Fifteen minutes spent chatting to Jason O’Callaghan goes by in a blur.
Perhaps he’s hypnotised me over the phone, although I don’t think he did.
It’s more that he talks quite fast, which is apt, because he’s clearly a very busy, energetic man who doesn’t like standing still.
After all, he’s packed more into his adult life to date than most people would expect to manage in a long lifetime.
As a journalist, the Dublin native spent almost a decade writing for the Sunday Independent; later he co-founded the Irish Rat Pack Show and continues to perform as a singer; wrote the best-selling ‘Confessions of a Gossip Columnist’; then reinvented himself as a psychologist – and now tours with a comedy hypnotism show.
It’s because of the latter that Jason and I are chatting; he brings his unique hypnotism show to Roscommon Arts Centre on this Saturday night, 19th of September.
Jason speaks with passion about hypnosis and it’s a slight challenge to divert the conversation back to the ‘celebrity journalism’ that first brought him to prominence, or indeed to his acclaimed ‘Rat Pack’ music career.
A man who loves taking on new challenges, he says he has always been interested in psychology, and that led him to return to college in 2008. He left with a Masters Degree in Applied Psychology.
In 2011 Jason opened the D4 Clinic, which is a Psychology/Hypnosis Clinic. Typically clients will want to see if hypnosis can help them to lose weight, quit smoking, boost their confidence, perhaps prove life-changing for them.
And it can do all of those things, Jason says.
“People have lost seven or eight stone after they’ve availed of our service” he says of the life-changing potential of hypnosis.
Stating that “our aim is to save lives,” he has done ground-breaking research into the effects of hypnosis on cancer patients to help them reduce stress. He also volunteered for over four years in the mental health sector to better understand the workings of the human mind.
Hailing hypnosis for the significant benefits it can deliver, and for the fun and entertainment that it can create as well, Jason says 80% of people can be hypnotised to a light degree, while 10% of people can be fully hypnotised.
We’ll talk about this weekend’s visit to Roscommon Arts Centre later, but I want to hear more about his days with the ‘Sunday Indo’ back in the Celtic Tiger years.
Jason co-wrote a social diary page with Gayle Killilea, who in more recent years has been in the news with her husband, developer Sean Dunne. Working as a journalist in the Sunday Independent at that time brought him into contact with a world of celebrity and glamour.
“Yeah, it might have looked great from the outside,” he says, and I know there’s a ‘but’ coming. He worked under Terry Keane (the renowned social diarist) but in reality he was answerable to Anne Harris, wife of the then Editor, Aengus Fanning, and herself destined to become Sunday Independent Editor many years later.
“Anne didn’t get to where she is without being very, very tough” Jason says.
Working the ‘celebrity beat’ was not as glamorous as readers might think, he reveals. He felt ongoing pressure to deliver for the paper. When he did an interview with a celebrity, the PR people wanted one thing, but his newspaper bosses invariably wanted something much more salacious: “basically who they were sleeping with!”
And it was all fiercely competitive too – “not just with other media, in fact you were competing with newspapers all over the world for these celebrities, but even with my colleague, Gayle, on our page!”
When I say “So it wasn’t all fun?” he fires back with a classic line.
“No, certainly not. It was like being married to a nymphomaniac; the first two weeks are great but it loses its shine after a while!”
Okay, we’ll move on, but just before we do, Jason confirms that he and his colleagues in the Sunday Independent knew all about the existence of the relationship between Charles Haughey and Terry Keane.
“In fairness, I think the dogs in the street knew.”
Leaving journalism, Jason founded The Irish Rat Pack in 2002. He was producer, director and performer. Singing the classics associated with stars like Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior, the band has performed to great acclaim. More recently his band has been rebranded as The Speakeasy Band. They are in much demand for weddings and corporate events. Upcoming high profile gigs will see them performing at the Dublin Lord Mayor’s Ball and at the Taoiseach’s Presentation Dinner.
A busy man, for sure. He lives in Dublin, with his wife Carina and their children, Camille and Ethan. We did this interview on Friday; he had been performing his hypnosis as a comedy act at a wedding the previous night.
He promises a “breathtaking and hilarious show” in Roscommon this Saturday night.
“I am pushing the boundaries of hypnotism. I’m different to Keith Barry…I take a much more scientific approach. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it’s also the pinnacle for me. It’s harder than singing, harder than comedy. At least then you know your act. If people don’t laugh or dance, okay. With hypnotism, I don’t know what’s going to happen; it’s completely unpredictable.”
Yes, members of the audience in Roscommon will get a chance to volunteer to come up on stage, but he stresses that you have to want to be hypnotised, or it won’t work, adding “it’s very safe and it’s fun!”
He can hypnotise people to forget their own names, believe they are world famous celebrities, that they can speak to Aliens, that their belt is actually a live snake and that they are contestants on The X Factor!
Personally, I wouldn’t at all like to hypnotised, but I do find it fascinating and I think this will be an entertaining show and a great night out, ideal for a group of friends.
Jason asks me to come along and introduce myself to him on Saturday night.
I might just do that – either before or after the show!
* Jason O’Callaghan is on stage in Roscommon Arts Centre on Saturday, September 19th (bookings on 090-6625824/www.roscommonartscentre.ie).