Getting Kozy

The magician (left) served in the U.S. Navy as a cryptologist in the 1970s.

His shows are always enchanting and full of laughs when magician/comedian Paul “Kozy” Kozak takes the stage each night at the Shoppes at Mauna Lani.

“How’d he do that?”

That’s the perennial question from all who take in Paul “Kozy” Kozak’s comedy and magic show at Kona Kozy’s Comedy & Magic Club and tiki gallery.

The creatively designed show features a number of fascinating, impossible-to-explain and original magic tricks delivered along with Kozak’s unique brand of comedy — much of it improvised to fit the audience and mood of the night.

“I’m in love with magic,” says Kozak. “After all these years, I still have a childlike enthusiasm for the art of magic.”

And that’s apparent the minute he takes the stage. The audience becomes enraptured.

Paul “Kozy” Kozak makes his home in Puakō after decades of international travel, and TV and headliner performances in comedy and magic.

But what most guests don’t realize is that they are seeing a show by a man who once starred in a command performance for Prince Charles and Princess Diana at the famous Palladium Theater in London. Indeed, a long career of international, TV, stage and national stardom preceded Kozak’s relocation to Kona in 2013.

His professional résumé is staggering, brimming with awards, acclaim and recognition. He formerly headlined at the country’s top casinos, including the Sahara, MGM Grand, Riviera, Harrah’s, and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, as well as the Tropicana, Harrah’s and Trump Castle in Atlantic City, to name a just a few. Television appearance credits on Showtime, HBO, VH1, MTV, CBS and more abound. As a premier stand-up comedian, Kozak perfected his comedy talents at all famous clubs of the time — including The Cellar and The Improv.

So now … Kona?

Yes, Kona, says Kozak, firmly endorsing the Big Island as the only place in the world he would have chosen. Downsizing his mega-career by choice, Kozak explains how the whirlwind lifestyle eventually burned him out.

Kozak has racked up numerous awards after three decades of performing comedy and magic nationally and internationally.

“Too much money and fame can kill you,” he says. “It’s a dangerous life. I did decades of nonstop headliners and international travel, TV shows and command performances. It was enough.”

Originally from Pittsburgh, Kozak joined the U.S. Navy in his early 20s and worked as a cryptologist. In that position, he used encryption to make and break code, which required deep mathematical skills and high-level performance abilities.

It was also about this time, much to his disappointment, that he was reassigned to guard booth duty. So, he picked up a book on amateur magic by Henry Hay to pass the time.

“I was struck by lightning,” says Kozak of the book. “I knew in the marrow of my bones that magic was what I was meant to do. And that my work as a cryptologist would help me to become a better magician.”

He began plying his trade and talents on the streets and in the dive bars of Pittsburgh. Kozak initially worked on stages with no lights and no sound system, but it didn’t matter. He was living his dream, performing his passion, and audiences loved him. He soon mastered every kind of magic, from street to stage.

Paul “Kozy” Kozak brings up to the stage unsuspecting audience members to take part in his magic show at Kona Kozy’s Comedy & Magic Club. KRISTINA ANDERSON PHOTOS

Eventually he worked his way up to worldwide fame, fortune and success. In fact, in 2012, Kozy had signed a five-extension at the Tropicana in Atlantic City (where he was already the longest-running magic act in the city’s history) when he suddenly got a “phone call from God.”

Well, it wasn’t actually God, but Kozak considers the call divine providence nevertheless. It was really from a famous Vegas show producer, a friend who urged Kozak to visit Hawai‘i. Kozak ended up taking 10 days off and made the journey to the islands.

“When the door opened, and I got off the plane in Kona, I knew I was home,” Kozak recalls. “Like Manifest Destiny, it happened instantly. No doubt. I was home.”

Kozak asked the Tropicana to release him from his contract, and he moved over the following year, bringing his world-renowned talent to his own place of magic, located at the Shoppes at Mauna Lani.

Now, he performs two shows a night, seven days a week, at Kona Kozy’s Comedy & Magic Club. He can accommodate 60 guests, and shows are often sold out well in advance. (Kama‘āina are offered half-off if they book by phone.)

The magic/comedy club is housed in an art gallery, which features the world’s most popular tiki pop-culture artists, along with vintage items and collectibles.

“It’s the most satisfying thing I could do,” he says of the performances. “I give the gift of mystery and astonishment, and at the same time I offer the gift of laughter, which has a tremendous healing aspect.

“I’m a magician, a problem solver, a performer dedicated to creating effect and to creating method. Magic in its purest form is sleight of hand and sleight of mind.”

Kozak says it took a while for him to arrive at a place in his life where he felt totally at peace and content. In the past two decades, though, he has has come to believe everything in his life is divine. He says he’s met amazing, spiritual and inspirational men who prepared him to be here now. And this is why Kona is the perfect place for this man and his magic.

“Today, I’m grateful to be free from competition, ego, fortune and chasing fame,” Kozak adds. “To live this way is very freeing, but I can’t keep anything unless I am also giving something away. I don’t have a career anymore, I don’t have a job. What I’m doing here is committing in service to God to entertain his children on a nightly basis with the talent He gave me.”

Though Kozy has mastered all forms of magic over the years, he says he continues to learn more and more every day by studying and creating. It’s a never-ending process.

“I’m a magician living in the most magical place on the planet. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the magic of my life and the magic of Hawai‘i.”