Inside the Mind of a Mentalist: An interview with Eric Dittelman
Knowing what’s on your mind is one of Eric Dittelman’s many talents.
As a professional mentalist, he made a name for himself performing at comedy clubs and corporate events, which lead to an appearance on the hit television show “Ellen.” And on Wednesday, June 20th, New York audiences will have the chance to experience his award-winning show live at Manhattan’s Triad Theater, where Eric will be a guest on the latest installment of MAGIC HOUR, a new live series from producer Patrick Terry.
Commonly known by his surname, Dittelman is renowned for combining mentalism techniques with stand-up comedy. In 2012, he appeared on “America’s Got Talent” and made the semi-finals which helped launch his career. Judge Howard Stern called him “An Exceptional talent, one of my favorite acts!” Additionally, he’s been featured in “Rolling Stone Magazine,” as well as “Entertainment Weekly,” and in 2015 he was also presented with the “Best Male Performer Award” courtesy of Campus Activities Magazine.
Eric recently granted an exclusive interview where he discussed his work as a mentalist, and how comedy informs his performance.
Meagan Meehan (MM): You are a mind reader and a comedian, so which interested you initially and how did you add the other?
Eric Dittelman (ED): Both developed independently as I was growing up. As a kid, I was always interested in magic after watching magic specials on TV. I continued developing that and started doing improv comedy in high school mostly because of my older brother. It wasn’t until college that I made the switch into mind reading and mentalism. That’s also when I started to dive into stand-up and sketch comedy in addition to improv. So, even though these avenues developed separately they eventually started to combine into a show that featured all the aspects of who I am.
MM: As a kid, did you ever imagine you would make a living as a professional mentalist?
ED: Not at all. I went to school to become a teacher and found out after a couple years in the field that it wasn’t for me. It should’ve been clear from the start since I am not a morning person but luckily now most of my gigs take place at night and I rarely have to do any performances before noon! So, it’s really a dream come true that I get to do what I love to do for a living and get to go on stage and entertain people as my full-time job.
MM: How did you go about breaking into the industry and trying out your mentalism skills?
ED: I’ve always had a comedian’s approach to trying out material. I have a monthly show now where I can experiment with new ideas and that stems from when I was first starting out. There’s not a lot of open mics that allow a decent amount of time for variety artists so I decided that I could just create my own. So I’d book some friends and myself on a show and just test out pieces that eventually developed into mainstays in our respective stage shows. Then I just reached out to anyone who might be willing to book me. I remember I did a few colleges for free just to film a demo reel and to use that footage to pitch to other potential clients and agents. And while I working on maintaining the business side, I was still actively working on the artistic side, researching and studying and creating new ideas and that led me to Las Vegas where I ended up studying with some of the top mind readers of their time.
MM: How did you get on “America’s Got Talent” and was the experience more exciting or nerve wrecking?
ED: AGT was a spur of the moment decision. I remember not even telling my family that I was going to audition. I just showed up performed and thought I’d never hear from them again. Two weeks later I get the call that they want to fly me in to perform for the judges in the first round. It was pretty exciting and I was just focused on getting some quality footage for my reel. So, after that first appearance aired, I was pretty happy since I accomplished what I set out to do. So, every round after that was just icing on the cake and I was just trying to maintain the experience as long as possible to see how far I’d go. So being the first mind reader and making it to the semi-finals and unofficial top 10 wasn’t too shabby! There was a drastic cut from 24 down to 6 for the last round since we lost a few weeks due to the Olympics that year…as if that’s a more important competition!? HA!
MM: You have now also been featured on “Ellen,” what was that experiences like?
ED: Lots of things in TV happen so fast. I remember getting the call for Ellen on a Friday, them flying me out on that Sunday, performing on Monday and flying back the next day. It was such a whirlwind experience but was very grateful to be on the show.
MM: You often perform at colleges and corporate functions, so do you tailor your shows differently for each event?
ED: The show always has my style and sense of humor but I will adapt it slightly depending if it’s geared more toward a family audience or not. At colleges I can be a little edgier, which I have to temper a bit for corporate clients. It’s all about reading the audience to find out what’s most appropriate. It’s a good thing I’m a mind reader so that’s fairly easy to do for me. Every once in a while for high-end clients, they’ll have me customize some pieces to fit with their corporate presentations or to honor a special attendee. But mostly the show is the show I want to do and I’ll switch in new pieces I’ve been working on every so often to keep things fresh for me.
MM: How often do you take volunteers from the audience and what can they expect from it?
ED: My show is extremely interactive because you can’t really do a mind reading show without minds to read. So, throughout the show I’ll bring people up on stage and have them think of a random word or the name of their first crush or draw a drawing and I’ll reveal those in fun and surprising ways. I’ll also bring people up to see if I can influence them to act in a certain way that I’ve predicted ahead of time. For example, I might have people come up and play a game of charades where I know exactly what movements they’re going to do or have others reenact a horse race where all their decisions are predicted ahead of time. So, it’s a show unlike many others because the audience really becomes the star of the show and less about the “creepy I’m in your head” kind of vibe and more of a “hey, we’re all having fun together” atmosphere.
MM: You are scheduled to perform in “Magic Hour” at the Triad Theater next week, so what most excites you about that?
ED: I really love that space because it’s got an intimate feel to it, like where I got my start in comedy clubs. I think the cabaret nature of the stage really lends itself to mystery performances and I’m excited for the audiences to experience a type of performance that they might not normally get to experience!
MM: How did you meet producer Patrick Terry?
ED: Patrick Terry and I run in similar circles in the magic world and we were introduced not long after I move to New York City through some mutual friends. Patrick is a fantastic producer and has many creative endeavors so I was thrilled when he booked me on some other projects he was working on.
MM: What are your primary goals for your future as a comedian and mind reader and is there anything else happening soon that you would like to talk about?
ED: My main goal is just to keep working and providing entertainment for all sorts of audiences across the country. I’m just thrilled I get to do what I love to do for a living and want to share with people. I do have a few TV projects that should be coming out this summer, but right now I can’t say any more than that. Plus, I have my monthly R-rated experimental magic and comedy show called “Amazeballs” that is every 3rd Thursday of the month at the Creek and the Cave where you can see me and other variety artist friends trying out brand new routines and pieces that may eventually end up in our full shows. And it’s free to attend because you never know what’s going to happen or if everything is actually going to work but it’s still fun to be a part of the process and see things you won’t see elsewhere!
* * * * *