These are show notes taken from an audio interview. To listen to the actual interview, please use the player above.
In this episode I talk to mind reader Jonny Zavant about his performing career and what it takes to make it as a college entertainer. He also talks about how he experienced every performer’s worst nightmare: getting boo’d off stage by 2,000 people, and what he took away from that experience.
Jonny Zavant is a Comedy Mentalist Extraordinaire hailing from Chicago, IL. He acquired much of his talent from working with James “the Amazing” Randi at the James Randi Educational Foundation where he developed scientific studies to test the paranormal claims of and investigate applicants for the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge.
He toured with magician and internet celebrity Brian Brushwood where he learned the ropes of a traveling act. Since then, he’s struck out on his own performing at trade shows, corporate events, and touring colleges and universities around the US as a college entertainer, earning acclaim and accolades along the way. Among these, he’s been nominated two years running as fastest rising star, best novelty performer, and best comedy entertainer by Campus Activities magazine.
He’s also put together some fun, light, “Two Minute Tours” videos highlighting some of the places he’s encountered in his travels. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re in the mood for a quirky look at some well-known as well as some hidden gems around the country.
Don’t do it perfectly, just get it done! – Brian Brushwood
A Moment of Failure:
Getting married too early in life and then, consequently, getting divorced.
Going to South Korea and entertaining our troops stationed there.
How does Jonny differentiate himself?
A number of ways: he bills himself as a comedy mind reader as evidenced by his tagline “Recently voted Psychic of the Year for 2017.” He also only does mind reading. No spoon bending, telling the future, or making things move with his mind.
What’s worked well for his business?
Being helpful in exchange for learning from those who are doing what he wanted to do.
What it takes to make it as a College Entertainer:
Jonny performs a good portion of his shows in colleges and universities around the United States. We spend a good portion of the interview talking about the college market.
• Have something worth selling. You can’t test out material in the college market.
• Have at least a three-year-plan before attacking the college market and save up a lot of money, because you won’t get paid right away.
• Don’t low-ball.
• What types of shows work best for the college market?
• Objective #1: Making the person who booked you look good.
• Don’t bring “blue material.”
Jonny tells us how he experienced every performer’s worst nightmare: getting boo’d off stage by 2,000 people, and what he took away from that experience.
Jonny’s biggest challenge since striking out on his own:
Reinvesting back in and bank-rolling his show.
What would Jonny have done differently?
He would have made more sound financial decisions.
Just keep swimming.
Recommended books and resources:
Note: Many of the links in this section are affiliate links, meaning we earn a small portion of any sales. If you’re enjoying our podcast and decide to purchase one of the recommended resources or books, please consider using our affiliate links to help support the work we’re doing here at the Successful Performercast. Thanks!
Google and it’s suite of productivity apps including Google Keep. Jonny describes an interesting work flow that he uses between them all.
MindNode: Mindmapping tool
Performance Specific Book
Maximum Entertainment by Ken Webber
Where can we find Jonny Zavant?
Here are Jonny’s Two Minute Tours Videos