Comedian Ken Whitener had U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific personnel laughing hysterically during the Holiday Fun Safety Stand Down Dec. 17 at the Pollock Theater here.
“This was the most entertaining brief I have seen since I have been in the Marines,” said Lance Cpl. DeAndré Simms, MarForPac mail clerk. “It’s a change of pace from having someone stand in front of us, reading off PowerPoint slides and fighting sleepiness.”
Whitener is a nationally-known motivational speaker, entertainer and hypnotist who uses an interactive approach to keep his audience’s attention.
“It’s funny how at the beginning of a show, I look around the room as I’m talking and notice people checking their watches. They just seem bored out of their minds,” Whitener said. “As I start picking people out of the audience and get interactive, I can see people coming alive. And, before you know it, everyone’s laughing hysterically. Laughter is the best medicine.”
Whitener started out the show by seeking out volunteers from the audience. A fearless few took the challenge and made their way to the stage, not knowing the antics that awaited them.
Soon, Whitener engaged the rest of the audience and picked out a few more people who had fallen under hypnosis. Those who appeared to be in a deep hypnotic state were carried up to the stage to become part of the show.
The participants performed hysterical acts, such as barking on command, dancing like Britney Spears and acting like rock stars with inflatable guitars.
Many people in the audience were skeptical at first, but Whitener made a few believers.
“I never really believed hypnotism could really happen,” said Simms. “But, now that I have seen it with my own eyes, I see how powerful it is. You just have to see it to believe it.”
Whitener, who has appeared on NBC, CBS, ABC and Nickelodeon, has been practicing hypnosis since he was 11 years old. He believes it is a powerful tool in sending messages to people.
“It is amazing what our minds can do. When people are put in a mode where they are relaxed and their imaginations can run, it is very easy to get a point across,” Whitener said. “In this case, my point was to send the message to everyone here to make wise decisions over the holidays and return to work safely.”
Whitener started entertaining the Marine Corps community while his daughter was serving as a Marine at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
“My daughter worked in the safety division at Camp Pendleton, and they were looking for a hypnotist for a safety brief. She said, ‘My dad’s a hypnotist.’ And that is how it all started.”
This is the second year in a row Whitener has entertained MarForPac personnel, and he hopes to do it again next year.
“This is definitely a labor of love because I appreciate our military men and women very much,” he said. “I hope I can return next year to make Marines laugh.”