Comedic hypnotist performs at UW-Eau Claire

Daniel James uses hypnosis to entertain and amaze students


Photo by Gabbie Henn

Daniel James brought comedy and hypnosis to UW-Eau Claire on Saturday night.

A group of students sat in a row across a stage before a buzzing crowd; one moment, they were awake and alert, the next, they were “asleep” in their seats, susceptible to suggestion.

This is the scene that unfolded before an audience of UW-Eau Claire students on Saturday night in Schofield Auditorium.

Comedic hypnotist Daniel James has been performing in the college market for 21 years. James has appeared in venues such as The Ellen Show, The Tonight Show and America’s Got Talent, according to After pursuing an early interest in magic and illusions, James said he was inspired to master the art of hypnosis by a hypnotist he had seen perform in a Los Angeles nightclub.

“That was really what kind of lit the fire,” James said.

Since then, James has forged a successful career of his own, specifically citing his enjoyment of performing at college campuses. James said college students make “the best audiences” because they are creative and uninhibited.

James said Saturday’s group of participants — more specifically, his hypnotees — were “phenomenal.”

“Out of one through ten, I give them a hundred,” James said.

The excited and engaged audience was in an uproar as James had his participants seeing things that weren’t there and feeling things that weren’t real. James’s combination of blunt humor and enthusiastic showmanship only served to enhance the performance, as he made every step seem effortless.

“A hypnotist simply says the right words, in the right order, in the right way,” James said.

James began the careful, specific hypnosis process by luring his participants into a relaxed, trance-like state. It wasn’t long before the students were slumped in their chairs, eyes closed, and using one another as pillows. James began the performance by demonstrating a few simple commands then eventually moved on to a more outrageous routine.

The show really kicked off with a spontaneous “trip to Hawaii,” which had the participants leaning back in their chairs, attempting to dig their feet in the sand and even removing articles of clothing in order to escape the “heat.”

As the show progressed, a simple cue of music caused all the men on stage to take up the personas of exotic dancers, who then ventured out into the audience in order to “perform,” while the women remained on stage and vehemently competed in a “dance-off.”

With a few short commands, James was even able convince everyone on stage that the entire audience was naked. Most covered their eyes in horror, but a select few chose to lean back in their seats and enjoy the “view.” James then flipped the scenario by convincing the participants they were the naked ones. Most tried to cover themselves in embarrassment, but one brave soul chose to remain unabashed and unashamed as he relaxed in his seat.

Jenna Phillips, an undecided first-year student, was one of the students who was selected to participate. Phillips described her experience under suggestion as being “weird.”

“I kind of remember it, but I don’t really remember it,” Phillips said.

Ella Doubier and Payton Spanbauer, both first-year elementary education students, said they were drawn to Saturday’s show by the promise of free entertainment and a fun time.

“It was really funny,” Doubier said. “It was good to see people go up and do their thing.”

Spanbauer said that she, too, found the show to be “super funny” and entertaining. She even said she regretted not being one of the selected participants.

“We were all laughing so hard,” Spanbauer said, “my eyes were watering.”