I don't like hypnotists.
I'm putting that out there right up front because it probably slants everything that will follow. It isn't for lack of understanding. I am fairly well-versed on hypnosis, Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and other tools used by behavioral therapists and birthday party djs nationwide. It isn't fear. I don't believe a hypnotist will cause me to do something horribly shameful from which I'll never recover. I just have never enjoyed hypnosis as entertainment, and I want you to know that as you read this review.
The Sandman uses music, lighting and a suit to create ambiance. He tells the audience they need to know three things. 1. No one will take off their clothes during the show. At least not this show; I don't know what exactly happens at the XXX-rated show he'll do Sunday evening, and I have no intention of finding out. 2. He can not make anyone do anything they do not want to do. 3. He won't make anyone act like barnyard animals, so volunteers don't need to be afraid of being told to cluck like a chicken. Despite these reassurances, he is only able to get 7 of the 12 volunteers he is hoping for. After repeating the rules for the audience several times, and warning us we don't want to fuck with him (search YouTube for Sandman reverse racism), he starts the show.
Despite his focus on the people on the stage, he also pushes the audience to participate. I debate raising my hands in the air. Fortunately, it's hard to take notes that way, so I put them down. Only now I feel like he's going to yell at me for not playing along. The show isn't even 10 minutes old and I'm so conflicted I just want to leave. Remember, that's because I have a bias against hypnosis as entertainment. Other people in the audience seemed happy to watch and wave their hands in the air as directed.
Rather than draw this one out, let me do a quick summary of the types of scenarios Sandman created for his volunteers. At one point, they were all seated next to people from Arkansas - all the women were having sex with their fathers, all the men were having sex with their donkeys. Then, everyone was smoking really great weed and getting the giggles to Afroman’s “’Cause I Got High”. Next, they were guests on the Jerry Springer show. We found out by show of hands who liked giving and receiving oral sex, who ever farted or queefed during sex - you know, the kind of information you would share at a cotillion or Bar Mitzvah. They were told the person sitting next to them was hitting them in the balls, twisting their nipple painfully or sticking a finger in their ass. He suggested his pants were split in the back and they were seeing his bare ass, and then told them they could see his monstrous, 18-inch cock when he turned around to face them. This was followed by some prop action involving a pink swim noodle. The two men on the stage were directed to imagine they were in a darkened room with a partner where they were to have sex at 100 miles an hour, only to discover when the lights came on that they were the only ones in the room. They could only sit down delicately, perched on their seats due to the pain in - you guessed it - their asses.
Is it me, or is there a lot of anal obsession in that paragraph?
Of course, I repeat, I do NOT consider hypnosis comedy. Nor do I usually laugh at stale lines like "happier than a fag at the YMCA". So it IS probably just me, folks. I was a bit of a verbal bully when I was a kid, and often used my quick wit to be hurtful. Maybe that’s why I don’t find it funny now. I don't really enjoy people being made fun of, even when they semi-volunteer to be part of the punch line. I do love a good roast where it's expected that people will be taking shots at one another, but that is not what happens in Sandman's act. It also feels a little too voyeuristic, and that's not how I get my kicks.
The one thing I did react to in a positive way was the finale, where he took the participant who seemed the most easily hypnotized and physically appropriate for the trick, had him go completely rigid, suspended him between two chairs and brought a young woman from the audience onstage to stand on his chest. It was an interesting demonstration of the power of hypnotic suggestion that didn't involve embarrassment.
I've been told there are different hypnotists out there who don't use the audience in the same way, so I'd be willing to watch another show someday. Maybe there's a performer who uses more harmless scenarios, like a second grade class with a substitute teacher or, since barnyard animals seem really important, maybe a group of city slickers watching a calf being born. I don't know. Obviously, it isn't my thing.
But it may be yours. It certainly worked for much of the audience and the volunteers didn't seem too worse for the wear - although I haven't yet asked Joey how he feels about the video....