The first night Don Barnhart performed his comedy sketch in front of a live audience, it did not bode well for him.
"I was throwing up in the bathroom (from nervousness) as they were introducing me, so I had to run to the stage," Barnhart said via email.
Barnhart grew up in Spokane but now calls Los Angeles home, and he's more than just a funny guy. He is a funny guy who knows hypnosis and incorporates it into his act.
He will bring his hypnotic comedy to Jack Didley's Comedy Club in Kennewick on Feb. 3-4. Showtime is 8:30 p.m. Cover is $10.
For a comic, Barnhart has a rather serious outlook on how to make it in the funny business.
"First and foremost, I'm a stand-up comedian," he said. "Comedy is not pretty. It's very competitive, and not everybody has what it takes to succeed. It's a cutthroat business, and anything you can do to separate yourself from the rest of the pack is a plus."
His unique style developed after that encounter with stage fright.
"I had seen far too many comics deal with their stage fright by having too many drinks before the show, and I knew that wasn't the way I wanted to deal with my stress," he said. "So, the next day, I went to a bookstore and started reading up on acting techniques, relaxation, meditation and eventually found a book on self-hypnosis and that seemed to work for me."
Barnhart doesn't just dish the shtick and hypnotize people on stage. He's also a booker for other comics, as well as a consultant who stages workshops for comedians.
"I try to emphasize the importance of treating comedy like a business," he said. "It amazes me what would-be comics send out. If you were applying for a job, you wouldn't send a hand-written résum é with no references.
"My classes are designed to help shave years off what can be a brutal odyssey of gathering experience from the road and prepare you for a long-term career."
His show at Jack Didley's promises to be strictly fun and games, and he will ask for volunteers from the audience to be his hypnotic victims of laughter.
Barnhart got his start at The Comedy & Magic Club in Las Vegas during the 1980s and through the years has opened for Louie Anderson, Dana Carvey, Drew Carey, Jim Carrey, Jay Leno, Dennis Miller, Jerry Seinfeld and David Spade.
In 2007, he won the American Idol Underground's best comedian award. In 2010, he received the International Performing Artist's Bob Hope Award for his years of performing for military troops.
When asked if he has hypnotized anyone famous, he remained mum.
"I cannot discuss which celebs I've hypnotized, but I do hypnotherapy and specialize in performance anxiety, weight loss, goal and dream achievement and success," he said. "I just did a fundraiser for the Marine Corps on New Year's Eve in Hawaii, and President Obama was there."
But the commander in chief declined to be part of Barnhart's show.
"I know too many people who would love to hypnotize the president and get inside his head," Barnhart quipped.
Most of the time, Barnhart puts on a clean show, but it depends on the venue, he said.
"High schools, colleges, corporate shows and fairs are squeaky clean, but for comedy clubs, we do push the boundaries a bit," he said. "We have a lot of fun, though, and I go out of my way to avoid embarrassing anyone -- but it does get a little wild."
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com