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Scott D. Pierce: Salt Lake City man demonstrates 'Superhuman' skill on Fox

Published June 9, 2017 10:25 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Salt Lake's John Graham is "Superhuman."

He's one of the participants on Fox's summer show of that title (Monday, 8 p.m., Ch. 13), and what he does is nothing short of amazing.

As a group of people jog past him, he memorizes their names and the random five-digit number each of them is wearing — and repeats it back to host Kal Penn.



What's even more amazing is that Graham taught himself to do this. He wasn't born with a photographic memory, he learned it by reading a book about memory and practicing the techniques.

"I didn't have this ability innately," he said. "It's all training. It's all techniques and hard work."

Each episode of "Superhuman" features five more-or-less regular people who have amazing abilities. They don't exactly compete, they chat a bit about their talent with Penn; they demonstrate their ability; and the judges (boxer Mike Tyson, singer Christina Milian and neurosurgeon Rahul Jandial) decide whose ability is most deserving of $50,000.

The show's producers were interested in Graham because of his memory and his story. In 2014, the Michigan native and his fiancée upended their lives.

"We sort of got sick of our jobs and we decided to sell everything we owned and travel the world," he said. So they quit their jobs, sold 95 percent of their belongings, flew to Bangkok and started backpacking around Asia.

That's when Graham read the book about memory. Soon after, he decided to compete in the World Memory Championships in China.

"There's not one person at these competitions with a photographic memory," he said. "They're all learned and trained."

By the way, Graham and his fiancée moved to Salt Lake City two years ago despite the fact that they had no ties here whatsoever.

"We didn't know where to live," he said. "We figured we could live anywhere we wanted. We really like it out West. We like the mountains. So we picked Salt Lake City."

Sort of like he decided to give TV a try. After "Superhuman" aired as a special in January 2016, Graham answered a Facebook posting looking for contestants. He traveled to Los Angeles to tape his episode almost a year ago.

"The memory feat on the show was easier than the interviews on the show," he said. "I was nervous about talking with Kal."

And he admits that "there was a point, probably three or four minutes into memorizing, that I sort of panicked. I had to close my eyes and breathe and realize I really needed to hunker down and focus. It was sort of an overwhelming moment having 400 people just sitting there watching me as I'm memorizing."

Not to mention a few million who will watch on Monday. People who may be surprised to discover that Graham is not "some sort of a savant."

"There's a lot of misconceptions. I hope to really teach people that it's something they can learn," he said.

Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

 

 

 

 

 

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