Hypnotic improv act wants audience to suspend disbelief

What do you get when you cross a hypnotist and an improv star? Discover the punchline this Saturday at Hyprov at the Community Arts Center.

Hypnotist Asad Mecci wanted to add some pizzazz to his show when he decided to randomly contact Colin Mochrie through his website about working together on a show blending the art of suggestion with the art of improvisation. Within 24 hours of that first email, the two were having dinner, conceptualizing his idea. It did not take long after that for an idea to become a reality.

“We did not practice the first show,” Mecci said. “We had no rehearsal. We just threw it up on stage and asked for volunteers. There was a very loose game plan. The first show was the rehearsal. You want to talk about a comedy high wire act, that’s pretty much it.”

“It was terrifying,” Mochrie said.

Since then, the pair has performed the show in Toronto, London, Montreal and more before coming to Williamsport at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday.

“What I love about the show is we find a star from every city we go to,” Mochrie said. “Someone has that hidden talent brought out by Asad. One show we did, we talked to her afterwards, this young woman said, ‘I suffer from crippling social anxiety. I have no idea why I volunteered. For that hour, I have never been so relaxed.’ She was the star of the night. She kept things going.”

For Mochrie, that moment was special because she said she was going to take that experience and find an improv group to join.

“This is my life,” he said. “I walk like a chicken, make people laugh and go home. Sometimes, I have an impact on their life. Sometimes I make their life better.”

To become the star of the Williamsport show, interested people who want the chance to go on stage can register at caclive.com/events/hyprov and upload their vaccination cards to qualify.

What makes a good volunteer is someone who can disassociate from their surroundings, Mecci said. Someone who watches a horror movie and jumps out of their chair or cries while watching a sad movie.

“That’s what hypnosis is on stage,” Mecci said. “As you go into a movie, you check your disbelief at the door and experience the movie. The same thing happens on stage. I’m going to experience this and you can create fascinating positive associations. On the count of three, there’s an elephant on the stage. Or negative associations: the stage is no longer there. Colin is magically suspended in thin air over the people.”

The volunteers who might not do as well are the ones who watch a horror movie and say it looks fake, he said.

“‘I can see the blood pod there. I don’t know if I buy this actor; he seems pretty weak.’ They’re probably not the best subject.”

Which means that what happens on stage is completely real. There are no people planted there pretending to be hypnotized, acting out these suggestions.

“We never met any of the people,” Mecci said. “It’s very interesting because the best reactions are the people who know the people on stage. Everybody knows everybody. There’s lots of laughs because the people from Williamsport will know the people on stage, know them or know of them, know they’re not planted. … The people keeled over, laughing the hardest, they’re close to the people on stage: their brother, sister or mother.”

Thinking that the show is fake is something that can be irritating, Mochrie said.

“Many a time, people think we have plants,” he said. “This is the one thing I do well. Why would I fake it?”

In one way, it could be considered a backhanded compliment, he said.

“We’re such good actors that we can get away with it,” Mochrie said. “I think it’d be very easy to prove it’s fake. Every show is different. Every audience is different.”

“We can’t fly them to Williamsport,” Mecci said.


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