Hyprov: Whose Mind Is It Anyway?

Editor's Note: Originally scheduled for June 18, this event has been delayed to February 12, 2023.

Comedian Colin Mochrie admits that the idea for his new show sounds insane. 

As a beloved member of the long-running improv TV series “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” Mochrie has seen many things in his four decades of doing comedy. 

So when master hypnotist Asad Mecci contacted his manager with a new concept for a show that mixes hypnosis with improv, he had no idea how it was going to work. 

And that was what he found so intriguing. 

“I love doing things that are outside of my comfort zone,” Mochrie told Revue. “And I thought, ‘You can’t get much farther out than working with people you don’t know who are hypnotized.’ And the beauty of this show is we didn’t know what we had until we started doing it. There’s really no way we could rehearse this, so we just sort of had to trust each other, and it worked out from day one, and no one was more shocked than us.”

How Hyprov works: 20 volunteers will come up onstage, where Mecci will hypnotize them. He’ll then go through and look for physiological symptoms such as breathing changes and other indicators to select the best four or five subjects to interact in a series of silly sketches and games with Mochrie. 

“The interesting thing is, the part of the brain that deals with self-reflection becomes disconnected when somebody’s hypnotized,” Mecci explained. “So they no longer reflect on the behavior, they just carry out the suggestion I give them. So it makes for really good improv.”

Mecci actually came up with Hyprov while taking improv courses at The Second City Toronto, after repeatedly hearing instructors telling new improvisers to get out of their heads. 

“First-time improvisers play to the crowd,” he said. “They look like they’re trying really hard to be funny, look self-conscious at times, and seem a little bit stressed. But people who are really excellent improvisers, like Colin, are just very natural and normal onstage. They look like they’re having the time of their life. They look pretty relaxed. And so too with people who are hypnotized… 

“It makes for really excellent humor, because the people onstage just carry out my suggestions without hesitation and without question, and immediately respond, and that makes for really witty and hilarious improv.”

Prior to meeting and collaborating with Mecci, Mochrie hadn’t encountered hypnosis very much, but knew that much like improv, hypnosis had many misconceptions. 

“It really is a science,” Mochrie said. “When I watch Asad do it every night, it just amazes me, after all this time, how he still does it. I thought when people are hypnotized, they have no idea what’s going on, they’re just puppets. But I found out they’re aware the entire time. Even though to the naked eye it looks like they’re slumped over and sleeping, they’re listening to everything we do. 

“They’re experiencing everything we’re experiencing. And when I talk to them afterwards, they say, ‘Oh yeah, we’re aware of everything, it’s just everything you and Asad said sounded like a great idea so we did it.’ And that’s the beauty of it. They become pure improvisers and they just react in the moment to whatever we give them.”

Using their show as something of teaching moment, Mecci explained that what he does is not that different from the trance-like states all of us find ourselves going in and out of throughout any normal day, like when you’re driving and miss your exit because you’re lost in thought, or when you’re watching a horror movie and get so swept up in it your heart starts to race. 

“Logically, you know what you’re watching on-screen is not real, but in that moment in time, it feels really real,” Mecci said. “That’s a hypnotic trance state. And that explains exactly what happens up onstage when we do a comedy hypnosis show. People walk onstage and go, ‘OK, for the next hour I’m going to accept all of these suggestions,’ and they experience all these incredible experiences onstage. Visual hallucinations, wherein I can suggest that there’s an elephant onstage, and they’ll hallucinate there’s an elephant onstage. Negative hallucinations where I’ll suggest to them that Colin doesn’t have any shoes on, for example, and they’ll wonder why Colin’s barefoot walking around onstage. And with really good hypnotic subjects you can create amnesia – forget your last name, forget your address, forget your phone number. 

“So it’s really fascinating to watch the hypnosis aspect of the show. But of course, truly, the show is a comedy act. It’s a comedy high wire, in that we have no idea who these people are who come up onstage. Every night, we create magic onstage, in that we bring up 20 volunteers, we don’t know them, we’ve never met them before, and yet we create an instant improv troupe with them. And the audience is doubled over in laughter because you’ve got Colin Mochrie from ‘Whose Line’ with a bunch of people who are hypnotized on stage doing some really wacky, funny bits.”

Colin Mochrie Presents: Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis
Featuring Master Hypnotist Asad Mecci
Sponsored by Full House Comedy
Frauenthal Theater, 425 W. Western Ave. Suite 200, Muskegon 
Feb. 12, 8 p.m., $30-80
Frauenthal.org, (231) 727-8001