Hyprov is ‘fast-paced, action-packed and absolutely hilarious’ says hypnotist Asad Mecci
What do you get when you bring together a legendary Canadian improviser and a professional hypnotist?
It’s called Hyprov, and it’s “fast-paced, action-packed and absolutely hilarious,” says hypnotist Asad Mecci.
Mecci teamed up with Canadian comedian Colin Mochrie of Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame to bring the new theatrical sport to stages across Europe and North America.
Hyprov is similar to regular improv, but it’s performed by volunteers under hypnosis. Once Mecci puts them in a trance, they perform an improv show, with Mochrie leading them through all kinds of wacky scenarios, from pet funerals to musical ballads.
In 2019, the duo took Hyprov on tour through Europe and the United States. They’ll start their Canadian tour in St. Catharines, Ont., later this month.
Mochrie and Mecci spoke to Day 6 host Brent Bambury about their work. Here is part of their conversation.
Asad, you’re a hypnotist. When did you first look at an improv skit and think, “You know what might be fun here … ?”
I was actually a student of The Second City and oftentimes our instructors would say, “Get out of your head.” And what I realized was, hey wait a second, what they want is unconscious comedy — information that comes off the tip of your tongue and just is hilarious, because oftentimes contrived comedy [is] not so funny. Spontaneous funny — which is Whose Line — is absolutely hysterical.
And of course I had my formal training in hypnosis before I went into The Second City. I started to realize, huh, they’re using a lot of confusion techniques at the beginning — and confusion is the inroads to hypnotic trance state. That’s where Hyprov was born from.
When Asad came to you, Colin, with this idea, did you think, “Are you nuts?” Or did you see it right away?
Well, both.… I’m always looking for new ways of doing improv and also new ways to be outside of my comfort zone. And I could not think of a farther location outside of my comfort zone than to improvise with five people I’ve never met before who are in a hypnotic state.
How different does it feel from the other improv shows that you’ve done?
Mochrie: It’s different when you’re going out with people you’ve worked with before or even people you haven’t worked [with] before but you know are improvisers.
Going out with five people I don’t know, I have absolutely no idea what they’re going to do. When we first started coming up with what we can do in the show, I would always ask Asad, “If I ask them to do this, will they do it?” And he would always answer, “I don’t know.”
t’s really up to the subject. They may, they may not. It’s forming an instant trust with these people, and I have to say I’ve been shocked at how well it works. It really has been fascinating. I actually feel like I’ve been doing some of the best improv because I’ve gone back to basics in a way, where I’m really listening and accepting to what these people are giving me.
But these people are in a trance. Isn’t it weird to you that at some point they’re slumped over and apparently asleep and you’re about to do some bit with them?
They may physiologically look asleep, but they’re actually aware of what’s going on. The interesting part is, the part of the mind that deals with self-reflection becomes disconnected when somebody’s hypnotized. So the people on stage, they’re not thinking about what they’re doing. They just carry out the suggestion and they become rock star improvisers.
Let’s talk about some of the rock star performances. Colin, what are the best things that you’ve made these people do on stage?
There’s one scene where we do a murder mystery radio show. So I play the detective, we get one person to do the sound effects, but it has to be all the wrong sound effects. Then we have one person who does all the characters. And we had this 80-year-old stroke survivor who … played everything from a sexy secretary to a mob hit man. I would say a sentence and she would be immediately there with a new character and a new response. And it was fascinating for me to watch.
There was a woman who came up, she suffers from social anxiety. She said, “I’m not even sure why I volunteered.” But again, she was a star. Everything she did was amazing. She was calm throughout. And afterwards I always talk to the people and say, “So what do you remember?” And they all say, “Oh everything. We remember everything.” It just amazes me.
Asad, you are obviously looking after these people while they’re on stage, but who is your favourite individual that responded to the instructions?
Mecci: There was a crazy scene where one of the guys, the bit was that Colin and him were long-lost brothers, and the narrative that he came up with was absolutely fascinating. He was coming back from World War II and he had just this amazing backstory, and Colin of course is just improvising with it all the way through. And we interviewed this gentleman and said, you know, you must have [a] background in drama. Nope. Cement sales.
And they remember everything in this state. So when they come out of it, are they disappointed they’re no longer in this kind of heightened place where they’re basically a star?
Mecci: They just got off stage performing, hypnotized with Colin Mocrie, their legendary hero. They’re absolutely ecstatic. We have to beat them back afterwards with a broomstick because they want so many selfies.
This is empowering for people, obviously.
Mochrie: Oh absolutely. I think as in the case of the woman who had the social anxiety, I think it gave her this confidence she hadn’t had before. I almost hate to think how many improvisers we’ve now created through this show.