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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Campus Comedy

Your Eyes Are Getting Heavy Dept.: Tom DeLuca evidently is still going strong: his website bills him as a “corporate hypnotist,” although that means he’s dealing with people who already seem asleep, if nowhere else than at the proverbial wheel. I’m guessing that the Jabberwocks were from Brown University, where that group in its current incarnation continues to perform, while Dan Riley also continues to perform, with a Roy Orbison tribute as one of his shows.


THERE’S A LITTLE BIT OF ACTOR in all of us. Tom DeLuca demonstrated that Saturday evening at Proctor’s Theatre when he invited a couple of dozen audience volunteers to participate in what, under other circumstances, could have been an acting exercise. Imagine that you’re hot, imagine that you’re freezing, imagine that you’re on vacation and pretend to be fishing.

Tom DeLuca
(as he looks today)
Except that his volunteers were hypnotized before launching a hilarious and fascinating display of the powers of the unconscious – or at least somewhat liberated – mind.

DeLuca was part of the “Campus Comedy and Music” program that also served to introduce several hundred Union College freshmen to the theater and to the downtown area. The bill also include the a cappella vocal quintet The Jabberwocks and singer/comedian Dan Riley.

Riley was last at Proctor’s opening for Billy Crystal, and reprised some of his sure-fire routines, such as an all-sound-effects-included version of “Leader of the Pack” and a “She’s My Baby Now” complete with echo.

He does more than just effects: “One-Ton Tomato” must have Jose Marti spinning in his grave (the tune is “Guantanamera”), while a routine about condom ads includes endorsements by Johnny Cash and Pee-wee Herman.

Riley weaves from song to comic bit, even taking time out for a straight, sentimental original song, “Talk to Me.”

The Jabberwocks opened the program with foot-stomping verve: “Your Mama Don’t Dance” was sung as if by the Mills Bros. on benzedrine, and each of the five had a chance or two to sing an impressive lead as the group went through such songs as “Love Potion No. 9,” “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” “Rockin’ Robin” and many others.

Performing as they do without instruments, they are dependent upon a creative variety of arrangements to keep the material interesting. We were denied some of that by an uncooperative sound system in the theater, however: the on-stage monitor speakers weren’t working and thus the group was unable to effect the blending they would have preferred.

That sound system dogged every one of the acts during the evening. A pre-curtain presentation of $2500 from August’s “Tuesday in the Park” was done without amplification, and each successive performer complained while onstage.

DeLuca normally performs a two-and-a-half hour act by himself; evidently, the philosophy behind bringing in a trio of acts was to maximize the draw. But DeLuca’s show should have no problem bringing in a repeat business – and he takes good advantage of his time.

He swiftly acknowledged his own roots in the area (he grew up in Clifton Park) and went on to perform some magic (after declaring himself a fake) and present a travelogue complete with slide-show, veering from vacation to some of the interesting signs you find around the country.

And then came the hypnotism, or “imaginism” as he prefers to term it. After assuring the crowd of his integrity (“You won’t have to be a chicken or anything like that”) he got 23 people on stage, along with five spotters, and in five minutes had the group drowsing lightly to the sound of his voice and the rhythmic snap of his fingers.

The audience already was giggling in anticipation, but they were certainly as surprised as they were amused as the show began. The first task given to the volunteers was to raise an arm and hold it “as a rigid bar of steel,” which then, at DeLuca’s suggestion, resisted all attempts to bring it down (and, in the case of the ones that didn’t resist, allowed him to thin out the volunteers to the core of those who really went under).

His people laughed; they went fishing complete with some very creative pantomimes of reeling in a big one; as DeLuca worked the group, speaking in the same reassuring tone you hear from an airplane pilot, he had them forget their names; see mice on the floor; see the mice turn into “cute little bunny rabbits;” place the rabbits on their laps; see the rabbits foul their laps.

DeLuca has taken an old-style sideshow entertainment and brought it up to date; to combine it with his own irreverent comedy is a master stroke that promises him an extremely successful future.  

– Schenectady Daily Gazette, 14 September 1987

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