Tim Miller's unusual transition from a gung-ho football coach for 20 years to a gung-ho comedy hypnotist was painless - no sweat, no worries, he says.
That's because the 46-year-old Limerick resident was an optimist long before he was a hypnotist.
A strong man with a strong man's confidence in his booming voice, an ironclad handshake, and a self-deprecating grin, he charms strangers braving their first comedy hypnosis as adroitly as he inspired his overmatched football players to endure another losing season.
When Miller was head coach at Wissahickon High School from 1998 to 2001, his teams won three games and lost 43.
"I woke up every morning and felt like somebody had shot my whole family," he said. "But we learn most about people when times are tough. I'm a Christian. I had my faith, and I had football. And through my failures, I really evolved as a man."
Miller reached the pinnacle of his football career in 2006 when he got his first collegiate head coaching job at La Salle University, a Division I school that did not award football scholarships and played other non-scholarship teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Football League.
His teams went 3-7 in 2006 and 0-10 in 2007, when the league dissolved and La Salle terminated its football program.
Ever the optimist, Miller said, "We were really bad, but we had a great freshmen recruiting class. You could see it coming. We were going to be good."
Unfazed, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound former Temple University linebacker - "I loved hitting, and I loved that other people knew I loved hitting" - remade himself into a real estate salesman, building a successful Re/Max team in Blue Bell.
"I'm never in my real estate office because there's nobody there to buy real estate from me," Miller reasoned. "I'm at the Limerick Diner early every morning, eating breakfast, doing my paperwork as if it's my office. People actually come up to me in there and ask if I can list their house."
Real estate, though, isn't the sum of his reinvention.
Last year, Miller and his wife, Michelle, were on a cruise to the Bahamas when a lounge hypnotist asked for volunteers for his act.
"Michelle wants me to go on stage," Miller recalled, "but I'm exhausted, so I say, 'You go.' Next thing I know, oh, my gosh, she's hypnotized. It's not hocus pocus. She's singing like Madonna. She's carefree. I'd never seen anything like that before.
"Three months later, different cruise, same hypnotist," he said. "This time, I go up there. I take off my shirt. I jump off the stage. I give Michelle a lap dance. She's laughing. I love my wife, and I love to hear her laugh. The whole reason I started this hypnotism thing was to hear my wife laugh."
Miller took an online course from the American Alliance of Hypnotists, then practiced on people he knew.
"I did my first show last year in our basement with members of our church, Christ's Church of the Valley, and my wife's family," he said. "My brother-in-law thought he was having a baby. He was screaming. My father-in-law thought he was James Brown. It was such a high for me."
It still is. The Millers have three grown children, freeing them to do shows at Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, at high schools, conventions, and fund-raisers. Miller puts people under. His wife is his assistant.
"I have no agent, just extreme hustle," he said. "I just continually call/email until I can get someone to look at our video (www.stagehypnosislive.com)."
He assures his subjects hypnosis is safe, a natural state of deep sleep. He spends eight minutes putting them under, keeps them under for an hour, and rouses them in less than a minute by calling their name and saying, "Wake up."
Performing at a recent convention of Pennsylvania election officials in a State College hotel, Miller hypnotized Mike Anderson, director of Lebanon County's Bureau of Elections, into scrambling around the stage on hands and knees like a dog, frantically rubbing his butt on the floor because Miller told him it itched whenever Anderson heard a few bars of "La Cucaracha."
Anderson remembered relaxing his shoulders and neck muscles under Miller's direction until "you find you're under, and you don't even realize it."
After he rejoined the audience, Anderson said, "People were asking me, 'Do you itch?' I'm like, 'No.' They said, 'You were a great sport.' I said, 'Thanks. What did I do?' "
Miller cast his spell on Florence Ball, director of elections for Wyoming County, and Joe McIntyre, a vendor. "Joe became a pregnant woman giving birth," Ball recounted, "and I was the midwife/drill instructor. So I had to yell at him, telling him to breathe. When he said, 'It hurts, it hurts,' I told him, 'Suck it up, cupcake!' "
McIntyre said he doesn't remember a thing. "I French-kissed a microphone stand like a pole dancer," he said. "I fast-danced on chairs - and I haven't danced since my junior prom in 1970."
Miller is long past any dreams of an NFL coaching career.
"All you see are the Sundays during football season," he said. "And on those Sundays, who wouldn't want that job? What you don't see are February, March, all your Saturday nights, when you're there grinding it out, 100 hours a week. I'm blessed with a great marriage. I like spending time with my wife. Comedy hypnosis lets me do that."