Here’s an idea: take five random people, hypnotize them, then bring out an improv comedy master.
That’s the premise for the show “Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis” starring Colin Mochrie and Asad Mecci at 4 p.m. Jan. 12 at the McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn.
Mecci is a hypnotist and Mochrie is a comedian, known for his work on the TV show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” as well as his “Whose Live?” standup shows with fellow comedian Brad Sherwood.
This show enlists 20 volunteers from the audience who will be put under hypnosis by Mecci. He picks the best four or five people, and then Mochrie enters to improvise while they are still under hypnosis.
The idea for the show was all Mecci’s, Mochrie said.
“He was taking improv classes at Second City and he realized the similarity between what you do in improv with hypnotism,” he said. “The brain that deals with self-reflection and criticism sort of diminishes and the creative part of your brain surges to the front. He thought it might be interesting to try a combination. He contacted my agent and we met. I thought, ‘Well this sounds terrifying, let’s do it.’”
Mochrie has never really been fascinated with hypnosis, but he is fascinated by how Mecci finds his top five audience members. When he puts the 20 volunteers from the audience into a trance, he is able to immediately weed out people, Mochrie said. There are those who want to go under but can’t and there are those who are faking. Mecci knows who’s doing what.
“He whittles it down to the best four or five,” Mochrie said. “He’s looking for various physical signs … he’s really good at it.”
The show is unusual and it’s working, he said.
“It’s not like we could ever rehearse this,” he said. “So the first time we performed the show in front of an audience was the first time we did the show. So it was a little nerve-wracking. And we’re still finding out what the subjects can do.”
Then show consists of scenes — for example, the subjects have to propose to Mochrie but they can only do so when he’s sitting down. And they’re on a sinking ship.
“We do an old-time murder mystery radio play where one person does all of the wrong sound effects and one person does every character that I meet while I’m working the case,” he said. “Then there’s one where I sing a duet with someone and that one is the scariest because I don’t sing. The whole show has been so much fun and we have found some amazing people with hidden talents.”
The subjects almost always remember everything, he said.
“What I find interesting is in both hypnotism and improv is there is a large group of people who don’t believe in either one of those,” he said. “They always believe improv is written and don’t believe hypnotism is real. So we have saved them some time by putting them both in one place. It’s up to Asad and me to prove to the audience that yes, I am really improvising and he is really hypnotizing. I think there is a part of that disbelief that by the end of the show people are enthralled.”
If you want to be one of the 20 onstage, just walk up there, he said.
“It’s a fun show. If you have any disbelief about either of these art forms, even if you have belief, come and see and make your own choice.”