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Friday, April 18, 2014

This Guy Can Read Your Mind (And Your Phone Number)

Vinny DePonto is fresh off a very successful first run of his magic and mind reading show, “Charlatan.” He can also teach you a thing or two about lying.

New York-based magician and mind reader Vinny DePonto, 27, recently ran a sold-out series of shows called "Charlatan" at Ars Nova theater in New York City. The show — which features a wide variety of mind-bending telepathy–type feats, all delivered with charm, humor, and genuine suspense — earned rave reviews from the likes of the New York Times, Time Out New York, and also from BuzzFeed staff members Katie Heaney and Arianna Rebolini, who saw the show a few weeks ago and could not stop talking about it. This is neither here nor there, but he is also very cute.

BuzzFeed invited DePonto to the New York office for an interview, a few spectacular tricks, and some pointers for deciding whether or not someone is lying to you.

Ben Arons / Courtesy of Vinny DePonto

Vinny DePonto: I will say before we start that I will answer every one of your questions truthfully, except for one. I can't tell you which.

BuzzFeed, collectively: [Ooohs and aaahs]

Katie Heaney: What got you interested in magic in the first place?

DePonto: My father had this shoebox that was my grandfather's — my late grandfather, I never met him — but he was interested in magic, and he'd learned magic as a hobby to show his friends during the war. He was stationed in India, and he had these old, like, old novelties, and old gags and jokes. It was like a flip-book of a girl taking off her clothes, and, you know, like the shock ring, and all these magic tricks, and it was just a collection of them in a shoebox along with old ephemera and some instructions and photographs. So I just played around with some stuff, and I would just do magic for my family, and it just stuck, really.

KH: Did you ever pull out any tricks in school?

DePonto: Of course! Yeah, yeah, it was a great thing. [Laughs.] It was a great device, a social device to have during school. I had to probably show my friends something every week, you know, like, "What are you working on?"

KH: Did you ever get in trouble?

DePonto: Did I ever get in trouble ... with doing magic?

KH: [laughs] Specifically with magic.

Jessica Misener: Magic-related detention.

Arianna Rebolini: Were the teachers into it? Were they cool with it?

DePonto: They were really cool with it! I've pretty much flown through life just using magic as a crutch. [laughs] You know, I did all my projects on it, in college I even attempted to major in it.

AR: How does one attempt to major in magic? What did that involve?

DePonto: So the school I went to, Manhattanville, allowed you to design your own major, which was why I chose it. So I took all the classes that I wanted to take, psychology, theater, and that sort of thing, and I tried to design a major around those focuses, but with "magic" as the title. They didn't accept it, so I just named "Psychology of Performance Art" to make it sound more impressive, and they approved it!

KH: So then, if you haven't gotten in trouble, have you used your magic for evil?

DePonto: [laughs] Ah, the Dark Arts. No I don't think so. Ah, this is so uninteresting! I don't think I have! Maybe to, you know, maybe I've shoplifted a few times when I was a kid? A friend and myself would go, and he would leave his bag open, and we would be in the store and I'd just take a candy bar, and he would turn his bag, and I would sort of just drop it in his bag. The store owner caught us eventually, after probably 20 times of doing it, and it was a very frightening moment. He said he was gonna call the cops, and we're 11 or 12 years old, freaking out. So not really magic, but I guess straight-up shoplifting. [laughs]

KH: What about using it to get dates?

DePonto: Yeah, yeah, it was very, uh ... [laughs] a very good thing to have during college.

JM: So it worked? You were like, "Come back to my room, and I'll do a trick for you."

DePonto: [laughs] Yeah, yeah.

KH: Did you ever pull anyone's phone number from behind their ear?

DePonto: [laughs] Yes. I don't know, it was definitely a great thing. Still a great thing, really.

Vinny performs a card trick for the BuzzFeed New York office.

Macey Foronda / BuzzFeed

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