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When it comes down to true grit, determination and remaining honorable in defeat, no performer has plowed a harder road to the coveted Reader's Choice Award for Entertainer of The Year than Sailesh Jaiwan. This is his seventh year in the RCA's and although he has pulled down numerous wins for other categories like Best Male Performer, he has only been able to get within striking distance of the big win. Last year he was runner-up, edged out by only 2 votes; the year before was the same except the margin was 4. "This is my Oscar," he says. "This is the award I have had my eye set on through four nominations. I was starting to think it was going to be my great white whale," he says laughing.
Sailesh is a stage hypnotist of the highest order. Performing for 22 years, in 19 countries with over 5,000 total shows, he began his career quite by accident. "I always joke around that the majority of hypnotists are failed magicians," he laughs, as a good-natured way to gently rib other hypnotists. "I actually started off as an opening act for a hypnotist as a comedian. I was also his road manager, so I was responsible for all of his travel, show setup and, coming up with new skits. When I walked away from him I had never performed a hypnosis stage show and never planned on it, but had gained the skills to do so. I was managing a bar some time later and did it for fun with the staff there. It ended up being the beginning of a long road. I came up with a show to make a little bit of extra money and after performing the same show for 73 Sundays in a row, other people had heard about me. The next thing I knew I was making more money being a stage hypnotist than I was doing anything else and my career had been launched." Sailesh is widely regarded as one of the best hypnotists in the college market, and consistently tries to evolve his show to stay in the class of "often imitated, never duplicated." One unique aspect of his show is that it can be configured and formatted to various audiences, this is not a one-size-fits-all performance. "I can customize my show to fit formats from G to PG to R to completely uncensored, depending on the preferences of the school that night. I do a lot of research and consulting with the venues to make sure they are going to get exactly what they want and expect."
The show is very fast-paced, high energy and exciting. "There is music throughout the entire show, which I use to bring up and down the energy level as we progress through it. It's something that is constantly tweaked and updated so that I know students will always recognize the musical scores and be more comfortable with the environment. I keep up with things in the campus culture and adapt to it and always try to keep the show in the 'here and now'. Keeping the music updated is a big part of that, as is consistently creating new skits. "There is a long-standing tradition of hypnotists and magicians performing excellent, amazing shows until they are perfect. So perfect in fact that they are remiss to change anything. Fast-forward 15 years and this "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude renders their shows very predictable and stale (see: "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone"). This is especially true in stage hypnosis, where there seems to be a limited supply of different skits to enact, and the less imaginative performers either stick to the tried-and-true routines, or they "borrow" material from their peers. Because of this, most artists are hesitant to describe their show in detail in print, but suffice to say Sailesh is one of the innovators. Just like keeping his musical tracks fresh, he updates his show to remain with the times. "An example is the super hero craze that we have undergone in the last several years. So I work with that and the volunteers love getting to be their favorite hero, or to make up a completely new one. The crowd is just as excited because it is a topic they connect with and love."
On the same token, when the new comes in, some of the old has to move out. "There are certain skits that just don't work any more that were amazing back in the late 90's and early 2000's, but new students don't relate to the material. It's easy for us performers or even advisors to forget how fast time goes by, but I have been performing long enough in this market now that I could potentially be performing for the children of students I saw at the beginning of my career. The material that entertained them so well revolves around topics that were out of the headlines by their time some of these students were even born. The Bill Clinton and Spice Girl bits just don't hold any relevance for today's students (laughs). Luckily, social networking has given performers of my generation a way to stay in touch with students and exactly what is trending for them."
There is traditionally an inextricable link between talent and ego. It has become accepted fact that the most talented and successful entertainers often struggle with their own self importance. Sailesh is widely known as one of the most mellow, down-to-earth and easiest performers in the market to work with. Perhaps it stems from his perception that he is not automatically the most important person in the room when he performs. "The audiences are the stars of the show. I am a funny person naturally; I have a good sense of humor. That gives me the ability to direct and guide the volunteers to a place that I know will generate a laugh, but the real laughs and memories of a show come from the volunteers once they receive instructions."
"There is a lot of improv in the show. Even though I have a structure, there are always amazing things that happen throughout and I just let it flow and roll with it. It has been 22 years, and it is very gratifying to come back to many of the same venues year after year. I have been going to some of the same venues for 15 plus years. I have been able to create an amazing fan base. I often go perform orientation shows and it's not uncommon for 200-400 extra students to show up and join the freshmen ." Sailesh is also a certified hypnotherapist, and works with students and others in the areas of focus, memory, sleep patterns, stress management and more. He even incorporates this into the booking aspect of his show, offering combinations of entertainment shows with day-time educational and motivational presentations.
No one has worked harder to become Campus Activities Magazine's Entertainer of the Year, and our hats are off to Sailesh for keeping after the dream years in a row, to reach the pinnacle of the campus market.
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