Under the tutelage of Don Barnhart, an evening at the comedy club could double as a free therapy session.
There is often a queue of people hoping to be part of one of the comedy hypnotist’s shows. Some are even what Barnhart calls “hypno-junkies” – his regular customers.
“People need an excuse to let loose,” Barnhart said from his home in Las Vegas. “We are so bombarded with boundaries, moral compasses and boundaries, whether from family, friends or churches. Under hypnosis, people can tap into their deep psyche and let go and not feel embarrassed to dance and sing and be crazy and silly and fun for a while.
Barnhart will perform three shows Friday and Saturday at Loonees Comedy Corner.
Dining review: Toastique in Colorado Springs is more than crispbread
The comedian has a long relationship with hypnotism. While in high school and going down a negative path in the 80s, he started therapy and discovered hypnosis. This saved him and prompted him to get certified as a clinical practitioner at the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in California.
“We can rewrite bad habits and pursue our goals in an accelerated fashion as opposed to conventional therapy by talking about the issues,” he said. “Overnight, you can change your thought process. If you have a traumatic experience, you can change your thought process. In deep hypnosis therapy you can rewrite your inner dialogue.
After high school, Barnhart had a craving for stand-up, so he got a job as a doorman at a club. To combat his extreme nervousness and “rush before a show”, he turned to hypnosis for relaxation.
Sculptor, former toymaker to display new works in Colorado Springs exhibit
Fifteen years ago, while doing stand-up comedy on cruise ships, he started seeing comedic hypnotist shows. They weren’t great, he thought, because most people who do hypnosis aren’t particularly funny at the same time, so he decided to combine his two skills. The shows were a success.
Audience members often ask him a number of questions about the process, including the common concern that they will be tricked into doing something they would never do in real life.
“I make sure they know they’re in control,” Barnhart said. “They will never cross moral boundaries. I’m never here to embarrass anyone.
Depending on the size of the stage, around 10 to 15 people are invited. During hypnosis, some are fired if they are not ready to sink, while others are more sleepwalking, more prone to relaxation, and capable of being hypnotized. And then the fun begins. It will change the environment of those on stage, taking them to Alaska where they experience cold winds, or have them dance, play instruments, or speak in a foreign language to those on stage who understand what they are saying. An adult show may have participants showing off their best exotic dance moves. And sometimes he makes them act like they’ve taken drugs or drunk alcohol, or made them eat a lemon and salivate.
Catering review: OCC Brewery isn’t just about beer
“The joy for me is seeing people lose their stress,” Barnhart said. “I can see them being tense and very rigid and suddenly their stress and worries start to go away.”
That’s why some people show up every time he does a show and try to get on stage – they come away feeling shiny and new.
“Sometimes people come out of a trance realizing they’ve worked on themselves to be better,” he said. “At the end, I plant a positive suggestion so they come out feeling better, like they’ve had a good eight-hour nap and a better frame of mind.”
Contact the author: 636-0270