Improvisation and hypnosis collide in Hyprov

Improvisation and hypnosis collide in Hyprov

Improvisation and hypnosis collide in Hyprov with Colin Mochrie and Asad Mecci

“Just how weird can improvisation get under hypnosis?

So weird that even a master of improv like Canada’s own Colin Mochrie wonders where some ideas come from.

“I enjoy being outside of my comfort zone. And this show is as far out as I can get,” Mochrie says. “Working every night with people who are in a hypnotic trance? The whole thing is bizarre. But it’s so much fun.”

“It keeps me sharp, on my toes … They are like pure improvisers. They just react to what I say. There’s nothing preconceived.”

Mecci says the reason hypnotized people make such interesting improvisers is simple: They’re not thinking about themselves.

“The part of the mind that deals with self-reflection becomes disconnected when somebody is hypnotized,” he explains.

“First-time improvisers will hesitate. They’ll play to the audience. They’ll make conscious attempts at comedy. But the best comedy is automatic — off the tip of your tongue.”

At the start of every Hyprov show, Mecci collects 20 volunteers from the audience. From that number, five are chosen to join the performance.

“I calibrate them,” Mecci says. “I’m looking for certain traits — the best hypnotic subjects.”

Mochrie finds it fascinating that there’s never a lack of volunteers. “I have to say — it’s insane. Personally, I don’t get it. There is a mad rush to the stage. And the people who get sent back are always disappointed.”

Once those selected have been thoroughly hypnotized by Mecci, Mochrie leads the impromptu troupe in a series of improvisational games and scenarios.

Article content continued Members of the audience are asked to contribute random details, such as a setting, an occupation, or an object.

Invariably, a volunteer’s state of hypnosis adds a chaotic element to the on-stage happenings.

“There’s a scene we like to do where we have a showdown,” Mochrie says by way of example. “I’m the bad guy. They’re the good guy. I find at that point, they are just intent on taking me in. Or killing me.”

Both Mochrie and Mecci assure that there’s never anything mocking or mean-spirited in the show.

“We don’t make fun of (the hypnotized volunteers). We don’t ask them to do anything that a regular improviser wouldn’t do on stage,” Mochrie says.

Article content continued Mecci recalls one occasion when a volunteer, after the show, went up to Mochrie and remembered that they had just sung a duet together on stage.

“The guy was absolutely flabbergasted — because he’s not a singer. He said it was like being outside of his body watching himself sing.”

“It’s like a comedy high-wire. We never know what’s going to happen.”

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