The Arty Semite

The Extraordinary Mind of Mentalist Asi Wind

By Simi Horwitz

  • Print
  • Share Share

From an early age, mentalist Asi Wind knew he had to prove himself in some spectacular way. The Tel Aviv native was dyslexic, but not diagnosed as such, and everyone assumed he was slow and dim-witted.

Herb Scher

“And I believed it about myself,” he said with a slight Hebrew accent. “It was an enormous weight. Every thing was a struggle. Focus and concentration has been my biggest challenge.”

That’s hard to fathom in light of his mind-blowing memory, not to mention his stunning magical skills, displayed in his show, “Asi Wind Concert of the Mind: Exceeding Human Limits,” now playing Off-Broadway at the Axis Theater (One Sheridan Square), through October 30.

Evoking an easygoing host at a party, Wind quickly solves two Rubik’s Cubes, one held in each hand, instantly remembers the order of cards in a thoroughly shuffled deck, and identifies everyone in the audience by name simply on the basis of greeting each theatergoer in the lobby before the show. It’s general seating so he has no way of knowing who is sitting where ahead of time.

“When we introduce ourselves to each other I am able to tie a name to a particular expression or outstanding feature,” he said. “Everything I do in the show is in the realm of the possible, though I’m trying to push the limits of what’s possible to new extremes.”

Wind describes himself as a cultural heir of Houdini — not Uri Geller — asserting that 20-plus years of self-training has given him the skills he now has.

From the outset Wind was drawn to the magic shows he saw on TV, at birthday parties, and magic shops. Magicians were “super-heroes,” he recalled. “They redefined the possible.” Though magic clearly has a universal appeal, it’s especially popular in Israel where, interestingly enough, mentalists far outnumber the card and rabbit magicians. “Israelis love anything to do with the power of the mind,” Wind continued. “We’re fighting for our identity, our land, our nation. We’re surrounded by enemies and always on that road to survival, which makes us push and try harder. Intellect is essential.”

In 2001 Wind moved to New York to give his talents a shot on this side of the Atlantic, but he was fearful, not least thanks to the language barrier he faced. Nonetheless, he booked several touring shows almost immediately, performing alongside musicians and comics. In his spare time he studied English and supplemented his income twisting balloons into various animal shapes on the street.

Mercifully, his rugged times were short-lived and it didn’t take long for him to develop a following that included such celebrities as Woody Allen and the late Paul Newman and he is now serving as a consultant to David Blaine on his upcoming TV special. Most impressive, his peers have honored him with the International Merlin Award for the Most Innovative Show, an award previously presented to David Copperfield and Penn &Teller.

Aside from boasting extraordinary skills, Wind aspires to originality, showmanship, and human connection. If the audience leaves the theater feeling delighted and empowered he has done his job. Though he is very much the rationalist, magic has to have that elusive sense of mystery.

Wind admits he has a complicated relationship to religion. He grew up in a traditional Jewish home and as a kid loved his rabbi, a terrific storyteller and showman. “He was an early influence,” Wind remarked. “But even more important, he had a great sense of humor, was fun, and accepting. He didn’t push religion on you. He was a wonderful human being.

“I wish all of the religious experience I had was like that,” he continued. “Unfortunately, I also experienced another kind of religion. It was forceful, judgmental and critical. For me the whole idea of freedom of opinion and expression is very important. Painting is my other passion and I express those feelings in my art.”

Wind’s thoughts are now focused on his show and future, although he eschews the notion of an “ultimate goal” because that suggests something definitive and final. “And then where do you go after that?” he asked rhetorically.

Before ending the interview I challenge him to describe what’s on the magazine page I’m clutching — it is page 20 I tell him — and one of among dozens of pages that he ripped from a magazine the night before, distributing tear sheets at random throughout the audience.

Without missing a beat he said, “It’s an ad for the Bartok Quartet Cycle that will be performing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Tickets can be purchased for $40 or $100 for all three concerts and tickets will also be available for kids at a special price.”

That is exactly what is on the page.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Mentalism, Asi Wind

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.