Johns Comedy Can Be Hypnotic

Dec 4th, 2005 | Category: In the Press

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These days they’re serving up laughter, not meals, at the Stardust’s new Hypnotic Lounge.

Once a Mexican restaurant and then a dinner theater, the venue is now home to hypnotists Michael Johns, Terry Stokes and Michelle Van Ree.

“It’s a nice, intimate theater that seats about 200,” Johns said.

That’s almost twice the seating capacity of Johns’ former showroom, a cubbyhole at the defunct Bourbon Street.

Johns and Stokes worked at Bourbon Street until it was bought by Harrah’s, which then closed the property a couple of months ago.

It didn’t take long for the hypnotists to find a new location, the Stardust’s former Ba-Da-Bing Theater.

Ree is the star of the theater’s early show, “Hypnolarious,” at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

Johns and Stokes rotate as hosts of the adult “Hypnolarious XXX — Hypnosis Gone Wild,” a late show that begins at 10 nightly.

“We switch back and forth,” Johns said. “When one of us is on the road performing, the other does the show at the Stardust. That way we’re open seven nights a week. We never go dark.

“If both of us are in town at the same time, sometimes we’re a two-man tag team with one trying to outdo the other.”

Johns, a native of Bolivar, Mo., started out as a stand-up comic noted for his adult humor.

“It’s always been on the adult side,” he said. “A lot of comedians out there say they need to work clean. I don’t care if it’s clean or dirty, as long as it’s funny.

He’s been in Las Vegas, off-and-on, for 10 years.

“The first time I came here was on vacation,” he said. “I didn’t know what the place was all about — I thought it was just gambling and drinking.

“But then I saw the names of some big headliners on the Strip, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is someplace I’d like to be.’ “

Fate led him to merging comedy with hypnotism.

“I was doing one-nighters at comedy clubs all over the country, performing as a headliner,” he said. “One night a club overbooked — it had two headliners, myself and a hypnotist.”

He says he opened for the hypnotist.

“I wasn’t happy, I was a headliner too,” Johns said.

Johns watched the hypnotists call for volunteers and put them under and make them do peculiar things.

“I didn’t believe it was real,” he said. “I thought it was all plants.”

Johns joined in the act to try and make it funnier.

“I woke up an hour later with my shoes off and my shirt off,” he said.

Deciding there was something to hypnotism, he searched for someone to teach him the skill.

“I found a guy in Miami, Gerald Kein, one of the best in the world,” Johns said. “He’s brilliant.”

Johns has been a comedic hypnotist for more than five years.

Some have compared him to the raunchy hypnotist Anthony Cools, who is moving his over-the-top act from Paris Las Vegas to the Excalibur in December.

Johns says there are differences.

“I come from a stand-up background, so there’s a lot of comedy in mine, off-the-cuff stuff,” he said. “And in my show, I never try to embarrass anybody — there’s a line I refuse to cross. Nobody is going to walk off my stage and feel ashamed.”

Copyright and Published by Las Vegas Sun on Sunday, December 4, 2005.
Author, Jerry Fink can be reached at 259-4058 or at jerry@lasvegassun.com.