After five years of delivering straight comedy, Doug Thompson — aka Doug T — was looking for something extra in 2012.
“There are so many comics and some are very funny,” he said. “But to me, you have to do something amazing to stand out as a comedian. I ended up becoming a comic-hypnotist.”
It’s a bit surprising since the Cedar Rapids lifer is amusing enough to just be a stand-up. While chatting up his fifth New Year’s gig in a row at Penguins Comedy Club in his hometown, the Kennedy High School alum broke into some impressions of Billy Bob Thornton; the late James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano; and Mike Judge, who voiced Beavis and Butthead, as well as Hank Hill of “King of the Hill” fame.
When asked how the disparate group of characters would interact, Thompson laughed.
“It would be crazy,” he said. “‘Hey guys, we got to get out and finish the badminton game,’” Thompson said in the voice of Hill. “‘Christopher Walken is our coach. I’m going to hit one to Nicholas Cage!’”
Thompson, who excels at living in the moment, has no regrets about working as an entertainment hybrid.
“I saw it as a different avenue,” he said while calling from his home. “To me you have to do something amazing to stand out as a comedian. I saw some hypnotists and that’s when the idea came to me.”
Thompson learned how to hypnotize and was off and running with his new endeavor.
“It’s not difficult to learn how to hypnotize people” Thompson said. “It’s more difficult to learn how to make a hamburger for 30 people. In my show, I want everyone to take a bite out of that hamburger.
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“But after a few shows, I figured out how to make sure everyone consumed a bit of that burger.”
Audience members willing to be hypnotized get in on his act.
“The way I look at it, is that the people who come up onto the stage are the stars of the show,” he said. “I’m the director. I’m the emcee of the circus. Who knows what can happen?”
Some people have tried to take their clothes off after going under.
“That’s happened after they’re hypnotized and I tell them something like they’re at the beach,” he said. “It’s hilarious when they start acting out, but I put a stop to it before it goes too far. I never let them do anything that will embarrass them or their spouses.”
New Year’s Eve shows are his favorite events.
“Everybody is up for a great time,” he said. “It’s a wild night. It’s the party night of the year. It’s the show with an audience (composed) of a lot of people that don’t go out normally. They’re like the people who watch college bowl games on New Year’s Day. Many of those people don’t watch college football all season.
“That’s similar to the people who will come out and see me New Year’s Eve. That’s fine with me. It’s always packed New Year’s Eve, and part of the reason I love playing Penguins New Year’s Eve is because I get to go home to my own bed after the show.”
Thompson has had plenty of opportunities to leave for Los Angeles to try to reach another echelon in the business, but Cedar Rapids is his base.
“I could have moved away, but I love living here, and Cedar Rapids is a great place to raise children,” he said. “I have kids that are 16 and 14, and they’re being raised 10 minutes from where I grew up. They’re having a great childhood here, just like I did.”
When Thompson was coming of age in Cedar Rapids, he delivered The Gazette.
“My memories of delivering your paper was that it was cold,” he said with a laugh. “I remember getting up at 4:30 in the morning, rolling up the papers and placing the rubber band around them before putting them into my wagon. I remember coming to collect the money for the papers, and I would look through the screen door and people inside would disappear when I knocked. People stalled when it came time to pay for the paper. I delivered papers from when I was 12 to 14.
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“I can’t help but look back and smile on those days and much of my time here. I love Cedar Rapids.”
Don’t look for Thompson at local restaurants or watering holes when he flies home from gigs.
“I just hang out in my backyard,” he said. “I have nothing against what’s happening in town. It’s just that I’m on the road so much. I’m away from here about 120 days a year. When I’m back, I want to be with my family.”
• What: New Year’s Eve with Hypnotist Doug T
• Where: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
• When: 7 and 10 p.m. Tuesday (12/31)
• Tickets: $22 advance, $25 door for 7 p.m. show; $35 advance, $37 door for 10 p.m. show, with champagne toast and breakfast afterward; (319) 362-8133 or Penguinscomedyclub.com
• Artist’s website: Thedougthypnosisshow.com/portfolio