, making about $100 per show. For me that was a fortune. Every weekend I was fully booked. It then continued on to the Army, and shortly after that, I appeared on television. Life just led me down the path of becoming a mentalist.
9. At what point did you decide to focus solely on mentalism?
I started focusing on it when I was 20, during my time at the army. Being there was a huge experience for me, because it’s very similar to college, meaning that an audience of soldiers –just like students – either loves you or hates you, and you’ve got to break the ice in less than a minute because if not, they might boo and kick you off the stage.
10. What is the most satisfying part of being a mentalist?
My favorite part is being on stage and feeling the energy in the house. After the show, I also enjoy meeting my audience and hearing about their experiences. It’s interesting how every person has different feelings about the show or likes something more than the other. Everyone reacts differently to the same thing and I like those observations.
11. In how many languages can you perform?
My performances are either in Spanish, English, Hebrew or Spanglish. The idea of doing Spanglish is not translating word for word, though. It’s about being able to say something using some words in Spanish and some in English and have everyone understand the sentence. Sometimes people don’t even realize that I’m switching languages within a sentence, because our minds fill in the blanks.
12. Was there any point in time when you wanted to do something different?
Yes. I consider myself an entrepreneur. I created a retail company that sells 17 magic tricks and novelties. It’s called Magic Hut, and I sold it one year ago, after owning it for 15 years with locations at different malls and shopping centers. I like retail and am looking to open a place in Aventura Mall, selling a product that isn’t related to magic. I’m very interested in real estate. It’s like a monopoly, where you strategically buy and sell at the perfect time. I’ve enjoyed studying and taking courses. I started studying and practicing hypnosis six years ago. At some point, I would also like to have a show in Miami year-round, just like they have them in Vegas.
13. What have been some unforgettable moments or experiences?
The time I performed at Premios Lo Nuestro, (A popular Latino music award show) in front of 50 million people plus the other 3,000 that were in the audience was the biggest thing I’ve done. That truly was huge. I also have many from when I was in the army. Once we went to perform on the border with Gaza and it was right after two very pressured days where some American journalists had been killed. Everything was very tense. So, I arrived to the base that had walls made of sandbags around, and 100 feet from us the Palestinian police were on a stand off. I was with a band. They would sing and had a keyboard. We were inside a big tent making noise, and the guy who played the synthesizer started making sounds that were similar to bombs, guns and explosions. The base commander was yelling at him, worried that the Palestinians were going to hear us and think we were starting a shoot-out. The tense situation was now even worse, and they were thinking of canceling the show, but I insisted that we continue with the program. We ended up performing while wearing bulletproof vests and a helmet, and all soldiers had their guns loaded with bullets – which was a very unusual scene. It was definitely unforgettable.
14. At what point did you move on to bigger presentations, corporate shows?
After leaving the army, I moved to the United States – to Miami, and I immediately started working with television and corporate events. That was in 1998.
15. Do you ever customize a show?
Yes, I do provide custom shows upon request. For example, in corporate events I have noticed that it’s a mental challenge, and the company wants to show its employees that it is all in the mind. Sometimes whoever hires me wants to promote a certain product, idea or concept, and they ask me to build a show around it. It’s a great way to create awareness regarding the idea of a product.
16. Who are your customers?
Cruises, corporations, universities and television networks. Usually corporate events, cruise lines and companies hire me for my mentalism act. My show took me to perform in more than 40 countries.18
17. How did you get into television and working with diverse networks and channels?
I met the producer of one of the shows and I started in a show called Lente Loco. From there, people started hearing about me so I was on various morning shows and one thing took me to the next.
18. What are the biggest challenges of your career?
The challenge lies in impressing an audience with the least amount of items possible. At the end of it all, we all have an ego as entertainers and we all want to feel important. So, for any magician the biggest desire is to create that ‘wow effect.’
19. How do you prepare for one of your shows?
When I’m creating a routine for presentation, I always try to put myself in the place of the person that is going to see and experience it. So, I try to think of the effect and the possible reactions I might get before developing the actual routine. Most of all, I prepare through my mind. I try to distract myself about two or three hours before the show. One hour before the show I get into my zone by meditating. I imagine people having a good time, the audience smiling and I picture myself performing to the audience. So, it’s definitely through exercises of visualization; something that I would recommend to anyone.
20. Why do you like to perform in schools?
I realized that when I do my show for a younger crowd within colleges and even in the army, they really love my show. I feel like it has to do with my stage persona and my sarcastic humor. Also, I consider myself Latino and was raised in Israel so I enjoy diversity, and the United States is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, and I love how it all comes together in our nation’s universities. Within the schools you see the best of each place represented by its young people that are studying and want to grow and succeed, and I feel great comfort performing in front of that type of audience.
21. What are you working on currently?
I’m developing a project that has to do with TV and social media. The idea is that the public can see what is happening while I perform – through my eyes. They will have the experience of not only being amazed, but also of seeing the way that others react and what it’s like to surprise somebody. To learn more, check out my Facebook page: Alan Chamo Mentalist. I’ll also be conducting this experiment at my booth at the APCA Northeast Regional Conference, October 21 & 22. I hope everyone stops by.
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