Doug Thompson sees himself more of a director than a comic or hypnotist. He hypnotizes volunteers and the comedy begins when they take the stage.
“I’m the one controlling this wild production,” Thompson said by phone from his Cedar Rapids home. “You’re only as good as those who are part of your show. I have those who end up as stars of the show, main actors and extras. You put it all together and it’s entertaining.”
Thompson’s shows also are unpredictable.
“Every event is different since every audience is different,” he said. “The people who come up are different. Their reactions are different. I love having people up onstage with me.”
It’s quite a contrast from his start as a stand-up comic a decade ago. It’s a lonely world for most comedians, who work a stage alone.
“I wanted something more than that and I found it,” Thompson said. “I love the interaction and living in the moment with those who participate. I always look back and laugh after shows at what these people did up there. I love that they take such a chance.”
A number of hypnotists are working clubs around the country, but many aren’t humorous.
“That’s the difference between me and the other hypnotists,” Thompson said. “I’m quick-witted. Combine that with what comes out of the participants’ mouths, and it’s entertaining.”
When it comes to the process of hypnotism, Thompson, who has been a humorous hypnotist for seven years, stressed that participants must be cooperative for the trance to work.
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“If you fight the process and don’t let it work, nothing will happen,” Thompson said. “You have to let it happen. I’m not doing wizardry up there. But the cool thing is that there are so many people who are willing to relax and be hypnotized.”
During a recent show, Thompson convinced a group of people that napkins he offered them were $100 bills. They proceeded to stuff the napkins in their pants. When the group was brought back to their prior state, they were told that some people in the audience were stealing napkins.
“They couldn’t believe that they had all of these napkins jammed in their pockets,” Thompson said. “The room cracked up. There’s nothing like the power of suggestion.”
Thompson, who will perform two New Year’s Eve shows Monday (12/31) at Penguins in Cedar Rapids, told some participants that they were on “Dancing with the Stars.”
“Everybody has a different reaction to it,” he said. “They all have different dances. I’m fortunate. When I go to work, every time out is a totally different situation for me. I’m also happy going to work. How many people can say that? It’s funny being a hypnotist.”
Since Thompson is a comic, too, he also delivers material, including his observations.
“There are a lot of funny things going on in the world,” he said. “How do you not talk about what’s happening? It’s a crazy world out there and for some of us, it’s crazier what happens in our own lives. ”
Thompson travels all over the country but is content with living in Cedar Rapids.
“We thought about moving to Salt Lake City to pursue an opportunity, but I love it here,” he said. “I’m glad we never left. This is a great place to raise children. My family loves it here. They can’t imagine being anywhere else.
“I loved it as a kid here. I work all over the place but I started working in Cedar Rapids. My first job was delivering The Gazette. When I was 12 I delivered 290 copies every day. I’ve moved on from paper delivery to hypnotizing people for laughs. Who would have ever guessed?”
WHAT: Hypnotist Doug Thompson WHERE: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7 and 10 p.m. Monday (12/31)
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TICKETS: $22 advance, $25 door for 7 p.m. show; $35 advance, $37 door for 10 p.m. show (with champagne and breakfast afterward); (319) 362-8133 or Penguinscomedyclub.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Thedougthypnosisshow.com