Review by Jason Wert
I can easily think of a dozen times over the years when I’ve had people say to me, “I wish we had a different kind of show in Branson.” They weren’t knocking the family oriented shows, or the magic shows that have always been around, but wanted something a little more of the variety they could find in a place like Vegas.
Well, Branson not only has an option like that now, but a fantastic show that can provide entertainment for the entire family AND provide a great date night without the kids.
The host of the show, Austin Singley, is a man of many talents. In addition to his role as hypnotist and comedic master of ceremonies, he moonlights as a rodeo clown. Now, those things may not seem connected, but being a rodeo clown means he knows how to entertain a large crowd while at the same time controlling large, unruly beasts, which can come in handy during a show that is largely dependent on the volunteers who join him on stage.
You see, Comedy Hypnosis is nothing without the poor victims…um, I mean the willing volunteers…who find themselves under the masterful guidance of Singley.
Singley is different from many other hypnosis related shows in that he welcomes all comers to the stage to be hypnotized and to be part of the show. It’s a great way to get groups of folks involved (because they’ll be paying close attention to their friend or relative who’s in the show) but it also gives a welcoming sense to anyone who is in attendance at the event.
Now, you’ll likely think Singley’s starting out slow when it comes to his comedy, but he’s cleverly using different jokes in different areas to see what best connects with that night’s audience. It’s a trick that improv comedians and similar performers use to see how they can best bring the audience into their world for the next few hours. It’s a masterstroke on Singley’s part, and once he locks into what’s going to work best the show takes off.
Once the victims…I mean volunteers…are on stage, Singley walks them through the process of hypnosis and prepares them for the show. An interesting part of the show for audience members is to see which volunteers get deeply hypnotized, and thus are more susceptible to Singley’s leading, versus those who can be more resistant. (It may seem almost like those folks are “faking” being hypnotized, but I have been assured it’s just that some folks have areas that their brains won’t compromise on even under hypnosis.)
Singley has a wide variety of things that he will make the volunteers do during the show, from unknowingly slow dancing with a stranger, to feeling imaginary electric jolts from their chairs, to thinking green napkins are $10,000 bills. It’s all in good fun; Singley never tried to make someone look foolish in a derogatory way; and the variety of options leaves you wondering just what Singley will pull out next.
Another factor of the hypnosis that you need to keep in mind when watching the show is the facial expressions of the volunteers. When, for example, they’re told they’ve caught a virus that makes them the ugliest people on Earth, some start to cry, others get looks of shock…it’s pure and true emotional response even though their faces haven’t changed at all. But you can feel the emotion of the volunteers, and it’s real, and it’s effective.
Now, being honest, I don’t know if Austin would be as effective in the overall show without sidekick Ryan Parker. Parker is a trained improv comedian and theater performer, and you can tell in his impeccable timing for his comedic asides. The sledgehammer bit early in the show (won’t spoil it for you) told me Ryan was more than your average Branson sidekick; he proved it throughout the show. He really is as vital to the show as Singley.
Now, I want to note there are two different shows that are performed: the regular Comedy Hypnosis and Comedy Hypnosis After Dark. The first is a PG rated show for families and those with sensitive natures; the After Dark show is for adults only. The latter has caused some controversy in Branson; but if you look at the show more closely, you’ll see it’s something that Branson desperately needs to have even if it doesn’t fit the “family” aura that almost every other show in town has promoted for decades.
The generation who Branson needs to court, because they’re the next wave of tourism dollars, is Generation X. Who were the comedians of that time who resonated the loudest? Eddie Murphy. Andrew Dice Clay. Sam Kinison. Robin Williams. George Carlin was still huge. What did they all have in common? They pushed the edge, they were liberal with profanity, and all of them were more adult in nature. This is the comedy that Generation X is looking for, and in the After Dark show, Singley brings that form of comedy to bear. BRANSON NEEDS THIS. I’m not saying it needs to be everywhere, nor am I saying the late night 10:30 p.m. slot isn’t the right place, but I am saying this option is something that Branson needs to pull in the next generation of ticket buyers.
The people who have been coming to Branson for 20 years may not like it nor do I thinking they have to like it. They just have to say “hey, this is what our kids and grandkids watch, and we’re in bed at 10:30 anyway.”
Now, there is one downside to this show, and it’s completely out of the control of Singley or anyone connected to the production; that’s the audience who provides the volunteers. If he gets a row of volunteers who are all duds, it’s going to impact the show through no fault of Singley’s. Even the best entertainers can only do so much when you have a group of wet blankets to work with in a show.
So, as with all OI reviews, the bottom line is whether or not Comedy Hypnosis with Austin Singley is worth your hard earned dollars. I would say that it is, especially if you’re someone who enjoys improv comedy, as much of the show is improv comedy with hypnosis as the anchor.
And if you are someone who is Generation X who grew up on Murphy and Carlin and Kinison and the Dice Man, you need to make a point to see the After Dark version of the show. It’s made for you.