Perspectives on When Stage Hypnosis Shows go Wrong

First, watch the video . . . the entire thing, you may wish to stop but keep on going . . .

Then . . . go on over to and read a well-written first-hand version of this very show from the perspective of one of the trance partner volunteers (the girl who got up and spoke to the hypnotist looking for her glasses and once another volunteer returned them to her she left the stage) . . . please do keep in mind that the author of the experiential essay is no hypnosis novice but rather someone who absolutely loves being hypnotized and who had been very much looking forward to this show and to volunteering.

Obviously, her recollection and understanding of the success or failure of the experience is likely quite different from that of the hypnotist although a number of the things she was concerned with are clearly in the video (the guy throwing a broom into the audience and hitting an audience member – the author – with no intervention by the hypnotist who reinduces the guy and does not properly catch him . . . we can clearly see the red-headed girl sitting in the boat where they hypnotist had caused her to experience abject loneliness and absolute horror but he cuts that bit from his web video, we just see her in the boat and wonder).

From the description of the show, it seems that they hypnotist seems rather inexperienced and so doesn’t know yet how to keep a show flowing well or how to care for his volunteers but it is quite clear that he has some gags in his bag of tricks that are inappropriate and others that are just plain cruel and some which are actually illegal in some areas (the electricity shock suggestion gag is not legal in a number of places and has been the subject of more than one court case in the UK and the gag in which audience members are regressed to childhood is on the line as some might consider it a form of regression which is not legal in some countries as part of an entertainment show but okay for therapy . . . however, these restrictions can be dealt with through proper phrasing of the suggestion which we don’t hear in this digest clip).

If you are going to do any gags where volunteers are displaying negative emotions then you must must must give them positive suggestions to control their behavior . . . never ever allow volunteers to lose control or touch one another and if your volunteers are kicking each other to the ground or slamming one another into chairs then you’d damned well better’d get off your ass and intervene instead of standing in the wings watching.

If you are going to tell a male volunteer that he’s lost his penis and is very angry then make damned well certain that you don’t let him have a potential weapon while running the gag and if anything is ever thrown into the audience you apologize and make damned certain the person in the audience is okay.

It may not be fair in this case but after reading the detailed review of the show and seeing the video . . . it is very difficult to give the hypnotist the benefit of the doubt here. We can, but there are a LOT of things that have obviously gone wrong here . . . seriously wrong . . . even without the added benefit of the experiential review, I was considering posting on some of the things I saw . . . as an opportunity for a “teaching moment” for my students who read this blog . . . but then I stumbled across the blog entry and decided to let the trance volunteer’s description of the experience speak for itself.

I’ve had shows that crashed and burned, we all have, especially toward the beginning of our careers if we didn’t have access to experienced mentors who could show us the ropes . . . but . . . even in the worst show we’ve had we have never come this close to a total train wreck of an experience and I do some things in some of my shows that some might consider a bit more than edgy or over the line (at least it may SEEM that way to those who don’t understand the dynamics of what we do to ensure safety and enjoyment within the subtext) . . . now, I know, some folks may feel that’s unfair as the audience obviously enjoyed themselves and we don’t have essays from the volunteers who stayed on stage and how they felt about it . . . but . . . I have a philosophical issue with the setlist, while I have done a couple gags that might be edgy to some, I’ve never lost control that far and certainly know better than to let folks throw fists in one another’s direction nor would I allow volunteers to ever kick or shove or hit one another and it’s not that hard to control your suggestions to as to minimize risks of that ever occurring (you can never know with certainty what might happen when doing an interactive and audience-centric creative performance but you can minimize the risks and it seems that with a few of the gags here risk was maximized rather than minimized).

In any case, I want to thank the trance volunteer who shared her perspective on the show . . . as to the hypnotist . . . I sincerely hope that this show or at least this one person’s perspective was a bit more of a fluke than a typical performance and I sincerely hope his other shows have gone better.

All the best,