There’s no better place than being centre stage in a room full of people bent over laughing at you, at least for Asad Mecci.
“It’s fascinating to watch the audience reaction. To be in the middle of that laughter is absolutely phenomenal. It’s just like a cushion of laughter,” he said. “The best place on the planet is to be on stage in front of 3,000 people and everybody is laughing, doubled over, tears in their eyes, laughing so hard the room feels like it’s about to explode. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Mecci is a master hypnotist and the co-creator of Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis, a comedic show combining hypnosis and improv acting with fellow co-creator Colin Mochrie, of Whose Line Is It Anyway.
The idea grew after Mecci, whose performances include Carnival Cruises, Disney Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, decided he wanted to get better performing on stage and began improv classes at Second City.
“When I was at Second City, I realized the instructors would always say, ‘Get out of your head, you’re too in your head,’ to all the students. Meaning they were trying to consciously construct the comedy, and trying too hard. What they want is just an automatic, unconscious reaction, a knee-jerk reaction, which is much funnier. They would do all these drills at the beginning of class to get people out of their head and what I realized was they were trying to move the conscious mind aside and get funny comedy from the unconscious and that’s where Hyprov was born from,” said Mecci. “In hypnosis what you’re doing is moving the conscious mind aside, the critical, analytical part, that part of the mind you use to take your information, and then working directly with the unconscious mind, which controls your autonomic nervous system; your breathing, your blinking, your heart rate, habits are stored there as well.”
Mecci wondered if he could hypnotize someone with no improv training or experience and make them into good improvisers.
“The answer has been a resounding yes. The part of the mind that deals with self-reflection becomes disconnected when somebody’s hypnotized,” said Mecci. “First-time improvisers often play to the crowd, they’ll consciously try to construct the comedy so it’ll come out with hesitation, they’ll be unsure of themselves up on stage. All of that is removed when somebody’s hypnotized and they’ll just carry out the suggestion I give them and they’ll have an honest reaction on stage. It elevates the improv, it kind of gives you that unfiltered improv from the person’s conscious.”
Mecci sent a cold email to Colin Mochrie through Mochrie’s website suggesting improv and hypnosis would make for a good show, with details of his background and a video of his solo act.
Mochrie met with Mecci and within months they began performing on the Second City main stage after the main stage show in Toronto.
“Word got out and the main stage was just getting packed with people, you couldn’t get in it was so packed,” said Mecci. “From there we hired Linda Kash as the director and practiced at Second City, hypnotizing students coming out of their class. We were practicing and seeing if we could make a viable show.”
The two took the show to the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal and sold out the show, and carried on the success with Just for Laughs London and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, one of the largest performing arts shows in the world.
“People are on the floor when they watch the show,” said Mecci. “It’s a front row seat to a legendary improviser performing with people he’s never met before, has no personal history of and they’re in a trance. It’s fascinating and absolutely hysterical. It’s a really engaging show that is one of kind, that’s never been done before.”
Mecci will ask for volunteers to come on stage and he filters them down to those who are the most susceptible to hypnosis before bringing Mochrie on stage.
“We don’t use any plants, we haven’t met any of them. The response has been phenomenal because when I call for volunteers I have to beat them back with a broomstick because they just rush the stage. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be on stage with Colin,” he said. “People are also fascinated with hypnosis and want to experience what it’s like.”
Mecci filters the volunteers out much like a good poker player looks for tells. He reads their breathing, their skin colour, their basal dilation, their facial expression, their voice and their movement.
“The people laughing the hardest always know the people who are on stage, it could be a family member or good friend, because they know it’s not planned and they would not normally do this.”
The show comes to Deerhurst on Feb. 1, presented by Huntsville Festival of the Arts, as part of a 50-city tour across Canada and the United States. Get tickets online here or call 705-788-2787.
“It’s a fast-paced, action packed show,” said Mecci. “You’ll laugh all night and talk about it for years to come, especially if you know someone on stage.”
Scroll down to see a sneak peek.
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