Is there room in a modern society for a comic hypnotist? As far as entertainment value goes, hypnotists are almost on the same scale as ventriloquists and plate spinners, or anyone else who regularly appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. The whole idea is so old, it smells like liniment and bowls of chicken noodle soup. People don't want to pay to see hypnotists make people do funny things, you know, such as cluck like a chicken. You can go downtown and see people doing that on their own on any given day, and it doesn't cost anything (except you may have to give them some spare change so they can buy another bottle of gin, or whatever they drink to keep the demons away). If people are going to pay money to see a comedian, they want to see someone making people laugh, not someone making people laugh at them.
Somehow, Flip Orley has managed to make a living as a comic hypnotist--and he doesn't even have to play at senior-citizen centers. He wants to bring hypnotism to a younger audience, an audience that sees hypnotism as a way to stop smoking or lose weight, not to make a roomful of people laugh. So far, he has been fortunate, winning over crowds at comedy clubs across the country and making successful appearances on The Today Show and Entertainment Tonight. Orley's gimmick is that no two shows are alike, because every show is based on audience participation. Unlike past comic hypnotists, Orley claims he doesn't humiliate his volunteers. You think the people he has made forget their own names, regress to age 5, or pledge undying love to complete strangers would agree with him?
We don't care if Orley plays sold-out shows at every comedy club in the United States. We still think it's a scam or, at the very least, a cheap form of comedy. Other comedians have to build an act, test jokes, find their own takes on things. Orley just has to think of funny situations to put his "volunteers" into. "I know. I'll make two random people start making out in front of the club! That's comedy gold!" Maybe I should take that back. I don't want to be walking around the streets of Dallas clucking like a chicken.