“You are getting drowsy ... you are under my spell … you are powerless to resist me…”
We all know the drill. The mustachioed mesmerist flashes his shiny bauble and Our Hero walks around with pinwheels in his eyes, spewing his innermost secrets or doing evil deeds until a snapping bra strap or some other sharp noise breaks the spell, leaving him rubbing his eyes and stammering “Where … where am I? What happened?” The popular depiction of hypnosis ranks right up there with Instantly Reversible Television Amnesia (second bonk on the head) with things the bad guys would have gotten away with—if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids. But the crudest question remains: Does it really work?
British comedic hypnotist Terrance B. tells me that he’s in his sixth year of doing stage shows like the one we’ve come to at Mustang Sally’s. He also says that he’s had heaps of Neurolinguistic training, and that in addition to his traveling act he sells a line of audio cassette tapes using hypnosis techniques to help people stop smoking, lose weight, keep their phobias in check, motivate themselves to succeed.
Tall, clean shaven, and good-natured, Terrance B. has such a reassuring demeanor about him, I immediately overturn my earlier ruling not to let nobody no how pull my brain out through my eye sockets and twirl it around like carnival taffy. And since I pass the Big 3 criteria to volunteer for the act (not drunk, not on any medication, and more or less open-minded), before I know it I’m sitting on stage with 15 other people.
About this experience, I can only say that it was relaxing as all get out. I could easily have drifted off. Have you ever caught yourself right on that cusp between waking and sleep but pulling back before you can get a good look at it? That’s kind of what it was like, except I was fully conscious of peering into this abyss and being able to choose. I chose to stay put (I’m kind of chicken like that), and I didn’t make it to finals, so to speak. I was quietly led off stage, as were half of the other volunteers, and handed a free ticket to the next night’s performance.
But back to the question: Does it really work? Don’t ask me. Another five minutes on stage and I probably would have told you I wear ladies’ underwear, but the hamminess of a couple of the volunteers who made it past the initial triage made me question their suggestibility as well as my own. A critic would point out that what Terrance B. was actually doing was removing the societal controls that generally keep people from making spectacles of themselves and handing them golden comedic opportunities to play up to the crowd under the pretense of “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
I’m not fully convinced one way or the other, but the show was excruciatingly funny. Next time I let myself go under the proverbial knife, which I certainly intend to do, when I see that abyss I’m going to jump. #
Comedic hypnotist Terrance B. returns to Mustang Sally’s for one show on April 25. Tickets are $10. Show starts at 9 p.m.