'HYPROV': Colin Mochrie's new improv partners are hypnotized audience members

"We're showing people that we're getting rid of the thing that stops you from being a good improviser through hypnosis," the 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' star says

Asad Mecci and Colin Mochrie, Canadian National Tour of HYPROV: Improv Under Hypnosis
Asad Mecci and Colin Mochrie, Canadian National Tour of HYPROV: Improv Under Hypnosis

Whose Line Is It Anyway? star Colin Mochrie is doing improv with a new set of collaborators, a group of hypnotized audience members, during the Canadian tour of HYPROV: Improv Under Hypnosis, alongside master hypnotist Asad Mecci.

“I had no real experience with hypnosis,” Mochrie told Yahoo Canada. “I think my knowledge of hypnosis was pretty much like everybody else's, and most of which is wrong.”

“So for me, I enjoy being outside of my comfort zone. That's when I have the most fun, when there's no way I can plan anything. … So I thought, I can't be any farther out of my comfort zone than to be with five people who I don't know, who are in a hypnotic state. So all of that sort of intrigued me.”

The show started at a pitch Mecci made to Mochrie, in a simple note sent through his website that outlined the concept of marrying hypnosis with improv, live on stage together. That pitch went to Mochrie's manager and now they've done more than 190 shows across North American and Europe, since it was created in 2016 at Toronto's Second City.

In the 90-minute show, Mecci brings 20 volunteers on stage to be hypnotized, then the most receptive of the group participate in the improv with Mochrie, all while in a state of hypnosis.

How does hypnosis work?

Like Mochrie mentioned, much of how the general population perceives hypnosis is flawed. As Mecci explains, it's like watching a horror movie.

"You watch a horror movie and you get so caught up in what you're watching that you move to a physiological response," he explained. "Your heart starts racing, your palms get sweaty."

"It's not real, but for that moment in time it feels really real. That's a hypnotic state."

The master hypnotist also indicated that about 20 per cent of the population are really susceptible for stage hypnosis, specifically.

“The people who come up on stage, they experience all of these visual hallucinations, auditory hallucinations, kinaesthetic hallucinations, so they experience all of that and they get so wrapped up,” Mecci said.

“When we talk about misconceptions about hypnosis, one is that you're asleep when you're hypnotized, you're not. You're aware of what's going on, you hear the sound of the hypnotist voice. … They're aware of what's going on at all times. You won't do anything against your morals or ethics, or cultural values, when you're hypnotized on stage.”

Colin Mochrie, HYPROV: Improv Under Hypnosis
Colin Mochrie, HYPROV: Improv Under Hypnosis

'Keep their skepticism at home and keep an open mind'

One of the values that both Mecci and Mochrie highlight about this blending of hypnosis and improv is that the participants carry out the suggestions without hesitation, they immediately react, which is a great basis for improv.

“They don't have an endgame. … They're truly in the moment," Mochrie said.

“[When] you're teaching improv classes, that is the hardest thing to sort of pull through to someone's brain, being able to just accept an idea, say yes to it. And you have to sort of sublimate your own ego, in a way. If you don't get your idea out first, you go with the first idea that comes up. That's what these people do. The hardest part of learning improv is dealt with, … they're already accepting and ready to go with anything Asad or I say.”

As you likely expect, the duo do admit that there are several skeptics in the audience, for both the hypnosis and the improv components of the show, but as Mochrie says, you can keep the skepticism at home.

“People always say, you had sort of an idea when you got that suggestion, you have possible scenarios for every suggestion," Mochrie said. “My response always is, no, because number one, too lazy, and number two, the joy of what we're doing is coming up with something that we've just gotten. There's no fun in trying to make it look improvised."

"Same with hypnosis. People have skepticism. After the show people come up and go, well, obviously there were plants because they were really good improvisers once they were hypnotized. And you just want to go yeah, that's the concept of the show. We're showing people that we're getting rid of the thing that stops you from being a good improviser through hypnosis. So I'd like people to sort of keep their skepticism at home and keep an open mind.”

The Hyprov tour continues in Canada throughout February