After performing at the Cutting Room in NYC, the Examiner asked me a few questions about being a Mentalist for hire. You can read the original interview here, or just read below.
"Born and raised in Las Vegas, Matt Cooper made a career out of knowing what you’re thinking, since he’s a Mentalist who’s hired around the world for private events. Matt started developing his skills in Las Vegas, entertaining high-rollers at the Stirling Club. Later, his talents brought him to NYC, where Fortune 500 companies like Google and Cisco started booking him to impress their VIPs. From 2012-2014, Cooper toured the UK with Olivier award winner and master mentalist — Derren Brown. Since returning, he's in high demand for private events and live performances. Recently, Matt spoke to AXS about his experiences working in the entertainment industry:
AXS: How did you discover your mentalist abilities?
Matt Cooper (M.C.): To be clear, I didn't discover any abilities. Saying so might suggest I have a gift, which I don't. It’s more like a learned skill. But I did discover an aptitude for being a Mentalist. I have an insatiable curiosity, a love for story-telling, and a passion for live theatre. I also performed magic in high school. Then, my grandfather died and left behind some books on Mentalism. Mentalism is related to magic, but without the sleight-of-hand. Think, sleight-of-mind. So rather than finding someones card, you find out who a person is, and how they think, which is more interesting to me. So I’ve spent ten years learning skills which replicate mental phenomena. In my estimation, it’s the closest thing to genuine telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, brain washing, hypnosis, superhuman memory, etc. — within the bounds of science. Like sci-fi and immersive theatre, wrapped into one.
AXS: Growing up, what kinds of media--plays, TV shows, movies, etc.--had the biggest impact on you? Why?
M.C.: I’ll start with books, and for the sake of this interview, I’ll pick one genre: science-fiction. Jules Verne, Robert Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury are among my favorites. I love ”Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein; it’s a masterpiece of sci-fi. If you’re into existentialism, or the human condition, it's a must read. There’s a Mentalist character too, which gives it self-serving points. When it comes to theatre, I wasn’t exposed to much of it where I grew up, in Las Vegas. But Cirque du Soleil always blew me away. Also, I was hugely influenced by the magical duo, Penn & Teller. Now, when it comes to movies, my favorite directors are the obvious ones; David Fincher, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Orson Welles, Woody Allen, and of course the beloved Hitchcock. But If I had to choose a favorite movie, it's the “before trilogy” by Richard Linklater (technically three movies). They are beautiful, and inspire me to be a better man. Finally, my biggest influence in television, is the "Twilight Zone” by Rod Serling. Despite censorship in the 1950s, he artistically presented ideas on war, violence, racism, extremism, addiction, consumerism, science and superstition. I deeply admire the man and his work. I’ve taken many inspirations form him, both personally and professionally.
AXS: How did you get into show business?
M.C.: Being a Las Vegas native had a lot to do with it. My mother was a classic vegas showgirl in the “Folies Bergere” and “Jubilee”. That’s where she met my father, who worked backstage. Show business is in my blood. But I didn’t get my professional start until I dropped out of art school and moved to New York City. As an art school drop out, I was completely unemployable. To give you an idea of my living conditions, my apartment was built inside of a warehouse with plaster walls. I had eight roommates, with nine cats. It was also the known source of a major bedbug epidemic. So that's when I decided to just go for it, and start a full time career as a Mentalist. After all, I had nothing to lose. So I called every charity in NYC and offered to perform at their next event, pro-bono, in support of the cause. I was helping them save money on entertainment, while gaining access to their wealthy benefactors. Who then hired me for their parties, and it just sort of snow balled. But for a while, I was booked to perform at black tie events, then coming home to squalor, where I'd hang my suit on an old rusty heater. It was like living a double life, and I loved every second of it.
AXS: So far, has one venue proven to be especially memorable? If so, where and why?
M.C.: Unfortunately, the most memorable venue I’ve performed in, I can’t discuss. I’m contractually obligated to not disclose my client or the event location. But I can mention the worst place I've performed. It was a funeral home, early in my career, when I needed the money. I still cringe when I think of it. Thanks for reminding me…
AXS: You sometimes call on members of the audience to help you with your performance. Do you really pick someone at random or are they given some warning?
M.C.: No one has prior notice. But it’s not always random either. Sometimes, I need a certain type of person, so I'll select them by hand. The problem is, people think I’m using actors. So, I’ve had to incorporated randomness, like tossing out objects for people to catch. But no matter how fair the selection is, people are naturally inquisitive, and will look for any solution, no matter how crazy.
AXS: Have any of your chosen participants ever done something especially surprising or amusing? If so, what was it?
M.C.: Apart from the rare fainting spell, everything runs smoothly. It’s important I remain in control. However, I do receive some bizarre emails. I’ve had a couple stalkers, people convinced I’ve been spying on them or tapping their phones, and a few asking me to contact their loved ones who have passed on. Most people understand, what I do is a show. It’s a theatrical production. But there will always be a few who get wrapped up in the story.
AXS: So far, what has been the most rewarding thing about being involved in the entertainment industry?
M.C.: No question, it was getting to work with one of my early heroes — Derren Brown. He’s not well known in America, but he’s made a splash in the UK, and is without a doubt the greatest living Mind Reader. From 2012-2014, I had the honor and privilege of working with him, on tour, around the United Kingdom. It was the most rewarding and enriching experience of my life. I'll never forget it.
AXS: Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to mention?
M.C.: There’s some talk of a TV show, but it’s still early days. Also, I’m working on a stage show, which you can see this Summer. In the meantime, the best thing to do, is sign up for my newsletter where I post my public appearances. It’s called “Letters from a Mentalist”. You can find it here.
AXS: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become a mentalist?
M.C.: My advice isn't specific to mentalists, but anyone starting a career in the performing arts. Have influences outside of your field. Read books, absorb culture, travel, have hobbies, keep yourself engaged with the real world and don’t get caught up in one idea. Tunnel vision is cancer to creativity. On a more practical note, be smart with your money, work hard, and be nice to people. Everything will be ok."
- The Examiner (AXS Entertainment)
Matt Cooper is a Mentalist for hire, available for your next private party or corporate event. You can also find him on stage around NYC. To catch his LIVE shows, join his mailing list by clicking here.