Game of Trance

Dec 10th, 2004 | Category: Interviews

What: “The Michael Johns Hypnosis Show.”
When: 11 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Where: The Showroom at Bourbon Street.
Tickets: $39.95.
Information: 737-7200
(Please keep in mind these are old show dates. View our Show Schedule for our current show dates, times, and locations.)

It’s the same story for Michael Johns as with most comedians. He was the proverbial class clown who eventually realized he could earn a living making others laugh.

Only Johns took it a step further: He decided to include hypnotism in his act.

It’s an experiment that’s paid off for the 35-year-old comedian, as he’s become a fixture on the comedy-club circuit.

After filling in one weekend for another hypnotist, Terry Stokes, at Bourbon Street, Johns was hired to create his own adult-oriented show, which debuted Sept. 6.

“The Michael Johns Hypnosis Show” runs 11 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Showroom at the Bourbon Street.

The Las Vegas Sun recently talked to Johns about how he became a hypnotist, how to hypnotize someone and whether he would ever use that ability for his own gain.

Las Vegas Sun: What did you do before you became a comedian?

Michael Johns: I took a lot of college courses, but never actually graduated from college because my attention span just isn’t that long. I was in the Army and got out of the Army and traveled the country working several jobs. Something was always missing. I tried to be the entrepreneur and I was successful in a couple little ventures that way, but the fact of the matter was this is what I am and this is what I do.

Sun: I guess being a cutup wouldn’t go over well in boot camp.

MJ: I spent a lot of time doing push-ups. I’ll never forget, one time I had to sweet-talk a telephone pole.

Sun: What happened?

MJ: I was in an infantry unit in Fort Benning, Ga., (which) is mostly all men. We were running in a battalion formation and a company of nurses happened to run by. Obviously we’re going to look and I got caught looking. They stopped the formation and I got pulled out. They said, “Johns, you think you’re such a ladies’ man, why don’t you show us how good you are and sweet-talk this telephone pole.”

So basically, I had to do inverted push-ups — the whole time the battalion is watching me — and tell a telephone pole how great it looks and all kinds of things I can’t go into in polite company.

Sun: How did you become a comedian?

MJ: I was DJ-ing weddings and things like that. People were like, “You’re really good at this, you’re not like some cheesy DJ. You ought to do this for a living.” Well obviously I didn’t want to be a DJ for the rest of my life, so I started doing stand-up and I started doing open mike (nights). Just about anywhere they would let me perform I would go do a show, whether it paid or it didn’t pay. I took every opportunity to learn my craft.

Sun: Why did you decide to incorporate hypnotism into your act?

MJ: I was doing a show and I opened for a hypnotist. And I thought it was one of the neatest things I’d ever seen. I was hooked and I thought, “I’ve got to learn how to do this.” It was so different and so interactive. And I think that’s what people like about entertainment, they like to be part of the show. And that’s one of the things that really drew me into being a hypnotist.

Sun: How do you learn to be a hypnotist?

MJ: Some people learn out of a book. I happened to learn from a guy out of Miami, Fla., who’s been doing hypnotherapy for about 45 years. I went to Miami and paid an exorbitant amount of money and he taught me how to do hypnotherapy. It was just a matter of taking that and applying it to a stage.

Sun: Was it difficult to learn?

MJ: It wasn’t really difficult to learn. What’s difficult with doing a hypnosis show is that every night you’ve got people onstage with different personalities and different quirks. You have to learn to — and this is a really bad word to use — “exploit” their characteristics or individuality. I don’t mean exploit in a bad way. I guess “utilize” is a better word. So that’s really what’s hard. It’s hard to make it funny because hypnosis, in and of itself, isn’t really funny.

Sun: Everyone’s seen the cartoons where a villain pulls out a gold watch and chain and hypnotizes someone into doing their bidding. But it’s really not like that at all?

MJ: It’s really not. There are guys who use different techniques, like a flickering light. Other guys make their voice really monotone. There are different ways to do it. Me, I talk just like I’m talking to you now and I play a little music, which is really just background filler that has nothing to do with the show.

The whole key to hypnosis is a matter of trust. If people trust you, if they’re comfortable with you, they’re going to be hypnotized.

Sun: So you lull participants into a trance?

MJ: What happens is when a body gets super-relaxed, you become hyper-suggestible. The first time I got hypnotized, I didn’t remember anything that happened. And some people don’t. Other people remember everything. The way I explain it is it’s like a very vivid daydream. That’s how a lot of people explain it to me and it makes a lot of sense. You know what’s going on, but you just lose your inhibitions. It’s a very relaxing feeling.

Sun: Still, you can’t get someone to do something they don’t want to do?

MJ: Absolutely not.

Sun: For example, you couldn’t get a woman to take off her clothes onstage?

MJ: That’s pretty much the story of my life. (Laughs) You can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do. If it goes against their moral or ethical fiber, they’re not going to do it.

Basically, what I’m doing is getting them to relax a little bit, let down their guard. If I told somebody to go steal something, they’re not going to do that. It’s not mind control.

Sun: You’re vulnerable, to a certain degree.

MJ: But again, it all goes back to the trust issue. People in my show don’t feel vulnerable. I tell them right up front, “I’m an idiot, but I’m an idiot who’s very good at what I do. All you have to do is relax and I’ll do all the work for you. I’m not here to embarrass you or humiliate you, that’s not what the show’s about.” And I think people know that when they come up (onstage), so they don’t feel vulnerable.

Now, there are hypnotists out there that do an X-rated show and get people onstage and absolutely humiliate people and tear them apart. We definitely do some things that stretch the boundaries of good taste, but nobody gets embarrassed and nobody gets humiliated. I never ask those people onstage to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself.

Sun: Can anyone be hypnotized?

MJ: Anybody of average intelligence can be hypnotized if they let themselves go.

Sun: But if someone doesn’t want to be hypnotized, they won’t be hypnotized?

MJ: Exactly. You can sit there and fight it if you want and it won’t work for you. And that’s what I tell people: “If you don’t want to be hypnotized, please don’t come up onstage and waste my time and ruin the show for these other folks.”

Sun: Can you tell when somebody is pretending to be hypnotized?

MJ: Yeah. What happens when people are hypnotized is their pupils dilate a little bit, their eyes might get a little bit bloodshot, their palms might get a little bit sweaty. I mean, there are different signs in their actions so that you can tell when somebody is faking and when they’re not.

Sun: Have your ever tried using hypnosis on a woman, to get a raise at work or even for free groceries?

MJ: I’ve never tried to do anything like that. You couldn’t use it for anything like that. If there’s a way to do it, I would’ve figured it out by now.

Sun: So what you’re saying is, if you were a superhero and hypnotism was your super power, you’d use it for evil?

MJ: I’d like to say I’d use it for good, but you never know.”