Mentalist Jonny Zavant brought his mind-blowing act to Ramapo College for this week's Tuesday Night Live. Students gathered at the Alumni Lounges to experience the mind-reading mentalist in action.
Andrew Clayton, the student opener, performed his musical act to warm up the crowd. After Clayton, Zavant took the floor to entertain with his unique gift, which he describes as a psychology-based skill.
"What I do is an exploration of psychology and connection between people," Zavant said.
Zavant explained that he has always been fascinated with the human mind and began performing at the age of 13.
"I was always interested in human reactions, and I like to freak people out," Zavant said. "I started juggling torches and hammering nails at my nose when I was 13 at open mic nights. That's where I started performing."
Since then, he has worked closely with his mentor, James Randi, by helping him debunk psychic claims and later toured with a full time entertainer, learning the business of doing shows. Now, Zavant has his own act and has recently been bringing it to colleges across the country.
In his act, Zavant displayed his ability to manipulate thought, like making people believe they saw a page in a book that had been previously removed. Another act involved guessing a number, a word and a picture that three people contributed. Without looking, Zavant was able to guess the first girl's number of 522, the second girl's word, banana, and that the third girl drew the Batman symbol.
Freshman Shannon Jirkovsky, who contributed the word banana that Zavant later guessed, described her experience as shocking.
"I was really anxious going up there. I didn't want to mess up his act if he wasn't really able to read my mind, but once he proved that he knew what my word was, I was completely shocked," Jirkovsky said.
Despite his seemingly clairvoyant abilities, Zavant claims that what he does is solely based on psychology.
"This is a skill that anyone can do. Most people are scared of what I do but it's basically a combination of applied psychology, showmanship and moxie. There is nothing psychic in my performance," Zavant said.
To prove that anyone can become a mentalist, he let the students take the wheel and had a blindfolded girl draw a picture of what she thought another girl had previously drew. Both girls, without ever looking at the other's drawing, drew a lightning bolt.
Zavant seemed to have convinced the students, like freshman Joana Gerbi, that his craft was more than just smoke and mirrors.
"I thought a mentalist was kind of like a magician," Gerbi said. "I knew he would be reading minds and everything. I wasn't sure if I believed in it all but now I kind of do."
Freshman Lisa Dinozzi was also made to believe in the power of the mentalist, despite her previous skepticism.
"I didn't believe in it because you always see it on TV, and you never know if they're actors and if they've talked to each other before, but now I believe," Dinozzi said.
Even sophomore Mike DiMaggio, who previously believed in mentalists' abilities, was impressed.
"I've always believed in it, but it was cool how he guessed everything right," DiMaggio said.
For Zavant, college students make for a lively audience, and he describes his college tour as an ideal way to work.
"I couldn't imagine a better job," Zavant explained. "When I visit colleges, I get to meet super awesome people who are excited about life and ready to go and follow their dreams."