It’s an outlandish pairing of specialties—improv comedy with hypnosis—which could either be a bizarre spectacle or a stroke of entertainment genius. In the hands of legendary improv comedian, Colin Mochrie, and Master Hypnotist, Asad Mecci, this surreal concept is brilliantly creative and highly entertaining.
“The genesis of the idea came while I was taking an improv class at Second City,” Asad explains. “The instructor kept telling the class; ‘Get out of your head! You’re too much in your head!’ He used confusion tactics to get knee-jerk reactions from people, or what he called ‘unconscious comedy.’”
This resonated with Asad because, during hypnosis, the part of the brain that deals with self-reflection becomes disconnected. Hypnotized subjects are no longer self-conscious about what they’re doing, but carry out the suggestions given to them by the hypnotist.
“I wondered: ‘Can I use hypnosis to hack this process? Can I take someone who has no improv experience and turn them into a good improv artist using hypnosis?’” He laughs. “The answer was a resounding ‘Yes!’”
Asad pitched the idea to comedian Colin Mochrie, who thought it was utterly insane—and instantly loved it for that very reason.
The show was born in 2016 and has played to audiences in Europe, North America (including a stint off-Broadway), and select Canadian cities. The premise is both simple and bonkers: up to twenty volunteers are chosen from the audience. Asad hypnotizes them looking for those who are most suggestible. Once he has whittled the number of volunteers down to the best five or six hypnotic subjects, Colin comes out and works his magic.
“We run games with the volunteers,” Colin explains. “One is the ‘Super Hero’ game, and I’m auditioning for a new partner, asking what qualifications they have. One volunteer said their name was the Gibraltar Kid, and I asked ‘So, do you get hard like a rock?’ The person said, ‘No, I have residency…’”
In that moment, the impossible nearly happened—Colin Mochrie was almost thrown for a loop.
“I had no idea what that meant, so I asked: ‘What does that mean?’ And they said: ‘I have residency in Gibraltar, so if there is crime there, I can take care of it.’”
Colin marvels at what the volunteers come up with. They give him plenty to work from, and throw him all the curve balls he can handle—and more.
During another game in which Colin plays a detective trying to solve a murder, a volunteer said: “It’s all in your mind, Colin. There is no murder.”
“When I’m working with the ‘Whose Line’ guys, I have a general idea where things are going,” he says. “I don’t have that with the volunteers. They have no game plan. They are not thinking about the end of the sketch.”
“Colin cannot relax because he has no idea where the sketch is headed,” Asad adds.
Asad doesn’t get much time to relax onstage, either. Keeping five hypnotized volunteers in a trance state is no easy feat. Only on television do hypnotized subjects remain in a trance state until the hypnotist counts down and snaps his fingers. In real life, Asad is moving around like an old time acrobat spinning dinner plates on top of sticks, continuously shoring-up the volunteers’ trance states.
One of the many interesting aspects of the show is that Colin and Asad speak to the volunteers afterward to find out how much they remember.
“They’re aware of everything,” Colin told Cracked.com in June 2022. “To the audience, it looks like they’re slumped over and totally out of it but they’re aware of absolutely everything that happens in the show. When I’m improvising with someone, they’ll bring up something that happened three scenes before in a scene that they weren’t in. And reincorporate it! Every night, we find an improv superstar.”
There was one memorable night where one of these improv superstars was a young woman who confessed to suffering from intense social anxiety. She had no idea why she volunteered to go onstage, but said it was one of the best experiences of her life.
Asad points out that the hypnotic techniques he uses in the show are for entertainment purposes, only, and not intended as therapy.
Colin adds: “Asad gives the volunteers a suggestion that they never felt so good, and people come out of it feeling positive and happy, almost as though they just finished a workout.”
Colin and Asad are touring Canada with the show for the first time since 2019. Although the show is entirely unscripted, they have refined the games played with the volunteers, learning that the simpler the premise the more response they yield from those hypnotized.
The show plays across North America well into September of this year. “HYPROV: Improv Under Hypnosis” makes a stop in Windsor on February 11 at the Chrysler Theatre. Visit www.chryslertheatre.com/events/ for ticket availability and pricing. For more information about the show, itself, check out www.hyprov.com.