Colin Mochrie, a veteran of the TV show “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?,” and hypnotist Asad Mecci team up for a unique form of improvised comedy at the Stadium Theatre, featuring audience members who perform with Mochrie while under hypnosis.
Being live onstage doesn’t scare Colin Mochrie. Neither does the unpredictability of his work as a comedian and improviser. But he admits to being nervous at the suggestion he work on a new act with a hypnotist.
The show, “HYPROV,” which comes to The Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket on Friday, represents a giant step out of Mochrie’s rather loosely defined comfort zone.
“I thought, ‘This sounds terrifying. Let’s do it!’” he recalls in a phone interview from his home in Toronto.
Mochrie, a veteran of the American and British versions of the television show “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” was introduced to Asad Mecci, a renowned hypnotist who was taking improv classes. Mecci suggested the collaboration, which involves him hypnotizing audience members and Mochrie guiding them through improvisational scenes.
“What happens to the brain with these two art forms is similar,” Mochrie says. “Hypnosis gets rid of thoughts of self-criticism, so you’re more susceptible to doing things.”
His fear of the project, he says, had nothing to do with the potential entertainment factor but with the trust necessary to improvise. In “HYPROV,” he starts anew each show with members of the audience whom Mecci has hypnotized.
“When you tour with other improvisers, you have the same skills and rules,” he says. “With this, you have to build trust with five people you don’t know who are in an altered state of mind.
“But, it’s really helped me get to the root of what improv is — I listen more and accept more.”
The show begins with Mecci hypnotizing 20 volunteers. He chooses the best five, and Mochrie creates an acting troupe to present a show, accompanied by an improv musician chosen in each host city.
He and Mecci devised a variety of scenes, and five are used in each show. In one, Mochrie says, the audience member has to propose to him under varying negative circumstances. In another, they stage a radio show murder mystery in which Mochrie is the detective and all the wrong sound effects pepper the investigation. In still another, Mecci tells the audience member they are the most confidant rock star in the world in a duet with Mochrie where they must finish rhymes he supplies.
Choosing the directions given to the audience members has been a learning experience.
“Instructions need to be clear and simple enough. We’re experimenting with phrasing to find what works,” Mochrie says.
After the show, he says, almost all of the participants remember the experience.
“They tell me they heard everything, but things just sounded like a good idea,” Mochrie says.
His own path as an improviser started in his youth, when he realized he has “a fearless quality that I believe everything will work out.” Improv, he says, is easy, as long as you trust yourself. Failure should be embraced.
“You learn all you have out there is yourself. The beauty of improv is you can always make it work,” he says, adding the skill is like a muscle. “The more you do it, the stronger you are.”
Working with Mecci, however, has added a different dimension to his career.
“We have great chemistry. At first, I had no idea if this was going to work, but now I look forward to every show. It’s always fun,” he says. “I like being out of my comfort zone. That’s when the magic happens.”