Danny Zzzz: A Truly Hypnotizing Performer
BY DAVID DeROCCO
Once upon a time, there was a magician/hypnotist who dreamed of performing on stages in places far beyond his regular venue in Niagara Falls. With the help of a magical dragon, his career soared to new heights, and he was soon headlining shows from Disneyland to Hollywood…..
The history of Dan Paulin (a.k.a. DANNY Zzzz) as an entertainer hasn’t always read like a fairy tale; but he has been living life happily ever after since his appearance on The Dragon’s Den helped elevate his career from Niagara stages to headline performances across North America. With an April 8th date scheduled for Showtime Comedy and Entertainment Club in St. Catharines, Niagara fans of Danny Zzzz can once again see their hometown hero in a long overdue local comedy/hypnosis performance.
At the time of his 2011 TV appearance with the Dragons, Paulin was in the midst of a successful eight-year run in Niagara Falls, during which time he performed over 4,000 shows between the Crowne Plaza and Sheraton Plaza hotels. His hilarious comedy/hypnosis performances had become so popular with tourists that Trip Advisor had Danny Zzzz listed as the number one attraction in the Falls. However, Paulin was setting his sights on fame beyond the peninsula, and he saw the Dragon’s as a quick springboard to greater recognition.
“I didn’t need their money, I just wanted their support,” remembers Paulin, who scored a deal with third-season Dragon Brett Wilson. “I just really wanted them to open up their resources for me across Canada and the U.S. to bring more attention to my show. And they got me more. Brett connected me with a number of agencies and companies that lead to me getting booked across the U.S.”
With his contract ending in Niagara Falls, Paulin was free to capitalize on these new opportunities, and thanks to the Dragons they came quickly. The St. Catharines-born entertainer soon found himself performing in places like Los Angeles and Orlando’s Disneyland, at events like NHL fundraisers, auditioning for shows like Phenomenon with Chriss Angel and Uri Gellar and working on-stage alongside comedy legends like Martin Short. For a guy who discovered hypnosis while seeking a cure for his R.E.M. sleep behaviour disorder, Paulin had certainly lucked into an unexpected but lucrative career.
“I didn’t become a hypnotist to become a stage entertainer,” laughed Paulin, who in his previous career with Standard Broadcasting was known as “Danimal,” host of the Hangover Café on 97.7 HTZ-FM. “I became a hypnotist because I wanted to use hypnosis in the same way it had helped me, to help people quit smoking, lose weight, those kinds of things. Hypnosis had made such a significant difference in my life that I started a practice. But even though it made me feel good knowing that I was helping people, it wasn’t as fun. I had gone from Danimal to Doctor Dan, and I began to miss the excitement of being on stage. So I just sort of got drawn into the possibility of making a show out of it.”
When he launched his career as an entertainer, other hypnotists like Mike Mandel and Tony Lee were also making a show out of it. Both were booked regularly around Niagara and across the country through the late 80s and early 90s. However, Paulin made a conscious decision as a performer early in his career that has helped set him apart from his colleagues.
“I’ve had tremendous success because I work clean,” says Paulin, a father of five who has lent his name to child-friendly causes like “Dreams Take Flight” and the Niagara Peninsula Children’s Centre. “Tony Lee’s success was because he worked dirty. It’s hard to find someone who works clean. And someone like Mike Mandel has been doing it for so long. I saw him in high-school and he was in his 40s then. The older you get the less able you are to lay a person to the ground you have just hypnotized. The type of show I do works good for me because I’m a big guy. I can take a 300-pound guy and support him as he goes down.”
The act Paulin will be doing at Showtime will be different than his large headline performances due in part to the venue’s size. That’s a good thing according to Paulin, who says Showtime presents a unique opportunity as an entertainer.
“I’ve performed at Showtime before. It’s a fun, intimate venue that I’m excited to be back at. Generally speaking I perform at larger venues. It’s rare for me to be playing a room that size. But it’s unique because you’re limited by space. You play the room tighter, and you do things you might not do in a large room. It’s intimate, so you can get away with different things. You get a different show in a tight setting.”
One thing Paulin won’t get away with is making anyone who comes on stage do something they don’t want to do. If you’re thinking of getting hypnotized at the show but are hesitant, Paulin wants to reassure you there’s nothing to worry about.
“You’d never do anything or say anything that you wouldn’t do or say when you’re not hypnotized. I couldn’t make somebody swear who doesn’t swear, or make someone dance who’s afraid to dance. You won’t do something you’d never do.”
At the same time, Paulin is quick to counter any doubtful skeptics who think that hypnosis, like magic, is just a great big illusion.
“I see it every single day. I’ve seen people a thousand times doing things I would not think is possible. It’s impossible not to believe. I’ve witnessed it too many times. If they choose not to believe that’s okay. As long as they come and laugh, then it’s a win for me.”