Mixing improv with hypnosis generates hilarious results

Although improv comedy creates unexpected moments by nature, adding hypnosis into the mix makes it even more unpredictable.

Master hypnotist Asad Mecci, top, and Colin Mochrie from Who's Line Is It Anyway? are mixing improv comedy and hypnosis in a live show called Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis. They will perform in Windsor Jan. 25 and Chatham Jan. 26.

Share Adjust Comment Print

Although improv comedy creates unexpected moments by design, adding hypnosis into the mix makes it even more unpredictable.

Colin Mochrie, one of the stars of Who’s Line Is It Anyway?, and Asad Mecci, a master hypnotist, will bring that twist to Chatham and Windsor this month with a live performance called Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis.

Mecci will invite 20 audience members on stage and assess them to find the five or six best subjects, who will then be hypnotized into situations to improvise with Mochrie.

“A big part of improv is trust, so I have to build up this immediate trust with five people I have never met before who are in a hypnotic trance,” said Mochrie. “You just never know what’s going to happen, even more so than any improv show.”

Working with professionals has allowed him to pass on control of past scenes to other performers, but he doesn’t have that luxury this time, he said.

“I sort of have to keep being in charge,” said Mochrie. “It really keeps me on my toes, and I think it actually has made me a better improviser.”

Mecci said he got the idea while taking improv classes at Second City in Toronto a few years ago. The instructors wanted to train their students so all of their improvisations would be “knee-jerk reactions,” he said.

He then understood how improvisation is about tapping into the unconscious mind.

“I realized what they were doing in all these warm-up exercises, and they were trying to move the conscious mind aside and get unconscious functioning,” said Mecci. “I thought to myself … ‘could I hypnotize somebody who doesn’t have experience in improv and make them improvisers?’ And so far, the answer has been a resounding yes.”

Mecci decided to send an email to Mochrie’s manager and eventually the duo held a few performances before turning it into a full tour.

Mochrie said initially they weren’t sure what they could ask their volunteers to do.

“First-time improvisers, they are their own worst enemies because they’re constantly thinking and with the people in the hypnotic state, they’re just open to everything we say,” he said. “They’re actually improvising purely. They’re responding to what I give them. They’re responding to the situation that Asad is reinforcing.”

The volunteers are chosen based on factors such as breathing changes, skin-tone changes, the tearing up of their eyes and their nasal dilation, said Mecci.

Mochrie said Mecci’s hypnosis “reinforces” the situations they are put in on stage. Sometimes he’ll sing a duet with them or one of them will have to propose to him, he said.

“And then I’ll throw in twists every once in a while,” Mecci added. “I’ll turn the scene into a slow-motion scene for example and give them the suggestion … that if they to propose to Colin, they can only propose to him while Colin is seated. It forces them to carry out a specific suggestion.”

Every night ends up being weird, the duo said.

Mochrie said he’s fascinated by how the volunteers always say they’ve been aware of what’s happening the entire time.

“From the audience, as you’re watching, it looks like they’re sleeping on stage, but they’re listening to everything and it amazes me that they’re bring back something that happened two scenes ago and becomes a running joke,” the comedian said.

“They’re observably asleep, just so we’re clear,” added Mecci. “They look like they’re asleep. Physiologically their bodies are relaxed, but their mind is completely alert.”

The format of the events will feature different games in a similar style to Who’s Line Is It Anyway? – the hit CW TV show – but something like the prop game is too complicated for someone under hypnosis, Mochrie said.

“We’re still actually figuring out what we can do with them,” he said. “Sometimes they surprise us (and) they can do more complicated things, but we’re still working on that.”

Mecci said each person can reach a different “depth of trance,” but they don’t always get a “perfect subject” who can be made to believe a chair will disappear at the count of three, for example.

They start with “basic experiments” and build up to a “radio play,” where the volunteer morphs into different characters for Mochrie to interact with.

“You’re getting some incredible improv from these people who have virtually zero to no improv experience,” said Mecci. “It’s absolutely fascinating to watch as we sort of progress through the show.”

Mochrie said improv comedy should be very easy because it’s about listening and building off of other people’s ideas, but people often want to put out their own ideas. This show “gets rid of all those blocks that stop people from being great improvisers,” he said.

Hyprov can be seen at the Chrysler Theatre in Windsor on Jan. 25 and the Chatham Capitol Theatre on Jan. 26. Tickets for Windsor can be found at www.chryslertheatre.com/events/ and Chatham tickets can be purchased through www.cktickets.com.

Comments