Gary Conrad earns a living putting people through their paces, bringing them on stage and putting them into a hypnotic state.

"Once they're ready to go, I tell them they're Chippendale dancers or that they're on 'The Dating Game,'" Conrad says.

"They might forget their names, or they might think they're characters from 'Swamp People' or Uncle Si from 'Duck Dynasty,' or they're the Turtle Man or Billy the Exterminator," he says.

On Aug. 2 and 3, the Savannah Comedy Revue is bringing Conrad back to town. In addition to giving them personas, he gives his subjects a range of experiences.

"They might smell things, or think there are leprechauns under the chairs," he says. "They might think the people next to them pinched their butts. They might hear different stuff."

Years ago, he did a Christmas show in Savannah.

"When I was a kid, there was an old legend that said on Christmas Eve the animals can talk," he says.

"I got a toy sheep and set it on the stage," Conrad says. "One guy in Savannah said, 'That sheep is cussing my mother!' and kicked it out into the audience."

Participants actually believe they are going through the experience, Conrad says.

"Once they leave the stage, they carry the ability to go into hypnosis with them," he says. "If in the future, they need to be hypnotized to lose weight or stop smoking, they can tell their physician, 'I respond strongly to hypnosis.'"

The Mayo brothers at the turn of the 20th century used hypnosis on surgical patients, Conrad says.

"They were doing operations that were technically correct, but the patients would die because they couldn't handle both the surgery and the anesthesia," he says.

"They started doing half hypnosis and half chemical anesthesia and the survivability ratio increased. The whole point is that there's a benefit other than just being hypnotized and acting goofy onstage.

"I've had people tell me they hadn't thought of a cigarette in 10 years after hypnosis," Conrad says. "Right within the show itself could be an opportunity for wellness, betterment or working on something important."

Conrad's fascination with hypnosis began in elementary school.

"I remember doing a book report on hypnosis," he says. "We were supposed to do it on some part of the human body. I wanted to do the brain.

"When I got to the library, there was an unclear differentiation between the human brain and the human mind."

After learning more, Conrad would hypnotize people at the gym.

"They were doing more repetitions and lifting heavier weights," he says.

"It was fun having people acting goofy at social events. One thing leads to another and now I've been doing this full-time for 26 years.

"I used to do Savannah a lot when The Comedy House was there," Conrad says. "I'd do about six weeks a year in Savannah, so I'm no stranger to that town."

His last visit was eight years ago, and Conrad knows exactly what he wants to do.

"I want to go to the Olde Pink House," he says. "I love the Olde Pink House. Savannah is a great town. I also want to go to Tybee and Fort Pulaski."

When Conrad was booked, he asked that he be given two nights.

"I used to have a good name in that town," he says. "I used to get a lot of shows.

"I worked one time down on the river during the first Oktoberfest," Conrad says. "I use sound effects in the show and have a sound of a ship going up the river.

"I told one girl she was the Waving Girl and that she was stranded. That was kind of Savannah-specific."

Conrad was in Savannah for the Great Snow Storm of December 1989.

"The owners of the club took me around so I could see the icicles on the Spanish moss," he says.

"I asked the club owner what he thought of hypnosis and he said, 'Hypnosis is a bunch of baloney.' I asked, 'Why do you keep booking me?' and he said, 'People who came the first night were coming back.'

"He would book me for six weeks at a time," Conrad says. "Savannah is a town that liked to be hypnotized."

In Savannah, he could count on strong military participation.

"They did enjoy whooping it up," he says.

"In the day when they had a comedy club on Mall Boulevard, that was one of the prettiest clubs in the country. It was a great club, but they come and they go. I'm still around."

One of Conrad's fondest memories of Savannah is the time there was a dentist in the audience who didn't believe in hypnosis.

"I told him he was going to be his favorite singer but the only sound coming out would sound like a dentist's drill," Conrad says. "He's onstage singing Elvis' 'Are You Lonely Tonight?' sounding just like a dentist's drill.

"When I did the Christmas show, I did an age regression and took a girl back to age 5," he says. "Usually when you say it's Christmas, they get to talk to Santa and everybody is happy, but she starts crying."

Alarmed, Conrad asked the girl what was wrong.

"She said, 'Daddy shot Rudolph and served him to me at supper.'

"It turned out the dad was a big practical joker who went deer hunting," Conrad says. "He told the kids he had shot Rudolph for their Christmas dinner."


What: Savannah Comedy Revue presents master hypnotist Gary Conrad

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 2 and 3

Where: Bay Street Theatre, 1 Jefferson St.

Cost: $9 general admission, $15 VIP seating

Info: 314-503-9005,