Before I can ask another question, Geller steers things in his own direction. “I’m now very happy and glad and amazed and mystified. That’s the word, mystified, that I became a part of the Pokémon family. Look, throughout the years, and this nobody really knows, but for instance I’m amazed how I managed to instill a rather trivial demonstration of spoon bending into world culture.” I try to interrupt to agree with this entirely, but he keeps going. “I mean, if you look at movies like the Matrix, where Keanu Reeves learns to bend spoons from a child, George Clooney played me, Robert De Niro played me. I know I’m showing off now. There are movies and big rock bands like Incubus mentioned my name in their songs. Woody Allen mentions me in his movie. I’ll tell you a funny thing that no one knows. I told my wife Hannah that I need a small stool, so we go to IKEA because I love IKEA. And then I see a stool in the corner of the room, and I say to Hannah, I love this stool because it has bent legs, and when I come close to the stool to pick it up, low and behold it’s called Uri.” And on and on, about how he has no agent, no managers, no PR (which are all roles I’m certain Shipi has performed over the years), and then without taking a breath he tells me the secret to success: Originality. “I created something original that has never been done before I came on the scene in the history of metal bending. And then you have these CIA reports about me. And then the controversy…”

Confronting Uri Geller In 2023

And the more it goes on, the more I find myself liking him. And the more guilty I begin to feel about that. I feel like I’m deceiving him. I’ve owned a copy of James Randi’s wonderful book, The Truth About Uri Geller, for over twenty years. I’ve studied how all of Geller’s effects are achieved. I’ve watched and re-watched the wonderful moment his silliness was exposed live on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in 1973, when Carson and Randi worked behind the scenes to set Geller up, to ensure he couldn’t cheat.

Johnny Carson

I’ve adored this moment from 2007, when a hilariously terrible fake psychic appeared on a live NBC competition TV show called Phenomenon, with Geller pretending it could be real, infuriating Criss Angel and almost leading to a physical fight.


I’ve read books about him, watched every UK TV appearance I could, to enjoy getting angry at the gullible hosts. I live for videos like this:

James Randi Foundation

I wanted to fess up, and finally there was an opportunity. “The more the skeptics try to debunk me, the more famous they make me…” Geller was saying, and I jumped in. “Well,” I said, “I was going to say, you were conclusively debunked live on Johnny Carson, and yes, even so, people to this day still believe it.” I was agreeing with him! He’s absolutely right that he owes a fantastic amount of his fame to people like Randi, who dogged him throughout his career. But, you know, they didn’t just “try” to debunk him.

“I have to correct you,” says Geller, “because I was going to bring up Johnny Carson. I was not conclusively debunked. As a matter of fact, I bent the spoon that Ricardo Montalban was holding, but Johnny Carson, that wasn’t good enough for him. He was sneering and scoffing.” Carson absolutely wasn’t. He was trying to be eminently fair, but if you watch the video above, you’ll see Geller setting up the comedian and amateur magician with so many unavoidable one-liners. I try to protest, and say that Randi definitely got him. And oh God, I’ve said the name “Randi” to Uri Geller, and I’m quite certain he’s going to hang up on me. I realize I really don’t want him to.

“Randi was my best publicist,” says Geller, and I warmed to him even more. “Before he died, I should have sent him one thousand bouquets of flowers.” I wish he had. “The skeptics create the mystery around Uri Geller. Without the skeptics, I wouldn’t be what I am today.”

I cannot begin to express how much I’m enjoying this now. I strongly suspect that Geller 20 years ago would have hung up the phone. His TV appearances around the time were often very bitter, very angry, his 1970s’ meekness entirely abandoned, replaced with flashes of rage on his face when people would question his powers. It makes sense to me that the Geller of that era would sue Nintendo without stopping to think how awful that made him look. But he’s different again, now. He’s softened, there’s a twinkle in his eye that suggests a conjuror with some excellent patter, rather than a professional hoax spreading unscientific bullshit. I wonder if he’s willing to admit to being a little too slap-happy with other lawsuits back then, and ask if there are any other times he’s sued that he now regrets.

That old defensiveness is still there, and Geller begins describing the times he’s been genuinely libeled, and even some of the utterly awful antisemitic horror he’s had to deal with over his lifetime. I emphatically agree with him that such things are terrible, unacceptable, but steer back to, you know, suing a PC magazine for calling him a magician. “Yeah,” he says, stopping in his tracks. “That was stupid also.” Oh my.

The Amazing Randi in 2015, a black and white portrait.
Photo: Kevin Winter / Staff (Getty Images)

But as quickly as this moment comes, it’s gone again, and Uri’s once more listing examples of how incredibly famous he still is. I’m being told about how many times he’s appeared on the front page of British tabloid rag, the Daily Star. I laugh, and suggest that’s maybe not something to be that proud of, and he lists how he’s in the Guardian, the UK Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post. “And let me tell you something John,” he continues, “I prefer to be on the cover of the Daily Star or the Sun than the Times, just figure out why.” I draw breath to give my guess, that there’s a political element to this? But before I can speak Geller answers himself. “Google how many readers the Sun has, and how many readers the Times has.”

I say, you’re 76 and you’re still so driven by publicity!

“Now, but that’s me,” he replies. “That’s Uri Geller!”

I tell him how I own The Truth About Uri Geller, how big a fan of Randi I am, and I ask him a question that I know is too rude to ask. I ask him if he ever feels guilty about all the money he’s taken from people who’ve been tricked by his antics.

“I totally reject what you’ve just said,” he responds, very firmly. He asks me to Google his charitable foundation, he tells me about the children’s lives his fundraising has saved, emphasizing that of the 1,000 children who he’s helped, half were Palestinian, as if I’d have thought he might not. Good grief, I would never have thought that! “So I reject these types of questions.” I bluster about how a few years back he was selling bloody plastic pyramids for people’s backyards, to channel magical energy, but he continues over the top of me. And I feel awful for making him so cross, even though I know I’m right! People who pretend to be psychic, who pretend to have magic powers, they encourage a world where monstrous bastards can reap fortunes from people’s grief, “mediums” who cold-read poor, broken people, lying to them about messages from dead loved ones. (To be clear, Geller has never done this.) None of this is OK! I want to shout it all at him, to convince him that he needs to not stop with his contrition over Kadabra cards, but to apologize for everything!

Instead I tell him about the time I tried to prank call him, and what an idiot I made of myself, and how smart I realized he was. But I think I’ve lost him. Geller signals that he’s wrapping up the call, he says, “I think I answered most of your questions,” and I agree, and I thank him for how generous he’s been given the nature of some of the questions. But he isn’t done. He’s just making sure he’s given me all I need before he moves on to me.

Geller smiling and waving inside his museum.
Screenshot: Uri Geller / Kotaku

“Tell me about you,” Geller says. “Where do you live?” I tell him. He asks about my family, if I have children. I mention I have a son, he’s eight, and Geller emphatically tells me I have to WhatsApp him, because he’ll go into his museum the next day and create a spoon-bending video for my boy. Then he asks me about games journalism, and then, in a weird turn, starts telling me that I should also do more in my life, how I should create my own business, become a millionaire. I’m told that anything I can visualize I can achieve, and I want to interrupt and suggest I visualize growing wings and being able to eat planets, but he’s being nice in his own bizarre Uri Geller way, and I don’t want to be a dick at all any more. “You’re basically the architect of your own life,” I’m told, and that I should be thinking about doing other things “parallel to your writing.”

I point out it’s interesting he assumes that I’m not, but add that I very much appreciate how much he seems to care. “Yeah of course I care about you!” Uri replies.

In a totally different way, with a very different attitude, I try one more time. We’re both complimenting each other, and I say I think it’s the right time to just own that he’s a magician, because he’s a good one! He’s one of the best at what he does, he should celebrate that.” His response is something I genuinely love.

“I was invited, I think three years ago, to Blackpool [a seaside town in England] to lecture in front of 4,000 magicians and mentalists…And it’s funny, because somewhere in the middle of the lecture, somebody got up and said, ‘Come on, you should now admit you’re just a magician.’ And my answer to him was, ‘Come on, do you really believe that at my age I will admit anything?” I laugh loudly, Uri tells me the audience laughed loudly. He says he wants to finish with an Oscar Wilde quote. “There is only one worse thing in life than being talked about. And that’s not being talked about.”

We’ve not stopped chatting since. Via WhatsApp, Geller has pinged me multiple articles about himself, offered to host my family in Israel (I am so incredibly tempted), and answered more of my questions. At one point he sends an article about a ridiculous-sounding Italian film due out this year about a group of Italian children who are claimed to have developed psychic powers after watching Geller on TV in the 1970s, and the article concludes by saying that these children were studied by universities, but never quite to the point of scientific scrutiny.

“Funny how these things always stop short of being scientifically tested!” I replied. He soars over it, showing me a picture of a new magazine with him on the cover, explaining the “synchronicity” of its arrival, then teases me saying how I need to “stop living in the past,” how I must not be “locked down into your Randi stuff,” with a crying-with-laughter emoji. “I like you though!” he adds, before linking a video in which he appears from 2017.

“I like you too!” I reply. “I am so delighted I appear to have accidentally become friends with Uri Geller.”