Jonathan Burns first appeared on TV trapped inside of a zipped suitcase.
During his audition for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” which aired on Tuesday, Burns proceeded to squeeze his entire body through both a toilet seat and a tennis racket.
It’s no wonder that the Lancaster resident has trouble explaining his unique comedy act to people.
“One of the reasons that it’s hard to describe what I do is because I try to be different,” Burns said. “I want to do my own thing and not be like anything else. I think that’s the artist in me trying to create something new and different for the audience to experience.”
His love of performing started when he was young. Originally from Johnstown, Burns, a self-described “weird kid,” said he always enjoyed performing in magic, contortionism and comedy. In gym class, he was the king of armpit fart competitions, and impressed his friends by bending his body in peculiar ways.
When Burns was in middle school, a magic shop opened near his house, and he spent hours learning the tricks of the trade. While his friends started getting normal first jobs at grocery stores or the local diner, he was booking gigs at birthday parties and retirement homes.
However, Burns wasn’t always a comedian. When he was first starting out in magic, he said that he tried to be serious, but “with this face, it didn’t work” — instead of getting the “wow” response he was looking for, he got laughs. He embraced the humor.
“Now, I get a wide array of wows, laughs and even amazement,” he said.
And that’s the reaction Burns got when he appeared on televisions across America on the June 4 airing of “America’s Got Talent.” Although he has been a full-time performer for 15 years and had considered auditioning on the show before, it just had never felt like the right time.
That is, until a friend who was a veteran of the show strongly encouraged him to try. During his audition, Burns hopped around the stage with funky dance moves in a tracksuit, throwing glitter and squeezing his body through various objects in creative ways.
The judges loved him, and he proceeded to the next round.
“Starting as a kid, I would perform for like five people in my kitchen, and now I’m on television in front of millions of people, which is pretty great,” Burns said.
Burns graduated from Millersville University in 2004 with a degree in art education. He said that he found “his people” at the art program and loved the encouragement to be creative.
“I still use things that I learned at Millersville every day in my act,” he said.
Burns is excited to continue to share his many creative talents, saying it felt great to hear the judges say “yes,” advancing him to the next round. And although he hopes to wow people in the future, he still has one main purpose when performing.
“The comedy is my main focus,” he said. “I’m always trying to make people laugh.”
To learn more about Jonathan Burns, visit his website.